Judy Smith, the crisis management expert whom Scandal’s Olivia Pope is based on, has taken on numerous high profile cases with clients from the entertainment industry, athletes, and politicians. One of her most well-known cases was representing Monica Lewinsky in her scandal with President Clinton. Former CNN host Piers Morgan asked her if this situation was similar to the portrayal of how Olivia Pope handled circumstances with the president on Scandal. Smith told Morgan that there are certain cases, like when dealing with the President of the United States, where “all eyes are watching you and how you navigate through a crisis,” so those events are “24/7, non-stop, can’t make one mistake” situations.
Smith, like the character she inspired, can’t do it all on her own. She has her own gladiators as founder and president of Smith and Company. This strategic and crisis communication firm, based in Washington D.C., is built of lawyers and investigators, similar to the roles of Olivia Popes’s team but more formal and on a larger scale.
Watching the gladiators on Scandal with their fast-pace fact checking, passionate speeches of persuasion and deceit, and relentless searches for clues are what make the show so powerful. They use everything they have to prove someone’s innocence, even if it means playing a little (or incredibly) dirty to get there. Olivia’s (Kerry Washington) diverse group of lawyers are there to serve the people, guided by Olivia’s gut instinct and whatever evidence they come up with. Whatever they are dealing with at Oliva Pope & Associates (OPA) always ties into a bigger picture or connects them to other characters. Everything is connected; everything is related. It is unlikely that Judy Smith and her company are as linked with their cases as the characters in Scandal are, but Rhimes’ dramatization makes the gladiators one of the main attractions of the show.
As we approach the fifth season of Scandal, we’ve had the pleasure of watching these gladiators in action from handling murders and infidelity, to running campaigns or taking down criminal, renegade forces.
At the start of season four, Abby has left the firm to work at the White House while the rest of the associates take on the president’s reelection which already set a different tone for the group. Not to mention when Olivia was kidnapped, the team had to work on their own and would have to deal with Olivia’s recovery for the latter half of the season. Well, Shonda Rhimes told TV Line to prepare for a “reconstitution” of OPA in season 5 where we will see the gladiators back in action and a more prominent part of the story.
Before Scandal returns for season five, let’s look back at how far the Gladiators of D.C.’s underground have come:
This one is all about the gladiators, especially episode six, which included a series of flashbacks of not only how Olivia Pope first came to work for President Fitzgerald (Tony Goldwyn), but also the formations of OPA. After Amanda Tanner (the woman who was accused of having an affair with the president) goes missing, Olivia’s team stop at nothing to find out the truth of what happened to her. Huck even reverts back to his old ways, torturing Amanda’s murderer for more information. This throws Huck back into his twisted, dark mind but he risked that for the sake of the case. However, the season finale is a true gem when OPA represents one of their own, Quinn when she is framed for murder. Harrison becomes her attorney and Olivia and the rest of the team stop and nothing to defend and protect her.
The renewal for season two didn’t come as a shock because not only were Olivia and Fitz’s steamy, warped relationship so incredibly captivating, but also this unstoppable, highly intelligent unit of people that always had each other’s back. This idea of a crisis management team was so new to viewers. It was a hidden world within the destructive chaos of D.C. politics. Each week could be a two-hour movie. There is never a moment to catch your breath when watching all of the twists and turns and nonstop action unfold at the hands of the gladiators.
During this season, we really dive into some of these lawyers’ lives, starting with who Quinn Perkins (Katie Lowes) really is and just how connected she is with Olivia. She becomes a major character in the show and a vital asset to OPA. She goes from the naïve, anxious Quinn we first met in the bar with Harrison to someone bitter by the turmoil of her past and becomes fascinated by torture after working alongside Huck. It turned out, Quinn was someone who Olivia saved, along with a little help from her friends (a.k.a. Huck (Guillermo Diaz). Not to mention that Huck was also someone Olivia took in under her wing.
In season two’s episode, “Seven Fifty-Two,” we see when Olivia first meets Huck as well as a series of flashbacks where we learn how Huck became a part of B613. This episode was a gem when it came to putting the spotlight on some of these gladiators. Each of them approaches Huck as he sits in shock as his past came back to haunt him. They share with him stories in some extremely powerful monologues to help snap him out of it. We start to realize that these aren’t just some badass group of lawyers who came together the normal way through job interviews and a killer resume. Olivia had a gut feeling about them, brought them in, and made them family. A family of badass, ruthless lawyers with a lot of baggage.
