Series / Scandal

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"It's handled."

ABC's Scandal is a juridically/politically-themed drama.

Olivia Carolyn Pope (Kerry Washington) is a reputation-fixer who works for rich people needing to be saved from the latest scandal/accident/kidnapping that has befallen upon them. She oscillates between her usual incarnation, the ideal Guile Hero every Distressed Dude and Damsel who becomes her client dreams of, and the flawed, somehow manipulative master of the Hannibal Lecture, Double Entendre and intimidation and cause of Innocent Bystander's Freak Out she can become when she thinks she acts for the best, but misses the point. She usually does the right thing, and always is a really tough heroine, though she's hardly the kind to put Honor Before Reason.

Her team has included Stephen Finch, Harrison Wright, Abby Whelan, Huck With-No-Last-Name, and Quinn Perkins, with occasional help (or opposition) from David Rosen, US Attorney for the District of Columbia. A large part of Olivia's life revolves around President Fitzgerald Grant and his administration; Olivia's on-and-off affair with the President complicates her personal life, to say the least, as the government's conspiracies and cover-ups cast a long shadow across the entire Family Pope and its Mysterious Past.

The series is notable for being written by Shonda Rhimes, like a certain well-known medical series, and being one of the few dramas featuring a black actress as the main character. It is also highly feminist in content, with numerous strong female characters and very little reliance on traditional characterization or storylines. The cast is also very active on social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and participate in live-tweets, Instagram pictures, and podcasts about the series.

Currently at its fifth season. Has a Character Page that could use a little love, Gladiators!


Tropes found in Scandal:

  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Fitz has a pretty awful birthday, considering he gets shot.
  • Absentee Actor: After two guest appearances, Cornelius Smith Jr. joined the cast of Scandal in season 5. But he didn't appear in the first three episodes of the season.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Rowan emotionally manipulates Olivia.
    • Jake's father, who would physically abuse his mother and sexually abuse his sister.
  • Accidental Public Confession:
    • In the original pilot script, Olivia was supposed to blurt that she was Fitz’s mistress to Cyrus, whom she thought knew already.
    • Elizabeth pretends she didn't know that Fitz didn't know that Mellie gave the names of the dead jurors on the B613 case to Rowan when she blurts it to him.
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: In "Top of the Hour," Abby is mistaken for Olivia by Sarah Stanner.
  • A Darker Shade Of Grey:
    • Cyrus: He was a part of a conspiracy to rig the election, was willing to let his own husband, James; Sally; and Olivia all die in three separate occasions, and used James as a rent-boy to entrap Sally's husband. At the same time, it would also have to be taken into account that this was all done to help Fitz and the Grant Administration in some way. And outside of the things he's done for Fitz, he manipulates his husband, sometime to protect him; fabricated a story about a dead brother to manipulate Francisco Vargas into running for president; and the darkest thing he’s probably done was blackmail a man and threaten his child into holding Francisco Vargas at gunpoint, so that Francisco could become popular.
    • Huck: He was a part of B613 and still loves killing people, though he has since tried fighting the urge.
    • Quinn: Her track record with B613 says it all.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • Mellie in "Everything's Coming Up Mellie" and "Paris is Burning".
    • Cyrus in "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" and "Put a Ring on It".
    • Huck in "Seven Fifty-Two".
    • Jake in "Till Death Do Us Part".
  • Advertised Extra: Harrison in the first two seasons. He certainly got more than two lines per episode, but he didn't have any storylines of his own until season three when he got involved with Adnan Salif; up until then, his role in most episodes was either working on an OPA crisis or helping Olivia out.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Karen gets drunk and high at a party and ends up in a sex tape.
  • A Lighter Shade of Grey:
    • Fitz: For the most part, he's a clean guy, outside from the fact that he murdered Verna Thorton to keep her from exposing that the election was rigged in favor of him
    • Olivia too. Fixing an election is pretty dark, but she was the most reluctant and was the only one who didn't do it for power. She also killed someone, although it is more or less justified, as it was in a life-or-death situation. But as of season five, Olivia is seemingly going down the darker path, having driven Susan's secret baby daddy to suicide to get him to publicize that he is Casey's actual father, effectively tearing a family apart, though Olivia eventually learns that it's wrong. But it doesn't end there, as in the subsequent episode "Thwack!", she bludgeons Andrew to death with a chair while experiencing PTSD when he taunts her. Also arguably justified because the PTSD was from when he had her kidnapped, so perhaps his death was revenge.
    • OPA as a whole. They've done quite a few questionable things, but they as a whole stand for justice.
  • All Gays Are Promiscuous:
    • James, who Cyrus described as 'a bit of a slut' before he got married.
    • Michael, worked as a prostitute before getting married to Cyrus.
    • Even Cyrus, despite being a balding, fat, ugly old man somehow manages to have a string of studly male prostitutes at his beck and call.
  • Almost Kiss: Mellie and Marcus nearly kiss after Mellie is declared the Republican nominee in the general election.
  • All Take and No Give: In Mellie's eyes, this is a major problem in her and Fitz's marriage: that she's made countless sacrifices for him, while he's betrayed her repeatedly.
  • All There in the Manual: Olivia and Abby being friends in law school was first mentioned on the Scandal ABC website. It was not confirmed on screen until "Inside the Bubble."
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The opening theme for the Japanese dub is "Weather Report" by SCANDAL.
  • Always Save the Girl: Fitz declares war on West Angola—against the better judgement from Cyrus and other advisers because of the lack of intel and causalities it may result in—so that he could rescue Olivia.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Stephen, who has typical features of Latinos like black hair, brown eyes and tan-ish skin, but it's definitely the Scottish accent that throws people off.
  • Ambiguously Jewish:
    • Cyrus sarcastically mentions sitting shiva for Amanda Tanner.
    • David, based on his name and the references to matzoh ball soup.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Mellie, Cyrus, Verna and Hollis alone rigged an election for power, but the lengths at which Mellie and Cyrus go to for power do not end there.
    • Mellie, but only during her quest for/reign as First Lady. Not only did she rig the election, but before that, she faked a miscarriage to win the female vote for the Grant campaign. Then, as the unhappy First Lady, she made attempts to expand her power by demanding to be included in security meetings and stating her opinion on issues, which would put Fitz in compromising positions. Her and Fitz’s marriage also suffered as a result of her power struggle and the only reason she ever fought for Fitz’s love again was because she blamed Olivia for not keeping Fitz happy and him sleeping with Amanda Tanner as a consequence. To top it all off, while she’s campaigning as Senator of Virginia, she gives Rowan the names of the jurors on the B613 case, leading to the death of all 16 jurors, in exchange for hiding Fitz's involvement in Operation Remington and the photos of their extramarital affairs (though she didn’t know what the names would be used for when she provided them). In season 5, she announced she would be running for president, with no evil plans, as of yet.
    • Cyrus. He was also a part of election rigging so that Fitz could win the presidency, which would effectively make him Chief of Staff. And in Season 5, he approaches Fitz about leaving office with a bang, but Fitz isn't interested. So, he scouts for a potential candidate for the next election, Francisco Vargas, and even puts the poor guy in a life-or-death situation so that he could gain some political capital for when he runs for president (which he also convinces Francisco into doing by lying). He puts his feelings for Tom aside to reunite with Michael and Ella now that he is Vargas' running mate and therefore Mellie's rival.
    • Elizabeth North. She conspired to have the president declare war in West Angola because of the good press it would deliver to the Republican Party. Then, as the VP's Chief of Staff, she had David Rosen sleep with VP Susan Ross so that he could convince her to run for president, which would in turn make her Chief of Staff.
    • Andrew also. He broke up with Mellie, so that he could remain on the Grant ticket as VP, which perhaps isn’t as bad, given that Olivia convinced him that Mellie wouldn’t want him if he wasn’t on the ticket. But his ambition definitely got to the best of him when he had Olivia kidnapped so that Fitz could declare war in West Angola.
    • Vicariously seen by Rowan with his daughter Olivia and 'son' Jake. Whatever power they gain is power that he gains, hence why he forces Jake to became the Head of the NSA, marry Vanessa and the potential running mate to Francisco Vargas against his will.
  • Amicable Exes:
    • David and Abby. Makes sense, considering they're the Beta Couple.
    • Subverted with Fitz and Mellie. In the fourth season, given their teamwork, it would have been reasonably presumed that when Fitz's term ended, he and Mellie would have amicably split to be with their own lovers, but the fifth season shows them going through a rather bitter divorce. However, the public and media believe that they are still friends and had a cordial split.
  • Amoral Attorney: Averted by David, who for a while, was the sole moral compass of the show. He's declared multiple times that he stands with justice and the law and was the only one besides James (and of course Fitz) who had a problem with the fact that the presidential election was rigged.
  • Anchored Ship:
    • Olivia tries to stay away from Fitz because of his status as a married man and POTUS, but it's for only so long.
    • Mellie and Andrew loved each other, but Mellie wanted to remain faithful to Fitz. That, too, lasts for a short while.
  • And I Must Scream: Andrew, who ends up with a pretty bad speech impediment and is paralyzed.
  • And Starring: Tony Goldwyn.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Cyrus with the news that Amanda Tanner died.
  • Angry Black Man: Rowan, especially when he's giving those monologues.
  • Angst Coma:
    • Huck enters one after being shut in a box.
    • Olivia briefly enters one in "Truth and Consequences."
    • Mellie and Karen are sedated following the death of Jerry Grant.
    • Sally is in one after murdering Daniel Douglas.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: David makes one to Abby when he thought he was being kidnapped.
  • Anti-Hero: The whole cast, except perhaps Quinn (who probably qualifies as a Classical Anti-Hero instead), Abby even more so.
  • Anti-Villain: Cyrus, whose motivations are nothing less than the good of the nation and Undying Loyalty to his friend President Fitzgerald Grant. These, however, also lead him to Kick the Dog and even outright murder.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: Downplayed. While Karen didn't end up in an orgy when she went to a party, she did however end up in a threesome.
  • Archnemesis Dad: One of the main antagonists of Scandal is Olivia’s father, Rowan, the head of B613, a branch of the CIA that specializes in killing people to protect the republic. Interestingly though, Rowan swings back and forth from being in this position, sometime being Olivia’s loving and proud father whom Olivia does love back, sometime being the man who killed her lover’s son.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap:
    • When Mellie realizes that Andrew broke up with her because Fitz threatened him to, she struts right into the Oval and smacks him in the face.
    • Played for Laughs by Quinn when she slaps Charlie for not telling her that he was assigned to kill Quinn. Bonus points for the romantic music played in the background.
      Charlie: No.
      Quinn: *SLAPS*
      Charlie: Yes.
      Quinn: *SLAPS*
      Charlie: Maybe?
  • Armoured Closet Gay:
    • Sully St. James.
    • Sally Langston's husband to a somewhat lesser extent.
  • The Artifact: Virtually all of Olivia's team besides Huck and later on Quinn is now more-or-less useless to her other than an extra pair of hands to help sort through files. The dark centered plot the show is headed makes their wacky character shticks rather out of place, and only Huck has any knowledge or capability that doesn't leave him completely over his head.
    • Olivia's "gut" was something that was frequently mentioned during season one, and how her intuition is always right. At least it was long enough to prove to the audience that she is quick thinking and a very good judge of character. But by season 2, it is pretty much only mentioned when discussing how "her gut is broken" these days. By season 3 her magical intuition is no longer referred to, and her near godliness has been thoroughly de-emphasized.
      • Olivia's "gut" returns in "Ride, Sally, Ride." Fitz overrides it to pick Andrew Nichols as his VP running mate. It turns out Olivia's gut was right even if she didn't know why: Andrew is secretly in love with Mellie.
  • Artistic License – Law: Quinn is prosecuted for the Cytron explosion that killed seven people, an act of terrorism, though she was never charged for terrorism, only for murder. David is the prosecutor on the case, yet he is a US attorney, meaning that he would only have been assigned to the case had she been charged with terrorism.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Mellie, whose original duration was about three episodes before being divorced by Fitz. Instead, she was bumped up to a main character and her second season storyline concerned her fight to get Fitz back.
    • Tom Larsen and Hal Rimbeau started as Fitz's Secret Service detail in the first season. Tom became a full-fledged recurring character in Season 3 and 4 when it was revealed he is B613's man in the White House.
  • Asshole Victim: Quite a few of OPA's clients wind up being one, such as the client in the third episode who was wrongfully accused of rape...that time. Or in a more eminent case, Governor Reston, who shot the man he was led to believe was raping his wife, only to learn that Reston was aware that the man was not raping her, but was her lover and purposely shot him.
  • As the Good Book Says: Averted at one point. Sally confidently cites "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" as a Bible verse. Cyrus impatiently informs her that it's not one.
  • As You Know: Averted and invoked in "Hunting Season." When Cyrus shows Fitz that Olivia and Senator Edison Davis are meeting in public, he starts to say "Didn't they..." Fitz snaps "I don't need a history lesson, Cyrus." Later on when talking to Olivia, Fitz says Edison used to be Olivia's fiance... which Olivia would obviously know.
  • Attack on One Is an Attack on All: Olivia is kidnapped, prompting Fitz to go to war in West Angola.
  • The Atoner: Olivia wants to do right by her clients, but especially the ones who are women caught in infidelity scandals. Those hit a little close to home for her.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Fitz declares war on West Angola to get Olivia back.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Olivia. On a metafictional level, this great thing.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • Perhaps 'love,' wouldn't be the best word to use to describe Fitz and Mellie's relationship even when they aren't at each other's throats, but season four reveals that the two do really care for each other in light of the death of their son.
    • Cyrus and James' marriage looks like it's based on only deceit by the third season, but Cyrus is utterly devastated by his death.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Mellie induces labor a month earlier to prevent Fitz from divorcing her.
  • Back for the Dead:
    • Jerry IV, though his first appearance wasn't long before his death.
    • Russel in "Baby It's Cold Outside." He had started Lazarus One to get B6-13 back to before Rowan "lost his way." Jake finds out and shoots him in the head, mostly since Russel had killed Jake's wife.
    • Andrew Nichols in "Thwack." He recovered from his Huck-induced stroke enough to start talking about kidnapping Olivia to start a war. After insulting Olivia one too many times, she kills him with a chair. Rather violently.
  • Badass Adorable: Quinn eventually gets there.
  • Badass Boast: Olivia tends to deliver these.
  • Banana Republic: Olivia takes on a client who's the Generalissimo of an unnamed Latin American autocratic nation.
  • The Beard: Jake is Olivia's to assure the media that she and Fitz are not romantically involved.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • Olivia tells her father that she wants Fitz to win the election. And so he gets her what she wants. By killing Fitz's son.
    • As said by Mellie in "Baby Made A Mess". In "The Key," Fitz gave her an ultimatum to clean up her act and become "Normal Mellie" and so she does. But unbeknownst to Fitz, Normal Mellie also included asserting her opinions on foreign policy as part of her own political agenda.
  • Becoming the Mask:
    • David initially sleeps with Abby for information on Olivia, Quinn and Cytron, but ends up falling in love with her.
