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Plus: The decision to switch to a single timeline
[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Monday's episode of Quantico. Read at your own risk.]
Is Alex getting framed again?
In the final moments of Quantico's winter premiere Monday, Miranda (Aunjanue Ellis) instructs Alex (Priyanka Chopra) at gunpoint to drive, before telling her, "I am one of the terrorists. And after the conversation that we are about to have, you will be too."
There will surely be more than meets the eye -- especially since Shelby (Johanna Braddy) had informed Alex and Hannah (Eliza Coupe) that the AIC are not the real terrorists; they're the target of the terrorists. Or as Hannah puts it: "One group of rogue agents has taken another group of rogue agents hostage." Got it? Good.
Meanwhile, in the Farm timeline, Alex and Harry (Russell Tovey) go rogue themselves to investigate a beaten-down Owen (Blair Underwood), going as far to drug him with a radioactive bug (just go with it) that will stay in his system for eight days. But all's not well between Alex and Ryan (Jake McLaughlin), who thinks he's so special with his secret AIC phone. Not that special: Alex got one too! But now knowing the AIC might not be evil, does this mean Ryan is not a real terrorist?
Showrunner Joshua Safran breaks down the latest twists below, and shares details about the show's switch to a single timeline later this season, as well as how Chopra helped turn The Farm's seduction assignment into a feminist drop-the-mic moment.
That was a smart move to have Alex explain everything that's happened to Hannah to catch everyone up since the break.
Josh Safran: Yeah, once they moved us [to Mondays], it allowed us to look at how we were telling the crisis storyline and tweak it. We were able to go to Eliza Coupe and get her back ... and use her to give people an update. If they haven't seen the first eight [episodes] or if they've never seen the show before, they can get caught up in a few minutes.
Where is Miranda taking Alex?
Safran: You'll know in the first 10 seconds of the next episode. I would say the first eight episodes set up a lot of the pins and the next two or three knock them all down. You will not have to wait for answers. I think pretty much everything is answered by Episode 11.
What did she mean by "I am one of the terrorists and after the conversation we are about to have, you will be one too"? Is she part of the AIC?
Safran: It is immediately discussed. It's a pretty shocking thing for Alex to hear, but Miranda will explain it all as promised.
What is going through Alex's mind at this point? She just found out that Miranda was around and was ignoring her.
Safran: I think she is beginning to realize that it goes deeper than she thought and that maybe what she has been witnessing wasn't what she thought it was. She's about to get some answers. I think in a weird way, even if she thinks Miranda is up to something, she still trusts Miranda, so we're going to decide if we do too.
This is not going to be another framing Alex situation?
Safran: Nope. Not at all. She's definitely not on the run. In the next episode, she arrives at a destination and stays there.
Is what Shelby says about the AIC true? They're a target of the actual terrorists?
Safran: I can tell you or you can watch next week's. [Laughs] But I can tell you that Shelby is onto something for sure.
Is this something she just figured out in that moment? Because it seems like it, but she had also been researching the AIC for months.
Safran: It's so funny you ask. I love how astute you are when you watch. What happened was, when we moved to Mondays and had an ability to look at the crisis storyline and make sure we were telling it for newer audiences better, we had to eliminate a storyline. So the storyline we had to eliminate to make room for Eliza Coupe was how Shelby put all that together.
We shot it all and the episode was locked and when the move happened, we had to go back and open it up and do all this stuff to it. But because Hannah knows Shelby and she's worked with her before, she gives Shelby the com to listen in, which allows Shelby to put things together while listening. Whereas in the previous incarnation of Episode 9, Shelby had a lot of her own legwork to do. She had like 10 seconds with Alex when she was first brought in before the military came in and Alex said, "Please look into these three things," like the guy who was killed in front of her. Shelby went off on her own way, but we had to eliminate that for time and I thought that was a really smart solution, because Hannah would trust Shelby.
