The last time we saw Scandal's Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) & Co., Vargas (Ricardo Antonio Chavira) had named Cyrus (Jeff Perry) his running mate, while Mellie (Bellamy Young) tapped Jake (Scott Foley) for her ticket. The Season 6 premiere will skip ahead to the dramatic events of election night, but the 16-episode season will also flash back in time to explain how everyone arrived at that moment.

Different episodes will focus on different characters and be told from their perspectives, and the shorter episode order — a result of Washington's second pregnancy and something series creator Shonda Rhimes actually asked for last season — has allowed the writers to be able to craft a sharper, tighter and stronger story.

"[This season is] really about where [the characters] come to after all this time," Rhimes told reporters Tuesday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. "We've watched them descend from any moral high ground they could have possibly had to the lowest depths. ... It's very different from any other season we've had."

Everything we know about Scandal Season 6

The writers are still planning and writing the show's 100th episode, so there's nothing to report regarding that milestone, but one thing fans shouldn't expect to see this season is Scandal taking a stance on the current political climate in the wake of the election of Donald Trump. Not only did the show film its election night story long before the results of the real presidential election were revealed in November, but five of the first six episodes were written and shot before Trump was named president-elect.

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"Shonda's taking the show in a new fresh direction," said Tony Goldwyn, "[but] the fact that it's in counterpoint to this crazy political world that America is living through is interesting, but they're not the same. [Season 6] is not in reaction to that."

Scandal returns Thursday, Jan. 26 at 9/8c on ABC.