    • Jake too falls in love with Olivia after being hired by Fitz to "befriend" her.
  • Bedmate Reveal: At the end of "Hunting Season," David and Abby. It is revealed after the two... uh, finish.
  • Being Good Sucks: As stated by Cyrus, some men aren't meant to be happy. They are meant to be great.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Sally may come off as this, especially when she makes her bigoted remarks about same-sex marriage.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: From getting licked in the face with disgust to getting licked with love, this trope goes to Huck and Quinn.
  • Best Served Cold: Around a season after being kidnapped by him, Olivia kills Andrew by clobbering him with a chair.
  • Beta Couple: Starting in season three, David and Abby. They seem to handle extreme situations better than the other couples.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Quinn, again. Olivia too, if Abby's story of Olivia beating in her abusive ex-husband's kneecap for her is true.
  • Big Bad: Rowan.
  • The Big Board:
    • The O.P.A. office has one where they review every crisis they take on.
    • David also briefly had one in his apartment when he was investigating Defiance and Cytron.
  • Big Fancy House: None other than The White House.
  • Big Good: Fitz, the most ethical person in the White House. He's the leader of the free world and all and Olivia has relied on him for his help where needed.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family:
    • The Grants, especially in season three. To start with, Mellie and Fitz are in a dead marriage, having affairs of their own, but Fitz, and his kids, Jerry and Karen didn't know about Mellie's affair at the start of "Mama Said Knock You Out". Both Jerry and Karen side with their mom with the news of their father's infidelity and encourage Mellie to get a divorce. Jerry, in particular, was so disdainful of his father, he even ran a secret anti-Fitz Twitter account that compared him to Hitler and owned a t-shirt of his rival candidate. To make matters worse, in that same episode, Jerry, Fitz and Karen all learn about Mellie's affair, which doesn't bide well with any of them. Oh and Fitz's father, Big Jerry? He's a rapist. And who was the victim? Mellie Grant.
    • Olivia's family as well. Her mom's a terrorist and her dad has done things that, well, he might as well also be considered a terrorist for.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: It takes six episodes, but First Lady Mellie Grant reveals herself as this, lying to the entire nation about a miscarriage to save her husband's campaign. It's interesting, however, that the sheep part isn't unnatural for her, as she does have issues of her own, and seems to be more than a little Troubled, but Cute.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "You Can't Take Command." OPA for once and for all took down Command, Mellie was elected Senator of Virginia, Olivia and Fitz finally got together with nothing standing in their way. On the other hand, Jake broke it off with Olivia and is heartbroken, Huck relapsed and killed 16 people, Mellie got kicked out of the White House and Cyrus got fired.
  • Blackmail: Seen very, very, very often because why wouldn't it happen in a political drama? Instances include:
    • Cyrus blackmails Olivia into convincing a popular married couple to attend the State of the Union conference by depositing money into her account and notifying the IRS if she doesn't agree.
    • David blackmails a judge into upholding a controversial gun law by threatening to expose the time he killed a man while drunk driving.
    • A pair of parents tried to blackmail the President into giving them $2.5 million, or they would release Karen's sex tape.
    • Fitz gives Andrew 24 hours to end things with Mellie, or he would be booted off the Grant ticket.
    • Rowan blackmails Mellie into giving him the names of the jurors on the B613 trial, or he would expose her and Fitz's affairs.
  • "Blackmail" is Such an Ugly Word:
    • In "State of the Union," Olivia does not want to work for the White House anymore. But Cyrus deposited money into her account to get a popular married couple to show up at the State of the Union. Cyrus just sees it as paying Olivia (way) in advance, and he will notify the IRS if she doesn't do the job.
    • David attempts blackmail in a later episode in order to counter the judge getting bribed, and it does not go as well. David blackmailed with information about a drunk driving homicide so the judge would uphold a contentious gun control law. The judge agrees, David is a hero, then the judge commits suicide.
  • Blind Date: Fitz and Mellie were set up by his father.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Secret Service Agent Tom poisons Jerry Grant with a strain of meningitis on orders from Rowan.
  • Book Ends: Season 3 starts out with Eli pressuring Olivia to get on a plane that will take her to a new life away from everything. After the extremely trying events of the season, she takes him up on it during the finale.
  • Boom, Headshot:
    • President Grant is shot in the head during his assassination attempt.
    • While Olivia is escaping from where she was being in captivity, she shoots one of the guards in the head—her first murder.
    • Jake shoots Vanessa Chandler and Carla Steele in the head.
  • Brainwashed: B613 agents, more or less. Huck would be a prime example, having been extremely skeptical when he first joined B613 to out-and-out loving the murder part of the job.
  • Brainy Brunette:
    • Quinn. She's a lawyer and works at Olivia's firm, where she also learns how to hack.
    • Mellie, who graduated top of her class at Harvard Law. It's clear that the job of the First Lady is below her.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him:
    • Invoked by name by Rowan/Eli in Flashbacks in "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner." This is why Oliva broke up with Edison Davis some time before the first episode.
    • Invoked by Olivia to save *both* David and Abby from Hollis Doyle without either of them knowing about it. She had Harrison do it and didn't tell him why. Whether Harrison did it out of loyalty to Olivia, his friendship with Abby or to get a bigger office is nebulous.
    • Olivia believes that it is her fault that Jerry IV is dead and so flees Washington so that no more tragedies like this would happen to Fitz.
    • Olivia hurtfully breaks Jake's heart on his wedding day when he was ready to reject Vanessa, calling him weak, a booty call, and that she never loved him to convince him to marry Vanessa, or Rowan would kill him.
  • Break the Cutie: Mellie was raped by her father-in-law back when Fitz was running for governor, explaining her present-day icy demeanor.
  • Burger Fool: A popular fast food chain called "Gettysburgers" is mentioned often, with their food and special deals named after people and events of The American Civil War. The fourth season revealed their employees dress like Civil War soldiers, but only in Union blue.
  • Bury Your Gays:
    • James is shot and killed by Jake.
    • Daniel Douglas is stabbed by Sally.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • After roughly a season of not being seen, Billy Chambers is revealed towards the end of season two to have been "Albatross", a mole that has been causing the Grant administration problems for most of the season.
    • Leo Bergen made a surprise reappearance in Season 4 after the end of Season 3 and again in Season 5.
    • Stephen comes back in a season four episode to save Olivia from her captors.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: Played horrifyingly straight in the Season 4 finale "You Can't Take Command." An entire bus-full of innocents are killed. The bus was full of the grand jury for David's case against B6-13 Rowan had them all killed, including the driver and the security guards. The Reveal at the end of the episode ups the stakes: Huck killed them all at Rowan's behest.
  • But Not Too Black: Played straight with all of the black members of the show—Olivia, Harrison, Rowan and Marcus—even though none of them are necessarily light-skinned either.
  • California Doubling: California doubles as Washington, D.C.
  • Call Back: In "Enemy of the State" Abby says she would follow Olivia "over a cliff." In "White Hat's Back On" Olivia tells Fitz that her team followed her "over the wrong cliff."
  • Call Forward:
    • In "Hunting Season", we see Huck has a collection of watches. The importance of this collection is not revealed until flashback in "Seven Fifty Two." The watches are trophies from people he tortured and/or killed.
    • "Put a Ring on It" has a flashback with Olivia and Fitz at Cyrus and James' wedding that calls forward to a few things: the ring she always wears on her index finger, Fitz's Navy sweatshirt ("Happy Birthday, Mr. President"), why Vermont is so important to them, and "Sweet Baby" ("Sweet Baby," the first episode).
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Fitz attempted this with his father, Big Jerry, in flashbacks about the month leading up to the election. But Big Jerry's "The Reason You Suck" Speech comeback was much harsher, and part of the reason Olivia agreed to go along with the election rigging: She didn't want Fitz to feel bad about himself if/when he lost the election.
  • Call to Agriculture: Averted in the first season. Cyrus works in his garden on Sundays, his one day off. Later in the episode he says he hates working in his garden on Sundays.
  • Can Not Spit It Out: When Mellie is confronted by Fitz as to why she lied about being dead to sex and is blamed for the ruination of their marriage, she is unable to tell him that she was raped.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Jerry IV is caught running a Fuhrer Fitz account and owning a Reston campaign shirt.
  • Career Versus Family: B613 forces Huck to part from his family or he would be punished. He chooses his family anyway and is sent to the Hole for it, wherein he was asked every day if he still believed he had a family and would answer yes every time.
  • Career Versus Man:
    • Mellie gave up her career as a lawyer to, as Cyrus puts it, hold Fitz's hand, wipe his nose, hug him and tell him he's great.
    • Cyrus dumps Tom when he was chosen as Vargas' running mate.
  • The Casanova: Ever since he and Mellie divorced and Olivia broke up with him, Fitz has started "Wildcarding," AKA having many lady friends who are not...routine.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Stephen, though he seems to have mostly settled down. He still has an interesting past.
  • Cassandra Truth: Huck to Olivia in a flashback in "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner."
    Huck: I was a trained assassin for secret office of the CIA on US soil called B6-13 run by a man called Command in a paper company that's not really a paper company. It's called Acme Limited, but really it's called Wonderland. Welcome to Wonderland, son. Then they put me in a hole, and then I wasn't so good at my job anymore. And then I wasn't in Wonderland anymore. I was here, but I can still I can kill a man with very little effort and a lot of joy, but I try not to. Okay?
    Olivia: ...Is there medication you should be taking, or anyone I should call?
  • Catch Phrase:
    Olivia: It's handled / EARN ME!
  • Category Traitor:
    • Command/Rowan/Eli comes close to calling Olivia this for siding with Fitz and Jake, who are both white, against him. He calls them her "clan of good ol' boys." It is a lot of hypocritical, self-serving nonsense, as Olivia is angry at her father for killing her friend Harrison, who was black, as well a lot of other people. Also, Rowan was all right with Olivia dating Jake... before Jake found out Rowan had killed Fitz's son.
    • Marcus Walker, a neighborhood activist, also edges close to calling Olivia this in "The Lawn Chair." He mentions her Prada purse and does some Oblivious Guilt Slinging with his Intentional Guilt Slinging about how she got a white Republican president elected twice.
      Marcus: Your black card's not getting validated today.
    • There is a Republican in office, yet POTUS, two VPs, FLOTUS and the Chief of Staff all have views that are rather contrary to the party, like Fitz support for gun control or Mellie's for Planned Parenthood and same-sex marriage or Susan's on immigration, to name a few. They're treated as normal and, in fact, it's characters like Hollis Doyle and Sally Langston that are portrayed as far-right for these typical values.
  • Character Filibuster: At least Once per Episode.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Quinn, who learns how to hack, shoot a gun and even gets nicknamed "Baby Huck" for it, so it's no wonder she joins B613.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The glass of water Olivia drank for 17 seconds while being held captive. She used it to get someone to notice the reflection of the man behind the video.
  • The Chick: Abby Whelan (when she isn't an alternate Heart).
  • Child by Rape: Mellie suspects Jerry IV is Big Jerry’s son, rather than Fitz’s.
  • City of Spies: Washington DC is one. Normal people on the street could be working for an unofficial branch of the CIA that operates on American soil. Or could be freelancing for the Chief of Staff.
  • Cliffhanger: Just about every episode leaves with a cliffhanger of some sort, so you can imagine how many and how huge they are during finales.
  • Closed Door Rapport: Often happens at Olivia's door between her and Fitz or Jake.
  • Closer to Earth: Olivia is this to a lot of people, like her friends or her clients, but especially to Fitz.
  • Cock Fight: While Jake and Fitz's respective loves for Olivia are on a more emotional level than physical, that didn't stop them from having a cock fight through basketball.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • Do you mean B613?
    • These kind of things also go down in the Pentagon, as seen with Huck and Jake.
  • Color Motif: Olivia's clothing has always been reflective of what she's feeling and in the latter half of the fifth season, she's departed from her typical black, white or gray clothing to settle for warmer colors to signify her new path in life.
  • Confessional: Leo enlists a priest for Sally to confess to to relieve her of her guilt from murdering her husband.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Cyrus, briefly, who doubled as the Chief of Staff to Republican President Fitzgerald Grant, while also being the secret campaign manager to Democratic candidate Francisco Vargas.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Most plotlines are scarcely mentioned, apart from the election-rigging scam that is Defiance, especially in the third season during Fitz's reelection.
    • Mellie figures out that it was Fitz who leaked Olivia's name to the press to practically spite Fitz for insulting her a season before.
      Mellie: What did you called me? "Ornamental? Not functional?"
  • Contrived Coincidence: It can be argued Huck seeing and recognizing Charlie on a tape falls in this category. This leads to Huck realizing Amanda is dead, as Huck and Charlie were once co-workers.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Olivia, Huck, Abby and Quinn are the only ones to attend Harrison's funeral, wherein it was explained that he was an orphan.
  • Cool Old Guy: The madam in episode 2 is morally ambiguous, but proves herself by the end.
  • Cool Old Lady: Bitsy Cooper, a former First Lady. Her husband had just died and Mellie was assigned to plan the funeral with Bitsy. While she was seemingly grieving in front of everyone, in front of Mellie, she blatantly revealed that her husband was a whore whom she did not love, she hated her job as the First Lady and she wanted more power, which she got—all of which her and Mellie had in common.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Hollis Doyle, who unsurprisingly doubles as a Sleazy Politician.
  • Corrupt Politician: Cyrus, Mellie, Verna, Hollis, Andrew, Elizabeth... it is a political drama.
  • Crack Defeat: Governor Reston was near-guaranteed to win the election, but all it took was 4,329 votes from Defiance, Ohio.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Huck believes that he sparked Quinn's interest in B613, which in turn made her a killer.
  • Cure Your Gays: Cyrus' husband, Michael, was sent to conversion therapy by his parents for being gay.
  • The Cutie: Quinn and Huck.
  • Daddy DNA Test: Mellie orders a paternity test to learn if Fitz really is Jerry IV's father.
  • Damsel in Distress: Olivia when she is kidnapped.
  • Damsel out of Distress: While she is kidnapped, Olivia made multiple attempts to escape including a sawing her way through the window in the bathroom and stealing one of the guard’s keys, but she finally manages to get herself out of where she was being held captive by persuading them to put her on the auction block, but is unable to convince them into taking her off the block.
  • Danger Takes A Back Seat: Done in both "Hunting Season" and "Blown Away."
  • Dare to Be Badass: Quinn, who from the start of the series and probably even before has wanted to be a gladiator in a suit.
  • Dark Secret:
    • Olivia: Her father is the head of B613 and that she rigged an election.
    • Quinn: She was framed for the Cytron bombing, but was saved by a mysterious person who gave her a completely new identity.
    • Huck: His past involvement with B613.
    • Fitz: Operation Remington, wherein he shot down a plane with 329 people aboard.
    • Mellie: Her father-in-law raped her.
  • Dating Catwoman: The beginning of Quinn's romantic relationship with Gideon, a cub reporter who seems on the verge of breaking the Amanda Tanner story.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Rowan really dislikes Olivia with Fitz, but not enough to kill Fitz, of course. Just enough to kill his son.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Abby.
