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‘Scandal’: Abby Slams Olivia, A Fan Favorite Returns & Fire is Ignited

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not seen season 5, episode 3 of “Scandal,” titled “Paris is Burning.”

Now that Olivia (Kerry Washington) spilled her secret to the world that she’s been sleeping with the President of the United States, Abby (Darby Stanchfield) has a mess to clean up in the White House, especially because Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) and First Lady Mellie (Bellamy Young) were about ready to declare their phony love to the country in a televised interview.

As if her hands weren’t already full enough covering up her best friend’s affair for work purposes, Abby is also deeply hurt that Olivia lied to her about her presidential rendezvous. “Abby doesn’t avoid conflict and Abby is not very good at hiding anything so they come to blows,” Stanchfield tells Variety of the emotional scene, in which the two ladies argue about Olivia lying to her face. In an effort to control the situation, Abby decides the only option to enable Olivia and Fitz to go forth with their relationship is to publicly shame her during a highly publicized press conference.

Meanwhile, Cyrus (Jeff Perry) returns and has Mellie wrapped around his finger, while she is being asked to stand by her husband, the president, to make nice in the public eye. As the pair teams up, Cyrus convinces Mellie that she needs to negotiate demands for herself, ultimately resulting in her realization that she wants the Oval Office.

All political and sexual desires aside, another fire even more dangerous is ignited. As Olivia and Fitz’s scandal is splashed all over the news, Jake (Scott Foley), who’s at Olivia Pope & Associates, notices that the Lourve is burning down in Paris — and for reasons unknown to the viewer, he rushes to jail to visit none other than Rowan (Joe Morton), wrapping the episode up with a cliffhanger: what flames is Papa Pope throwing this time?

As for Rowan being behind bars, Morton teases to Variety, “I would think given who he is … he will find a way out.”

Here, Stanchfield offers up emotional behind-the-scenes stories from the dramatic episode, in which Olivia and Abby make up. But she promises, just because they’ve reunited, that the White House is not under control, by any means.

Abby was really upset that Olivia lied to her about the affair with Fitz. Where does their friendship now stand?
What happens is you start to see that this bond between them becomes stronger going forward. I think it’s one of those challenges in a friendship where they become stronger. Abby full-on confronts Olivia that she doesn’t think she’s good at her job, but in fact, this is probably Abby’s pinnacle in the White House. We really see Abby come into her own, and Olivia is really just standing by and witnessing it. Abby is doing exactly what Olivia would do in the way that she handles it.

Now that Abby will be responsible for handling the media storm surrounding Olivia and Fitz’s relationship, will the ladies’ friendship be different?
I think going forward, there is a new-found respect of Abby’s ability from Olivia. It gives them more of an equal footing going forward.

Fitz isn’t so confident in Abby though. Will Olivia be able to make him more trusting in Abby?
Olivia is the Fitz whisperer. She really is the one that he trusts and confides in the most. Everybody else, aside from her, really, they don’t have the president’s trust or ear quite like Olivia. Olivia can see how Abby is fixing it, and the president can’t. He tends to be a little near-sided about situations … They help each other. Olivia and Abby continue to help each other moving forward in the series.

So despite their rocky relationship, Abby and Olivia’s relationship will continue to be strong this season?
It does. It continues to grow. There are some scenes that even surprised me, just in terms of there being a deeper trust or a deeper confiding or a deeper sort of problem-solving together. I think it will be really fun for fans to see their friendship blossom even deeper.

What was it like filming the scene with Kerry when Abby calls out Olivia for not thinking that she’s good at her job?
When we filmed that scene, there was one take and the camera was on Kerry’s side, and when I ask her the question — “You didn’t want to tell me because you didn’t think I’d be good enough at my job to handle it!” — I just stood there and I pointed at her. I looked her in the eye and she lost it. We really know how to push each other’s buttons and we really have immense respect for each other as actors and as women so we have this really great ability to help each other and to push each other’s buttons so it’s always a blast filming with Kerry.

At the press conference, Abby throws Olivia under the bus to make her the villain to the public. Is that hard for her to do?
She stands up at the podium and throws Olivia under the bus. She paints her as this woman who’s loose and fast and has an agenda, which couldn’t be further from the truth and it breaks Abby up to say that.

That scene played out pretty emotional for Abby. What was your reaction when you read the script?
When we do these table reads, we do them cold, and we don’t know what we’re going into. When Kerry and I read that scene, and it came to what Abby had to do, I got incredibly choked up and I had to stop for literally a minute before and pull myself together before I could move forward and say those words without sobbing. It just hit me.

Now that the press conference is wrapped and Olivia and Fitz are out in the open, does that mean their relationship will be smooth sailing going forward?
There’s nothing smooth about what’s going forward. There’s still a lot of dimensions to work through in the White House with regards to Olivia and Fitz being now publicly out. How is Mellie going to navigate that and what is she going to do? Think about it — she is the senator of Virginia so that’s trouble too. What she can do politically, potentially, can be quite scary, especially with Cyrus in her ear.

Yes — Cyrus is back! He begs Fitz to bring him back into the White House, but Fitz blatantly dismisses him. Is there any chance of getting him back in Fitz’s good graces?
Cyrus is incredibly hurt about being ousted out of the White House. The reason for his existence is the president…he’s out for some power and he’s going to find any angle he can to get it and get back in that White House.

Cyrus is back and is teaming up with Mellie. Should we be concerned about this partnership?
Very concerned. So far, they have a really strong alliance and he is in her ear. He’s sort of puppeteering her. He’s kind of a mastermind in terms of getting her to do what he wants, and that can be a very dangerous situation because that’s just hard for the administration, the president, Olivia and Fitz going forward.

Watch Joe Morton’s interview with Variety, in which he teases Rowan’s prison fate:

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