[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Sunday's episode of Quantico. Read at your own risk.]
Quantico just gave new meaning to "new phone, who dis?"
Sunday's midseason premiere picked up three months later in the future timeline with the congressional hearing on the Grand Central attack and FBI command center bombing, the latter of which killed Clayton (Mark Pellegrino). Everyone believes that Elias (Rick Cosnett) acted alone, including Claire (Marcia Cross), but Alex (Priyanka Chopra) maintains that someone else was behind the attacks. Outside of the courtroom, Alex, still on trauma leave, does her own rogue investigation despite pleas from Nathalie (Anabelle Acosta) and Ryan (Jake McLaughlin) to stop and move on. After her hacker pal Duncan (David Alpay) commits suicide, ostensibly following a plea deal for computer fraud, and she gets ripped by Shelby (Johanna Braddy) for exposing her affair with Clayton, Alex begrudgingly recants her testimony and is reinstated to the FBI.
That night, she gets a call on her burner phone. It's the apparent real terrorist, voice scrambled and nearly as incoherent as Bane, who beckons her to a location. Once she's there, the caller taunts Alex with video of Duncan committing suicide, before ordering her to do as instructed. You weren't a terrorist before, the caller says, but "I'm going to make you one now." And to raise the stakes even more, Nathalie walks toward Alex with a belt of explosives wrapped around her waist.
Meanwhile, in the past, Liam (Josh Hopkins) and Miranda (Aunjanue Ellis) have the NATs compete in a Battle of the Classes Color War with the upper (by a couple of weeks) class, which includes Drew Perale (Lenny Platt), Will Olsen (Jay Armstrong Johnson) and Iris Chang (Li Jun Li). My favorite part of this whole charade is that the tiebreaker is a hostage crisis exercise that the upperclassmen had already done, which of course Alex & Co. lose — and then Miranda's like, "Oops. Our bad. That wasn't fair, so we cut people from both classes. And now we're gonna make y'all get to work together." Teachers of the year. But, to be fair, Miranda has some bigger things to deal with. Charlie (J. Mallory McCree) refuses to be questioned after escaping his captors. The twins (Yasmine Al Massri) each make a go, and Raina succeeds as she gets Charlie to name names that mean nothing to you and me right now: Anthony, Noah, Jay and Derek.
While that's going down, Shelby and Caleb (Graham Rogers) try to reverse-con her fake sister Samar, only to meet her husband Khaled (Noam Jenkins), who claims that Samar's been kidnapped and asks for their help.
So when will the caller be unveiled? Is there more than one caller? Will we see the new NATs in the future? Where did Liam take Alex? Creator and executive producer Josh Safran answers our burning questions.
In the first half of the season, everyone was on Team Alex, and now she has no allies and everyone thinks she's a conspiracy theorist. Was that a conscious decision?
Josh Safran: Yes. What I love about the two timelines is the ability to show how things go wrong in people's lives or how things change in a short amount of time. So taking the time jump of three months allows us to put another distance to what happened. "Alex and I were in a good place in Episode 10 and now we are not in a good place." I mean, poor Alex, who's made to feel paranoid and crazy and a conspiracy theorist. And when she finds out she's right, she can't tell anybody. It's a really great struggle for Alex and for Priyanka, who loves playing that.
Is she ever going to be wrong?
Safran: She's the lead of a network TV show, so she probably won't be wrong. [Laughs] But I will say that Alex won't get a win for a long time necessarily. Everyone's against her. It's not like she saves the day. This is going to test Alex.
As she navigates being the caller's terrorist-in-training, will she gain any allies?
Safran: I will say two. At the end of this episode, she has one inadvertently with Nathalie. Moving forward, they gain one ally.
I'm assuming she will for now do what the caller says.
Safran: There's a long scene between her and Nathalie right from the go [in next week's episode]. Alex in that episode gets her first task from the terrorist and the question for Nathalie is whether they'll go through with it or not. The caller is making her do things that are making her a terrorist.