  • Dead Sparks: In Fitz and Mellie's marriage.
  • Death Faked for You: Rowan tells Olivia that her mother Maya died in a plane crash, when she was actually taken off the plane right before it was set to take off.
  • Decided By One Vote: Fitz narrowly won the election for his first term by only 4,329 votes.
  • Defector From Paradise: Olivia decides to permanently leave the beautiful island she and Jake were peacefully living on to arrange Harrison's funeral in Washington, D.C.
  • Defiant Captive: Olivia, who had made countless efforts to escape.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Huck as a result of being recruited by B613 and subsequently deprived in the hole, where he lost any and all hope of ever seeing his family again.
  • Determinator: Olivia: "It's my name on this door, and I don't give up."
  • Deus Angst Machina:
    • Sally in the third season winter finale. Her husband isn't just gay, but he's also a cheater. And he isn't just a cheater, he's now a dead cheater, whom she ends up murdering in a fit of rage
    • Fitz in the third season finale. He's determined to lose his re-election, learns that his wife was raped by his father, his son dies, he finds out that his death was a murder and the love of his life leaves him to live on an island with another man. The only thing that comes out good from the fiasco is that he does wins the election in the end and that was only out of sympathy.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Fitz, whose main agenda at the start of his second terms is gun control, to the annoyance of his party members.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
  • Domestic Abuser:
    • Charles 'Chip' Putney, Abby's ex-husband.
    • Jake's father, who not only physically abused his mom, but also molested his sister.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Quinn with her real name, Lindsay Dwyer.
  • Do Wrong, Right: As the ultimate makers and solvers of scandals in America's capital, for Olivia Pope and Associates, anything goes so long as you can do it cleanly. Best exemplified when the team's trying to help Debbie, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, on her way to the White House, but Debbie's sister( actually her daughter), Candy, leaks some dirt on her opponent that could only have been obtained in a quite illegal fashion. When confronted about her recklessness by Debbie, Olivia, and Harrison, this exchange occurs:
    Candy: (pointing at Olivia and Harrison) How was what I did different from what these people do on an hourly basis?!
  • Double Entendre: Scandal refers to the crises that Olivia Pope & Associates handles and also the ones that Olivia herself is embroiled in with the Grant administration
  • The Dreaded:
    • Olivia herself sometimes, at least in the first season.
    • Adnan Salif is this to Harrison.
    • Abby's abusive ex-husband, Charles Putney.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Back when Fitz was governor, Mellie attempted suicide by overdose after she was raped.
    • In the first episode, after receiving a Hannibal Lecture from Olivia, Amanda Tanner attempted to kill herself.
    • After the woman he loved left him, learning that his father raped his wife, and his son was killed, it's no wonder Fitz attempted suicide.
    • Susan's childhood sweetheart, a now-convict, the secret father to her daughter, Casey. He commits suicide when Olivia blackmails him into revealing this secret to the public.
    • Jake's sister, Emily, hanged herself after years of enduring sexual abuse from her father.
  • Driving Question: Most arcs feature one.
    • Who is Quinn Perkins?
    • What is Defiance? What does it have to do with the Cytron Bombing and Quinn? How was Quinn suddenly found not guilty?
    • Who shot President Fitzgerald Grant?
    • Who is the mole?
    • What is Operation Remington?
    • Where is Olivia?
  • Dropping the Bombshell: In "Flesh and Blood," Mellie drops a giant one on Olivia.
    Mellie: Big Jerry isn't something I want to be nailed to anymore.
  • Drowning My Sorrows:
    • Both the President and Cyrus do this (sometimes together).
    • Olivia has some elements of this, too, considering how often people show up at her door with wine.
    • Mellie relies on the hooch pretty frequently as of season 3.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Mellie makes one to Andrew when he nearly died.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Everybody on Olivia's team, including Olivia herself.
  • Empty Shell: Huck.
  • Enemy Mine: Jake and Fitz unite against Andrew to find Olivia, in spite of their feelings for her and Jake's grudge against Fitz.
  • Equivalent Exchange: David gives up the Cytron card to have his job back.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Fitz loses all of his trust in Olivia, Cyrus and Mellie upon learning that they fixed the election.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Olivia and Verna were a part of election-rigging and weren't planning on letting anyone find out anytime soon, but they were definitely against letting Quinn take the blame for the Cytron bombing when Cytron threatened to expose them.
    • Rowan, of all people. He says in "YOLO" that while he condones it at times and accepts it as a necessary evil, he's never found joy in ending a life.
    • Is Elizabeth okay with coercing Fitz into declaring war on West Angola? Sure! Is she okay with kidnapping Olivia to achieve these means, though? Of course not!
    • Cyrus has put Olivia, James and Sally all in harm's way, but does choose to save them last minute.
  • Evil All Along:
    • Billy and Cyrus.
    • In season 2, Becky, whose real name is Kate.
    • In season 3, Olivia's mother, apparently.
    • Also in season 3, Eli Pope, who murdered the President's son out of spite.
    • In season 4, Andrew Nichols and Elizabeth North. Andrew might have undergone a Face–Heel Turn after getting forced to break up with Mellie.
    • Also in season 4, Russell turns out to be a B6-13 agent.
  • Evil Matriarch: Olivia’s mother is a terrorist, so she might be considered a little evil.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The candidates in the first election in season three—Fitz, Reston and Sally—have all murdered someone.
  • Exact Words:
    • Eli Pope promised he wouldn't touch a hair on Fitz's head. He didn't, interestingly enough. He kept his word. But Fitz's son....well, he was not included in that deal.
    • Huck promised Quinn he wouldn't spill any more blood. When asked to do something about Andrew Nichols, he causes him to undergo a stroke.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Hair is the primary way for Scandal to show how characters' appearances have changed from the past to the present.
    • Olivia had bangs while running Fitz's campaign for President the first time.
    • And back when Fitz was running for Governor of California and before then, Cyrus had more hair and a scruffy beard.
    • Mellie's hair was up to around her chin and shoulders.
    • In the flashbacks of the first election, Abby has wavy hair compared to her pin straight hair seen in the first and second season. The wavy hair ultimately comes back in the third season.
    • Huck's beard was shaved while he was in B613. After he got kicked out, both his hair and beard grew extremely long to signify the "hobo" look.
    • Averted with Fitz, who didn't change one bit in neither the flashbacks from when he was running for President nor the ones of him running for Governor of California.
  • Face–Heel Turn:
    • Quinn Perkins in season 3.
    • Zig-Zagged by Jake, who used to be against B613, but then became the head of the organization and killed at least three people while in the position. And it happens again, between season four and five, as in the former, he figured out who killed Fitz's son, tried to rescue Olivia and encouraged shutting down B613. But in season five, he crosses over to the dark side again, having killed the head of the NSA's boyfriend so he could take her role and works for Rowan Pope again.
    • Andrew may have suffered from one after being blackmailed into breaking up with Mellie.
    • Implied to be happening with Olivia. It starts in "The Miseducation of Susan Ross," in which she scares Susan's husband into killing himself when he refuses to publicly disclose that he is her daughter's real father. She quickly realizes this is wrong, but the White Hat is officially set on fire when she pounds Andrew's face in with a chair, killing him.
  • The Fake Cutie: Cyrus.
  • Family of Choice: Olivia tells Huck, Quinn and Abby that they were this to Harrison.
  • Fate Drives Us Together: Or so it seems that way with Jake and Olivia and again with Vanessa. He bumped Olivia, made her drop her phone, flirted, saw her again and they started dating—and the same exact thing happens to Vanessa because the entire occurance is rehearsed with an ulterior motive.
  • Fictional Country: Kashfar, East Sudan, West Angola, Kurkistan, Caledonia, Bandar, all of which are mirror some real life country.
  • Fire and Ice Love Triangle: Jake (ice), Olivia and Fitz (fire).
  • First-Episode Spoiler: Olivia is revealed to have had an affair with the president.
  • First Girl Wins:
    • Olivia isn't with either Jake or Fitz as of the second half of the fifth season, but so far it seems that Fitz, who was introduced as Olivia's love interest first, is winning in terms of who Olivia loves more and thus would choose. While she's never admitted to choosing Jake or dated him or was ever even sure she loved him, she has done all three with Fitz.
    • Granted, Jake would come a close second if he does lose and can even win, given that Olivia got together with Fitz, then broke up with him. He has also technically won, since Olivia left Fitz to live on a private island with Jake, implying that she chose him over Fitz, as they finally got to stand in the sun together. In contrast, even then, they still didn't consider themselves exclusive.
  • First-Name Basis:
    • Jake bitterly tells Fitz he has lost this privilege, demanding he be called "Captain Ballard."
    • Fitz allows Abby to call him by his first name rather than 'Mr. President' which she might as well do now that she has to keep track of his sex life.
    • Inverted by Cyrus, interestingly enough, because despite that he was probably Fitz's best friend, he seldom refers to him as Fitz and uses 'Mr. President' or 'Sir' to his face, but does more often when talking about him with others.
  • Five-Bad Band: Olivia, Cyrus, Mellie, Verna and Hollis, all five of which conspired to tamper with the election.
  • Five-Man Band:
    • Olivia, Quinn, Huck, Abby and Harrison made up the main OPA gang for two seasons. Stephen would technically be a sixth member, but his duration (seven episodes) was awfully short.
    • Fitz, Cyrus, Mellie, Abby and Elizabeth/David are a part of the White House storyline. Olivia has worked for the White House, but working at OPA is her main job.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Cyrus has his team collect data on the members of OPA, Quinn's profile has nothing beyond the last four years. Turns out it's because Quinn—whose actual name is Lindsay Dwyer—was framed for a bombing at Cytron Inc. and was about to be apprehended for it, when an unknown person kidnapped her, brought her to Washington D.C. and gave her an entirely new identity.
    • Those 4,329 votes that Governor Reston lost in Defiance, Ohio that cost him the election itself, which he kept mentioning in "All Roads Lead to Fitz"? Yeah, well those 4,329 votes were all rigged.
  • Forged Message:
    • Mellie is an expert at forging Fitz's signature, having forged his request to be reinstated as President and Rowan and Tom's release from prison.
    • Quite a few suicide notes too.
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: Fitz with Defiance.
  • Fourth Wall Psych: Jake Ballard does this at the end of "Top of the Hour." He appears to smile knowingly at the audience. He's actually smiling knowingly at the cameras he planted in Olivia's apartment.
  • Frame-Up:
    • Becky frames Huck for the President's assassination attempt.
    • Rowan frames Jake for Jerry IV's death.
  • Framing the Guilty Party:
    • The woman in "Hell Hath No Fury" is doing this. He didn't rape her; he raped her best friend, which eventually triggered her suicide.
    • The same thing occurs in "Randy, Red, Superfreak and Julia." Senator Sterling didn't attempt to rape Senator Vaughn; he attempted to rape her assistant.
  • From Bad to Worse:
    • Sally Langston isn't in the greatest situation when she learns her husband is gay and things only get worse for herself when she kills him.
    • Abby fears that Lillian may be pregnant with Fitz's baby, having visited a health facility with seven OB/GYN doctors, but lucky for them, that's not why! It's much worse than that! She was actually visiting to interview ex-VP Andrew, who was telling her the real reason why Fitz went to war in West Angola. Suddenly, her being pregnant with Fitz's baby didn't seem so bad anymore.
  • Futureshadowing: "Seven Fifty Two" has flashbacks of when Olivia first met Huck. Fitz is on a magazine cover with the tagline "Is this man our next president?"
  • Gay Conservative:
    • Sullivan St. James in episode 1.
    • Cyrus Beene is the gay Republican Chief of Staff of President Grant.
    • Daniel Douglas, closeted husband of the Republican VP and very conservative Sally Langston.
  • Genre Shift:
    • Shonda Rhimes' plan all along was to hook the audience with a soapy, case-of-the-week first season, before amping up the serialization and political thriller elements in season two.
    • Season 3 is doing this again with a lot of it's plot shifting towards a Spy Drama.
    • And now, interestingly enough, it's shifting back to the case-of-the-week formula that was once a decoy.
  • Get Out: Fitz kicks a lot of people out of the Oval Office (especially Mellie—in one case though, the White House itself) with these two words.
  • Get Rich Quick Scheme: "Dog Whistle Politics" reveals this is what Lazarus One is for B613: Start a fire at the Lourve, leave behind charred copies and sell the real ones to wealthy collectors.
  • Gilded Cage
    • Mellie dishes out an entire speech to Olivia about what a prison the White House is once you become First Lady and she is proven to be right when Olivia starts to think so too when she was about to marry Fitz and again when he forced her to move in and made her the First Lady.
      Mellie: (Sniggers) You don't get to say what you don't want. Not in here. Your wants, your needs—nobody cares anymore. All that matters from now on is him. You will make so many sacrifices and compromises, you won't even feel like a real person anymore! You will be unrecognizable. You think you're gonna be able keep that little business of yours up and running? That group of thugs you got workin' for you—what, you're gonna find a place for them here? Run your staff? In the White House? I don't think so. You forfeit all that the moment he takes your hand, presents you to the world. You get dropped in a cage and you are trapped. The amount of bile you force yourself to choke down... but like I said, that's what this here liquid gold is for.
      Olivia: To feel numb.
      Mellie: Oh, honey, no! Living here, in this prison, that is what makes you feel numb. This is what makes you feel alive! ... When you go back down to the Oval and you sit next to Fitz, I hope you know what you're really fighting for.
    • When Olivia is kidnapped, the White House also becomes a cage to Fitz—the Secret Service disturbingly assure him that they—along with White House aides, pages, staff, military guards, secretaries, down to valets and butlers—would be there to "help you (Fitz), support you, watch you." Make of that what you will.
    • Edison Davis calls the Senate a gilded cage where people believe they are making a contribution when they aren't.
  • Girls Need Role Models: And, boy, does Scandal have them. To start with, Olivia is a successful black woman who runs a crisis management firm and was formerly the White House Communications Director. Other women in positions of power include VPs Sally Langston and Susan Ross, both of which in-universe hold the highest position in the US government to date; former Press Secretary-turned Chief of Staff Abby Whelan; and ex-First Lady, ex-Senator and current candidate for the Oval (who will likely win considering she's the only main character in the race and has been wanting to be POTUS since even before she entered the White House) Mellie Grant.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: In "The Last Supper," Mellie and Andrew Nichols after Andrew is almost killed by a car bomb.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Between Mellie and her sister, Harmony, whose mother wrecked Mellie's parents' marriage.
  • Gold and White Are Divine: The White Hat, symbolically worn by the righteous and uncorrupted people of D.C.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Huck, as a result of being put in the hole. He would pretend that he was outside living life because it was his only way of coping.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • In season three, Cyrus' plan to expose Sally Langston's husband's homosexuality results in the disintegration of Cyrus' marriage (thanks to James' infidelity) and Sally murdering her husband.
    • David blackmailed a Senate judge into keeping his nomination for Attorney General. It's successful, but the judge ended up killing himself.
