[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Monday's episode of Quantico. Read at your own risk.]
Here's how the whole conspiracy went down: The person with the secret lair who was blown to bits last week was Jeremy Miller, which means this was his faked death. He was part of the Citizen's Liberation Front with Angie and Jason, and they asked Miranda (Aunjanue Ellis) for FBI assistance to bring down the AIC. Miranda blindly thought they were doing good, but realized they were a lot more nefarious when they killed the first lady, who was also part of the CLF because she was the one who called for AIC members to the G20 Summit.
That was the trigger for Lydia, who is not part of the AIC and was apparently sick of all the corruption in the country and took matters into her own hands to expose everything for a fresh start. (It's really that simple, huh?) She only used Dayana (Pearl Thusi) and Will (Jay Armstrong Johnson), telling them to destroy the drives, when she actually wanted them uploaded. She manages to upload one — for the United States, of course — before Alex kicks her ass. Fortunately for everyone, a cover-up is in play: the Islamic Front has taken credit for everything.
But because the U.S.' top-secret intelligence patterns are now out, the country is vulnerable to attacks, so POTUS Claire (Marcia Cross) forms a covert joint task force comprised of Alex, Ryan (Jake McLaughlin), Shelby (Johanna Braddy), Dayana and Nimah (Yasmine Al Massri) to stop them. Oh, and they report to Caleb (Graham Rogers)!
So what's next? How different will the show be now that it's on one timeline? Will we see Harry (Russell Tovey), Sebastian (David Lim) and Leon (Aaron Diaz) again? And will Owen (Blair Underwood), who took the fall for Lydia's NSA tap, be part of it? Creator and showrunner Joshua Safran answers our burning questions below.
Was it always going to be Lydia?
Joshua Safran: Yes. But just to be clear, Lydia is not a member of the AIC; she just saw what they were trying to do and realized there was some merit in it. The way I liken it is, she's not pro-Trump, but she's not pro-Hillary either; she's a Bernie or Burn It Down.
She's disillusioned, but not in the same way Liam was.
Safran: Right. Not at all. She's just like, "I see what's coming and they went about it the wrong way, but their idea was not wrong. ... We always knew it was a much more complicated story for Owen to deal with about his daughter, but this was always the plan. And we were always planning to go into one timeline, so that was always the plan there too.
When did you tell Tracy?
Safran: Obviously the episodes from 8 on, it had to look like she was bad, but we told her, "You're not really bad," which she wasn't. And even what she does in this episode, she has a very righteous reason as a CIA operative. She's not a bad guy. We told her and she totally got it.
Does Lydia really believe this is the best way to do good? It's not as black and white as she makes it out to be, like, "Here's everything, let's start over!"
Safran: Right. That'll be answered in the next episode in terms of what came of this, but she definitely thinks this is the start. She thinks we need to face what's coming instead of constantly trying to stop it.
What has happened to her? Where is she now?
Safran: You'll find out in the next episode. She's not dead.
Is she in custody?
Safran: She is.
Safran: I'm not going to say!
How is Owen going to react when he finds out what she did? He went to prison for her because he didn't want her to lose her career.
Safran: That's going to be hard for him. He did this decent thing for her and she's still lost and alone in doing things she thinks is best. She didn't learn that from him. He's definitely going to have a reaction.
I love that Alex kicked her in the face. It was payback.
Safran: That was so fun! They both had so much fun with that. They felt like it was totally earned. ... We did it twice, I think. Two kicks!
Does Miranda feel guilty at all? She was so torn when she was telling Shelby everything. She got involved for what she thought were the right reasons.
Safran: She's not feeling guilty. She is somebody who makes decisions and sticks with it. She lost her son to terrorism, so she's going to take extreme measures to make sure that that never happens to anyone else ever again. And yet they go too far, but she owns up to the choices that she made. She made them and she's not going to regret them or discuss how they should've gone differently. I think she's got a complicated road ahead of her of making peace with what happens. But definitely it's made more complicated by the fact that it's covered up, so she's free to go.
Who pulled those strings?
Safran: I believe that Claire and Keys (Henry Czerny) and a bunch of people got together and decided that would be best. People should not feel like America was fighting itself.
The AIC or whoever's controlling the AIC is still out there, but what about the Citizen's Liberation Front?
Safran: They're done. Their task was what happened in there. You won't hear the words "AIC." I think we say it once or twice more, but you won't hear that name anymore. It is now more about the people that allow for terrorism or finance terrorism or create terrorism in the ways it's allowed to exist in America. It's more about the ideological thing. ... They're after all of the pieces of the puzzle that have to come together to make a terrorist attack.
