After eight months off the air, Shonda Rhimes' political drama "Scandal" returned to TGIT on Jan. 26. The premiere of the sixth season was postponed due to Kerry Washington's pregnancy, and the episode count has been cut down from 22 episodes to 16. But no delays or adjustments could slow down our favorite Gladiators – they're back and stronger than ever. Including Live + 7 Day (DVR) ratings, the premiere episode was watched by 10.93 million people.
Season 6 started off with a bang – literally. Republican candidate, current senator, and former First Lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) loses the presidential election to Democratic candidate and former Governor Frankie Vargas (Ricardo Chavira) in a very tight race. While Mellie and Olivia (Kerry Washington) are in the bathroom drowning their sorrows in wine, screams are heard from the other room: Frankie is brutally assassinated on national television while giving his victory speech, sending the presidential race into a tailspin.
President Fitz Grant (Tony Goldwyn) is forced to make a decision as to who the next president will be, and it's not easy: should he choose Mellie, his ex-wife, or Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry), his former Chief of Staff, right-hand man, and most importantly, the Democratic Vice President-elect? He ultimately chooses the latter, but Olivia is convinced that the notoriously power-hungry Cyrus had something to do with Frankie's death. She and the Gladiator team – Huck (Guillermo Diaz), Quinn (Katie Lowes), and Charlie (George Newbern) – officially dedicate themselves to finding out the truth behind Frankie's murder. Olivia's insistence that Cyrus is guilty is definitely amplified by the fact that she wants Mellie in the Oval Office, as she led her campaign.
A huge component to the assassination mystery is Jennifer Fields (Chelsea Kurtz), who was the videographer for the Vargas campaign. She phoned in a tip to the FBI that Cyrus was behind the Vargas murder, but before Quinn and Huck can trace her, the cabin she was hiding out at is blown up and she is murdered. The team soon puts the pieces together: Cyrus falsely believed that Jenny and Frankie were having an affair, leading him to hire Tom Larsen (Brian Letscher), former Secret-Service agent, B613 member, and psycho murderer, to "handle" Jenny. He savagely beats her, leading her to quit the campaign. Horrified, Frankie realizes that Cyrus was involved in the attack, denies any affair, and swears to throw Cyrus in jail if they win the ticket. Frankie and Cyrus's heated argument was caught on videotape, which the Gladiators recover from Jenny's computer. This is enough proof for the FBI to launch an investigation into Cyrus.
Tom, who is also Cyrus's secret-lover, is hurt that Cyrus broke up with him after beating Jenny up. He confesses to the FBI out of anger that he shot Frankie under Cyrus's orders. This leads to both Cyrus and Tom getting arrested and sent to prison, although Cyrus is adamant that Tom is lying. Either way, things aren't looking good for Cyrus: not only is his reputation ruined, but Michael (Matthew Del Negro), Cyrus's husband, announces he is leaving him for having an affair with Tom. Cyrus considers suicide after a rough prison beating, but manipulats a guard into letting him into the prison wing that Tom is in. After a tense altercation, Tom finally admits that he lied, and not a moment sooner – the Gladiators find proof that Tom wasn't anywhere near the area of Frankie's assassination, meaning that whoever killed Frankie is still on the loose.
The first four episodes of this season have been fascinating, but the drama of finding out who killed Frankie has become messy and slightly confusing. It's definitely making the OPA, FBI and the attorney general's office look incompetent. There have also been some big changes in the show's dynamics: Fitz has begun a relationship with FBI Director Angela Webster (Saycon Sengbloh), and it has gotten hot and heavy pretty quickly. While "Olitz" will always have a place in my heart, I actually like this new, seemingly healthy relationship. Jake Ballard (Scott Foley) hasn't had much airtime – which I have no problem with – but the next episode is all about him and his problems with his wife, Vanessa (Jessalyn Gilsig), so fans of Jake should look out for that. However, Rowan/Papa Pope (Joe Morton) has only been in the first episode, and I think he needs more air time! I have a feeling that he's somehow involved in this drama, like he always is.
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In terms of the OPA, I wonder: what happened to their handling the crises of D.C. elite and not just White House/president-elect drama? The office feels a little empty, with Abby (Darby Stanchfield) working as Chief of Staff and Marcus (Cornelius Smith, Jr.) settling into his new job as Press Secretary. While I hope there will be more exploration into the relationship between Marcus and Mellie, I don't want Abby back. What happened to her loyalty? She started out as one of the strongest ones but is now an annoying and meddling Olivia-hater. I'm shocked Fitz hasn't canned her yet, especially after some of the antics she pulls behind his back. On top of that, O.P.A. needs to get focused because they're losing track here: Olivia is too distracted with Mellie's excitement that she may become the next president, and newly-engaged Charlie and Quinn are too distracted with each other. The only one that is paying attention is Huck, whose new love interest is Jenny's friend, Meg (Phoebe Neidhart). Huck found out through Meg that it was Tom who beat Jenny, turning what could possibly be a distraction into a win-win for both himself and the OPA. He's also reminding the Gladiators that just because Cyrus and Tom are in prison for Frankie's murder, Jenny was also murdered and they need to find out who was after her and why.
Although the drama in Washington is becoming very messy (when isn't it?), there are good things to come. The tenth episode of this season will mark the 100th episode of "Scandal," and ABC renewed the series for a seventh season. There are eleven more episodes that will air, and hopefully the plotline will tighten up a bit and throw in longer-lasting, exciting plot-twists and new ideas.
"Scandal" returns to ABC on March 9.
Reach staff reporter Adrianne Ramsey here.