Shonda Rhimes: Scandal Didn't Set Out to Make Adultery OK (That Said, Liv/Fitz Are 'Not Finished')

Scandal Season 3 Olivia Fitz AffairWhile Scandal‘s calling card may be the on-again, off-again romance between super-fixer Olivia Pope and the married President of the United States, Shonda Rhimes urges you not to mistake that storyline as a ringing endorsement for illicit liaisons.

Case in point: Just this month, David Zabel, an executive producer for the new ABC drama Betrayal — which significantly centers on a married woman’s romanticized affair with someone else’s husband — conceded it’s “a challenge” to make your female protagonist a cheater, yet argued, “They’ve overcome it on Scandal. They’ve overcome it pretty well, as far as I understand.”

PHOTO | Scandal Season 3 Poster: Olivia’s Secret Is Out

That people root for Olivia (played by Emmy nominee Kerry Washington), however, is quite independent of whom she is bedding. “I don’t feel like we’re making adultery acceptable. We weren’t setting out to make adultery OK,” Rhimes says of the Betrayal comparison. “To me it’s not about adultery or not adultery. We’re telling the story of these two characters who very specifically have this kind of relationship.”

Rhimes also notes that, to Scandal‘s credit, “we tell all sides. So while there are times when you’re like, ‘Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) and Liv are wonderful and I want them to be together,’ there are also times you think, ‘Fitz is scum and he shouldn’t be cheating on his wife.’ And there are times you think, TONY GOLDWYN, BELLAMY YOUNG‘Olivia should go off and find herself somebody who’s single.’

“I like the fact that everybody feels this big debate. That’s fantastic, because that’s the point,” Rhimes concludes. “We’re not giving a judgement on it one way or the other.”

RELATED | Why Scandal Stars Are Rallying for an Even Better Season 3 — Plus: 28 Teases for the October Premiere

In fact, one would think — though it is never prudent to make predictions in Shondaland — that Olivia’s relationship with Fitz has had a barrel of ice-cold water dumped on it, seeing as in the Season 2 finale she was very publicly outed as POTUS’ paramour. (Fitz meanwhile, when last seen, had his head cradled in wife Mellie’s lap, after Olivia said she needed to leave his side and be a gladiator to her associates.)

Echoing that which Bellamy Young told us earlier this month, Rhimes previews, “When we come into the season, Mellie does have things managed on the marital front. But I think Fitz and Liv have an inexplicable attraction to one another.” She cryptically adds: “People may be surprised to discover what certain motives are in the situations they’ve been working in.”

RELATED | What Happens Next On Scandal: Will Olivia’s Pop Get Quizzed? And Who Tattled?

In other words, while Rhimes declined to survey the path that Olivia and Fitz’s roller coaster of a relationship would take this season (which opens with a run of 10 episodes, followed by a springtime blast of 12) — as she explains, “We always end an episode in one place and by the time you reach 20 minutes into another, we’re in a completely different place” — she did allow this much: “It’s not finished.”

Want more scoop on Scandal, or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

We asked each Scandal series regular to offer three random words (or phrases) to sum up the Oct. 3 season premiere. Click through this gallery to see who said what.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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64 Comments
  1. Neecy says:

    Just like Liv told Fitz in 752 2×19 as far as olitz is concerned I DONT BELEIVE YOU ANYMORE RIP OLITZ

    • JJM says:

      And then they were bedding each other for the next 3 episodes. Olivia is more inconsistent than someone with multiple personality disorder.

    • bm says:

      With all the awful things happening in that show I find it strangely hypocritical how much the press focus on the adultery. Cyrus almost killed his husband to cover up a federal crime, and that couple is passed off as healthy. There’s something very immature about the media discussion of Scandal.
      It seems the response to it is part of the western tendency to mythologise marriage as something other than what it is, a frequently breached contract.
      Not that happy marriages do not commonly exist, they do, but the partners in such unions are happy together irrespective of contractual obligations, not because of them.
      Misunderstanding marriage is partly responsible for a lot of the unhappiness people find in marriage.
      Like every relationship, it is what you make of it and it’s value or lack thereof, corresponds with that.
      Fitz and Mellie have a dreadful marriage, it’s so unhealthy they can’t even raise children in it, and keeping it going is a failing on both their parts, not a success. They’re damaging their children and themselves by staying together.