This reframes everything we thought we knew about Ryan. He could've been protecting her in the midseason finale.
Safran: Yes, that definitely is a good theory.
Is General Richards going to go through with the strike?
Safran: That is the plot of the next episode. Marcia Cross is part of that story. You'll see one of our characters try to convince Marcia Cross not to go through with the strike.
Dayana (Pearl Thusi) seems to be the most suspicious now, since she's in the photo Shelby has of the First Lady and the guy killed in front of Alex, and Shelby thinks they were on the kill team sent to take out the journalist in Surabaya. Will we learn more about what happened in Surabaya?
Safran: You'll learn about it. We moved so many things around, but you will definitely learn and if you don't, ask me about it because I'll explain it all to you! It used to be discussed in depth, but we realized once you know what happened in Surabaya, we felt like, OK, we don't need to see that out.
Who is Dayana talking to on the phone in the Farm timeline?
Safran: You will find out in the final seconds of Episode 10.
She tells whoever it is that Leon (Aaron Diaz) is weak, and it cuts to Leon seeing Nimah (Yasmine Al Massri) coming out of Shelby's house. Is he actually weak, or is he smarter than everyone gives him credit for?
Safran: I think it's both. He's definitely smarter, but as a photojournalist, he's good at fading away a little bit and watching than doing things together. So I think he doesn't necessarily have the killer instinct, whereas Dayana has had that in her past. I think she's onto something, but Dayana has some weaknesses of her own. I think she calls them weaknesses, but I would say humanity. I think Leon has a lot of humanity and I think Dayana does too, but she's trying to kill that in herself a little bit.
How serious do Leon and Shelby get? She tells Hannah in the present that Leon is not a terrorist, "not if he's the man that I know."
Safran: I would say it's pretty hot and heavy with them! They have pretty great chemistry. I would say it's safe to assume, with 22 episodes, that he will [find out who she is].
What's Alex and Ryan's status now? We talked about how he may have proposed out of guilt, but in this episode, he seemed kind of smug, thinking he was the only one with the phone, telling her, "They chose me, not you." And he was shocked when she had her own phone.
Safran: Yes, that is definitely going to be an issue going forward. I think Ryan is struggling with the idea that he could be blindsided by someone close to him. And Alex is struggling with the idea that Ryan wouldn't just assume that, because they're both just doing their jobs.
What are Alex and Harry going to learn from tracking Owen?
Safran: They're going to learn less than what they had hoped. You'll find out in the next episode. That opens the door to learning everything. By the end of the next episode, there is a pretty strong Owen twist that Alex and Harry are privy to.
Is this related to Helen Sharp?
Safran: I'm not going to say, but there's some stuff coming with Helen Sharp in the near future. Helen Sharp plays in pretty prominently very soon.
Owen is in a pretty deep funk right now that Lydia's gone. Does he snap out of it?
Safran: He does not snap out of it. Poor guy.
He and Alex had a great conversation in the hotel room, with her calling out the objectification of women and turning it back on Owen. The next shot he was in the hallway. What, if anything, happened between them? I like to believe that she just walked out.
Safran: We don't really answer that, but while we love leaving things open to interpretation, there's no secret there. It's not like we're revealing later that something happened. I like to believe that they just talked a little bit further. Some people might think they kissed, but it's not a story that comes back. There's no flashback to that room or a fallout, except for the fact that Alex is standing up to Owen and is proving more to be an equal than a student. I think that's where we're going with that.
I also have to credit Priyanka for that speech. When we told Priyanka the seduction storyline and what they do in the CIA, using your body to get what you might need, she had a lot of smart thoughts. She said it just seemed very antiquated because you don't have to use sex to get what you want; you can use your sexuality just as easily. Sometimes the tease gets more than the giving-in. We had a really long talk with her, and that speech was really born out of those conversations with her.
You could've easily done a retread of the Liam/New Year's Eve thing.
