(EW.com) -- Have you picked your jaws up off the floor yet, Gladiators? If so, well done.
Indeed, it was probably a fairly Herculean task considering all the mind-blowing revelations in "Scandal's" twisty season 3 premiere. Though several one-on-one scenes took Liv away from her trusted Gladiators for much of the opener, you can be sure this thick-as-thieves crew will be facing the onslaught together in weeks to come.
EW talked with three of Liv's fixers — Katie Lowes, Guillermo Díaz and Darby Stanchfield — about their reactions to the premiere (yes, even they were surprised by some things!) and what's to come for Pope & Associates this year.
(SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't seen the premiere, don't keep reading.)
"It's Handled" picked up right where the season 2 finale left off — with Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) under the microscope thanks to her affair with President Fitzgerald "Fitz" Grant (Tony Goldwyn) going public. Trying to cut off that problem at the pass was CIA black ops commander Rowan (Joe Morton), a.k.a. Liv's dad, who had arranged a convenient international getaway. Surprising absolutely no one, Liv decided to forgo the easy way out and returned to her Gladiators to fix ... herself.
Once Liv returned, reformed assassin and personal confidante Huck was a natural choice to escort his mentor back into her inner sanctum. "It's a really short but really powerful scene when he's pulling her out of the limo," Díaz says. "He's like her watchdog. He's that guy that's always thinking about her safety and protecting her and [making sure] nothing bad's going to happen to her [because] she's the one that saved him."
But can the gladiators save Liv now that she's in the sights of cold-blooded frenemy — and Fitz's Chief of Staff — Cyrus (Jeff Perry)? Even Stanchfield, who plays no-nonsense Pope employee Abby, was shocked when she finally saw one scene in particular play out on film.
"We were watching the first episode where Cyrus starts the 'kill folder' [on Olivia]," the actress remembers. "We'd all forgotten about it [since the table read], and we all just lost our marbles. It was incredible." She adds, "Cyrus can be so evil — just when you think you were going to trust him! I start to like the guy, and then he does something like that, and I'm just like, 'You're dead forever now ...,'" then she laughs, "at least for another episode."
Cyrus isn't the only one who's out for blood. Liv's newest acolyte, Quinn (Lowes), is still practically shaking from the adrenaline boost of her first torture session under Huck's tutelage. Lowes admits Quinn "got a little bit of a taste for [violence] in the finale," but says, "It's not so much that she wants to go out with a machine gun and start killing people. I don't think she's psychotic, and that's not how I'm playing her. The deal is, she has had a lot of really terrible things happen to her in her life and, for the first time in a while, she was in control of the situation and she was excelling at something and she was causing pain on somebody else. It's that sense of control that gives her a high, that forces her to be addicted to that feeling."
Even Lowes admits how wild Quinn's change in character has been. "I cannot go back and watch the pilot because we've come such a long way, and such a 180 has happened, and she's grown so much and changed so much as a person," she admits. "This season is a big mix. Darby is always saying, 'Oh, that's Old Quinn! Oh, that's New Quinn!' Now it's really combining together."
For Huck, though, Quinn's new empowerment spells trouble. He considers himself a murder-and-torture addict and now fears he's enabling Quinn. Díaz previews, "That's kind of what he's dealing with in the first few episodes: Him having created this monster. He knows how seductive it was for him and how caught-up in it he got, in that dark world. He's afraid she's too far gone now, and he doesn't know what to do about it."
However Huck chooses to confront Quinn's growing bloodlust, it's safe to say "Huckleberry Quinn" — as shippers affectionately refer to the friendship — will never be the same. According to Díaz, that's not necessarily a bad thing: "Their relationship has shifted. It's changed a little bit. It's exciting what's coming down the pike."
Stanchfield's character is also facing a relationship in flux with on-and-off lover David Rosen (Joshua Malina), the newly appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. The pair had only a brief encounter in the premiere, with David telling Abby to "return [his] calls," but Stanchfield promises, "It's not over between Abby and David. ... They try. The best way to describe it [is], Abby and David have never done normal — they've never actually been on a proper, normal date. There's definitely an attempt at normal [in coming episodes that] will be interesting for fans. It's been interesting to play. They really are two people who fit. They're a good match together because they're both sort of misfits in a way."
Seeing as the Beltway of "Scandal" is packed with misfits and machinations, Abby and David's showmance will be in fine company — starting with a Huck-heavy episode next week.
"Scandal" returns next Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.
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