  2. Neecy says:

    Just like Liv told Fitz in 752 “I DONT BELIEVE YOU ANYMORE! RIP olitz

  3. Daniel says:

    I guess what Scandal tries to do is to go beyond simple stereotypes. Olivia is not defined by the fact that she is a ‘cheater’. (Nor is Fitz) Real life and relationships are messy, multifaceted and complicated. This is a story of two dynamic, intelligent and flawed individuals who happen to be wildly in love. Society simply dichotomizes morals into good and bad. In reality, nothing is ever so simplistic. Debate is healthy, and issues such as adultery deserve to be seen from numerous different angles.

    • Crystal says:

      Perfectly Said.

    • the girl says:

      This is honestly the best post I have read about Scandal in a long time. I have seen so many people get attacked on Facebook, being asked why do you condone cheating, why do you condone the government lying, why do you condone XYZ all because you watch Scandal. The other day I finally had to ask someone, well you watch Hannibal, does that mean you condone cannibalism? Nothing is ever so simplistic.

    • Guest says:

      It’s not Olive and Fitz, but Huck and Quinn, Stephen and the women he cheated his girlfriend with and so on.

      It’s not just married people, but committed relationships the characters can’t stay faithful too. And although it is a soap opera, and although it keeps things interesting, the fact is: I can’t root for a relationship the characters themselves are not rooting for.

  4. Judy says:

    Typical Shonda Rhimes double-babble. Shonda-babble. I think she has ADHD. There are truly “twisted sisters” inside her head.

  5. Julz says:

    Adultery in Shondaland is like breathing. Shonda uses it constantly on her shows, even when the adultery doesn’t really serve a purpose (Ahem, Arizona). It’s her go-to “drama creator”.
    ::eye roll::

    • ben says:

      Indeed. If Shonda doesn’t mean to make adultery ok, then she isn’t showing it very well. It’s my one major gripe with her shows.

    • Daisy says:

      I do think she uses adultery to create drama but I don’t see it as her and her fellow writers as endorsing it. If anything, they always show how messy and painful it is for everyone involved. She may overuse it at times but it’s certainly not portrayed as an approved lifestyle.

    • Cassie says:

      Grey’s began with Meredith and Derek. Adultery is what Shonda’s shows seem to evolve around.

  6. Daisy says:

    All that Shonda explains is exactly how I feel. It’s all messy and complicated and therefor entertaining but at no point did I see the show as endorsing adultery. If it did, I don’t think I could watch. At different times I’m rooting for Olivia and Fitz. Angry at Fitz. Disappointed in Olivia. Annoyed by Mellie, Feeling sorry for Mellie. It’s fantastic. I’m looking forward to Betrayal and seeing how it addresses the issue. I hope it doesn’t glorify it.

  7. stevie says:

    i love the show but i don’t like fitz & liv together. don’t know why.
    show is so much better when they’re apart tryin to destroy eachother.

  8. Renee says:

    Older desirable man unhappy with his wife who finds true love with a younger career woman. That’s Shonda’s MO. I’m sure that Shonda will write an affair into Mellie’s history or make one of the Fitzgerald children not really a Fitzgerald. After all, in Shonda’s world the affair is NEVER the responsibility of her young female protagonist.

    • bm says:

      In reality the affair IS never the responsibility of the young female protagonist, unless she was her friend or relative, she owes the wife nothing.
      It’s the responsibility of the married person, male of female, who is having it.
      Women need to stop taking the easy way out and attacking other women instead of facing their husband, or in Mellie’s case, knowing when to let him have the divorce he so desperately wants. In this case, the affair was endorsed by Mellie and ended only by Olivia bolting, and that kind of behaviour is more common than you might realise in the corridors of power. You’d be amazed at what many women will put up with to remain in a prestigious situation.