Is the covert joint task force going to have a name?
Safran: No, they're just gonna be a joint task force. No more names! No more names! [Laughs] The show has always had one foot in the real world even when it's far-fetched, but the back nine [episodes] are two feet in the real world. While our characters might make a cutesy nickname, the president's not gonna be saying that.
Keys says the five of them were chosen for a reason and Claire says Nimah was chosen for redemption. Are they going to learn why they were picked?
Safran: Some more than others. Shelby and Ryan — it's a no-brainer. Shelby's been an excellent FBI agent for years now and has an intimate connection to the president, for better or worse. Ryan has been a decorated FBI agent for eight years and is now a CIA operative and has worked for the president's briefing team. And they were all involved in the crisis. Dayana helped unmask Lydia. I think their experience with the G20 Summit, coupled with their knowledge of the AIC, makes them well-equipped. And Nimah is the mirror. She's the reflection you don't want to see.
And Caleb is finally coming back.
Safran: Caleb is back. I cannot say for how many episodes, but it's more than one, and I cannot say when. It's not going to be immediate. ... He's definitely a figure they talk about and once he's there, he's there. It's not like he's Skypeing in. There's another twist in there.
Is this a job he actually wants or a job that Claire is forcing upon him?
Safran: If he is the one that has the job, it would be a job in which it is being forced upon him and I don't think he'd be particularly happy.
Can you say how he has changed since we've seen him?
Safran: [Laughs] I can say that in his immediate introduction, he seems to not have changed at all. He's very much pilot Caleb.
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Are there going to be any rekindled sparks between Caleb and Shelby?
Safran: There is definitely going to be a Caleb and Shelby story.
What is Alex and Ryan's personal and professional relationship going to be like? They had agreed to take a break.
Safran: The first half of the season was them trying to hide they were together while pretending they weren't. I think the second half is about, can we work together when we're not together? There's not going to be a lot of drama.
What about Harry and Sebastian?
Safran: We will definitely see them again and I don't want to say how. I will say that they've had their biggest moment of connection. There's not a version where Sebastian is like, "I'm gay!" and is at peace with himself. This is somebody, even with everything he's been through, who doesn't make big changes necessarily. Their story was pretty contained in The Farm. At the G20, they had some issues, but it's not sparks and "we're going to be together forever." You saw how much they care for one another.
He tried to save Harry's life after killing him a year before.
Safran: Exactly! They care for each other, but it's not a story of those two people coming together.
Is the Bishop thread going to continue?
Safran: That has a lasting ripple, but that story is done. Bishop is not a bad man. Harry had to learn the same lesson Alex learned last year: People aren't black and white; they are gray. You have to be comfortable in the gray. ... As Harry says, "Maybe he learned from his past and changed his ways. Maybe there was this one thing he couldn't deal with properly and it was son, but there is no easy answer." And he has to learn to live with that. ... When we see Harry again, he is not at all in the same place we last saw him. We've obviously seen him at the G20, but we're going to look back on his time at the G20 in a way.
What about Leon? What happened to him between The Farm and the G20?
Safran: I don't want to spoil it, but he is the first piece of information that all is not what it seems to our group in Episode 14.
How serialized is the back nine going to be? Are they going after one person for a couple episodes and then another one for another batch?
Safran: I'd say they're serialized like The Good Wife. There is definitely a case every week that reaches its conclusion and there are ongoing character studies and an overarching story.
How has it been working with one timeline?
Safran: It's been really fun. It's hard to get an audience and I think Quantico has changed a bunch, not just switching to one timeline. Season 2 is darker than Season 1. I hope people come back because the show is different, but Episode 14 is like a pilot. If you had never seen the show before, you would not have a single problem following what is happening. I think for all of us here, the show is saying something more overtly than it has in the past, where it was more about personal politics and identity politics and now it's about American politics. There's also an element of romantic comedy, which is really refreshing. Because we have one timeline, when we have amazing guest actors, which we've always had, they now have time to really have their moment in the sun and interact with our characters in meaningful ways.
You mentioned a couple weeks ago that you coincidentally were doing a Muslim registry story. Do you have any other similarly pointed storylines?
Safran: There's an episode on fake news. Pretty much every episode has its analog to the real world. I think the only one where it's not going to be clear is 14 because that is a reset.
Quantico airs Mondays at 10/9c on ABC.