Was the caller's motivation because she went back on her testimony or was he or she always going to do this?
Safran: The caller's motivation is that this was always their plan. It's interesting you ask that because it's funny — we never even thought about what would've happened if she just stuck her ground. But we knew that this part of the plan could only happen once she did recant. I just think that the terrorist assumed she would've recanted sooner. We always talked about it as Alex has been saying for three months, "It's this," and at some point she's gonna have to give in. It was never, "If she doesn't give in, what would happen?"
When will we learn who the caller is? This seems like a multi-person plan, not just Elias and one other person.
Safran: There are many steps to that. You will find out many of the steps before the end. Maybe there's not just one caller.
Caleb is MIA in future. When will we see him?
Safran: He's alive. But what's happened to him is actually a mystery. He survived the bombing, but how did he survive? Is he not all there? You're not going to get answers for a long time. It's the reverse of Simon [Tate Ellington]. ... You won't see him [in the past] because he left Quantico. Maybe he'll pop up, but he won't be a story. We feel like we know what happened to him in between. He said very succinctly in 10, "When I left, I created this company." I feel like there's not really a mystery there.
Will other people die before the finale?
Safran: Yes. And it's people we know.
There was a lot of animosity between the old and new NATs, but we got some knowing glances and possible hookups by the end. Will that hatred temper off soon?
Safran: Yes, it's mostly gone by the next episode. In the FBI, it's not everybody against each other. While in this episode, they put them against each other, the whole point is you have to learn to work together. You have a shared goal. It's not actually about being the best FBI agent; it's "Let's all protect America." The question is what they discover about each other's past outside of Quantico. That is the drama. We were not interested in telling a story where they're going head-to-head every episode. There will be more hookups. Even with that said, there are less than in the first half because people are more serious at Week 12, so the hookups that happen are not hookups that happen in the room or on the sly. They're ones that are like, "Oh, it's the weekend."
Will we see the newbies in the future?
Safran: I can't reveal that, but I will say that if you don't see them, there's a reason.
It was smart of you to introduce the new NATs since that expands the suspect pool.
Sarfran: [Laughs] Exactly! Every show, you teach the audience how to watch it. Elias wasn't in the pilot, but he was around. These NATs were there before our NATs. When the terrorist says in this episode, "I saw you that first day in Quantico," it doesn't mean that first day they were all together. It could mean the first day previous to that. As you saw in this episode, they also said they vetted the next class, so they have the intel on Alex and all of them.
Last time, you said you dropped Shelby's fake sister story line from the winter finale. What can we expect from it going forward?
Safran: All will be revealed by Episode 15. In fact, Episode 15 is probably the biggest episode in terms of the amount of stuff that happens pulling together and exploding. It's a big one across the board. The Miranda/Charlie story comes to a head, the Miranda story comes to a head, Caleb/Shelby comes to a head.
Is that when we find out where Liam took Alex on New Year's Eve?
Safran: Actually yes! [Laughs] You might find out sooner, but there is a dedicated story to that night in that episode.
Will we find out exactly what went down in Chicago and Omaha?
Safran: Those pieces are still there and they will come together. Chicago and Omaha are not isolated incidents as it regards Grand Central. There is a link between all of them.
You jumped ahead another three months, but is the past ever going to catch up to the future?
Safran: [In] Episode 22, the Quantico side will catch up to a month before the Grand Central bombing. It will never catch up fully. It will catch up enough. The month we don't see is inconsequential. It's a month where everyone is off and happy!
And you still haven't changed your plan for the finale?
Safran: Nope, it's not gonna change. We always knew. Meaning if we hadn't gotten a back nine [episode order], that ending would've still been the ending.
Has Ryan played or performed the song he wrote for Alex?
Safran: [Laughs] No, but we should make Jake record it. I'll talk to Jake about doing it for a DVD extra or something.
Quantico airs Sundays at 10/9c on ABC.