Now we begin to see how much OPA is willing to do for Olivia starting off with helping her clear her own name from the rumors of her having an affair with the president. They grow more and more involved in the political scene, first running Josie Marcus’ (Lisa Kudrow) campaign and then Fitz’s reelection. These were all things Olivia chose to support and her team backed her the whole way through. Well, except for Quinn.
Season three is when we first see OPA start to fall apart. For a majority of the season, not only does Olivia’s team focus on Fitz’s reelection, but also taking down B613. Both of these things leave little time to take on new clients. While it was interesting to see the gladiators in a new routine, they also started to work apart. As Quinn grew more and more interested in Huck’s past and what he did, she seeks to become part of it and finds herself roped in with B613. For a good part of the season, she isn’t even a part of OPA anymore and instead runs around doing jobs with Charlie, another assassin from Huck’s past.
When Columbus Short was fired from Scandal after accusations of domestic violence towards his wife, Harrison was written off the show. He becomes wrapped up in his own mess of things, eventually leading to his death by Rowan. With a truly emotional and devastating season finale, starting with the president’s son being poisoned, Harrison’s death was the bullet in the fragile glass that was OPA by the end of season three.
After Harrison’s death, Abby becoming Press Secretary for the White House, and Olivia getting kidnapped, OPA took a turn for the worst. All of the sudden, Quinn was taking charge of the group, rallying the troops when Olivia returned from her hiatus with Jake and working with Jake and Huck to find out who kidnapped Olivia. However, without Olivia the group was no longer as united as before. There were barely any clients coming in for help while the latter half of the season focused on taking down B613. While it was intriguing and satisfying to watch Olivia and the rest of the gladiators finally bring down Rowan, it was also exciting to know that maybe this was a new beginning for OPA. No it won’t be the same as it used to be, it hasn’t been, but that may just mean it is on its way to be greater.
Several gladiators have come and gone throughout the years including Steven (Henry Ian Cusick), a favorite character who left after season one, Harrison, and Abby. Some characters like to make guest appearances on Olivia’s team including Jake Ballard and David Rosen (Joshua Malina). Shonda Rhimes confirmed at the end of last season that a new member would be joining Olivia’s team in season five and that it is someone we have already met before. Many speculate it is Marcus (Cornelius Smith Jr.), the activist most notably from episode 14, “The Lawn Chair” since he was promoted to a series regular. After such a moving episode and such a spectacular performance by Smith, it was hard to consider him not being regularly apart of the show.
A new member is just what Olivia’s team needs to reboot and get going again this season. Who knows where Jake is at when we come back to season five, however Rhimes told Entertainment Weekly that Jake “goes on a journey that destroys everything.” Whether he is still angry about Olivia’s choice to be with Fitz or it’s something else, it would be an interesting dynamic to see Jake become a part of OPA full time. Both Huck and Jake share a bond over the assassin lifestyle and were able to team up quite a bit since season three. A majority of season four, we were really seeing Huck and Quinn take on most of the cases. Olivia, of course was headlining, but not in the way she used to. Olivia was so wrapped up in what her father had done, what had happened to her, and the crises at the White House that she could barely sink her teeth into anything. Still, one of the most powerful episodes of the season as well as the entire series was episode 14 where she pulled out all the “Olivia” stops to vindicate a father wanting justice for his innocent son killed by a police officer. That was the first time in season four where we see Olivia truly back in action and perhaps a preview of what is to come for season five.
If Shonda Rhimes wants to take the show back to its roots (more Liv and Fitz, more gladiators) then they are going to need more episodes where it is nonstop, brutal, and emotional. While Abby may not be directly a part of this revamp, there’s no doubt she will play a role in helping out OPA in the new season. Most, if not all of Olivia’s clients are somehow always politically related which will draw Abby into the mix quite a bit. As long as there is more than Huck and Quinn this season pulling rank, then this season will hit the ground running.
The gladiators return to their suits on September 24th at 9:00 p.m. on ABC. Until then, here’s everything we know about Scandal season five thus far.