Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Thursday’s episode of Scandal. Read at your own risk!
Did Abby really betray everyone on Scandal in a quest for power? Well, yes and no.
Thursday’s episode of Scandal took viewers back to Election Night once again, revealing new events from Abby’s (Darby Stanchfield) point of view. In the immediate aftermath of Frankie Vargas’ (Ricardo Chavira) assassination, Abby was in shock, realizing she was partially at fault because of her own connection to this mysterious organization, which she obviously came to regret that fateful night.
Via flashback, we learn Abby was long ago approached by the organization, offering her $300 million and a future in which she could be President of the United States. Though she initially turned them down, Abby was attracted to the possibility of power — and also didn’t want to end up fly fishing and making jam in Vermont alongside Fitz (Tony Goldwyn).
Little did Abby know that by saying yes, she was drawn into the organization’s web. Either she do their bidding by locking down the hospital and replacing the bullets used to kill Frankie or they would report that the $300 million actually came from North Korea. Thus, Abby was trapped in the same way Rowan (Joe Morton) was. They even took Leo (Paul Adelstein) hostage to force her hand.
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Though Abby tried to turn to David Rosen (Josh Malina) for help, she discovered he was actually dating the woman (Zoe Perry) from the organization, thus her only course of action was making a deal with them: She revealed Jennifer Fields was alive (leading to this) in order to get Cyrus (Jeff Perry) out of jail. To what end? EW turned to Stanchfield to find out.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why do you think Abby initially said yes to these people? Was it just an attraction to power?
DARBY STANCHFIELD: Absolutely. It’s a very subtle surprise, it’s not a big “OMG” moment, but that probably is the deepest, most subtle surprise about Abby, the fact that she is seduced by money and power. It’s a moment of weakness for Abby — at least that’s the way I see it — in terms of her going for power. They’re tickling her ears, it’s quick and it’s easy. It’s not like she doesn’t have power. That’s what’s so fascinating about it. She’s the Chief of Staff. Fitz says early in the episode, “The possibilities for you are endless, there’s a lot you can do in this town.” So it’s not like she’s lacking possibilities. But it reveals a blindly ambitious moment for Abby.
Isn’t Abby smarter than this, though?
This is real talk: That was the hardest scene for me to shoot because that’s exactly how I feel. I really, really struggled with that question, like, “Come on! I don’t think Abby is presidential material. I play Abby and I don’t see this for Abby. So how do I find that? How do I agree to this?” Eventually, I realized that that turmoil, or that struggle, is in Abby. It’s not like Abby does anything without a struggle in this episode; everything is filled with tension — even her turning over the name of Jennifer Fields. She doesn’t say yes right away at that lunch. “Yeah, yeah, okay, this meeting was great, but you guys are kind of weird and I’m going to go,” but she has an emotional conversation with the president, she’s frustrated, and all of a sudden, it looks good. It just goes to show you that it is a moment of weakness, so it’s a moment of her being blind. The struggle of that for me, I just used it for Abby’s struggle in terms of she’s just in a lot of turmoil. As soon as she says yes, everything goes wrong. So it was just a good parallel.
How much regret does Abby have over getting involved with these people?
Oh, the regret is endless, it’s boundless. Let me tell you, that is addressed as we go further in the season, and it’s messy, it’s deep, and it’s heartbreaking.
Is there a part of Abby that wishes she was just back with OPA in that moment?
Oh, sure. Like in life, where sometimes you don’t realize what you had until you don’t have it, going forward Abby loses a lot in terms of the decision that she made, the mistakes that she made, in this episode. So, yes, yes, yes. [Laughs]
What does Abby plan to do now that she’s gotten Cyrus out of jail? Is that just to assuage her guilt or does she have a game plan that requires Cyrus?
Well, first of all, we don’t know that she got Cyrus out of jail because she was really stupid in the negotiations. It’s another bad move of Abby’s. “Here, you want to do a drug/money switch? Here’s the money, give me the drugs!” But she didn’t get the drugs, she just gave the money away. It was another moment of, “Come on, Abby, be a little smarter than this!” We just know that Abby gave the gold away and hasn’t gotten her end of the deal, so we’ve yet to see that. Is it part of a bigger plan? Even though we’re a few episodes ahead, I don’t know that I can fully answer that. The way they’re using time this season, jumping around playing with time, I don’t know that that question has been fully realized.
Since Meg says Huck won’t know that Abby is involved, does that indicate Huck is alive?
Um… yeah, I think so, in that moment. It’s vague for a reason. What was so interesting about that scene is Shonda [Rhimes] came up to me at the end of last week’s episode when we find out Abby is a mole, and she’s like, “Listen, before you shoot that scene, I need the writers to get you the next script.” So I got a chance to sit down and read everything that happens in this Abby episode, which never happens because we’re at these table reads and that’s when we find everything out. This is one of those very rare instances where they let me see a little bit ahead.
So that informed how you played that scene?
Yes, it definitely informed it. We even had two directors on set that day. There have been a couple of instances this season where there’s a scene that plays in two different episodes, so there are two different directors who are giving you different sets of notes because they both need something slightly different — they might use the same take, but they might not. It’s incredibly fun and challenging this season to work on as an actor.
Let’s talk about this organization. How do you guys even refer to it? Will they get a proper name?
They have a fake name for their company that we talk about at the lunch. We know mystery woman’s name is Samantha, or maybe it’s something else; she has a couple of names. She does have a different name every time. I refer to her as Mean Girl with the Ponytail. [Laughs] Even meaner now that she’s with David Rosen!
How will OPA feel if they find out Abby’s involvement? It was one thing to leave for the White House, but has she gone too far now? Can she never come back?
Yes and yes. Can she come back? I still don’t know if she can come back from where we’re at, but yes, different characters find out and they all react in their own way. It’s an action that changes the nature of Abby and Olivia’s relationship and all the OPA people. It’s pretty messy going forward.
Should we be worried about Abby considering certain members of OPA are trained killers?
Yes, I’m worried. Yup, there’s been threats. We should definitely, definitely worry. I’m still worried. [Laughs] Quite frankly, I’m still worried, it’s not all cleaned up yet.
Is there anything you can tease for the finale? Do you know anything yet?
No, I’m dying. We have three episodes left and we don’t know. I’ll tell you why I want to know: It really does feel like, season after season, we know the president is going to be in power, most seasons we know OPA is OPA, right? That’s the structure of the show. It feels like everything is up for grabs right now. I think that’s why I’m so incredibly curious, more so than ever, which is fantastic after almost six seasons to be that curious about your own show that you’re working on. It feels like anything is possible, and it feels like maybe a bunch of rearranging is going to happen. Quite simply, the president’s second term is up. I always thought when his second term was up, that was it, the show was done. I thought this over and again with different things: If Mellie and Fitz break apart, the show’s over, because Olivia and Fitz will run off into the sunset together! Well, that theory was blown, so I can’t wait to see what happens next because it’s going to be something I could never have thought of.
After everything that’s happened this season, can everyone make it out unscathed? Or do you think there will be some fatal repercussions by season’s end?
Honestly, I think there could be some repercussions. I’ve never felt that way, but I actually feel that way this season. Somethings going to give. It’s not a happy thought. [Laughs] But yeah, I do.
Scandal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.