Spoiler alert: This post contains plot details of the Thursday-night premiere of ABC's Scandal.
Kerry Washington returned to television Thursday night as Scandal's Olivia Pope — a week later than ABC originally had planned.
And if you saw the season premiere, you can probably guess why that was an excellent idea.
The episode saw the show's former first lady, Republican Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young), whose campaign Olivia managed, lose the presidential election to a Democrat from Pennsylvania, Francisco Vargas (Ricardo Chavira of Desperate Housewives). Not long after that, the new president-elect was assassinated, making room for his running mate, super-devious former White House aide Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) at the top.
Now imagine how that would have played on the night before President Trump's inauguration.
ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey, who broke from tradition and did not hold a public session with reporters at the Television Critics Association meetings earlier this month, told the Hollywood Reporter, "I'm not unhappy about the fact that because ABC News had a special [a 20/20 on Trump] they wanted to run that we were able to push everything by a week."
Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes did speak to reporters at TCA, and while not discussing details of the premiere — which I didn't get to see until after the Scandal session — indicated that it had been written before the November election.
She doesn't "equate" her story with what's happening in the real world, she said. "If that would have been the goal, we would have waited until after the election to write about an election, I guess. The goal was really just to tell the story that we had been telling and had been on the journey to tell the entire time, and we are continuing to tell it."
And although Scandal did feature a Trump-like candidate last season, Vargas was not that candidate.
"There aren’t any similarities. I don’t think that the candidates have any similarities to the candidates in real life. Francisco Vargas is very hopeful, a very different kind of Democratic candidate," Rhimes said.
Update: ABC reported Friday that preliminary Nielsens showed Scandal's premiere up 17 percent from its last original episode in May, with an average 7.7 million viewers for the hour. It was the show's strongest performance in 14 months, according to the network.