    • Elizabeth has David seduce and date Susan, although the two falling in love with each other wasn't a part of her scheme, considering that Elizabeth herself is in love wit David.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong:
    • David's attempt at being like Olivia Pope in season four by blackmailing a Senate judge into voting to make him Attorney General. While he is successful in blackmailing him, the guy ends up killing himself, which usually isn't the outcome when Olivia wins.
      David: I was trying to be Olivia Pope, and I killed him.
    • Fitz's impeachment trial on Mellie's part. While initially working to quell her resentment for her ex-husband, the trial backfires on her when the Senate judges expose her for knowing that Olivia was Fitz's mistress, not Jeanine Locke.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Olivia, Stephen, Huck, and probably Harrison.
  • Good Powers, Bad People: The government as a whole. It may work for the people, but rigging their votes (Cyrus, Olivia, Mellie and Verna) and sending troops to war to get a girl back (Fitz) doesn't really serve them. But perhaps Fitz's bills the Brandon Bill and Equal Pay, made up for that decision?
  • Government Agency of Fiction: B613.
  • Government Conspiracy:
    • Involving Olivia, Cyrus, Mellie, Hollis, Verna and Lindsay Dwyer—unwillingly. The five conspired to rig the election in Fitz's favor, unbeknownst to him. Cyrus did it for the position as Chief of Staff, Mellie as First Lady, Verna as Fitz's Supreme Court Justice pick and Hollis for $2 billion pipeline. Olivia did it for Fitz. Hollis hired a worker from the Cytron company, Jesse, to tamper with a voting machine in Defiance county, Ohio. However, when Jesse learned that he would only be getting $5 million from Hollis, while Hollis would be receiving $2 billion from the pipeline, he threatned to expose him. Thus, Hollis had the Cytron company bombed. When Olivia and Verna learn that Jesse's girlfriend Lindsay would go down for the bombing, they kidnapped Lindsay, brought her to Washington, D.C. and changed her name to Quinn Perkins.
    • President Fitzgerald Grant's assassination attempt, which is effectively an extension to Defiance. Verna hired B613 agent and Huck's girlfriend Becky as the hitman to shoot Fitz on his 50th birthday. Verna framed Hollis as the one orchestrating the assassination attempt, while Becky individually framed Huck for shooting the president. On her death bed, Verna admits to Fitz that she hired Becky to kill him because she felt that she wronged the American public for making him president and that she would be confessing to the cops about the assassination attempt and Defiance. To prevent this from happening, Fitz kills her.
    • West Angola. The RNC chairperson Elizabeth North and VP Andrew Nichols both wanted Fitz to invade West Angola, believing that it would benefit the part, however Fitz refused to. They went as far as to organized his own assassination attempt and framed the West Angolan rebels for it. Andrew alone however had Olivia kidnapped and used her to blackmail Fitz into finally declaring war, with the support of almost everybody in the White House—secret service agents, aides, secretaries, even valets and butlers—except for Elizabeth, who had no idea about his plans. He planned to keep Olivia there for three more years until Fitz's term was over, during which he planned to control Fitz or Olivia would die.
    • The death of Daniel Douglas. He's said to have died of a heart attack, despite that there was no autopsy on public record, but he was actually killed by his wife Sally Langston, who learned that he was gay and cheated on her.
  • Grand Romantic Gesture: Fitz buys Olivia a house in Vermont for them to live in when his term in office is over.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: All over the place.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • President Fitzgerald Grant veers into this territory in the season two episode "Hunting Season." He finds out Olivia was talking to Democratic Senator Edison Davis who used to be Olivia's fiance.
    • Sally Langston isn't particularly thrilled to find out her husband is gay and unfaithful.
    • Fitz punches Andrew and threatens to kick him off the Grant ticket as VP if he didn’t stop screwing Mellie.
  • Guile Hero: A good chunk of the cast.
  • Gut Feeling: Was commonly employed by Olivia in the first season and less so in the subsequent seasons.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Olivia, naturally, deals them out. Starting in episode four, Cyrus starts dishing them out to Fitz and Olivia.
  • Happily Married:
    • Zig-Zagged by James and Cyrus, who despite their ups-and-downs, really did love each other and was Cyrus' first love, even though the two were on opposite ends of the conspiracy regarding the election, though they managed to get past that. But it's in season three that the two reach their breaking point and their marriage is just as bad if not maybe worse than Fitz and Mellie's. Cyrus uses James to tempt Sally's husband Daniel Douglas and when James finds out, he goes ahead and sleeps with Daniel multiple times. To make matters worse, when Sally learns herself, she kills Daniel and Cyrus helps her cover it up. James suspects that either Cyrus or Sally killed Daniel and is on the hunt to find out and expose it, when Jake kills him. Cyrus is devastated because the two did reaffirm their love for each other not long before his death.
    • Mellie and Fitz in the flashbacks of their marriage. Played with in season four, as while they weren't in love with each other, they became best friends as a married couple and weren't planning on splitting up until at least Fitz's term was over.
  • Happy Marriage Charade:
    • Fitz and Mellie both hate each other, yet seemed like a very happy married couple because they’re America’s First Family, although critics of the Grant campaign did notice how distant they were when Fitz first began running. The two had to go through some media training conducted by Olivia and Cyrus to make them seem happier and closer and it worked… that is, until Mellie moved into the Blaire House decided to expose Fitz’s infidelity. But even then, they told the public that they would be undergoing marriage counseling. Then, in Season 5, when Fitz is again exposed as a cheater to the public, he and Mellie were going to lie again, but Mellie backed out last-minute.
    • Cyrus and James. Everyone thinks that they are getting along, but in reality, Cyrus hadn't been living in his house for 22 days because James kicked him out.
    • Cyrus and Michael were never married when they did like each other (on Cyrus’ part at least) and only got married to save Cyrus’ reputation, but they too are pretending to be a happily married couple.
    • On Jake's part in his marriage with Vanessa.
  • Hate at First Sight: Fitz wanted Olivia fired from the Grant campaign for citing his and Mellie's aloofness towards each other as a reason for their low numbers.
  • Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight: Mellie has described being First Lady as “profoundly boring” and finds it below her. Nevertheless, she still does like the perks of the job like the extent of influence she has.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: Senator Shaw's sex tape. Olivia and Abby tilt their heads at the same time, and Abby has already seen the tape four times. And wants to see it again.
  • The Heart: Quinn Perkins and Huck share the role.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Zig-Zagged by Huck has been trying to be a good guy since the start of the series, but his lust for murder gets the best of him every now and then.
  • Heel Realization:
    • Olivia and Cyrus come to the conclusion that they're bad people (and their record says so) when the first thing they realized when Jerry died was that they won the election.
    • Olivia has another one in season five when she starts playing real dirty—like I'll-ruin-your-life-if-you-don't-do-what-I-say dirty—in the election. But if it hadn't been for her friends, she would have never learned on her own.
    • Sally Langston's only words to Cyrus after murdering Daniel Douglas are "I have committed a sin."
  • He Knows Too Much:
    • Gideon, when confronting Billy and revealing that he knows all about his plan.
    • Cyrus is close to killing his husband to prevent him from learning/exposing the truth about Defiance.
      • However, in another time, James is actually killed by Jake to prevent him from exposing that Sally Langston killed her husband.
    • Harrison is killed by Rowan for learning that he killed the President's son and framed it on Maya Pope.
    • Elizabeth suggests offing Andrew to keep him from telling the truth about West Angola.
  • Hero Antagonist:
    • Amanda Tanner, at first. Mellie Grant floats in and out of the role.
    • David Rosen takes over the role in season two, after Olivia tanks his case against Quinn/Lindsay.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Fitz almost makes one for Elizabeth, Cyrus, Olivia, Mellie and Abby by confessing on TV that the real reason for the war in West Angola was to get Olivia back after Andrew had her kidnapped because he felt responsible as the one who chose Andrew to be his running mate in the first place.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.:
    • Huck in "Seven-Fifty-Two". He's in such a catatonic state, the only phrase he says in the entire episode (minus the flashbacks) is "seven-fifty-two".
    • Fitz with the news that the election which elected him President was rigged.
    • Mellie with her son's death.
    • Olivia after her kidnapping.
  • The Heroine: Olivia Pope.
  • He Who Must Not Be Named: Command, who, apparently, may not be seen either.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • The entire team has secrets.
      • Olivia: Had an affair with President Grant during the campaign, assisted in rigging a national election in his favor, and covered up "Quinn's" real identity because of her accidental involvement in that rigging conspiracy, even conspiring with a Supreme Court justice to get her acquitted.
      • Abby: Was married to a famous U.S. politician until she ran away. Their marriage had a history of domestic abuse and he's still searching for her.
      • Harrison: Convicted of insider-trading, served serious jail time. He was also involved in something called Clearwater with Adnan Salif.
      • Stephen: Was a hotshot lawyer, then had a breakdown in the middle of a trial where he was defending a large company that had destroyed a few lives through their chemical manufacturing.
      • Quinn: Her real name isn't Quinn, and she didn't exist in that identity until two years ago. Season two reveals that [[spoiler: her real name is Lindsay Dwyer, she was framed for a bombing that killed seven people, and the conspiracy surrounding why stretches to not only Olivia, but the Supreme Court and the national security of the United States. This was further explained in "Happy Birthday, Mr. President": Hollis Doyle, the head of Cytron, rigged the explosion to get rid of evidence that Cytron helped orchestrate the rigging of the presidential election in Fitz's favor. He framed Lindsay Dwyer for the bombing. This did not sit right with Olivia, so she and Huck spirited Lindsay away and gave her a new identity as Quinn Perkins..
      • Huck: His dossier is apparently thicker than most spy novels, most of it is redacted, but he has CIA/espionage/military training as an assassin and Olivia trusts him to break a dictator's wife and children out of the embassy with only five minutes' leeway. He's also spent time homeless and suffering from PTSD, begging on the DC subway, which is when Olivia found him. Also, he probably has an ex-wife and child living somewhere in DC.
    • There's also the surprising and villainous depths to Cyrus Beene - he's a Gay Conservative, and married to a much-younger man.
    • In the earlier seasons, Mellie was portrayed as the villainous Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, a principal reason for why Olivia and Fitz weren't together, but season three reveals that the reason why her and Fitz's marriage began struggling was because Big Jerry raped her, but she withheld this from Fitz to save his and his father's relationship. She cited this and the birth of her first son (whom she also did not know the paternity of), for her indifference towards sex with Fitz and "shutting him out", which Fitz credited as a reason for his interest in other women. She even attempted suicide, but was saved by Andrew.
    • B613 has an agent stationed in the White House to keep Command in the loop. Who would have predicted that it would be Tom the Secret Service agent?
  • Hiding Behind Religion:
    • Sally has made it clear she has very strong Christian virtues and values that include being pro-life, yet she permitted her teenage daughter to have a secret abortion.
    • Sally has also killed someone: her husband, Daniel Douglas. Very virtuous.
  • History Repeats: In the first episode, Quinn is approached by Harrison in a bar to be recruited for OPA. Then, in season five, Marcus is approached by Quinn in a bar to be recruited for OPA.
  • Holding the Floor: Mellie filibustered about Planned Parenthood for 16 hours in the Senate.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Seen a lot by Huck and Quinn.
  • Honey Trap:
    • James is unknowingly sent by Cyrus to seduce Sally Langston's closeted husband.
    • Adnan Salif sleeps with Harrison to access Olivia's computer.
  • Hope Bringer: Rowan says that Olivia is this and he really is right—her job alone as someone who people go to when they need help is an example of her character. And that hope also extends to her colleagues, whom she has all helped get out of tough situations in life.
    Rowan: In the face of darkness, you drag everyone into the light. ...At least I like to think that is the point of you.
  • Housewife:
    • Abby was a housewife to her ex-husband, Charles Putney.
    • This is the obvious image Mellie is supposed to have as First Lady.
  • I Am the Noun:
    • David: "I am the law!"
    • Olivia in the season three finale says "I'M the scandal!"
  • I Can Still Fight: Fitz wakes up from his coma after being shot in the head and quickly returns to work, despite the skepticism from people like Sally Langston.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Jake's explanation for killing James.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode is named after a line in it.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Quinn, when she dated a reporter that she got to know when he wanted information that she had. Her surprise after he died that he was still working on the case was especially baffling for someone who apparently has so many secrets herself.
    • Speaking of him, Gideon was hit with his in episode 6 - When confronting the person behind the majority of the shadiness in the story you're investigating, it's always best to do so in a public place or even to not let them know all that you know. But should you do both of these things , don't turn your back on them. It can only end one way.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: This is Olivia's justification for not killing Andrew when he threatened to expose the real details about West Angola.
  • I Have Your Wife: Andrew kidnaps Olivia in exchange for Fitz declaring war on West Angola.
  • Ignored Enamored Underling: Revealed to be the case of California Governor Andrew Nichols, who used to be Fitz's lieutenant governor: He's secretly in love with Mellie.
  • I Just Knew: Olivia's explanation for why she believed Mellie when she insinuated Fitz's father may have raped her.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Fitz, to a great deal. For the most part, being President has made him unhappy because he can never settle down with Olivia and has made it clear he doesn't care about losing the job if it meant being with her.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: After disowning her as a gladiator, Huck tells Quinn that he knows "there's still a gladiator in [her]".
  • Innocent Bystander:
    • Amanda Tanner.
    • At the start of season three, Jeannine Locke.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Abby tells Olivia about her fears of relegating after working for the Grant administration, but Olivia suggests that she could condescendingly always come back to OPA and work for her. Abby doesn't take that advice very well.
  • In-Series Nickname:
    • When Quinn learns how to hack, the other OPA members nickname her "Baby Huck."
    • Charlie likes calling Quinn "Robin."
    • In "Like Father, Like Daughter," Fitz has an entire list for Mellie: "Drunk Mellie, Bad-Hygiene Mellie, Screw-Everything-To-Hell Mellie, Crybaby Mellie, Eat-Everything-That-is-Not-Nailed-Down Mellie" and his favorite, "Smelly Mellie."
    • Cyrus gives rather comedic ones, such as "Red" for Abby and "Lizzie Bear" for Elizabeth.
  • Interrogated for Nothing:
    • Huck is framed for attempting to kill the President and is brought down to the Pentagon, where he is brutally waterboarded among other things, yet had nothing to tell.
    • Jake is framed for murdering Jerry Grant and is also brought down to the Pentagon.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Karen walks in on her mother Mellie performing oral sex on Andrew.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Mellie's. She overdosed on pills, but was rescued by Andrew, who had her gag them out.
  • Intrepid Reporter:
    • Gideon. God help you if you get in the way of his scoop.
    • James picks up the mantle in Season Two. As with Gideon, he's initially not sure where the story is taking him.
    • Season Three has two: Shelby Moss and Vanessa Chandler. Carla even has the moxie to stand up to Olivia's "You'll never work in this town again" threats.
  • It's All About Me: Horribly demonstrated once. Command/Rowan/Eli has this philosophy as well.
  • It's All My Fault: Olivia blames herself for the death of Jerry IV.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: The trope is deconstructed by Huck, who was forced to practice this. He uses it horribly.
