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Scandal” is back Thursday night after nearly a three month hiatus, and a six month time jump on-screen. But even after time has passed, the drama hasn’t settled — especially not between Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) and Olivia (Kerry Washington), who ended the first half of Season 5 leaving the president after her shocking abortion.

“I think in ‘Scandal,’ there is always hope for Olivia and Fitz, but the words that were exchanged and the argument that they had, that does feel final. And it does change the climate at least for a while,” Darby Stanchfield, who plays White House press secretary Abby Whelan, tells Variety. “I wouldn’t put it past the writers that there’s potential for them to reunite, but for this next chapter coming up, Fitz’s world is rocked and he’s in a totally new place without Olivia there and with Mellie gone. He’s sort of in a territory never seen before.”

Fitz and Olivia’s separation isn’t the only new relationship for the president — Stanchfield says that with Liv out of Fitz’s life, Abby (Stanchfield) becomes his new crutch.

“Abby, in a way, is kind of left holding the bag in this explosion when Olivia leaves the White House. The president isn’t relying on Cyrus as much, they seem to be not as close,” Stanchfield says. “Abby is left in a totally new world herself and there’s some really great stuff coming up for Abby in that she steps into a new set of responsibilities or interests that she would never have guessed herself in.”

Here, Stanchfield tells Variety more about Fitz’s world crashing, Mellie’s presidential hopes, and that steamy Olivia and Jake (Scott Foley) make out in “Scandal’s” recent promo.

How does the relationship between Fitz and Abby change, now that Olivia is out of his life?

The president turns to her in new and expansive ways that she ever thought she would be approached by the president. She’s being asked things of the president that she never thought would be in her relationship with the president and her duties as press secretary. She finds herself in absolutely new territory with the president, which is both funny and disturbing and also very enticing and powerful.

Any chance for romance between Fitz and Abby?

You never know what’s going to happen, but I would say that they become closer, they definitely become more intimate, but not at all in the way that everybody is kind of wondering in terms of romance.

Mellie wants to be president — badly. How will that impact Fitz?

She wants to be president! We get to see her explore that and really drill down on that agenda. There are great challenge that come up with her. She finds herself in a new world because she wants to be president and she’s not with the president. She’ll be matched up with characters that she normally isn’t because she’s really out on her own looking for the right people to help her become president.

From the looks of the promo, Olivia is not going to be helping Mellie with her campaign. Could that change?

That seems to be the case — at least in the promo. But who knows. Things can change like three times in one episode. Those two always butt heads. It’s great stuff. There are some really rich scenes with them coming up.

How is the dynamic between Abby and Olivia these days?

The fact that Abby is so close to the president and Olivia is so far away from the president right now, I think there is always something to talk about or not talk about for Olivia and Abby. We get to continue to see more of their friendship develop and that relationship steers a different way now that Olivia is out of the White House. They definitely still have the president in common — that’s nothing that’s too far from Olivia’s mind.

According to the midseason promo, something else apparently not too far from Olivia’s mind is Jake…

That’s also a fascinating relationship that doesn’t seem to have a finale to it! They do find each other back in each other’s world. I think every character has a major change in their identity coming back into the season — Jake comes back and he also finds himself in a new position and his love life becomes very interesting so I think Olivia may or not be a part of that. They have some working out to do, the two of them. There’s some great stuff.

Back to Olivia’s former love life — will Fitz ever find out about her abortion?

I’m drawing a blank. I can’t remember off the top of my head. I’m sure it will come up.

Olivia really seems to be a whole new woman, even wearing bright colors and red now. What sort of Olivia should viewers expect in the back half of the season?

Over the last several months, being away from the White House, Olivia has found her center again in terms of turning over a new leaf. You can see in the promo, she has her mojo back. Often, you’ll hear about something who breaks up and they cut their hair — the color coming into her wardrobe is a metaphor for her finding a new leaf in life and becoming more reinvigorated. It will be fun to see that she’s built that new level confidence again.

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