You still on board with “Scandal” — which returns for its sixth season Thursday (9 p.m., ABC/7)?
Or perhaps not so good. After all, you do realize there is no prime-time series more bat-crazy than “Scandal,” and no series that has vaulted over more sharks the past five seasons either. (Poor sharks, poor bats.)
But sharks be damned. “Scandal” is — and presumably will remain — fun, messy, twisted, soapy, passionate, wild and happily, willfully, (dare I say) scandalously unburdened by real-world politics.
Until a recent national election happened.
Thus, on the eve of the sixth season, “Scandal” doesn’t seem quite so far removed from the real world. As it gets underway at long last — delayed, per reports, by lead Kerry Washington’s pregnancy, then birth of her second child in October — we might reasonably ask, what other fabulous, batty, shark-jumping foolishness does show czar Shonda Rhimes have planned?
And “foolish”? Or simply “prescient”?
“Bat crazy”? Or “Crazy like a fox”? Here are some key questions:
What do you need to know about the sixth-season launch, “Survival of the Fittest”?
Simply that the “shocking” results of the presidential race between Republican nominee Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) and her Democratic rival Francisco Vargas (Ricardo Chavira) will be revealed, and — per ABC — those will lead to an “explosive” outcome. Because “explosive” is hardly ever used in a metaphoric or hyperbolic manner with regards to “Scandal,” we must interpret this as an ominous development. But no spoilers here.
What is so shocking about this election anyway?
Where to begin, except with the obvious. Veteran political operative Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) is now on the Vargas ticket as vice president, while Jake Ballard (Scott Foley) is Mellie’s running mate. Ballard is Olivia Pope’s (Washington) sometime lover, and former head of the National Security Agency. He was supposed to be on the Vargas ticket — and before that, on the Edison Davis (Norm Lewis) ticket. The Davis option collapsed, then Olivia snatched up Jake last minute for the Mellie team before he could join the Vargas one. But isn’t Vargas (and Davis) a Democrat? Now Jake’s on the GOP ticket?
But really — JAKE?
As you know, Jake is “Scandal’s” own Manchurian candidate. He’s been carefully brainwashed by “Scandal’s” own Doctor Evil — that of course would be Olivia’s daddy dearest, Rowan Pope (Joe Morton) — who runs the secret and quite dastardly B-613, the ultimate black-ops quasi-government agency. Rowan has “programmed” Jake for a secret mission (a major plot point of the sixth season). But what? Recall that Rowan tricked Olivia into thinking she could “save” Jake — with whom she’s still in love — if she got him away from Rowan. Instead, Liv played right into his hands. If Mellie wins, she’ll unwittingly become part of Rowan’s master plot, too.
Could the showdown between Olivia and Cyrus also be explosive? Absolutely. They’re old friends, and now bitter rivals. But these old friends know stuff about each other. Bad stuff. Cyrus knows Olivia beat a former vice president to death with a chair last season. Liv knows Cyrus essentially orchestrated a mass murder in Pennsylvania, to help cast his candidate, Vargas, as a hero, and set a course for the White House. (Before he named himself the vice presidential nominee, Cyrus was Vargas’ campaign manager.) They are both now circling one another. This cage match could be fatal, and I’m not liking Cy’s chances.
Is Cyrus in trouble?
One of prime time’s most prominent gay characters does appear to have a bull’s-eye on his back. First, there’s Olivia. She’s lethal enough. Then there’s ex-lover Tom Larsen (Brian Letscher). You’ll recall their pillow talk last season when both discussed killing Cy’s ex, Michael (Matthew Del Negro), as casually as if they were discussing who should make the coffee. Tom, of course, is a trained killer — he even dispatched the president’s own son — and a member of Rowan’s black-ops “Command,” or B-613. Cy dumped him last season like a piece of old codfish. Codfish Tom is not happy.
What about “Fitz” — or soon to be former President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn)?
Usually this question has to be answered with another — what does Olivia want, and would that be Fitz or Jake? (Choices, choices.) She has to fall into Fitz’s arms — then bed — at some point in the sixth season, right? Fitz has said he may write his memoirs, move to Paris, or even . . . Vermont. (Yes, Vermont, where Fitz and Liv once had that long, amorous weekend.) Fans and even cast have worked over this possibility.
Hey, what about Rowan?
Besides being “Scandal’s” resident Darth Vader, my favorite character is also the weaver of fates, the master of destinies, the great shape-shifter of this prime-time soap. It’s as if “Scandal” were his own personal fever dream that’s lasted five seasons, and only he knows the nightmarish outcome. Rowan presumably wants Mellie in the Oval Office, which puts Jake one heartbeat away from the Oval Office . . . which essentially puts Rowan a heartbeat away as well. Then, the world will be his!
Will “Scandal” jump into real-world politics again?
Bet on it. Last season’s episode, “Trump Card,” featured a candidate named “Hollis Doyle” (Gregg Henry), who was so thinly veiled a portrait of Donald Trump that the show writers might just as well have called him Donald Trump. “Scandal” had the better part of a year to watch the real-world election unfold, then figure out a way to drag some of its storylines into the sixth season. The challenge: Some of those plot lines were so outlandish they actually exceeded even the fecund imagination of “Scandal’s” writing crew.