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Scandal cast teases alt-reality 100th episode

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Scandal‘s 100th episode is going to take viewers way back to the beginning. But in a Sliding Doors-esque twist, the hour will depict what would’ve happened if Olivia & Co. didn’t rig the election.

“The 100th episode is insane. This is a ‘what if?’ episode. You’re seeing an alternate reality if things had not gone the way they went,” Tony Goldwyn revealed at PaleyFest. “It’s not a standalone. It actually informs your understanding [of these characters] when we get back to our normal Scandal reality.”

Here’s the logline for the episode, which was first revealed by The Hollywood Reporter: “With the ugly truth behind Frankie’s assassination revealed, a torn Olivia (Kerry Washington) wonders how different her life — and the country — would be if she, Mellie (Bellamy Young), and Cyrus (Jeff Perry) had never rigged Fitz’s (Tony Goldwyn) election.”

During the second season of the ABC drama, viewers learned that the trio had rigged the election by tampering with voting machines, which led to Fitz’s presidency, but also a lot of pain for others — namely for Quinn (Katie Lowes), who was framed for the death of her boyfriend (Adam Shapiro), the man who helped rig the machines.

The hour will include many callbacks for longtime Gladiators, as we see the characters we’ve come to know and love in very different places and incarnations — after all, would Olivia Pope’s (Kerry Washington) firm OPA even exist in this timeline? “We have some fantasy fulfillment, there’s some dread fulfillment,” Joshua Malina said. Added Lowes: “It’s really the OG Gladiator inside track. It’s such a gift the Scandal writers gave to us.”

The landmark episode will also provide some levity in an otherwise heavy season, which has featured the assassination of President-Elect Francisco Vargas (Ricardo Chavira) and the potential death of a beloved member of OPA — Huck (Guillermo Diaz) was shot multiple times during Thursday’s episode, though Diaz stayed coy on his character’s fate. “Where it’s placed in our season, with the Huck storyline getting really heavy, it’s oxygen to this fire and you laugh because you need to,” Darby Stanchfield said, explaining that the cast was in stitches during the table read for the 100th episode.

The entire cast also marveled at the fact that the show has even made it this far. “We would not be sitting here if it weren’t for you guys,” Washington told the audience, recalling how the Shondaland show was on the bubble after its shortened first season. “You breathed life into us and you continue to.”

As for the future of the series, the cast seemed optimistic about seeing much more Olivia Pope — the show has already been renewed for season 7. “I think it goes as long as you want it to go,” Joe Morton said to much applause.

Scandal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.