Safran: Yeah, we're definitely not doing that. Been there, done that! Regretted it ever since, except when you look at the fact that Liam totally created that situation and fostered it and he's a terrorist!
Sebastian (David Lim) slept with Carly (Paige Patterson) and he's completely torn up about it. I like the heart-to-heart he has with Harry, who's shaken by their conversation. What's next for them?
Safran: I think some of the best acting Russell has done on the show is coming up in relation to that scene. Harry has been pushing Sebastian and he realizes in this moment that he may have pushed Sebastian too far. As to why he's reacting so strongly [it] has to do with his backstory and we will learn the entire backstory very soon, because he's very shaken up by what Sebastian has said to him. There's a really incredible monologue that Russell gives in an upcoming episode that is the longest shot in Quantico history.
Is this like a Birdman situation? Russell Tovey uncut for 44 minutes?
Safran: [Laughs] Yes, it is! It's a pretty great scene and he did a wonderful job with it.
I'm assuming it's related to Elliott.
Safran: Yes, it is.
Sebastian calls Carly at the end. Is he going to pursue this relationship?
Safran: If you recall in an earlier episode, there was a little tidbit about Sebastian during the hostage crisis, and if you put two and two together, that's Carly. Paige is great. She's one of the leads on BrainDead. [Producer] Beth Schacter knows [BrainDead creators Robert and Michelle King] and the Kings have always been very nice to us. We mentioned The Good Wife in Season 1 and Michelle King came over into our office with cookies the next day, which was so lovely. We wanted to name Paige's character the same name as her BrainDead character, because they both worked on Capitol Hill and we thought it was a fun in-joke. But we had to start shooting before we were able to figure out we could do that. We couldn't clear it in time and when we did, it was like, "Do we wanna go back in and ADR it?" And it was like, "No." [Laughs]
The debate we have with Sebastian is: if you're not true to who you are, can you really have a happy ending? All of us are very inspired to talk about him. It's not an easy story of "I'm secretly gay." That's not his story at all. For people who have an issue with sexuality and decide to put their sexuality aside for their relationship with God, it's not about being fixed. It's about what you believe on a fundamental level and that doesn't really change. We get into that in an upcoming episode. It might frustrate audiences who might want Harry and Sebastian to get together, but it's more important for us that they're not. Sebastian's life might be with Carly and some might think it's sad, but others might be like, "No, Harry's putting these thoughts in his head. They shouldn't be together."
You're switching to a single timeline with Episode 14. When did you plan this and why?
Safran: It actually happens during Episode 13. We had planned this from the beginning of the season. Part of the reason was last season was really difficult. When you have a pilot made and go to series, you have the initial 12 episodes and you don't know if you're going to get the back nine [order]. So you can't plan a whole year. Once we got back nine last year, it was like, "Do we move to a single timeline?" And we decided not to because we really loved the way the two timelines talk to each other. The problem was we had to introduce a new class of recruits and we didn't want to do that this year. "Hey, here's the new class at The Farm!" We thought it'd be better to go to a single timeline. It's still the same story; it's not like 14 starts a new story. It's after the events of the hostage crisis and it's sort of the aftermath. We're still talking about the past and how we got here, but we're just not showing the two timelines. Let's say Harry survives -- I think it's fairly obvious Harry survives. [But] whatever happened at The Farm is part of his history.
Having done both now, do you prefer one to the other?
Safran: It's on one hand a brand new series -- 14, you could show up having never seen an episode of Quantico and get into it. If you had seen it, you'd say, "OK, I get it totally." It's not a reset because it's a continuation, but I think the single timeline allows more. They both have positives. When there are two timelines, you're seeing a moment in time and you're cutting to a year later and seeing how that moment has changed that person's life. In a single timeline, you see a moment in time in Act 1 and see right after it how it reverberates, which is really great, but you're not necessarily seeing yet the total difference. That gives you a certain amount to play with.
Quantico airs Mondays at 10/9c on ABC.