      • jayta says:

        I completely disagree with this. I do not believe that it is solely on the man. That is the most ridiculous notion ever! Everyone has responsibility in the betrayal. Does the woman or man who isn’t married more to blame? I don’t think so. But the woman/man who chooses to say I have no obligation to the wife or marriage, I’m just doing what feels right id a bunch of BS. They may try to lie to themselves or detach themselves from this because then there is no sense of guilt that can overwhelm them. But for anyone who can’t value themselves to say no to someone who isn’t available, I can put alot of onus on them for not walking away.

        However I do believe the man or woman with the actual contract with their partner is way worse. Not evil but not someone who who I could ever easily trust or believe. Once a cheater always a cheater.

        Everyone tries to tell the story of how it was reasonable or how you couldn’t possibly hold someone accountable for cheating on their partner because of extenuating circumstances. But I don’t buy that as an excuse. People grow up. Take some kind of responsibilities and clean up the mess you made or are in before you drag someone else into it. Women or men believe yourself worn worth something more than some pathetic soul who needs to wait for that person who might pick you after they’re done with that other person. If they are worth it they will not want to drag you through that muck anyway.

        I understand people are telling stories. But stop filling or televisions with the same ones where the people who cheat belong together. Like some stupid fairy tale. Stop making it okay in the minds of everyone that this is how everyone is and we as society should accept it. We should never attempt to rise above our base-er needs and do what is right.

        Everyone’s a pawn in this show. They don’t take responsibility for their own choices and the consequences that may occur. It’s ‘good’ tv but what is that putting out there in the mindsets of the world and the type of thinking we want to reflect. I know it’s just tv but sometimes I wish it would challenge is to rise up than just settle in for what’s easy.

        In the end, I can’t say I will ever EVER root for Fitz and Liv. They are better people apart. And they bring our the worst decision making in each other.

  9. I decided I was done with this show halfway through last season. The characters are just too over the top. Like, I actually burst out laughing whenever they go off on one of their many impassioned/outraged diatribes. No one talks like they do.

    • jestsaying says:

      I agree that the dialogue can be a bit over the top in a self aggrandizing way. much like aaron sorkin’s dialogue. But I beg to differ that noone talks this way. Just because you and your acquaintances don’t doesn’t mean there aren’t other people out there who do. I have been shocked by both how highbrow some folks i know speak and also how lowbrow some others do. At work the other day, I actually heard someone ask someone else how do you spell the word “outcome”. smh

    • Jamie says:

      HA ! I wholeheartedly agree with this. I think that their speeches are bordering on cringe worthy. I mean it’s more like something you would write, or say in your head. Personally, I have never heard anyone talk like the characters do in this show. I mean a impassioned pep talk is acceptable once in a while – but every episode ? Bleugh.

  10. murley says:

    See for me, I only find Fitz creepy and gross and spend most of the time watching their scenes trying to reconcile a character (Olivia) who is supposed to be strong, intelligent and capable thinking that THAT is what love is supposed to look like. Definitely my least favorite aspect of the show. By far.

    • Griff says:

      This.

      It’s just so … gross. I get the heebies when they are on screen together.

    • Matthew says:

      Yes ! Olivia’s pining after Fitz is so tiring. They always come up with excuses to give up on their relationship. I mean they are supposed to be adults. He is supposed to be President. Instead, he simply spend his time pining after Olivia, and she (constantly hailed as a strong, independent woman) does exactly the same. I get the impression that they are both more in love with the idea of being in love, rather than working to create a foundation for a stable relationship.

    • bebe says:

      If you find Fitz and Olivia so disturbing, I’m surprised you were ever able to watch the show, given that their relationship was a pivotal part of the show from the start.
      The relationship has been mishandled though and in my opinion, the dismantling of Fitz as a character has been a deliberate attempt to warm the audience up to new love interests for Olivia. And in my opinion, it’s backfired. They’ve damaged and continue to damage the pairing without creating a viable alternative.