  • Jerkass: Or perhaps, President Jerkass would be the best way to describe when Fitz is being one. He may come off as one sometimes, such as when he calls Mellie "ornamental, not functional" (in other words, useless) or lambastes Frankie Vargas' rival education bill.
  • Just Friends: Andrew cites this as his reason for breaking it off with Mellie.
    Andrew: Well, I've been thinking, and, uh, you and Fitz have been such good friends to me for so long.
    Mellie: Friends...
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: Olivia can speak from experience. And she might not be as good as it as she thinks. People know she had a secret romance during the campaign, but not with whom. Jeannine Locke tells her in 3x02 that many White House employees knew President Grant was having an affair, but not with whom.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Olivia and Cyrus, who both do/condone horrible things in service to clients and the President, respectively.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Albeit accidental, as she thought Amanda was a manipulative Fake Cutie, when she reminded her rival (Amanda) of her mother's psychotic break and menaced to use it to end her career, the result was a really creepy Olivia.
    • Cyrus has plenty of those moments even before he proves to have been Evil All Along.
    • If the first two episodes of season two are anything to go by, David's the new target of Olivia's dog-kicking.
    • Rowan/Eli starts doing this in the last few episodes of Season 4, almost as a warning to those who would dare cross him.
  • Kid with the Leash: Olivia being the kid, while Huck is the leash. She is often the one who restrains him, but has also been the one who has set him free.
  • Killed Offscreen: Harrison.
  • The Killer Was Left-Handed: Downplayed. Sally figures out that Mellie forged Fitz's signature because she's right-handed, while Fitz is left-handed.
  • Kiss-Kiss-Slap:
    • Followed by Slap-Slap-Kiss in the pilot, where Fitz kisses Olivia, then she slaps him, then he kisses her again.
    • Near same circumstances in "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot".
  • Knee-capping: Olivia, apparently, to Abby's abusive husband. With a tire iron.
  • Lady Drunk: Mellie, ever since the third season, when she started to hate the job of the First Lady.
  • The Lancer: Stephen.
  • Landslide Election: Fitz with the second election because his son died.
  • Large Ham: You could make arguments for a few characters but Rowan Pope has to take the cake.
  • Last Minute Hookup: Discussed by Olivia who fervently declares that this is not the case in her and Fitz's relationship.
    Olivia: I am not a toy you can play with when you're bored or lonely or horny. I am not the girl the guy gets at the end of the movie. I am not a fantasy. If you want me, EARN ME!
  • Latino Is Brown: Huck, Stephen, Frankie Vargas and Alex Vargas.
  • Laughing Mad: This has happened a few times, but in one significant moment, Olivia learns that Sally Langston killed her husband, Daniel Douglas, and bursts out laughing at the realization that all three candidates for the presidency—Sally, Fitz, and Reston—are killers.
  • Lecherous Licking: Quinn gets this treatment from Huck when he learns that she betrayed Olivia.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Mellie and Fitz, who are in a marriage Deader Than Dead, but Olivia sees a glimpse of it while on the campaign trail:
    Mellie: And all I get in return is this perpetual resentment!
    Fitz: So what would you prefer?! That I ignore you?! That we don't talk at all?! 'Cause that's pretty much how it's been the past few years, and that's worked okay.
    Mellie: Now you're just being juvenile.
    Fitz: [...] 'Cause you're afraid it would get out and kill us politically.
    Mellie: If they found out, we'd be dead in the water!
    Fitz: Fine! Then if living on Pennsylvania Avenue is that important to you, we better suck it up and start acting like this isn't a dead marriage!
  • Like Brother and Sister: Jake refers to Olivia as his sister to bother her because they both know they are so much more.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Fitz is almost always wearing a suit. Then again, the President of the United States wouldn't be naturally seen wearing a leather jacket anyway. Same goes for the rest of the politicians (or so the male ones) on the show.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Starting with the third season, the show has ten main characters. Then there's all the recurring characters.
  • Locked Out of the Loop:
    • This happens all too often with Fitz, especially when dealing with Cyrus and Mellie. Those two, along with Verna, Olivia, Hollis, all kept it a huge secret from Fitz, that they rigged an election. Mellie and Cyrus alone also kept it a secret from Fitz that they covered up Daniel Douglas' death and that Mellie basically unknowingly sent 16 people to their deaths.
    • Cyrus is locked out from what Fitz is doing, even though he is his Chief of Staff, after Fitz learns he was a part of the conspiracy to rig the election and Mellie convinces him that it was all Cyrus' fault.
    • Marcus too with OPA, despite being a part of the Gladiator Family. Whenever Olivia needs them to do something for her, she enlists either Huck or Quinn, but never Marcus. Marcus also isn't in on half of the many, many, many secrets Huck, Quinn and Olivia have. He lampshades it quite a few times and is seemingly growing more and more agitated.
  • Love Dodecahedron: In season three, Jake loves Olivia, who doesn't know if she likes Jake, but definitely loves Fitz, who loves Olivia and hates Mellie, but suddenly likes Mellie, who loves Fitz, but also kind of hates Fitz, because she loves Andrew, who loves Mellie.
  • Love-Interest Traitor:
    • Subverted by Jake, who was hired to befriend Olivia by Fitz, but ultimately falls in love with her.
    • Abby thinks David betrayed her when she is tricked into thinking that he abused his ex-girlfriend.
    • Michael was hired by Liz North to spy on Cyrus.
    • Adnan Salif, Harrison's ex, goes to him for help to get away from Maya Pope. As it turns out, it was a ploy to steal information on the Grant campaign on Olivia's computer.
    • In season four, Andrew soon reveals himself to be a corrupt politician to Mellie, despite his seemingly good intentions in the previous season, when he conspires to kidnap Olivia to get Fitz to declare war on West Angola.
    • David when Susan found out that he's been cheating on her with Liz North and only began sleeping with her to convince her to do what Liz wants. Though, the move has since led him to grow genuine feelings for her.
  • Love Martyr: Mellie, by all counts. Her husband is a cheater and, by the time they got divorced, had been cheating on her for around six-seven years, yet she had remained faithful for (almost) the entire time. And even before then, she didn't just give up her career as a lawyer to help his as governor, but perhaps the biggest sacrifice she made was keeping the fact that Big Jerry raped her a secret from him so that he and his father could maintain a good relationship.
  • Love Triangle: Jake/Olivia/Fitz, Olivia/Fitz/Mellie, Fitz/Mellie/Andrew, Mellie/Andrew/Elizabeth, Elizabeth/David/Susan...the list goes on.
  • Loving Details: "Vermont" for Olivia and Fitz while Olivia and Jake have "Standing in the sun."
  • Lured into a Trap: Mellie agrees to allow the women's committee on the Senate hold a trial for Fitz's impeachent, wherein they assured her she would be asked only a few harmless questions regarding his affair with Olivia, but ended up having to barely dodge committing perjury when they basically accused her of knowing about the affair.
  • Madness Mantra: Seven-fifty-two, seven-fifty-two, seven-fifty-two, seven-fifty-two... which is the very minute in which Huck sees his family for the first time since being released from the hole.
  • Makeover Montage: Susan Ross gets one to help her get elected Senator of Virginia.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage:
    • Largely averted in Olivia's case with both Fitz and Jake before her and the former go public. This was because Shonda Rhimes wanted to make the fact that Olivia and Fitz were an interracial couple as minimal as possible.
    • Out of the main cast, however, Rowan is the only one to have a problem with Olivia and Fitz's relationship on the basis of race. He believes that Fitz's status as the white male President of the United States versus Olivia's as a black woman set her up for failure when she is accused of sleeping with the President.
      Rowan: He told you that you would be First Lady and you believed him! Did I not raise you for better? How many times have I told you that you have to be what? You have to be... what?
      Olivia: Twice...
      Rowan: WHAT?!
      Olivia: Twice as good.
      Rowan: Twice as good as them to get half of what they have.
    • In-universe, when she and Fitz go public, the fact that Olivia is black and Fitz is white is only a problem for the media/general public. The interracial aspect of their relationship isn't conspicuously stated by the media, but rather they use Dog-Whistle Politics to imply that Olivia is a "sassy, well-spoken" black woman who likes to get with powerful, particularly white, men. The show further indicates that there is more outrage that Fitz slept with a black woman than one of his own race when Olivia is hit with racist and sexist comments.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Olivia is one, and most of her team live on the verge. Fitz refuses to be one, Cyrus is proud of being this, and Mellie Grant has shown herself quite capable of it.
  • The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: With Huck, after being reunited by Quinn with his family at the end of Season 3, he attempts to patch things up with his ex and her son between seasons. In Season 4 we learn that he told her the truth about his involvement with B613 as a sign of good faith, but not only does she not believe him, she has repeatedly called the cops on him, and ultimately ambushes him with a shrink .
  • The McCoy: Quinn and Abby both serve as this for the rest of the team.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Harrison's.
  • Meaningful Name: Charlie calls himself Charlie now as a reference to Charles Manson.
  • Millionaire Playboy:
    • Andrew has this reputation, but he explains that he's never settled down because he's been in love with one woman: Mellie.
    • Fitz also has shades of this around the fifth season, when he starts sleeping with multiple women.
  • Missing Mom: Olivia's mother, who died in a plane crash... or so she thought.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Olivia suspects that Mellie is cheating on Fitz with Andrew, but even though the two had feelings for each other, neither had acted upon them at the time.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Inverted by Daniel Douglas. Cyrus and Mellie hire a woman to seduce him, but he's noticeably detached. However, when James starts talking to him, they realize that their plan wasn't working because he's interested in men.
  • Mistaken for Murderer:
    • James suspects that Cyrus may have killed Daniel Douglas.
    • Mellie thought Liz North was the one who killed Andrew, given her insistence to do so.

  • The Mistress: Olivia to the President, Fitzgerald Grant.
  • Mood Whiplash: "The Lawn Chair" has this for the rest of the series, given it deals with pretty serious topics regarding police brutality.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Fitz and Jake.
  • Mustache Vandalism: One of the photos on Jerry IV's anti-Fitz Twitter account included Fitz's official White House portrait defaced with a mustache and devil horns.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Billy Chambers is briefly in shock upon murdering Gideon.
    • Also, Fitz is dumbstruck when Mellie reveals that she genuinely believes that everyone is a Stepford Smiler.
      Fitz: Did I do this to you? Or have you always been like this? Because if it was me, I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
    • Huck in "White Hat's Back On," after realizing he may have trained Quinn too well.
    • Sally when she realizes she killed her husband, Daniel Douglas.
    • Olivia subsequent to killing Andrew.
  • Mystery of the Week: At the start of the series, nearly every episode featured OPA taking on another client's crisis, though due to the Genre Shift, cases of the week are seen less frequently.
    • The crises technically aren't mysteries, though most feature a plot twist or question to be solved. The clients could also be considered Patients Of The Week, as most come to OPA for assistance.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Quinn, so very much. She becomes less so as the series progresses, however.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • At the end of "Paris Is Burning," Lazarus One. We don't learn what it is, but it makes Rowan/Eli go "Oh Crap!."
    • For the election-rigging clique (particularly Cyrus and Olivia), it's "Defiance".
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Abby blames Olivia for doing this to Harrison.
  • Never Heard That One Before: In "A Door Marked Exit," Rowan/Eli goes on an epic rant to Fitz about how Fitz is a spoiled, ignorant child. Fitz doesn't say anything, but you get the feeling he's been hearing this ever since he was a spoiled, ignorant child.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Episode 3, with the rich guy.
    • Fitz blamed his infidelity on Mellie's refusal to have sex with him.
  • Never Say That Again:
    • Mellie hits Cyrus’ Berserk Button when she mentions “Defiance,” AKA the county in Ohio where they rigged the votes and he threatens her to never mention Defiance in his presence again.
    • In "Randy, Red, Superfreak and Julia," Mellie counts a list of ones Fitz prohibits her from mentioning: Mellie's rape, missing mistress, his suicide attempt and dead son.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Olivia convinces her kidnappers to auction her rather than kill her... just when Jake busts in to where she was being held in captivity.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Morris the guard says that Fitz was the only president who ever asked about his kids.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Officer James Newton in "The Lawn Chair." For given value of "noble."
    Newton: God, what the hell is it with you people?
    Olivia: Us people?
    Newton: Yeah, you people. I didn't misspeak.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • The royal family of Caledonia in season 5 is pretty much an Expy for the British royal family:
      • Queen Isabel - Queen Elizabeth II.
      • Prince Richard - Prince Charles/Prince William.
      • Princess Emily - Princess Diana/Wallis Simpson/Kate Middleton.
    • The post-Grant administration election is also mirroring at least one of the real-life candidates of the 2016 US Presidential Election:
      • Hollis Doyle - Donald Trump.
      • Not necessarily personality-wise or anything else along those lines, but Mellie's story is linked to Hillary Clinton's. Both were First Ladies, both of their husbands cheated on them, both remained by their side (the first time for Mellie; the second time Fitz's infidelity was exposed, they divorced), both became Senators and both ran for President of the United States.
  • Normally, I Would Be Dead Now:
    • In the season 2 midseason finale, Fitz got shot three times, including once in the head, yet he somehow survived.
    • Rowan gets stabbed, but The Omnipotent lives!
    • Jake got stabbed all over his body and is at first assumed to be dead, but Huck somehow manages to resuscitate him with one hit to the gut.
    • In “Randy, Red, Superfreak and Julia,” Senator Vaughn's assistant pushed Senator Sterling down the stairs and Vaughn and her assistant both believe she killed him, but Olivia notices that his finger was twitching.
  • No Such Agency: B613.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood:
    • Amanda Tanner. Olivia's third client (not counting the little girl herself and her earlier clients, which includes the president) when accused of murder.
    • In the early seasons, Mellie came off somewhat antagonistic because of her manipulative and spiteful nature and being a barrier to Fitz and Olivia being together (Bellamy Young has even been told by fans that Mellie is the character they Love to Hate!). However, season 5 does tell us that many of the immoral things Mellie has done were for Fitz and that she was in fact grateful that Olivia was there to satisfy Fitz because she sure as hell didn't want to. While Fitz had his eyes on Olivia, she was able to gain some dignity as something other than just a wife and mother.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: In Fitz's case with Mellie, Cyrus, Olivia and his presidency itself when he learns that the election was rigged.
  • No True Scotsman: Done by Marcus to Olivia in "The Lawn Chair". He insinuates that the reason why Olivia is against the protest is because she is not a true black woman in the sense she has experienced far less struggles than the average black woman because of her status.
    Marcus: We don't want the same thing. You want to put it to bed quietly, tell everyone on The Hill that you came down to the hood and you saved us. No thanks, Olivia. Your black card's not getting validated today.
  • Not So Different: Olivia attempts this with Mellie in "We Do Not Touch the First Ladies." It fails. Olivia thinks Mellie had an affair with Andrew Nichols. While Andrew is in love with Mellie and Mellie reciprocates on some level, they've never had sex. Until "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," when they do.
