Chapter 20 of 30 from Shonda Rhimes

Case Study: Scandal Pilot - Act Five


Shonda discusses the final act of the Scandal pilot and reveals how she set up the pilot for an entire season of episodes.

Topics include: Scandal Case Study

Shonda discusses the final act of the Scandal pilot and reveals how she set up the pilot for an entire season of episodes.

Topics include: Scandal Case Study

Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes Teaches Writing for Television

In 6+ hours of video lessons, Shonda teaches you her playbook for writing and creating hit television.

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Make Great Television

When Shonda Rhimes pitched Grey’s Anatomy she got so nervous she had to start over. Twice. Since then, she has created and produced TV’s biggest hits. In her class, Shonda teaches you how to create compelling characters, write a pilot, pitch your idea, and stand out in the writers’ room. You’ll also get original pilot scripts, pitch notes, and series bibles from her shows. Welcome to Shondaland.

Watch, listen, and learn as Shonda teaches you how to write, pitch, and create a hit TV show.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Shonda will also respond to select student questions.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Amazing class with invaluable takeaways about writing and the industry. Shonda was a terrific instructor and her enthusiasm for the craft of screenwriting was infectious.

As a novelist with an emerging opportunity in TV, I loved hearing Shonda share her insights. The sessions on script structure, where she broke down the pilot of Scandal, were especially helpful.

It would be great to have a class on cinematography!

To refer to Ms. Rhimes as a master is to grossly understate her impact on modern TV. To have this opportunity to sit at her feet is a dream come true


Jonathan S.

It's a giant puzzle that needs to be reworked until your brain bleeds. And then you do it all over for the next episode! Confession: I don't think I can do that.

Donnetrice A.

Also, just went back and watched the pilot of Scandal and it is 100% correct that it was a pilot that made the audience want to watch more. Even though I have seen all of the episodes of that series, I am tempted to sit here and watch the next episode, because it has been so long, I forgot what happened next and now I want to know again. Now that's great writing!

Donnetrice A.

Hard to believe that all of that happened in ONE episode! Really makes me rethink what I'm doing in my pilot. Loving this class!

Derrick W. J.

I have been cheating by watching all the videos(lessons) first but just had to stop and comment. I really like Shonda Rhimes' course. Plan to make the most of it!!!!

Monya W.

To see the breakdown of the show is amazing. I now look at shows from a different perspective. I am learning show much from this masterclass. Thank you Ms. Rhimes!


I stopped at this Chapter of Shonda's Masterclass to watch the 1st episode of Scandal--to better understand everything. 124 episodes later! I am back to continue this Masterclass.... =_=' Pheeeww... P.S: I had to take a pic of the last scene of the series. I felt like I finished a ginormous book!

Betty M.

Lessons 14-20 have been phenomenal!!! I have to agree with Jeff, why does Olivia cry when she discovers that the president slept with Amanda? I thought it would have been better to see her become angry or to stare him down in amazement and walk away rather than cry. On the other hand, Ms. Rhimes mentioned in some other lessons that she did not want to portray the characters as super humans. I assume this was one way to illustrate the human side of Olivia. I am enjoying the class!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I've watched, I think 6 classes so far. Of all the lessons from all the classes, this lesson is by far, by far the best. By "best," I mean the content is deep and thorough, the directing is flawless, the lighting is excellent, the camera placement is perfect, the sound is perfect, the editing is spot on, the students are knowledgeable and asked thoughtful, useful, pragmatic question and Shondra was fantastically transparent in offering insight and inside information about the process. A+++ There was only one question that was not asked because..."Olivia never cries." Well, she did cry...twice. Why show her cry with the President? At that moment with the President, Olivia behaved seemingly in moment of cliche' golly, a guy betrays a woman's trust and she cries. Ho hum. Leading to that moment, Olivia was painted as a woman of steel. But then a guy lies to her and she cries. Granted, not just any guy, but he's still just a guy that lied, the woman finds out and her reaction is to cry. Totally cliche'. Would it not have been soooooo much more powerful if we see the hurt in her eyes, her stomach aching to puke...on the President, but she maintains and leaves with her dignity in hand. Then, in the coat closet, that is the moment and the only moment when she cries. Obviously, Olivia "in the closet" is powerful visual subtext, so why have her cry with the President?

Cherise A. W.

I like how Shonda uses, "Call back moments." This wealth of information is amazing. It is delightful to apply it all. You're amazing Thank you, Cherise A. Williams


Love the detail delivered. It clearly illustrates the intentional "work" of writing. It also reminds me how seeing it visually makes it seem effortless - like watching a great dancer. This shows the tough behind the scenes work you have to put in- like all the training and practice that dancer had to accomplish prior to the effortless looking performance. Writing is an art and a skill that takes dedication!


We're in act 5. They're in the police station. They have no idea what they're going to do about Sully. But basically, they decide, let's try to keep the press at bay. So it's sort of a holding pattern beat, as I like to call it, because you have to keep the story alive. But you don't really have anything to do. You can't leave that "all is lost" moment and then not come back to it until Olivia has her moment. You have to say, here's what happens when somebody gets arrested. And you have to remember that you have to say those things, mainly because you have to think logically. What would happen next? They take them to the police station. They'd be worried about the press. And then Olivia gets the page that basically says that Amanda Tanner tried to kill herself. The next time you see her, Olivia's at the hospital talking to Quinn. And you don't question why Quinn's at the hospital. You don't question any of those things. So then Olivia and Quinn are at the hospital. And Quinn is trying to convince Olivia that she believes Amanda Tanner. And Quinn says the most important thing, which is that I trust my gut, and my gut says she's telling the truth, which is what makes Olivia stop and say, why do you trust your gut? And I love that, because now we've watched Quinn learn from Olivia all the way through. Moments like that-- those callback moments-- that's what I like to call them-- callback moments-- are really key, because they really make the story feel like they have a full circle quality to them. I like that you also learn something about Olivia there as well-- that for as much as she trusts her gut, she's really willing to listen to people when they trust theirs. Yes. Yes, it also says like you trust the idea of trusting your gut so much that if somebody else says they trust theirs, you'll listen, which I think is important. And then basically, this was fascinating to me. I kept, for some reason-- I don't know why-- the phrase "sweet baby" was the phrase. But it was, because I can't really imagine calling someone sweet baby. It sounds like a really weird thing to call somebody. It sounds a little creepy. But some for some reason, at the time, it worked perfectly in my head. The music of it worked perfectly in my head. And so I introduced this phrase in this scene. And there's no relationship anywhere else in the show. It hasn't ever been said before. We've never used it before. It's not one of those moments where you hear it and we all go, oh. But she hears it and goes, oh. So we're now referring to a moment that's happened way before the show has ever started. And that's kind of a gamble. I wasn't 100% sure the audience was going to go with us on that, because they don't know what we're talking about. But she says it, and it stops Olivia enough to make Olivia stop and just walk away. A...