'Scandal': How we picked our Top 10 Twists, plus 7 honorable mentions

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Image Credit: Kelsey McNeal/ABC

Scandal ends only its third season on Thursday night, and yet narrowing down the show’s many twists and turns into a top 10 list was an effort in restraint.

Take season 3’s “YOLO,” for instance: In a single hour, Huck tortures his onetime apprentice Quinn, Olivia discovers her mom is a terrorist, and the vice president murders her husband. That’s one episode. So we assembled EW’s most committed Gladiators to hash out our twisty top 10, and we think Olivia Pope would be proud of how we handled things. I brought the group a list of more than 20 of the show’s most shocking twists that we had to whittle down to an airtight top 10.

While some were simple to rule out (Do we really care that Gov. Reston murdered his wife’s lover? And is it technically a twist that Fitz has a secret house in Vermont for Olivia?), others were hard to see go. Which brings us to our honorable mentions. Below, every Scandal superfan who contributed to the list shares her favorite moment that just missed the cut:

Quinn isn’t really Quinn
“Grant: For the People” (season 1, episode 7)
When the show began, Quinn Perkins was our way in to Olivia Pope & Associates. She was just starting out, so we learned all about the fashionable fixer through her eyes. She was also kind of boring — just an Everygirl who didn’t seem to have any notable skills compared to her unbelievably talented co-workers. But the season 1 finale cliffhanger made us realize Quinn’s story was far from boring. Hell, she wasn’t even really named Quinn. We wouldn’t find out until season 2 about her past as Lindsay Dwyer and how Olivia and Huck saved her from being wrongfully accused for a San Francisco bombing. And we’re still trying to come to terms with Quinn’s latest incarnation as Huck’s salt lick. –Katie Atkinson

David Rosen outsmarts OPA
“White Hat’s Back On” (season 2, episode 22)
At one point last season, David moaned that he must be “the single most unlucky schmuck” on the planet. And over and over again, Scandal proved him right — when he lost his prestigious government job, when he was reduced to teaching a high school civics class, when he woke up only to discover he was being framed for murder. So after all that, I was utterly thrilled to learn that David had been playing Olivia and Co. for weeks — painstakingly cracking the code to the safe that held the Cytron card, then creating several replicas, all so he could engineer his way back into the U.S. Attorney’s office (and get a promotion to boot). He may have lost his status as the show’s single unfailingly “good” character, but in the process, David proved he could play with the big boys. Oh, and my honorable honorable mention is a literal twist, or, rather, several of them. That’s right: I’m talking about Abby’s glam new hair. Doesn’t she look amazing this season? –Hillary Busis

Huck tortures and licks Quinn
“YOLO” (season 3, episode 9)
While the mere act of Huck torturing someone isn’t really all that shocking, the licking — the licking! Even Huckleberry Quinn shippers couldn’t help but recoil at the sight of the relationship taking such a twisted turn. The invasively personal moment escalated Huck and Quinn’s dynamic to a sickly sexual place, unraveling both of them. From there, an irrevocable rift was formed between Quinn and her OPA family, driving the baby Gladiator into a downward spiral (and into Charlie’s arms). –Lanford Beard

Jake takes over as B613 Command
“A Door Marked Exit” (season 3, episode 10)
Jake Ballard usurping his nemesis — Olivia’s father Rowan — as Command of B613 in the season 3 midseason finale ranks high on the Scandal shocking-twists list. Jake went from vehemently fighting against B613, at all costs, to the “head of the snake.” Being in charge of the most dangerous, covert government agency coupled with the ominous and heart-wrenching way he said goodbye to Olivia just before assuming the role — “Whatever happens next…I loved you” — made it all the more dramatic. To add another layer, the man who appointed Jake was none other than his frenemy and Olivia’s lover, President Fitz. –Stephanie Robbins

Jake is watching Olivia
“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” (season 2, episode 14)
I believe my words right after seeing that Jake was spying on Olivia were, “Oh, no f—ing way!?” I know that because those are generally my words when Scandal pulls a fast one on me. But I think what I loved so much about this moment was that it played into my perceptions. They introduced the dapper Jake Ballard, played by the awesome Scott Foley, the man of my Felicity-themed dreams, put him in a uniform, gave him a meet-cute with Olivia — and then they decided to make him a total creeper. Suddenly, he’s not so much the man of my dreams as he is the man I hope to avoid while online dating. Totally brilliant. –Sandra Gonzalez

Cyrus doesn’t tell Fitz about the bomb
“Flesh and Blood” (season 3, episode 17)
In hindsight, maybe we should have seen it coming. But in the penultimate episode of season 3, finding out that Cyrus has no plans to stop the bomb planted at the funeral — effectively getting rid of presidential challenger Sally Langston, Leo, and Andrew, as well as hordes of other innocent bystanders — was capital-C crazy, even by Scandal’s wacky standards. –Erin Strecker

Olivia drinks a beer
“Molly, You in Danger, Girl” (season 2, episode 18)
There are few things Olivia Pope needs in order to function: A white wardrobe, OPA, Fitz’s love, and lots and lots of red wine. So as shocking as it was to find out that Jake was looking after Olivia for Fitz, the most shocking thing to come out of their relationship was that one time she put a beer bottle to her lips. It was uncharacteristic, and honestly, a little cringe-worthy. Let’s just say Olivia hasn’t had a beer since, and she still wears white, so we seem to have dodged that bullet. –Samantha Highfill

The Scandal season 3 finale airs Thursday night at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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