  • Not So Stoic:
    • Abby Whelan.
    • Olivia can lose her stoicism in cases involving infidelity.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging:
    • Happens in a Flashback to the first campaign in "A Criminal, A Whore, an Idiot and a Liar." Fitz drunkenly starts feeling up Olivia in an elevator, Mellie catches them, and Mellie starts apologizing to Olivia for Fitz. Mellie appears to feel bad for Olivia. It seems this took place before Mellie found out about Olivia and Fitz, as how and when Mellie found out is a Noodle Incident for the show.
    • Olivia can't help but experience some guilt while Fitz goes on and on about how he plans to divorce Mellie whom he describes as "vindictive" because unbeknownst to Fitz (not for long, though—Olivia tells him immediately following), Mellie was raped by Fitz's father.
    • Done in "The Lawn Chair" alongside Deliberate Guilt Slinging. Marcus Walker says how Olivia got a white Republican president elected twice. Marcus is unaware of The Conspiracy regarding the first election, and doesn't know how Olivia's father killed Fitz's son during the second.
  • Obliviously Evil:
    • Cyrus, initially. Not anymore, as of season 3: "You must've missed the '666' printed on my forehead."
    • Olivia in the fifth season, when she starts getting dirty to help Mellie win the election. She gave Alex Vargas dirt on Edison Davis because he’s working with her father, in exchange for dirt on Susan Ross, whose daughter, Kasey, is actually the daughter of a man in prison. But it doesn’t end there; she is on the brink of tearing Susan’s family apart by threatening Kasey’s real father to come out with the truth, or else she would plant incriminating evidence that would get him back into jail—so scary, he ends up killing himself. It’s not until Fitz intervenes that she realizes what she's become.
  • Official Couple: Olivia and Fitz.
  • Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome: Since the first season, there have been several obstacles that have postponed Olitz from becoming exclusive and official, including Fitz's status as president and a married man, Jake, Olivia rigging the election, Fitz killing Verna Thorton and possibly Olivia's mother, Mellie's rape, the death of Jerry IV at the hands of Olivia's father and Olivia abandoning Washington. But at last! They get together four seasons later... until Olivia has Mellie release her father to avoid impeachment and Fitz forces Olivia to move into the prison that is the White House, in which Olivia declares that their Utopian dream of living in Vermont, where Olivia makes jam and bears his children is impossible.
  • Off the Wagon: Huck, but not with alcohol—with murder. He uses relapsing on whiskey as a metaphor for killing another person when he attends AA meetings.
  • The Omnipotent: Rowan, who has money, an agency and soldiers at his disposal, so it's no wonder. But the dude can even control his heartbeat!
  • One Head Taller: Fitz and Jake are respectively ten and nine inches taller than Olivia.
  • One-Shot Character: Nearly all of OPA's clients only make one appearance.
  • Only in It for the Money:
    • Hollis Doyle agrees to tamper with the election because his company, Doyle Energy would be awarded a $2 billion government should Fitz be elected.
    • Marcus agrees to join OPA, despite it being on the verge of bankruptcy with the news that Olivia is Fitz's secret girlfriend, but still takes the job anyway because he himself had some money problems.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Huck's real name, Diego Muñoz, isn't even revealed until near the end of season four.
    • Jake's real name, Pete Harris, is revealed in the season five episode "Till Death Do Us Part".
  • The Only One I Trust: Jake is the only one Fitz can trust after he discovers that Cyrus, Mellie and Olivia rigged the election.
    • The various staffers at the White House all expose themselves to be conspiring against Fitz. Again, the only one he can trust in the situation is Jake.
  • Only Sane Man: Abby sees herself and Harrison in that role. How right she is is up to debate.
  • Only Smart People May Pass:
    • In the Pilot, Olivia and the gang uncover two "secrets" - the gay soldier who wanted to run for Congress and the President's philandering. Since the soldier was meeting with his lover in a public place (bar/restaurant) and they enlisted the help of a security guard to get a tape of the two of them, it didn't seem very hard to uncover the "secret" or that it's likely to be secret very long. Similarly, the President starts making out with Olivia in the Oval Office having just pointed out there's a camera in the ceiling and is then interrupted by his Chief of Staff. If the President is that careless, how exactly has he not been caught before (the CoS makes it clear he didn't know)?
    • Olivia's affair was not as secret as they thought. The Secret Service are very discreet, but Jeannine told Olivia that people at the White House knew Fitz was having an affair, but not with whom.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Fitz and Mellie Grant's son Jerry dies in the third season.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: How Director Osborne's wife knows he wasn't the mole: he never used her full name.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: From the start of the series, Fitz didn’t love Mellie, wanted to divorce her, and was having his own affair with Olivia, but when Mellie begins one with Andrew, he’s noticeably jealous, punches the dude and threatens to replace Andrew’s position as VP if he didn’t stop. Somewhat justified, as he does explain later on in the episode that he was upset that she lied about being indifferent towards sex after their first son was born, but Mellie had made repeated attempts to sexually reconcile with Fitz since then. Fitz by then however was in love with Olivia so he naturally would refuse her attempts, but that's all the more reason for him not to be upset about her affair.
  • Overarching Villain: Rowan/Eli Pope.
  • Overly Long Name: Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III.
  • Overprotective Dad: Fitz to his daughter Karen. When he found out she went to a party, got drunk and ended up in a sex tape with two other guys, one of his first assumptions was that she was raped by the boys and promised that he would (reasonably had his suspicions been true) make them pay.
  • Papa Wolf: Papa Pope, despite being emotionally abusive towards Olivia.
  • Parental Incest: Jake's father would molest his sister at night when his mom was asleep.
  • Parents as People: Given that both hate each other and were having their own affairs while together, Mellie is arguably not the greatest parent, but Fitz definitely isn’t, to the point that it might border Parental Neglect. In fact, Jerry IV and Karen both begged their mom to cancel their visit to their dad because of how awful their last visit went. In “Mama Said Knock You Out,” Mellie had to remind him of things to bring up when the kids came to visit. Post-Jerry’s death, when Karen became a part of an involuntary sex tape, Fitz goes as far as to ask her if she was raped, which Karen doesn’t take very lightly.
  • Pervert Dad: One wishes Big Jerry was just a pervert. But nope, he's taken it to the extremes, acted upon his lust,  and raped his daughter-in-law.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Olivia asking David not to fire his secretary.
    • Fitz and Olivia's secret phone calls, where they comfort each other about whatever the current crisis is.
    • Gideon being Adorkable by cooking to comfort Quinn, proving that their relationship is genuine.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: While a Senator, we only ever saw Mellie  agree to impeach Fitz and filibuster about Planned Parenthood. Then, she announced her campaign for the presidency and that was that.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Inverted. Rose, a friend of Olivia’s deceased neighbor, turns out to not be her neighbor’s friend, but actually her lover.
  • Poisonous Friend:
    • Cyrus can be this to Fitz, but he does have moments of true friendship.
    • Olivia becomes one to David in season two.
  • Police Brutality: The plot of the fourth season episode "The Lawn Chair." A black teen, Brandon Parker, is killed by the police for allegedly having a knife on him, which OPA figure out was planted there. The cop is ultimately brought to justice, Brandon's father gets to meet with the President and a bill is introduced to combat police brutality, a stark contrast of what the outcome usually is in Real Life.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Cyrus and Hollis Doyle.
  • Polyamory: Mellie tells Daniel Douglas that Cyrus and James are in an open marriage to tempt him into sleeping with James.
  • Power Hair:
    • As part of Susan's makeover to win Senator of Virginia.
    • Averted by Mellie and Abby.
    • Played straight with Elizabeth.
  • The Power of Friendship / True Companions: The original gang at OPA. In the early seasons, at least.
  • The Power of Love: Love seems to hold much power over Fitz. He's been willing to give up his job—the leader of the free world—for his love for Olivia and in the season two finale, he makes an impulsive move to have Tom leak to the press that Olivia was his mistress because he wanted to be out-in-the-open with her.
  • Preppy Name: Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III. Every part of his name was taken from another president's. It really doesn't get any preppier than that.
  • President Evil: Vice President Andrew Nichols would have been one, had he had ever became President. He orchestrated a conspiracy to kidnap Olivia so Fitz would be forced to invade West Angola.
  • President Minority: Four out of the five candidates for the post-Grant election are in some way minorities. Either Mellie and Susan would make history as the first president to be a woman; in-universe, Edison Davis would be the first African-American president; and Frankie Vargas would be the first president of Latino descent.
  • President Playboy: Fitz.
  • President Target: Painfully Fitz. For starters, he was literally a target in his assassination attempt. But when he isn't getting shot in the head, he is the victim of election-rigging done without his own knowledge by his staff, another conspiracy where they kidnapped the woman he loved and another conspiracy where his son was assassinated because the killer felt like it. Along with that, add a few politicians from the Democrats and his own party that are gunning for him and the occasional blackmail.
  • Proper Lady: Subverted by Mellie.
  • Psycho for Hire: Charlie, a former co-worker of Huck's. He even says his name is "like Manson."
  • The Punishment: The Hole for disobedient B613 agents.
  • Put on a Bus: Henry Ian Cusick (Stephen) for season two.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: When Olivia returns to Washington, she attempts to reassemble OPA, but Harrison is dead and Abby now works at the White House, so only Huck and Quinn come back.
  • Qurac: Bandar.
  • The Quiet One: Huck.
  • Rags to Riches : Harrison's Backstory.
  • Rape and Revenge: Jake, in flashbacks, who killed his father for physically abusing his mother and molesting his sister.
  • Rape as Backstory: Mellie's, who was raped fifteen years ago by Big Jerry, just before his son and her husband, Fitz, was going to announce his campaign for Governor of California. The only person she ever told was Andrew Nichols, who had found her just after she attempted suicide, partially because she also didn't know if her first son, Jerry, was her husband's or her rapist's. The plotline serves to explain not just why Mellie is so cold and determined for power, but also just how loyal she is to Fitz and why she remains so despite that he isn't.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: A flashback in Season 2's "Happy Birthday Mr. President" is expanded upon in a flashback in Season 3's "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang." The first flashback has Olivia noticing an argument between Cyrus and James over the Inaugural Ball. The second flashback shows the argument from Cyrus' perspective, where James is angry Cyrus still sees him as a "dirty little secret."
  • Reality Retcon: Various references are made to Ronald Reagan, the 40th US President. However, in "An Innocent Man", it is said that the fictional Edward Randolph Cooper was the 40th US President.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Most of the Character Filibuster on the show is a "The Reason You Suck" speech, Fitz arguably being the recipient of most of them from Cyrus, Mellie, Olivia, Abby... Most notably, however:
    • Mellie gives two memorable ones to Fitz: one in "Snake in the Garden" about how neglectful he has been as a father and again in "Get Out of Jail, Free" about all of the things she's lost because of him.
    • When he gets his opportunity to interview Mellie, Cyrus gives one so harsh to James, he makes his own husband cry. (Then again, when you examine other marriages in the show like Mellie & Fitz or Abby & Chip, being their spouse doesn't make you safe from receiving one.)
    • In Season 3's episode "A Door Marked Exit," we had two gigantic ones: one in a flashback from Sally to her husband and her husband right back at her, regarding his cheating and orientation and his ability to influence her political career before she stabs him in the back, literally and one from Olivia's father, Eli/Rowan, to Fitz regarding Fitz's perceived spoiled childhood and not being good enough for Daddy's little girl. While Fitz has him locked in a room in the Pentagon effectively powerless, no less.
  • Recruited from the Gutter: Huck was a government assassin who fled a Resignations Not Accepted situation. He lived as a homeless man on the subway where he rescued Olivia ( the daughter of his former boss) from some muggers. An arrangement was reached which ended with Huck working for Olivia as one of her Gladiators when she formed her own PR firm.
  • Redemption Quest: Sally is tempted to go on live television and confess that she killed her husband so that God would forgive her.
  • Red Herring: You had to have thought that CIA Director Osbourne was the mole they were searching for. "Snake in the Garden" has the character get killed off at the end, and it's revealed that they got the wrong guy.
  • Relationship Revolving Door: As the lead couple in the series, Fitz and Olivia, obviously. Before the pilot, they were together and broke up. And since, they were kind of together, but not quite because True Love Is Boring. Even then, when they were at their worst, they would still have sex. But finally! In the fifth season premiere, they get together... and then break up half a season later.
  • Retired Monster: Huck, who while he doesn't want to hurt people anymore, can't help buy enjoy it when he does. 
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • Season 4's "The Lawn Chair" uses the 2014 events in Ferguson, Missouri as a template. While a popular episode, some fans consider it Mood Whiplash and Genre Shift from the rest of the season.
    • The election in the fifth season, with characters and events that obviously mirror real-life ones from the 2016 Presidential Election.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: The Grant Administration and Huck, Jake and Quinn both separately work to rescue Olivia, the former by declaring war and breaking a few protocols and the latter by ransoming over 2 billion dollars.
  • Romantic False Lead:
    • Edison to Olivia.
    • Jake could also be considered one as well. He was introduced as Olivia's love interest after Fitz and according to the law of love triangles, first guy wins. Olivia also hasn't gotten as far with Jake as she has with Fitz in terms of emotion and relationship status.
      • On the contrary, Jake and Olivia have gotten to 'stand in the sun' together, while Fitz and Olivia have yet to experience Vermont. In addition, ever since his introduction in the second season, Jake is still a love interest of Olivia's, meaning if we ignore the above law, Jake can still stand a chance.
  • Room 101: The Hole.
  • Room Full of Crazy: David has this to see why Olivia is helping Quinn. So far he's figured out Quinn was framed for the bombing, as Olivia uses her powers for good instead of evil. At the start of season 4, he has a Storage Bin Full of Crazy. It contains all the B6-13 files Jake gave him. David has organized the files by Scary, Really Scary, and Crap-Your-Pants Scary.
  • Run or Die: James, when he was confronted by Jake with a gun, only in James’ case, he ran and died.
  • Sacrificial Lion:
    • Amanda Tanner
    • Gideon Wallace
  • Samus Is a Girl: Done twice: Vice President Langston and with Harrison's former boss Adnan Salif who is also Harrison's former and current lover.
  • Sassy Black Woman: In-universe, the media tries to portray Olivia this way when her relationship with Fitz is exposed.
  • Say My Name: When Fitz is shot, he calls out Olivia's name even with his wife right next to him.
  • Scandalgate: When Mellie slips-up as a fake Gettysburger fan during her attempt to be relatable, the media names the scandal as "Burgergate".
  • The Scream: Can be heard when Huck, Quinn or Charlie are torturing a victim.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Hollis along with the other members of the election-rigging clique get a company to fix their voting machines to give additional votes to Fitz.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Olivia : "We don't vote, we take her.".
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: James when confronted by Jake with a gun.
  • Seamless Spontaneous Lie: One unusually noble example was done by Andrew Nichols: When it was revealed Oxycontin was delivered to the governor's mansion, Andrew says he had the Oxycontin delivered because he hurt his back and thought getting a prescription would be seen as hypocritical given his strong anti-drug stance. It turns out Andrew is covering for Mellie, who attempted suicide with the entire bottle. Andrew saved Mellie's life and never told anyone.
