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‘Scandal’ Episode Order Reduced by ABC

The network will air 18 episodes instead of 22 of the Shonda Rhimes drama’s third season

Sorry, Gladiators, there will be fewer episodes of “Scandal” than you all expected for Season 3.

ABC has reduced the drama’s episode order from 22 to 18, a network representative told TheWrap. The rep declined to provide the reasoning behind the decision.

The news arrives just as the series readies to air its midseason finale next Thursday before going on hiatus until Midseason 2014.

Also read: ‘Low Winter Sun,’ ‘Scandal’ Stars to Join ‘The Following’ Season 2 (Exclusive)

There is speculation that star Kerry Washington‘s pregnancy influenced the decision. News of her pregnancy with husband, NFL player Nnamdi Asomugha, surfaced in late-October. Notoriously private about her personal life, Washington hasn’t disclosed how far along her pregnancy is.

Reportedly, ABC had no plans on writing in a pregnancy for Washington’s character, D.C. political fixer Olivia Pope, this season.

Also read: ‘Saturday Night Live': Kerry Washington Is Every Black Woman (Video)

Going into next week’s season finale, (Spoiler alert!) Olivia had just realized that her mother (Khandi Alexander) is actually a terrorist and her father, black ops boss Rowan (Joe Morton), had been protecting her. He imprisoned her mother for the past two decades under the guise that she had died. Before realizing that, Olivia used her connections to help her mother escape authorities and leave the country.

Clearly, there must be some mitigating factor that would force ABC’s to cut episodes as the Shonda Rhimes series is one of their most popular. It routinely earns a 3 rating in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic and close to 9 million total viewers tuning in each week.