[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Monday's episode of Quantico. Read at your own risk.]
Quantico 2.0 is in full swing.
Monday's episode introduced a single timeline, but there were still plenty of twists. For one, Claire's (Marcia Cross) "son" that her covert joint task force of Alex (Priyanka Chopra), Ryan (Jake McLaughlin), Shelby (Johanna Braddy), Dayana (Pearl Thusi) and Nimah (Yasmine Al Massri) must report to is not Caleb (Graham Rogers). They have to report to other, heretofore unmentioned son Clay (Hunter Parrish), a by-the-books, prim-and-proper type who isn't too fond of Shelby (you know, for sleeping with his now-dead dad and baby bro) or really of his new job.
The task force's mission: identify the collaborators of the shadow group behind the G20 group. The United States' intelligence drives — or now "cache" — that Lydia (Tracy Ifeachor) uploaded are periodically being accessed by said collaborators, who, once identified, will fall under one of the eight "pillars" — money, law, logistics, government, technology, ideology, defense and media — that lead to a terrorist act. So, yeah, they're gonna knock a pillar off week by week. Monday's episode picks off "money" with one Christian Kelly, an investor with an off-shore account.
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The task force gets some help from Owen (Blair Underwood), whom Keyes (Henry Czerny) frees from prison to lend some expertise and authority to the proceedings, and Harry (Russell Tovey), who is basically a freelancer now after getting booted from MI6.
And lest you think the show has become a total procedural, it throws in two mysterious arcs for good measure: Russian journalist Sasha Barinov (Karolina Wydra) is on to Ryan after he shows her his easily Google-able fishing photos during an op; and Leon (Aaron Diaz), who had been fearing for his life, gets kidnapped after Alex and Dayana assure him that no one was after them. Great spycrafting all around!
Creator Joshua Safran breaks down the show's reset and what you can expect the rest of the season below.
How did you go about breaking these nine episodes once you decided to switch to a single timeline?
Joshua Safran: It was fun to sit and stay with our characters and watch them react to things instead of cutting away, so I think that part was freeing. It was very difficult to find the rhythm and energy because when we had two different timelines, you could always cut to the action timeline to boost you up and send you into commercial. We don't have that luxury this time, so it took us a while to get the new structure and figure out where the energy was going to come from in a new way. And we realized it had to come out of the procedural plot of the week, but also some of the character interactions and dynamics. I don't think we fully found the new paradigm until [Episode] 15, because in 14 we're doing so many of the elements of the reintroduction, like Harry showing up in Act 3. By 16, the wheels are on the train and the train is going.
Would you say it's a serialized procedural now?
Safran: Yes. It is all very interlaced and every detail pays off as we move forward. Obviously they're looking for all the different collaborators, so you're going to learn who those collaborators are, but you'll also learn how the collaborators relate to each other and you'll also learn how they were related to the first 13 episodes. It is serialized but it is a procedural. It's weird — it's probably the version of the show that would've made the network the most comfortable, but it's also not the version of the show that the network bought, so they were like, "We'll see!" You'd think that I would be like, "I've turned your serialized show into a procedural! You're welcome!" But they were like, "Wait, that's not the show that we bought," so it took us a while for all of us to figure out, but they are very happy with these back nine and I am as well, because I think it does keep the elements of the other version of the show but it does make it clearer.
You said you had always planned this story and to switch to a single timeline. Did any elements change in the interim?
Safran: We always planned to tell this story and we were always going to go to one timeline. We have just made subtle changes to it. The whole premiere with G20 and the two groups — we were always going to get into the people behind the event. Basically we looked into the news to create the procedural element of the week, but we had determined who our eight collaborators were at the beginning of the season, so we knew we were going to look at a different collaborator every episode. That was the initial pitch: Every episode will look at one collaborator, but we realized that was too episodic. So, some episodes they discover three collaborators, some episodes they discover none.
So they'll expose all eight? That's convenient.