  • Secret Relationship: Fitz and Olivia's to essentially the world for years.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: It's hinted at different times that both Stephen and Huck knew about Oliva and Fitz all along.
  • Secret Test of Character: Rowan tests Olivia with an empty gun to see if she would use it to shoot him. She does try to use it, launching Rowan into some Character Filibuster.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • Quinn's real identity and backstory are about to be revealed.
    • The end of season two: Olivia exits her apartment and is verbally assaulted by the media, who reveal that her name has been leaked as the President's mistress. She then gets into a car with Huck's former Jake's current boss, implied to be the head of the classified B6-13 CIA program, and says, "Dad?"
    • The winter finale of Season Four, "Where the Sun Don't Shine": Olivia is kidnapped to force Fitz to start a war on (or in) West Angola.
    • The final episode of season four, "You Can't Take Command": Fitz and Olivia kiss on the balcony of the White House, deciding they can do "whatever we want."
  • Series Continuity Error: When Olivia went to Iran in Season 4, she was seen speaking fluent Farsi, but while speaking to the people of Bandar in Season 5, who speak the same dialect as Iranians, she needed a translator.
  • Sex for Solace:
    • Implied when Fitz and Mellie start sleeping together again, given that Fitz was in love with a missing Olivia, Mellie loved Andrew, whom Fitz disallowed her from sleeping with in the previous season, both were grieving the death of their son and neither liked each other.
    • Implied to be the reason the president's daughter Karen sleeps around in season four.
    • After returning home from her kidnapping, Olivia attempts this in season four as well. The first time she has a PTSD flashback in the bathroom and runs out of the bar before taking the guy back to her apartment, but the second time she goes through with it.
  • Sexless Marriage: While in the later days, Fitz and Mellie only had Sex for Solace, the lack of sex wasn't a consequence of their struggling marriage, but actually why it began struggling in the first place.
  • Sex with the Ex: Happens to Olivia with Fitz and Olivia with Jake.
  • Sexy Coat Flashing: Olivia does this with Jake.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • Huck reveals himself to be this, due to his CIA black-ops training. He and his other operatives were conditioned to torture enemies and eventually grew to like it. Huck wanted out and was trying to "get sober" while living homeless when Olivia found him.
    • The season two episode "Seven Fifty-Two" reveals that he has a wife and child, but after torture and sensory deprivation by the CIA he is no longer sure that his memories of them are genuine. He does, however, apparently remember seeing them while living homeless at a subway station; his son gave him money, with neither his son nor his wife apparently realizing it was him. The episode title (which Huck repeats for almost the entire portion of the episode set in the present due to shell shock from a recent attack he suffered very similar to the sensory deprivation to which the CIA subjected him) refers to the time when this occurred.
  • Sherlock Scan: Huck has this skill, and teaches it to Quinn in Season 2. It comes in handy when they watch security footage together at various times, noticing things "out of place."
  • Ship Tease: This is very briefly done in the flashback where Harrison and Abby first meet. Abby looks like she's about to start flirting with Harrison, until he mentions he has to meet his parole officer.
  • Shotgun Wedding:
    • For Cyrus. He and Michael were pretending to be engaged until news came out that Michael was "cheating" on him at a gay club. Then, they had to announce that that was actually Michael's Bachelor party and they would be getting married in a week at the White House.
    • About to happen to Fitz and Olivia to avoid having Olivia testify in Fitz's impeachment trial.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Cyrus uses "I saw Goody Proctor with the Devil!" from Arthur Miller's The Crucible, adding "Right here in DC!" to warn Olivia how a Sally Langston presidency will be.
    • When David is trying to convince James that he isn’t a Conspiracy Theorist in the "Defiance" episode, he says "I don't believe 9/11 was an inside job or the phone company killed J.F.K", a reference to True Believer, itself a reference to The President's Analyst.
    • Mellie likens Olivia to Cleopatra in "Icarus," but not in a good way. "I did everything but roll your whore up in a rug and unfurl her at your feet!"
    • In "A Door Marked Exit," similar to Batman Begins, someone finds out he's fired by being asked "Didn't you get the memo?"
    • At the start of "Randy, Red, Superfreak and Julia," Olivia is reading the novel Gone Girl and using the alias "Julia Baker," the name of Diahann Carroll's character on the TV drama "Julia."
    • Olivia is likened to Helen of Troy by Tom Larsen in "Baby Made a Mess." A bit of Fridge Brilliance concerning the "Face that launched a thousand ships" line, after Olivia is kidnapped so Fitz will start a war in West Angola.
    • Jake stalking an apartment is intercut with Rowan/Eli prepares a glass of wine. Similar to Silence of the Lambs, Jake finds an empty apartment and Rowan/Eli is actually in Olivia's apartment.
    • As noted on Twitter, the final scene of "First Lady Sings the Blues" with Olivia and Russell in bed and she puts a gun to his head, is very similar to a scene between Eddie Murphy and Jasmine Guy in Harlem Nights.
    • Jake makes a similar reference to The Crucible as above, when asked to sign a document refuting the existence of B6-13.
    • The Republicans of the senator give Fitz a booklet entitled "A Modest Proposal" about rolling back some of his administration's bills. The title is a reference to Jonathan Swift's satire from 1729.
  • Shower of Awkward: Cyrus interrupts Mellie performing oral sex on Fitz in the shower to brief him. Bonus points because Fitz wasn't all that comfortable either.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift:
    • For the first four-and-a-half seasons, Olivia's wardrobe was primarily based on black, grey and white, but since the second half of the fifth season, she's switched to warmer colors, such as yellow, red and orange.
    • Abby didn't only get a wardrobe change. In the third season, she started wearing more makeup and curled her hair. Then, when she became the White House Press Secretary, she started wearing more dresses in comparison to her business casual-formal attire at OPA.
    • Quinn used to dress in business casual-formal attire, but once she joined B613, she switched to jeans and leather jackets.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Abby slaps David twice before kissing him.
  • Silent Conversation: Both hilarious and suspenseful in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."
  • Sins of Our Fathers: Jerry is killed by Rowan because his daughter, Olivia, is in love with Jerry's father, Fitz, whom he hates, but promised Olivia he wouldn't harm.
  • Slave to PR: Fitz. During the primaries, Sally Langston was already winning religious Republican voters and so it was up to him to show that he's got the family values. Thus, he had to keep his affair with Olivia and dead marriage to Mellie under wraps to get win the election and this extends further on into his career as President in order to win a second term and maintain high approval ratings. Even after he and Mellie get a divorce, they remained pretending that the split was amicable.
    • Scratch that, all of them are. Fitz, being the President and all, just has it the worst, but that doesn't mean others like Mellie and Olivia don't have it hard.
  • Sleazy Politician: Hollis Doyle.
  • Slut-Shaming: Outside of the occasional slut-shaming Olivia has dealt with from Mellie and her other frenemies, when she and Fitz finally go public, she goes under intense scrutiny by the media and general public, the former of which effectively uses dog-whistle politics to call her a slut.
  • The Smart Guy: Huck has aspects; Harrison Wright has others.
  • Spoiled Brat: Rowan calls Fitz one and is one of the reasons why he doesn't want Olivia with him.
  • Staging an Intervention: Olivia's friends stage one for her when she "replaces the white hat with a black skull cap" in season five.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Olivia and Fitz.
  • Status Quo Is God: It's been five seasons and Olivia and Fitz have yet to happily be together no matter how many times it seems that they've resolved their issues before they are complicated again.
  • Stealth Insult: Olivia is riddled with these by the media in "Dog-Whistle Politics," in which the public learns about her affair with President Fitzgerald Grant. They use backhanded compliments like "well-spoken" and "sassy," which to white audiences come off harmless, but to black audiences—they know damn well what they're talking about.
  • Straight Gay: Cyrus.
  • Straw Hypocrite: Sally is among the more conservative members of the Grant administration. She's pro-life, yet allowed her daughter to have an abortion. The Ten Commandments prohibit murder, yet that didn't stop Sally from murdering her husband.
  • Straw Vegetarian: Inverted in Cyrus' case. He was actually bitterly forced by his doctors to become a vegetarian and occasionally eats meat against his doctors' orders.
  • Survivor Guilt: Jake spares only David after murdering Jake, Vanessa Chandler and Shelby Moss. To make matters worse for David, he has to cover it up too.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Marcus is Harrison's substitute. He is even hired by Quinn in nearly the same way Quinn is hired by Harrison.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: President Fitzgerald Grant, his mistress being Olivia. He and Olivia are the obvious couple to root for over he and Mellie, who are in a very toxic marriage based on deceit and power.
  • Sympathetic Murderer:Vice President Sally Langston becomes one in season three.
  • Take a Third Option: Olivia says that she's choosing herself over Fitz and Jake for the time being.
  • Take Back Your Gift: Olivia takes off and throws her "Sweet Baby" ring at Fitz.
  • Taking the Bullet: A Secret Service agent takes one for Fitz in the midst of his assassination attempt.
  • Taking the Heat: Olivia lets Abby paint her as a power-whore to protect Fitz's image.
  • Talking Your Way Out: Olivia does this with her captors by convincing them to auction her rather than keep her for three more years. She tries this again while on the auction block, but fails.
  • Tall, Dark and Handsome: Jake.
  • Tattered Flag: Seen with Fitz's flag pin, which is splattered with blood upon his assassination attempt.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Josie Marcus had a child when she was 15, whom she lied to and told her she was her sister.
  • 'Tis Only a Bullet in the Brain: One of the places Fitz is shot during his assassination attempt is the head, however upon waking up (not to mention miraculously), he insists on going back to work and faces relatively few difficulties.
  • That Man Is Dead: In "The Other Woman," Quinn comes to terms that her life as Lindsay Dwyer is over. Huck even tells her that eight people died in that bombing, not seven. In "Hunting Season," she becomes very insistent that Abby calls her Quinn, not Lindsay.
  • Their First Time: Jerry IV and his girlfriend. At a convenient time as well, as it was just maybe weeks before he died!
  • The Mole:
    • The plot of the second half of the second season. It was Billy Chambers.
    • Quinn becomes B613's inside guy at Olivia Pope & Associates.
    • And Tom is B613's inside guy at the White House.
  • There Are No Therapists: In the second season, Huck goes to A.A. meetings to talk about his addiction to killing people, only he calls it "drinking whiskey." At the start of "The Lawn Chair," Jake suggests Olivia talk to someone after her kidnapping, auction and rescue. Nearly every character could use some therapy, it seems.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Olivia would know. She kills Andrew by clubbing him with a chair, in which maybe three times would have done it, but Olivia goes for a whopping total of ten.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Sally experiences a great deal of guilt after murdering her husband.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs: In "The Last Supper," Jake bitterly asks Fitz to call him "Captain Ballard," as they are not friends anymore. A bit of a Tear Jerker, as Fitz and Jake are probably the oldest friends on the show.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Olivia loses it when Abby tells her that she holds her responsible for Harrison's death and thus uses the phrase.
  • This Means War!: Fitz (more like Cyrus) declares war on Olivia for taking on a client that accused Fitz of sleeping with and impregnating her.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Cyrus and Mellie, who frequently collaborate in their dirty tactics to get what they want.
  • Three-Way Sex: A rather filthy tape involving the president's daughter Karen becomes a plot point in a season four episode.
  • Time Skip:
    • There is a ten month time skip in "Nobody Likes Babies" and "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot."
    • The skip between the end of Season 3 and the start of Season 4 is two months. (The nice weather in Washington DC made it seem like more.)
    • There is a third time skip between the first and second half of the fifth season that is six months long.
  • Title Drop: Subverted. The show is about a firm that takes on scandals, but it seldom uses the word itself. But in one memorable scene, at the end of season three, Olivia says, "I'M the scandal!"
  • Title-Only Opening
  • To Be Lawful or Good:
    • Olivia's team will bend the rules all over the place but will generally refuse to break the law. They do seem to make an exception as far as Huck's hacking is concerned. However, in the season one finale they can't Take a Third Option and have to make a choice whether to destroy evidence in order to protect Quinn.
    • In 2.01, Olivia's last-ditch choice of getting Justice Verna to shut down Quinn's trial may have consequences.
    • Comes up in "The Lawn Chair," especially when Olivia repeatedly asks David (the attorney general) to help.
      David: I just can't go marching into every sensitive situation trying to rush the justice process. There are laws, OK? Laws I am being paid by the US Government to uphold.
      Olivia: TO PROTECT PEOPLE WHO LOOK LIKE YOU!
      David: Oh, come on, Liv!
      Olivia: You talk about fairness and justice like it's available to everybody; it's not!
  • Token Good Teammate: At the start of the third season, Olivia seems to be this to the rest of the team.
  • Too Good To Be True: The Senate is suspicious of Huck, Abby and Quinn when they say that the person who leaked the Jeannine Locke video of calling the President hot was Harrison, who was conveniently dead.
  • Torture Always Works: Apparently, it even works if you keep the subject's mouth duct-taped shut until he's past the point of being able to form coherent words.
  • Torture Is Ineffective: On B613 agents like Jake and Huck, at least. Both survived being held in captivity and brutal interrogation from the Pentagon. But on the contrary, neither had anything to tell.
  • Tracking Chip: All B613 agents have a tracking chip in them.
  • Transparent Closet: Cyrus' ex-wife knew he was gay before he did.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Cyrus, though he does have good intentions at times.
  • Trigger:
    • After being waterboarded by the CIA for Fitz's assassination attempt, Huck is afraid of water and refuses to take any showers.
    • Olivia experiences pretty severe PTSD when confronting Andrew, who jeers at her, provoking her to beat him with a chair to death.
  • True Companions: OPA have all made it clear they would go over a cliff for Olivia.
  • True Love Is Boring: After several obstacles, Olivia and Fitz at last get together in the fourth season finale, but don't even last a full season.
  • Two-Faced Aside: Cyrus berates Francisco Vargas' education plan to Fitz, so that he would be rude to Vargas, but then praises Vargas' bill to his face and admits that Fitz was being a jerk.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Olivia, a black woman.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Fitz was expected to lose both elections, but 4,329 votes from Defiance, Ohio and his son's death were what made him win the first and second time, respectively.
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • O.P.A have all agreed they would go over a cliff for Olivia because of the things she's done for them, especially Harrison and Huck.
    • Cyrus is extremely loyal to Fitz, having rigged an election for him, almost killed his husband, James, for finding out he rigged an election and used James to expose Fitz’s rival candidate’s husband’s sexuality. But as of the second half of season 5, it seems he’s betrayed Fitz in a way, having been secretly doubling as both the Chief of Staff of the Grant administration and as Francisco Vargas’ campaign manager.
