Young lawyer Quinn Perkins is offered a job with the crisis management firm Olivia Pope and Associates. Quinn is in awe. Olivia Pope is the former communications director to the President. She and her team of "gladiators in suites" will do whatever it takes to make their clients' problems go away, and newbie Quinn is initiated into the group with trial by fire on day one. Olivia's former boss, President Fitzgerald Grant and his chief of staff, Cyrus Beene are never far from her beat - and when a White House intern accuses the President of having an affair, Olivia is the only one they trust to diffuse the problem. But the news hits close to home for Olivia, and Quinn soon realizes Olivia's clients aren't the only ones with secrets.
When Pope & Associates' newest client, DC Madam Sharon Marquette, is under investigation, the team needs to do everything possible to keep her client list under wraps. The list is literally a Who's Who of DC influentials - and while it's Olivia's job to protect her client, she finds herself protecting a lot more than just the madam. Meanwhile, Quinn runs into some trouble with the President's former intern, Amanda Tanner.
The team reluctantly decides to help a millionaire's son accused of rape, but regardless of the facts, public perception is a hard thing to change, and this is one case that the team might not be able to win. Meanwhile, Olivia still insists on taking Amanda Tanner as a client, but is unable to put her own past with the President behind her when Amanda's first request is a meeting with the President.
After the Amanda Tanner case takes a shocking turn, one-time friends Olivia and Cyrus take heated, opposing viewpoints, and Cyrus tries to help in investigating the personal lives of Olivia and her associates. Meanwhile Olivia and her team help a dictator locate his wife and children who have been allegedly kidnapped, and Quinn goes out with a reporter seeking information.
After a commercial plane crashes, taking the lives of all onboard, Olivia Pope and her "gladiators-in-suits" must defend the pilot from media and airline accusations; meanwhile, when Amanda Tanner goes missing, Huck calls upon his dark past to find her whereabouts, and Fitz seeks the help of the Vice President in order to pass key legislation despite their icy relationship.
As Gideon investigates Amanda's past in the present day, scenes from the past reveal the contentious primary race between Fitz and his now-Vice President, how Olivia and Fitz first met on the campaign trail and how each of Olivia's associates joined the team.
When Quinn finds herself in a tragic and compromising position, Olivia and the team rush to her side; all the while, a reluctant Cyrus must turn to Olivia when Billy Chambers makes an announcement that shakes Fitz's presidency to its' core.