      • mmel says:

        Bebe I think you are so right , the writers have dismantled Fitz in order to bring in a new love interest specifically Jake. I think she underestimated the empathy that we as the audience have for him, they want an alternative so badly that they think if they destroy him we will all say we want Olake. The thing is the more the writers want me to dislike Fitz and love Jake, the more I find myself falling for Fitz. I also have to agree with Max 100% Olivia and Fitz will not end up together, she has broken them up every finale (when she thought , they were the series finales). My dilemma is, do I continue to watch a show that I know will leave unsatisfied or do I walk away? but like Olitz I am not sure I can.

  11. Elyse says:

    I feel guilty every week rooting for Liz and Fitz! I want them to be together but it’s just SO WRONG!

  12. Debra says:

    Is anybody really rooting for adultery? I’m rooting for love. Fitz and Liv are genuinely in love and that’s never gonna go away. I never feel FItz is scum for cheating on Mellie. Mellie needs to let go… their relationship has run its course and you just can’t make someone love you. Fitz is a man of a certain age who has experienced deep life-changing love for the 1st time with Olivia and he ain’t letting it go, EVER.

    • James says:

      Mellie has put up with her fair share to. Fitz is perfectly content playing the role of a doting husband when it suits him. He has had ample opportunity to really make his relationship with Olivia work. And he lets go – frequently.

      • bebe says:

        Fitz has NEVER played the doting husband to Mellie, except, ironically, at Olivia’s explicit instructions.
        And he’s only let go of Olivia once, after defiance. Every other time she has left him, and he HAS let her go on those occasions, as any sane man would.
        If a woman wants to leave, you let her.

  13. mmel says:

    The last thing Fitz is creepy, Jake on the other hand is. I am amazed at all the self righteous indignation people have about adultery on television. It is television, I have been married for 12 years and neither my husband nor I have cheated on each other, if a television show can make me question my marriage or make me worried about adultery being justified then I should really look at my relationship to see what makes me so insecure.

    • scooby says:

      1) Fitz is definitely creepy. 2) Wow you’re really projecting onto a bunch of people you don’t know. Who says rejecting Olitz here equals insecurity in ones own marriage. It sounds like you’re being a little defensive.

      • mmel says:

        I think you are the one projecting, attacking me over a TV show are you serious? My point is if you have to be angry about a TV character or even a real life person committing adultery who is not your spouse then there are some insecurities there. i could not care less wether or not you like OLITZ but they are the main couple of the show and if you don’t like that you may have to watch another show . i will repeat Fitz is a flawed man jus as Olivia is flawed which makes the show interesting but creepy not in a million years. Next time make your post general because responding to my post and making personal taht gets me defensive.

        • Tara says:

          Are you watching the same show I am? Fitz is super skeevy in STRANGER DANGER type of way. The way he treats Olivia and Mellie is disgusting (not the two of them are saints either… everyone has multiple layers on this show its what I like) but to portray Olivia as an independent capable character who has a no nonsense attitude to her to continue to rebound back to someone who clearly doesn’t respect her boundaries? Yeah. No. He’s creepy. I’m really concerned about people’s ability to gloss over the problematic issues caused by a character cause they have “great chemistry” or “he’s hot”.

          • I don’t get those that go on about Fitz being this scary creepy bad guy. Fitz would never knowingly hurt Olivia. The only way I can maybe see him doing harm to her is if he was drunk and upset like he was in the elevator scene and things are cut off between them and she’s moved on and then maybe I could see a “force himself on her” situation. But because Olitz is so popular I can’t see Shonda ever taking things that far. So overall I just don’t get those that go on about him being this creepy guy.

