Professional fixer Olivia Pope will find herself on the other side of a major, well, Scandal when ABC's hit drama returns for Season 3 this fall.
In the season finale, Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) and Olivia (Kerry Washington) called it quits once again after learning of each other's misdeeds. (Remember when POTUS killed someone?) But in the closing moments of the episode, as Olivia went out for a run, she was bombarded by reporters trying to get an interview with the First Mistress. The question remains: Who leaked Olivia's name to the press?
"There's a lot to be dealt with there and in true Scandal style, whatever you think we're going to do, we're not going to do," says executive producer Shonda Rhimes, who notes that fans will be very surprised by the revelation of who leaked the news. "I'm pretty proud of the way we found our way out of it. At the end of last season, when we said that's going to happen, everyone was like, 'How are we going to get out of it?' and I was like, 'I have no idea!' I feel like the story continues at the same breakneck pace and we're going to have that same energy."
Coming off a strong and critically acclaimed second season — which earned both Washington and co-star Dan Bucatinsky Emmy nods — Washington herself worried how'd they top themselves. "We ended with such a bang and it was such a whirlwind of a season," she says. "I don't want to say I was worried, but I didn't know how we were going to do it. Then I found that out, and I was like, 'We're going to be fine.'"
It's easy to assume that OPA will step up to help their fearless leader during her time of need, but she's not necessarily going to become a client when the series returns. "Olivia has never wanted to involve them in any of her personal affairs unless she's had to and I think this is going to hold true," Rhimes says. "If you remember at the end of last season, Olivia firmly put that white hat back on her head and she's going to try to be a better person. So, perhaps she's not going to want their help."
Adds Washington: "When we pick back up, we're meeting her just minutes after the end of last season. So, she's got a lot on her plate because she's dealing with two bombs: One, that her name has been leaked, and the other that her father is in this car with her. They're both pretty extraordinary challenges."
Each Gladiator will handle the truth about Olivia very differently, notes Katie Lowes, who plays newest OPA member Quinn. "It's very complicated and human, as per usual," she says. "There's no black or white about it."
The news will also impact the White House, as Fitz is pressured to address the situation with the public. "It's extreme," says Goldwyn, who adds that Fitz will likely suspect Mellie (Bellamy Young) as the leak. "It's like a tsunami coming into the White House. Fitz pulls into himself and gets real practical about everything. He deals with it quite soberly with a pretty clear head while everyone is freaking out around him."
But co-star Darby Stanchfield says the leak will be the least of OPA's worries. "When Episode 301 airs, we have this big problem, but when the episode ends, you've got like five problems, in typical Scandal fashion," she says.
That's likely due to the reveal that B613 leader Rowan (Joe Morton) is actually Olivia's father, who showed up seconds after the press stormed her building. With the premiere picking up minutes later, executive producer Betsy Beers says the first two episodes are fraught with the father-daughter relationship. "It's the most challenging, moving, surprising dynamic for a family that I've really seen in a while," she says. "You will learn a lot. It's clearly unorthodox, but it really drives it in an incredibly intense, surprising direction."
Who do you think outed Olivia?
Scandal returns Thursday, Oct. 3 at 10/9c on ABC.