Eric McCandless/ABC
Kerry Washington, Scandal

12 Unforgettable Scandal Moments That Made the ABC Drama Must-See TV

The Shonda Rhimes drama delivered big twists and epic cliffhangers that we're still talking about years later

TV Throwback

Anthony Roman

Two years after that heart-stopping series finale, Scandalremains one of the most exciting and addictive shows to ever hit the airwaves. Over the course of the ABC drama's exhilarating seven-year run, we saw everything from a rigged presidential election to politicians backstabbing each other for power to a secret black ops organization carrying out some of TV's most brutal murders. And while the show took audiences on a rollercoaster ride of fast-moving storylines and jaw-dropping plot twists, you could always count on Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and the rest of her white hat-wearing Gladiators to be there to clean up those inconceivable messes.

As part of TV Guide's TV Throwback, we're showcasing our favorite shows to rewatch. And while diving back into old episodes of Scandal won't be the same without the cast live-tweeting along, the Shonda Rhimes show is just as hooking now as it was when it debuted back in 2012. So in celebration of the series that gave us tantalizing secret hookups, like Olivia and Jake (Scott Foley) on his kitchen island, and shocking murder plots, like everything Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) did in Season 7, we're taking a look back at some of Scandal's most unforgettable moments. You know, the ones that sent your nerves into disarray and your fingers furiously tapping on Twitter. 

Here are 12 of Scandal's most memorable moments:

1. Olivia's abortion (Season 5, Episode 9)

While Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) filibustered to protect funding for Planned Parenthood, Olivia made the difficult choice to have an abortion. The groundbreaking scene, which was backed by Aretha Franklin's rendition of "Silent Night" and featured Olivia in stirrups, remains one of the show's most talked-about moments.



2. Defiance (Season 2, Episode 4)

In a moment that solidified Scandal's status as the show to watch, we learned that Olivia had conspired with Mellie, Cyrus, Verna (Debra Mooney), and Hollis (Gregg Henry) behind Fitz's (Tony Goldwyn) back to rig the presidential election and get him into the Oval Office. The game-changing secret dominated the first two seasons of the Shondaland drama and proved that even our heroes were willing to go to unimaginable lengths in order to secure power in Washington.

3. When Papa Pope schooled Fitz (Season 3, Episode 10)

He might be a mass murderer, but Rowan's tenacity and acidic tongue have also made him a favorite among fans. One particularly biting monologue that lands among TV's best saw the former B613 commander read Fitz to filth, calling the president a "boy" who was using his romance with Olivia as an easy way out from his privileged life as the son of an accomplished senator. It was a fitting reminder that no one delivers a devastating insult like Papa Pope.

4. Olivia and Fitz's electrical closet hookup (Season 2, Episode 14)

Even when they were off, they were still very much on. Despite being on the outs over what went down with Defiance, the hot-and-heavy pair just couldn't stay apart. Those inexorable feelings for each other were on full display during a steamy, unforgettable romp in an electrical closet — at the christening for Cyrus and James' daughter Ella, no less!



5. "The Lawn Chair" (Season 4, Episode 14)

Inspired by the real-life events in Ferguson, this harrowing episode centered around the shooting of an unarmed Black teen by a white police officer. Holding a standoff with local authorities while sitting in a lawn chair in front of his dead son's body, the distraught father caught the attention of Olivia Pope, who took part in the protest against police brutality. The episode explored different sides of the debate surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and ended on a hopeful note with the officer arrested and his corruption exposed.

6. That time Olivia killed Andrew (Season 5, Episode 17)

Up until this point, Olivia didn't have any blood on her hands.  But that all changed when Vice President Andrew Nichols (Jon Tenney) triggered Olivia's PTSD, which stemmed from her kidnapping earlier that season, by taunting her about the abduction. Andrew's thinly-veiled threats sparked a violent response from the Washington fixer who literally beat him to death with a chair. Brutal.

7. When Jake killed James (Season 3, Episode 14)

A cliffhanger teased the death of either David Rosen (Joshua Malina) or James Novak (Dan Bucatinsky), who were getting too close to the truth about Daniel Douglas Langston's (Jack Coleman) murder. Unfortunately, it was James who literally bit the bullet and the fan favorite's life was ended by a remorseful Jake in one slow and torturous scene.



8. Smelly Mellie (Season 4, Episodes 1-5)

Grieving the loss of her son, Mellie ditched her first lady duties and opted for lounging around the White House in a bathrobe while eating her feelings. It may have been one of the worst times in her life, but the rocky period also produced some of the show's funniest and most memorable moments, including her scarfing down a piece of fried chicken and telling off Fitz while drunk on her mason jar moonshine. 

9. Huck tortures Quinn (Season 3, Episode 9)

In one of Scandal's most gruesome scenes, Huck (Guillermo Diaz) tortured his friend and fellow Gladiator Quinn (Katie Lowes) for being a mole within the group. The B613 operative yanked Quinn's teeth out in a chilling scene none of us will ever unsee.

10. Olivia and Jake's getaway (Season 4, Episode 1)

Unable to cope with her mother being a terrorist and her father murdering Fitz's son, Olivia decided to "chase the sun" with Jake on an exotic island. However, the news of Harris' death cut their blissful vacation short, and they were forced to return to the real world. They may have crashed and burned as a couple, but this sweet moment remains a fond memory.



11. Fitz getting shot on his 50th birthday (Season 2, Episode 7)

The leader of the free world miraculously survived a head wound only to end up in a coma with Sally Langston (Kate Burton) chomping at the bit for power. The shocker turned into a social media event with #WhoShotFitz trending on Twitter and saw Mellie forge his signature (a treasonous act) in order to protect his presidency. Spoiler alert: He eventually woke up, and Mellie's desperate deed was quickly forgotten.

12. Cyrus smothering David to death (Season 7, Episode 18)

We knew Scandal wouldn't go out without at least one more shocking death, but no one could have foreseen the horrific way that Cyrus murdered David Rosen. After inviting the attorney general to his home under the guise of striking a deal, Cyrus' true intentions were revealed. He poisoned David in order to maintain his position of power, and when the deadly concoction wasn't working quickly enough, he used a pillow to suffocate the honorary Gladiator.  It was a cruel act, even for Cyrus, that served as a rallying cry for Abby (Darby Stanchfield) and the rest of the gang to take Cyrus down, once and for all. In the end, they succeeded — with help from Rowan — and Cyrus was forced to resign as vice president. Though it looked as though he got off rather lightly, a scene cut from the finale revealed that Huck killed him shortly after stepping down.

Scandal is available to stream on Hulu. Check out more great 2010s series to watch here.

A version of this article was originally published in April 2018.

Looking for more shows to stream? Check out TV Guide's TV Throwback, recommending the best shows to rewatch — or to discover for the first time — from 1970 through the present day.

TV Throwback

Anthony Roman