          • mmel says:

            We are watching the same show, what I don’t understand is how we put Olivia in such a high pedestal she ceases to be human. Being strong and independent doesn’t mean you don’t have vulnerabilities. As black women we are complicated individuals not a stereotype, we are strong and vulnerable, smart but do not make all the right choices every single day, we cry when we are hurt , we laugh when are happy, in other words we are human like every single other woman out there, no more and no less. When I watched the first episode in 2012, I liked Olivia but she got on my nerve being almost like this super human and I thought to myself please don’t make this an other unrealistic portrayal of a black woman ( we are either saints, superhuman or dumb whores , never just a woman) but then I watched her with Fitz and I thought now this is showing a full person, I wish it were not adultery but it is a story of a full woman with all the wonderful qualities that I see in in black women ( whom I absolutely adore , because I am raising three) and their weaknesses. As far as Fitz is concerned, I don’t gloss over his issues either, I happen to think that Fitz does love Olivia and would never knowingly hurt her like the other poster says. Fitz has not done anything to Olivia that Olivia has not done to other people (spying on Abby) and when he was drunk he was a mean son of a b!!tch and he deserved all the hate for the closet incident but we forgot that Olivia stole an election and lied to him. The fact is Olivia loves Fitz ( at least that is how Kerry has portrayed it) and being a romantic I feel like she should get a chance to be with someone who would give up their presidency for her and loves her equally.

          • max says:

            Fitz would never hurt Olivia physically, if he was going to , he would have done so before now. And it may take a slap to bring him to his senses when he’s drunk , but Fitz is actually the only love interest Olivia has had who didn’t pressure her into the relationship, so your comment about boundaries is pretty off base, considering Edison’s ‘I’m a man nonsense’ and Jake’s ‘what’s your excuse for not having the sex you apparently owe me’ nonsense.
            People don’t gloss over the issues in their relationship. Many people who hate Fitz, however seem to gloss over Mellie’s many repeated confessions to his face that she never loved him (or, to be fair, him her) and gloss over the fact that EVERY PERSON in Fitz’s life has betrayed him in a very serious way which directly resulted in him being shot in the head.
            I’m more concerned at people rooting for a Jake, a man who burgled her, hospitalized her and kills people for a living, and claiming him not murdering her was a huge sign of love. Now THAT’S a low bar.
            The point is moot at any rate, because I don’t think Shonda Rhimes actually intends for Fitz and Olivia to end up together, I really don’t.

    • Honest and mature response I have read. why can’t people separate television and real life stuff. Shonda Rhimes said it, I will quote her, ” Don’t tweet me your craziness, I make stuff up for a living.

      Thank you, for responding so honestly and not being judgemental. I thank God that you and your husband have a loving and trusting relationship.

      • mmel says:

        Thank you for being respectful and kind with your post. I think sometimes we all have to take a step back and realize this is entertainment, if we don’t like the content of a show we turn the channel.

    • bebe says:

      @mmel
      PRECISELY. I wonder if the people that lose it over this issue are people who are relying on societal pressure to secure their marriage.

    • Limbert says:

      You don’t think murdering a person (Fitz and the judge scene in the hospital room) and pretending it never happened isn’t creepy?

      • mmel says:

        No I don’t think it is creepy at all, as another poster said Verna hired someone to kill Fitz (which I think was poor writing) instead of just exposing him. She brought up his father to hurt him more, if Fitz did nothing everyone would be calling him weak. It doesn’t matter what Fitz does he can’t win with a segment of the audience. Look, Shonda wants to destroy Fitz’s character to bring in Jake’s , the problem is most of the audience can see when a character is being destroyed so that another one can be propped up and instead of rooting for the new character they just tune out which is what I suspected would happen and is exactly what is happening. I don’t care what you think of Fitz , when I look at him I don’t see a creep , but when I look at Jake that is exactly what I see.

  14. David4 says:

    Real life cheating is bad.

    TV cheating makes for fun storytelling.

    Glad to see ABC is smart enough to do mini-seasons of TV shows.

