Scandal President Cyrus Francisco Vargas
Courtesy of ABC

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched Season 5, Episode 13 of “Scandal,” which aired on Thursday, March 10.

Looks like Mellie isn’t the only eyeing the Oval Office. On Thursday’s “Scandal,” a new presidential candidate emerged and he’s in the form of a Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) manipulation.

Governer Francisco Vargas (Ricardo Chavira, “Desperate Housewives”), the newly-minted American hero who survived the Capitol shooting in last week’s episode found himself victim of Cyrus’s master plan to persuade him to run for president. Cyrus has had his eye on the Mexican-American politician since his debut two episodes back when secretly scouted him out, in a move displaying his disloyalty to President Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) and Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young).

Throughout the episode, Cyrus not-so-subtlety drops hints to Francisco (aka Frankie) that he would make a great president. He fixes up a botched meeting with Fitz, gets Frankie on Sally Langston’s show and when he finds out Frankie’s young daughter has cancer, Cyrus goes so low to fabricate a story about his own sick brother from years past — except Cyrus doesn’t have a brother. Despite the lies and manipulation, by episode’s end, Frankie tells Cyrus he wants him to run his campaign, making his declaration that he wants to run for president.

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Also in tonight’s episode:

  • Abby (Darby Stanchfield) helps Fitz cover up his rotating slate of one-nighters;
  • Mellie walks in on Fitz with one of his ladies-of-the-night and shows him who’s boss in all of her Mellie goodness;
  • Jake (Scott Foley) tries to get back with Olivia in a very steamy sex scene, before telling her that he’s engaged to his other girlfriend — all over dinner with Rowan (Joe Morton);
  • The Gladiators are back! Team OPA was about to cover up the Secret Service’s mishap when a dead hooker shows up after the boys partied too hard, but they ended up getting the entire team fired when they learned their corrupt clients actually killed the prostitute to cover up their own wrongdoings

 

Back to the Cyrus-Francisco storyline, in this Q&A, Chavira tells Variety how long Frankie will stick around for and if Fitz — or Cyrus — should keep their eye on him.

How have you enjoyed joining “Scandal?”
It’s a big show — it’s got a big cast, so they’ve got to service that big cast so I guess my only problem is that I’m not there enough! Having the ability to work with Jeff Perry and Tony Goldwyn, they are two of the nicest men you could ever meet. They are just such gentlemen. That’s across the board though.

You are recurring this season. How many episodes will you be in?
Right now, they’ve got me til the end of the season for this story arc — it could go on or it could fizzle out. I don’t know what their plans are. As with all things “Scandal,” they’re very tight-lipped about everything.

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Were you a fan of “Scandal” before you joined the show?
I’m not a big scripted television watcher at all. It’s not really my cup of tea. I watch a lot of news, a lot of sports. I have two children so that’s my priority. But I had seen the show, I’ve had friends that had worked on the show, I know the constructs of the show so very much a fan. The fact that it’s on ABC, a network that I’m pretty familiar with, I was definitely excited when the opportunity arose.

How is being back on ABC, after “Desperate Housewives?”
It’s different. The landscape has changed. Back when I was in the throws of “Housewives,” there were a lot of people still live watching TV. We had 30 million viewers at one point. That’s not the game anymore … it seems like certain things are micro-managed in terms of talent on shows and showrunning. But for me, it’s nice that “Scandal” is very tight-lipped and doesn’t want to give anything away to their audience because “Housewives” had that as well, so I’m used to getting scripts very late and not knowing exactly what’s happening with my character. I guess “Housewives” prepped me for that! But to be back on a network that I had been on before, it makes everything feel very comfortable — and to have been invited into Shondaland, into the Shonda Rhimes world, I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.

Does Frankie have any idea that Cyrus has ulterior motives?
I don’t think so at all. I think that he’s just a very genuine, forthright person, and I think that’s exactly as he was described — the only downside to him is that no one knows who he is. In terms of those political aspirations that extend for him beyond Pennsylvania, I don’t even think he’s given it much thought so I think that’s something that will probably unravel in the next episode or two.

What caused the change in heart in Frankie to want to pursue bigger, presidential political aspirations?
It’s such a small scene where he gets face time with the President, but the President just completely cock-blocks him for lack of a better word. I think there’s a sense of ‘This can’t be how it is!’ that goes through him. He’s someone who really wants to be fighting the big fight and wants to really be representing the constituents of his state and maybe even more than that, but in a genuine way. When he sees this old stonewall political agenda happening, I think it really bristles his feathers.

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Why do you think he ultimately says he wants to run for President?
Well, I think Cyrus has pulled on his heartstrings. The relationship that is developing between Francisco and Cyrus begs a comparison to Othello and Iago. It’s very Shakespearean.

Cyrus pulling on Frankie’s heartstrings was all a lie, though! There is no Oliver!
That’s where it’s Othello-Iago. The story is a lie, but it got him what he wanted, and that’s very Cyrus. Who knows when the rose colored glasses will be taken away from Frankie.

When Frankie finds out that Cyrus has been lying to him for purposes of his own agenda, will that create bad blood or will he be okay with it because now he wants to run for President anyway?
I think what may happen is that Cyrus may find out some information about Frankie that he wasn’t quite ready for.

Oh! So should we expect some sort of twist in Frankie’s storyline?
Possibly. The other thing is that my character serves Jeff Perry’s storyline so as long as they want this to be an effective storyline for Cyrus, I think Frankie will be wearing the rose-colored glasses because the moment he smells foul in Cyrus, I think Frankie is a person that would say this relationship is over — but that may not be the case! And that’s where Shonda is quite phenomenal. But when does he find out the truth? Who knows. Apparently, Cyrus has been doing this kind of thing for five seasons now so he must be pretty good at what he does.

You said you’re signed onto the show until the end of the season, but now that “Scandal” has been renewed for Season 6, should viewers expect Frankie to actually be a viable competitor in the presidential race?
I would think so. I wouldn’t think that they would build such a strong storyline for this character and for the relationship with Cyrus. If they’re putting that much investment in it, it seems like he is a legitimate candidate.

How do you think Fitz will react when he realizes what Cyrus is up to?
I’m sure he will be able exercise his position [laughing] and make his feelings known. I’m sure that will happen.

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