For the second time in a year, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) has gone missing. Unfortunately, she’s not off sipping du Bellay on a deserted island this time around. In the closing moments of Scandal‘s winter finale, Olivia was kidnapped, likely by someone working for Vice President Andrew Nichols (Jon Tenney), who threatened POTUS (Tony Goldwyn) to go to war.
“There’s a lot at stake,” executive producer Shonda Rhimes tells EW. “I love the fact that Andrew says to the president at the end of that episode, ‘What is the one thing that you would do anything to get back? What is the one thing you can’t live without?’ The idea that she is the one thing, that’s going to be a big issue. We’re talking about war. It brings on a lot of complications for Fitz and a lot of complications for Jake [Scott Foley] as well. But not just for them, pretty much for everybody. Everybody is extraordinarily affected by this situation, even David Rosen [Josh Malina].”
Olivia’s kidnapping, Rhimes says, couldn’t come at a more inconvenient time. “When we left Olivia, she was—I don’t alike to use the word healed, but for general purposes—healed,” she says. “There was a lot of closure for her in terms of the stuff that was going on with her father [Joe Morton]. While it was never going to be fixed, she had closed the door on her parents. She found a way to let go in that scene with Cyrus [Jeff Perry]. As much as she’s yelling at Cyrus, she’s yelling at herself.”
“She says to Jake that she’s not choosing anybody,” Rhimes continues. “Basically, ‘I want the sun and I want Vermont, so ya’ll both can be here, but I don’t really care.’ You felt a certain freedom and a certain happiness that was happening with her that felt like she was comfortable with her legacy and her heritage, but also looking into the right future. And just when all of that was good, it’s gone, or stopped or changed and we took a very strong left turn.”
That left turn means the ABC political fixer drama is going down a new path. “The first episode back of Scandal is my favorite episode of television I have ever done, ever written, ever worked on, ever gotten to do,” Rhimes says. “I think that it’s some of Kerry’s finest work. It’s completely different from anything. It’s so different, I don’t know how to describe it. Whatever you think Scandal is, think again.”
As for those left behind, Jake will quickly jump into action by enlisting OPA to hunt Olivia down, though their boss going MIA again might not be the only hurdle they’ll soon be facing. Lest we forget, Huck (Guillermo Diaz) turned over those B613 files to former wife Kim (Jasika Nicole), likely marking the first time a civilian has discovered the truth about the black ops organization and lived to tell the tale. But Rhimes is shy to say what she’ll do with that information, only offering that “Jasika is in some episodes, that’s all I’m going to say.”
Fitz, meanwhile, will be dealing with things back at the White House, which includes figuring out which side Mellie (Bellamy Young) falls on when it comes to her husband vs. her lover—though Mellie now knows Andrew had been sleeping with Elizabeth North (Portia de Rossi). “Mellie falls on Mellie’s side,” Rhimes says. “What we see of her is very surprising. The Mellie that we see when we come back and the Mellie that deals with this situation is the Mellie we’ve watched her become. She’s certainly not the Mellie that we started out with when we started this show, and certainly not the Mellie we saw at the very beginning of the season. She’s a wiser, darker Mellie who has come through the fire of her child being gone and has moved past that. She and her husband are in a very different place.”
As for exactly who took Olivia, it won’t be long before we find out—though money’s on new recurring guest-star Jason Butler Harner. In fact, the first few minutes of the premiere will show Olivia’s perspective during the kidnapping, which will definitely surprise you.
Scandal returns Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.