  15. Heart and soul says:

    So what I am reading is Olitz is a waste of time(I love you/in love and Earn me?) and Shonda will just use it to give cheap thrills. She had the power to end it the right way. Why have all this threesome and back and forward only to pretend and now act like she have no idea what to do?. Have the guts to move the story on or let it go!

  16. Evelyn says:

    I think we shouldn’t invest alot in these shows. At the end of the day, it’s just a show. I love scandal and Shonda isn’t condoning cheating, men and women were cheating before scandal aired. Avoiding showing it won’t make the problem go away. So many powerful men and women have been brought down by a cheating scandal or two. Just watch, get entertained and if it’s not your thing, you can watch something else.

  17. Kelly says:

    I always wonder how people still are ok with Fitz after he murdered someone. How is he still a ‘good guy’ that Olivia should be with?!

    • max says:

      Maybe it’s because the woman he killed murdered a 32 year old mother if 2 and had him shot 4 times, once in the head, putting him in a coma for over a week and on heavy meds and in great pain thereafter.
      All to get ‘revenge’ for the election she happily rigged without his consent or knowledge.

    • Eliza says:

      People forgot , verna has paid someone to kill Fitz . People should watch the show before make judgement.. There is no good and bad guys on the show. Olivia herself did bad things. Come on enjoy this wonderful tv fiction show. Even Mellie was agree with the relationship. and I do not feel sorry for her at all. she condones this relationship. but she did not thinks this two were truly in love.I enjoy this fiction. my real life is another thing.

      • Limbert says:

        You are stupid!

        • mmel says:

          I think you will find the core fans of this show is the least stupid people around, they may go overboard but stupid , no. Maybe you should stop and think about why you could not come up with a better argument than “you are stupid!”, I would.

    • nidvani says:

      Because if you watch the show , you will understand , Verna tries to kill him.
      Fitz was shoot 4 times
      Fitz kills Verna to protect his legacy but to protect also the only person he loves : Olivia Pope.

  18. Maryann says:

    Glad to hear Liv / Fitz is not over. Not sure I would watch if they were over.

  19. KPF says:

    I like Scandal. I’ve watched both seasons. I’ll watch next season. But it’s not a great show and probably will never be.

    For me, what holds this show back is not been ballsy enough to dig down into evilness of its lead characters.The evilness of adultery, or the evilness of murder, election rigging, kidnapping, torture… Whatever. You can make a hefty list with this show. But Scandal just seems too scared to really and fully let the main characters be bad guys, even though they repeatedly have those characters do seriously mean things to other people.

    Let them be Evil or let them be Good … or really dig into the meat of what happens internally when people who want to be good make evil choices. And by “dig into,” I mean more than Olivia moping on her couch in silk PJs and a Very Furrowed Brow.

  20. Absurdist says:

    And truthfully, adultery happens anyway, social opprobrium notwithstanding.

  21. Wan wan says:

    Cum on nw…..I lovvvvvvve fitz n liv they r great together mite of fact they beautiful together n jake ohhhhh no never LIV N FITZ FOR LIFE

  22. Wan wan says:

    Go fitz go liv go fitz go liv such a lovely beautiful couple……..love them too together da best ever

  23. lovey says:

    At the end of the day you can’t really dislike Olivia and Fitz’s relationship its the centeral story and the centeral plot. I personally think they will still end up together it makes sense.
    Adultarty is a fact of real life, whether it be right or wrong. Liv and Fitz are in love and sometimes things happen doesn’t make them good or bad.
    Fitz and Mellies relationship was shown to be an empty shell way before Olivia happened its what happened not everything lasts and we don’t always find ‘the one’ first time and how we find them is not always pretty. I think it echos real life and I think fitz and liv will be happy together in the end, he never gives up on her.

  24. wind says:

    people truth is stranger than fiction. This is real life on tv. these are rhe things every day people including those in power are going through. no one is all good or all bad. we all bite of the same fruit and it has the good, , the bad and the ugly in every mouthful. life is at no time as simple as we are conditioned to believe and want. learn what you will because there is alot to learn and be alot less judgemental. enjoy season 3.

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