    • Mellie as well. She gave up her career as a lawyer; had a good relationship with Big Jerry at face value, despite that he’s her rapist, to help her husband maintain a good relationship with his father; rigged an election; remained faithful in spite of being in love with another man and her husband having an affair; got pregnant with a third child so no would suspect he was cheating on her; and handed over the names of the jurors on the B613 case to keep their extramarital affairs a secret all for his truly, Fitzgerald Grant. On the contrary, she has betrayed him a few times by exposing his infidelity and starting an affair of her own. Plus, keeping his affair covert, getting pregnant, rigging the election and giving the names of the jurors was also in part helping herself. Regardless, she highlighted these in a brilliant "The Reason You Suck" Speech she gave to Fitz about all of the things she’s done for him.
  • Unequal Pairing: Olivia was the former White House Communications Director, so it would be hard for her to find love with someone with more if not even as much power...unless it's with the President of the United States, AKA Fitzgerald Grant.
  • The Unfair Sex: Lampshaded by Mellie, who calls Fitz out for getting angry at her for sleeping with Andrew, when Fitz by then had been having an affair with Olivia for around four years.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Abby clearly has this for Stephen in spades.
  • The Unreveal: A minor example on episode 2.16 with Patient of the Week Sarah Stanner, who had an affair with Supreme Court nominee Murray Randall when he was a Harvard law professor fifteen years ago. Later, Sarah admitted to her husband that she slept with Randall two years prior, right around the time they had a second child, which infuriated him enough to demand a paternity test. When Olivia gave the husband the results, sealed inside an orange envelope, she told him that the results changes nothing. His marriage will need time to repair, and the knowledge of who's the biological dad won't erase that he's his second child's true father. Olivia's advice convinces him to rip up the envelope.
  • Unstoppable Rage:
    • The holier-than-thou Sally Langston kills her husband Daniel Douglas when she learns he's gay and disloyal.
    • Olivia smashes a chair on Andrew's face over and over and over again when he triggers her PTSD.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Mellie, but at times she doesn't want Fitz either.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means:
    • Cyrus's speech to defend himself is full of this, which makes him either a Manipulative Bastard or Obliviously Evil.
    • Billy Chambers has his girlfriend sleep with the president and follows it up with blackmail and murder so the 'right' person can become president.
    • Frequently used to justify the election rigging that made Fitz president. Mostly by Cyrus and Olivia, but occasionally also by Verna Thornton.
    • Fitz kills Verna Thorton to keep her from confessing that her and other members of the rigging clique tampered with the election results in Fitz's favor.
    • Jake's reasoning for murdering James.
    • Tom Larsen does this as his justification for killing Jerry Grant (under orders from Rowan/Eli), saying how Jerry was "a boy" but Fitz is "a great man."
    • Abby throws Mellie and Olivia under the bus to save Fitz's presidency.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The show is based on the career of real life George H.W. Bush deputy press secretary/crisis manager Judy Smith, though obviously with plots far from the reality of the Bush 41 presidency meant to appeal to 2012 audiences looking for dramatic tension.
  • Villain Protagonist: Olivia, though some may argue she isn't. Motive aside, she has rigged elections, used dirty tricks and murdered people.
  • Villain with Good Publicity:
    • Sally, who has the reputation of being a very religious, very conservative Republican, but she knows damn well that murder is a violation of the Ten Commandments.
    • Andrew, who was considered a hero for surviving an assassination, when really he himself orchestrated that to prompt Fitz to declare war on West Angola and the lengths he goes to to get that war does not end there.
  • Vote Early, Vote Often:
    • A major plot point. Cyrus, Mellie, Olivia, Verna and Hollis all collaborate to fix the election in Fitz's favor by hacking the control cards on voting machines.
    • In season five, Rowan rigs the Democratic primary elections in Edison's favor.
  • Walking Spoiler: Both of Olivia's parents, Rowan AKA Command and her mother, Maya Pope/Marie Wallace.
  • War for Fun and Profit: The war in West Angola, which Elizabeth said would be good for the party. For Andrew, he profitted off being able to order Fitz around.
  • Warhawk: Andrew and Elizabeth, the former of which goes as far as to kidnap Olivia to get Fitz to declare war on West Angola.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Despite being in a loveless, volatile marriage, Mellie has made this point a number of times to Fitz, with being the First Couple and all.
    Mellie: You don't have to love me. But we are in this hell together and the flames are burning both of us with equal intensity, Baby, so the least you could do is be my friend, just a little bit.
  • Wedding Day:
    • Cyrus' wedding to his first wife Janet and his second wedding to James are both seen in flashbacks.
    • And in that same episode where the flashbacks are shown, Cyrus was actually getting married to Michael, but only to save his reputation.
    • Olivia and Fitz were about to have a crappy one to avoid her having to testify before the Senate, but she backed out of it.
    • Jake's to Vanessa is seen in "Till Death Do Us Part," though Jake is less-than-enthusiastic about it.
  • Welcome Back, Traitor: Quinn remains at OPA despite joining B613.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Cyrus. He's fixed an election and nearly murdered his husband just for Fitz, even though Fitz wouldn't agree with what and why he did either.
    • Jake in one instance, where he killed James, Vanessa Chandler and Shelby Moss to "protect the republic" from the three revealing that Sally Langston killed Daniel Douglas.
  • We Used to Be Friends:
    • Cyrus and Olivia, until Cyrus learned Fitz was having an affair with her. Then he started seeing Olivia and her relationship with Fitz as a threat to the administration.
    • Jake and Fitz until Jake started falling for Olivia.
    • Fitz and Andrew were friends since the former was governor until Andrew was picked as Fitz's VP for his reelection. Then, Andrew slept with Mellie, menaced Fitz into going to war in West Angola by kidnapping the love of his life and proceeding to reveal it all to Lillian Forester.
    • Abby and Olivia, until Abby jeopardized Mellie's campaign ran by Olivia to keep Fitz from taking the blame for Andrew disclosing to Lillian Forester the truth about West Angola.
  • We Were Your Team: When Olivia abandons Washington, O.P.A splits, with Huck now working at an electronics store, Harrison dead, Abby working for the White House as press secretary, leaving only Quinn to find Olivia.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "Defiance": President Grant and the press secretary get shot.
    • "Nobody Likes Babies": President Grant finds out the truth about the election rigging from Verna... right before he murders her, breaks up with Olivia, and more-or-less reconciles with Mellie.
    • "Everything's Coming Up Mellie" reveals lots and lots of secrets: Cyrus used to have a beard. And facial hair, too! Big Jerry raped Mellie and might be the real father to her son, Jerry. Charlie tricks Quinn into killing a lead, recruiting her into B6-13. Sally Langston's husband is gay and interested in James. Fitz finds out Olivia's father runs B6-13. Olivia's mother is still alive.
    • "YOLO": James asks Cyrus for a divorce. Huck tortures Quinn for her betrayal of Olivia. Olivia's mother is genuinely guilty of as-yet-unspecified crimes against the Republic. Quinn is going to kill Command (AKA Olivia's father). Oh, yeah, and the Vice President murders her husband.
    • "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang": James gets Killed Off for Real by Jake, who is now forcing David to have an innocent man arrested and tried for the murder under threat of death. Olivia and the Gladiators find out, but have to keep it quiet from Cyrus to hopefully bring down B613. Quinn, who's still working for B613, has recently snuck into Olivia's office; the sloppy way she went about it, leaving video evidence that could be found when Huck taught her not to leads him to think she still is a Gladiator after all. And he ends up kissing her.
    • "The Price Of Free and Fair Elections": The church bomb intended to kill Fitz goes off. Jerry IV dies on stage while his father is campaigning, from bacterial meningitis, planted by who they thought was Maya, but later learned to be Rowan. Huck finds his family. Fitz finds out Big Jerry raped Mellie, but Fitz IV was still his kid. Fitz wins the election. Harrison is murdered by Rowan. Olivia blames herself for the death of Jerry IV so she and Jake together leave to a deserted island, abandoning the White House and O.P.A.
    • "Where the Sun Don't Shine": Olivia is kidnapped to force Fitz to start a war in West Angola. Elizabeth North and Vice President Andrew Nichols are part of the conspiracy.
    • "You Can't Take Command": Rowan goes to jail. The 16 jurors on the B613 trial are killed by Huck after Rowan blackmails Mellie into giving the names. When Fitz finds out, he kicks her out of the White House just after she is elected Senator of Virginia and Cyrus is fired for convincing her to keep it a secret from Fitz. Jake breaks it off with Olivia. Fitz and Olivia finally get together.
    • The aptly-titled episode "Thwack!": The reporter Fitz had a thing with, Lillian Forester, is covering ex-VP Andrew Nichols' tell-all on West Angola. Abby betrays Olivia by instead offering Andrew to tell about his affair with Mellie, thus compromising her campaign to keep Fitz from taking the blame for ever make Andrew his running mate in the first place. Experiencing PTSD, Olivia viciously murders Andrew. She goes to her father's house who warmly welcomes her home.
  • Wham Line:
    • The final line of "White Hat's Back On."
      Olivia: Dad?
    • A whole bunch in "Everything's Coming Up Mellie."
      Eli: Our daughter has been asking about you.
      Charlie to Quinn: You belong to B613 now. Welcome to Wonderland.
      Fitz (in flashback): You know, if it's a boy, he's going to want us to name him "Jerry."
    • "The Price of Free and Fair Elections"
      Eli: "He took my child. So I took his."
    • "Where the Sun Don't Shine"
      Andrew: “How you likin' that war now, sir?”
    • "Yes."
      Reporter: "Are you the president's mistress?"
      Olivia: "Yes."
  • Wham Shot:
    • When David gets into his car and Billy Chambers is revealed to be The Mole.
    • The final shot of "A Door Marked Exit" has Maya (dressed in a white coat similar to Olivia's) tossing a burner phone into a trash can on the sidewalk... that is outside the gates of the White House.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: As explained to Quinn in the first episode, sometimes we don't get all the answers. In the first episode we never did learn who the real killer was.
  • "What Now?" Ending: The season four finale saw the Big Bad Rowan finally get locked up and Fitz and Olivia at last together with nothing in their way. Even Kerry Washington said she wasn't sure how the show was going to pick up from there.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • It's a show about people's dirty secrets coming out, so you get this a lot.
    • Cyrus gives the President an epic one when he sees that the President is more worried about preparing a speech rather than preventing the coming scandal.
    • Olivia delivers a major speech to Fitz when he declared war on West Angola all to get her back.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Many, most of which to provide incite on a character's background and give them their day in the limelight or to explain How We Got Here and how we met.
  • Who's Your Daddy?: Mellie doesn't know if Jerry IV is Fitz's child or her rapist's.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Quinn.
  • Wild Teen Party: Karen attends one in "Like Father, Like Daughter."
  • Will They or Won't They?:
    • Fitz and Olivia from the start of the series. Several things have blocked the two from being together each season, including Mellie’s pregnancy, Jake, Fitz killing Verna, Mellie’s rape, Jerry IV’s death, Fitz’s status as president and just general arguing. It wasn’t until the Season 4 finale that Olivia officially chose Fitz (more like Jake ‘broke up’ with her) and the two began dating, but that ended by the fifth midseason finale when Olivia broke up with him so the two are back in a will-they-or-won’t-they situation.
    • Jake and Olivia since the former’s introduction, but what’s primarily stopped them from being together is Jake’s involvement with B613 and her feelings for Fitz. The two together abandon Washington and everyone in there in the Season 3 finale, seeming like she chose Jake, but for a while he still didn't consider her his girlfriend. Jake breaks it off with her in the Season 4 finale, but there were still “Olake” moments in the following season and as of the midseason premiere, they’re sleeping together again, despite that Jake is engaged to someone.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity:
    • The case with just about everyone in power (with the exception of Susan and arguably Fitz), really.
    • Most notable in Jake's case, wherein he was formerly against B613, but was then instilled as Command, during which he relapsed as a killer. This happens again to Jake in Season 5, when Rowan takes him in and Jake already kills someone to become the head of the NSA.
    • Olivia fears that this may happen to Abby after ratting Cyrus out to become Chief of Staff.
      Olivia: Once you take the white hat off, there will be no turning back.
  • Woman in Black: Abby, quite often.
  • Woman in White: Olivia, frequently.
  • Woman Scorned:
    • When Becky finds out that Huck is planning on taking her down, she retaliates by murdering a family that he considers dear to him!
    • Mellie. In the second season, fed up with Fitz's cheating, she exposes him on live television. Fitz isn't too worried about it, but Cyrus on the other hand couldn't have been more stressed. Then, in the fifth season, when Elizabeth North exposed Fitz for cheating on Mellie with Olivia, which is subsequently confirmed by the homewrecker herself, Mellie demands that Fitz goes on campaign stops with her, gives her the Santa Barbara house and for Olivia to keep her name, to name a few. Regardless, none of it satisfies her until she votes to hold an impeachment trial.
  • Workaholic: Cyrus, reasonably, considering he is the President's Chief of Staff. He calls Fitz his child and refers to himself as Fitz's work wife. Hell, the man had a heart attack because of his job.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: The original pilot script writes that Olivia repeatedly hits Fitz when she confronts him about sleeping with Amanda Tanner (then Julia Tannen), while Fitz simply holds her off.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess:
    • The entirety of Season 3 would appear to be this on behalf of Command/Rowan/Eli Pope, although it's unclear how much he either anticipated (thanks to his access to B613's intelligence) or instigated versus how much he planned on the fly. Regardless, the events of the season worked out well for him: his daughter got on that plane, the President owes him and is unlikely to interfere with B613 anymore, he still got to hurt Fitz in some way, his most troublesome agent is out of the picture, and he got to torment his terrorist wife and kill her lover.
    • It continues to Season 4. Command/Rowan/Eli Pope takes advantage of Agent Bixby learning Secret Service Agent Tom Larsen was at Fort Dietrich, framing Jake Ballard for killing Jerry Grant. Rowan probably figured someone would learn about Tom being at Fort Dietrich eventually, and is using Bixby's discovery to get Tom to say Jake Ballard told him to kill Jerry Grant.
  • You Are in Command Now: Sally Langston declares herself the President immediately after Fitz is shot.
  • You Are Not Alone: Olivia to Amanda.
  • You Have 48 Hours: To declare war on West Angola or Olivia dies!
  • You Owe Me:
    • Mellie believes Fitz owes it to her to make her President after all she's done for him.
    • Mellie also believes Olivia owes it to her to make her President after Mellie releases Rowan, who has dirt on the Senate judges, from jail to get them to dismiss Fitz's impeachment case.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Just about every character.
    • A major plotline on the show since the start of the series is that Fitz is a married man who is cheating on his wife with Olivia.
    • Olivia cheats on Jake with Fitz and vice versa.
    • Stephen routinely sleeps with other women, despite being engaged.
    • Quinn cheats on Charlie with Huck in season three.
    • James cheats on Cyrus with Daniel Douglas when he learns that Cyrus used him as a rent boy.
    • Mellie cheats on Fitz with Andrew in season three and four.
    • David cheats on Susan with Elizabeth, despite having authentic feelings for the former.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Andrew's terms for letting go Olivia were initially to have Fitz declare war on West Angola, but this soon warped into Fitz having to listen to Andrew for the rest of his presidency.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Or so Rowan thought when he places an empty gun in front of Olivia to see if she would use it.
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