SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched “Watch Me,” the Oct. 5 season 7 premiere of “Scandal.”
“Scandal” returned with a final season premiere that saw Olivia (Kerry Washington) trying to have it all. But her definition of that term is not the traditional marriage, family, and high-powered career. Instead, she pushed relationships to the side to focus solely on elevating her power — which that resulted in a break-up with Jake (Scott Foley).
But Foley says just because they are no longer romantically linked does not mean that the two characters will not be tied to each other as the rest of the season unfolds. He admits to “hope and the desire to be together,” at least on the part of Jake, adding that Jake feels he has to watch Olivia closely now that she has so much power but no system of checks and balances.
“He’s standing by her, supporting her, but he’s very ready to step in should something go wrong,” Foley says. “It’s a delicate balance. She is now his boss, so Jake is doing his best to be very cautious with both how he and she proceed at this point. This is new territory, new ground, and it’s going to be very dangerous.”
As the new head of B613, Olivia wielded her power for good this time, to save the life of a captured spy when Jake wanted to take him out. In that way, she and her father, Rowan (Joe Morton), are experiencing a “role reversal.” “When I was the head of B613, the pay grade was above the president, but there was still a system of checks and balances,” Morton says. Now Olivia is really “making him understand that he has fallen.”
Foley adds that as Olivia has finally gotten everything she said she wanted, the theme of the season is whether or not she will be able to make it work, or “will she be the nail in her own coffin?”
Washington says her power play was an example of Olivia wanting to do things differently in her new role and fully believing she can, though. “I do think she’s confident in herself and in her capacity to lead and her strength,” Washington says. “But it’s also confidence with awareness that when you’re in power there’s always somebody coming for you.”
Olivia also displayed that confidence when she delivered a monologue to Mellie (Bellamy Young) about being a monument or an asterisk in history. Although Mellie is the one with the most power in the public eye, Young says she “has no idea the wolf sitting across from her” in Olivia. And while Washington feels that Olivia and Mellie are “very much a team,” Mellie has to be willing to “give and take” on that team. While many characters serve at the office of the president, Olivia has proven to be the one with the ability to put someone in that office, let alone keep them there.
“To be part of OPA and be able to manipulate the press is one thing,” says Morton. “To be able to work in a situation where you’re able to actually manipulate the country is a very different situation.”
While Olivia is certainly sitting atop a new throne, Washington says that will come with all kinds of new challenges for her this season. “There’s always other people who want to be there, so I think part of what we’re discovering is who can you trust?” she says.
After all, her former allies in Olivia Pope & Associates are now working under Quinn (Katie Lowes) and her newly named QPA (Quinn Perkins & Associates) banner, and as they re-brand and find new clients and their own place in the political landscape of the show, they may end up at odds with Olivia’s new mission. (“We’re sort of frenemies,” George Newbern says.)
And so may Fitz (Tony Goldwyn), who has been off in Vermont with little-to-no communication with Olivia, whom he was giving space. As of now, Fitz is still unaware of just how dark a hat Olivia has put on, though Goldwyn says if and when he becomes aware, he will be “profoundly alarmed” by the “dark threat on Olivia’s soul.” But, he notes, “Olivia does not like to be saved, especially by Fitz. So that’s going to be a challenge for them.”
“Scandal’s” seventh and final season is on ABC Thursdays at 9 p.m.