Safran: [Laughs] Exposing them is not what's necessarily going to happen, but they will discover who all eight of the pillars are. The story around Episode 18 or 19 — there's a pretty big twist that changes things. It's not as simple as it looks.
I enjoyed the Clay twist.
Safran: [Laughs] I know people might be annoyed that it's not Caleb, but Caleb is coming back eventually.
How did you come up with another Haas brother?
Safran: In the pilot script, Caleb, in the scene where he had gotten thrown out by the pool, he mentioned to Shelby and Simon that his brother and sister had done better than him at Quantico. We shot it, but we had to cut that for time. It was pretty much the last second cut. ... Even though it was cut, in our minds, they existed, so we always knew there were Clay and Cassandra. Cassandra was mentioned in Episode 9 of last year. ... But we didn't mention Clay because we wanted to keep him a secret. We were initially going to introduce him at the end of Season 1 and then it became, when was the time to do it? Truth be told, I only ever wanted Hunter Parrish to play that role, so I waited until Hunter was free.
He seems like a stand-up guy and conflicted about this. They're all going to corrupt him.
Safran: Exactly. He's not used to this and he doesn't like it. It's new to him to have to cut corners. The theme this year is sometimes you have to do bad to do good, and that's going to be really hard for Clay. It was hard for Alex at the beginning, but she figured out her way through it, and it's going to be hard for Clay in the back half. ... It's been so much fun to write that character because he's the older brother, he's a little buttoned-up, he's more rigid. He's based on a more buttoned-up version of Jon Favreau — the speechwriter, not the filmmaker — and we just had a lot of fun with that character and Hunter had a lot of fun playing him. Caleb was always so reckless, but his journey was from being reckless to being more safe and sane. Clay's journey is the reverse: He's so put-together and he gets slowly unbuttoned as the season progresses. It's been a lot of fun.
When does Caleb come back?
Safran: I don't want to say exactly ... but it's sooner than you think.
What is his and Clay's relationship like?
Safran: The day that Graham showed up on set for his first scene with Hunter — they are friends in real life — it was just so perfect. The episode was long where that first scene transpired and the editor had rightfully cut that scene down, and both myself and the other writers were like, "No, no, no, every single moment of that scene has to be in," so we cut other stuff to accommodate it. But they're so funny. Caleb is such a rabble-rouser and he pokes, and the worst thing for Clay is to be poked. Their dynamic is just really perfect. Claire is also in that scene, so it's really great to see all of them together.
How does Shelby fit into that? She's so desperate for Clay to like her. What is that like when Caleb comes back?
Safran: She says [she and Caleb] still talk and are Facebook friends, so Caleb coming back is not necessarily a shock to her. I think navigating her way through Caleb and Clay's dynamic is the more difficult thing.
Are we going to meet Cassandra?
Safran: Not this season, but hopefully in the future. We know who we want to play her.
You found ways to keep Owen and Harry in the picture. Owen's firmly on the team and Alex is angling for Harry to be on it, but he says he's "not for hire."
Safran: There's reluctance from both ends and Harry's a bit lost right now, but she knows that he'd be an asset. There's going to be a bit more of that.
How did you come up with Sasha Barinov? Very topical.
Safran: At the beginning of the year, we wanted to introduce a journalist, because we felt like the role that journalism plays in government work is very important and is very connected. We knew we had too many characters at the beginning of the year, so we knew we were going to introduce her later, but we still talked about it with Owen having been burned in [the paper]. We met Jonathan in Episode 5, the journalist who outed his name. Journalism was always a part of the show, so we were just waiting to introduce Sasha and I'm glad we waited. I love Karolina as actor. She's going to be with us for a while. The character was always going to be Russian because we were also interested in, you're a journalist and you're supposed to be objective and yet you yourself have a secret. We're going to get more into her background. Karolina is from Polish descent, but Sasha is Russian. That story with Ryan is going to pick up quickly.
Is whoever kidnapped Leon connected to the shadow group?
Safran: You will find out who those people [who kidnapped him] are and you will find out whether any of our people are connected to them very soon.
Quantico airs Mondays at 10/9c on ABC.