[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Monday's episode of Quantico. Read at your own risk.]
With just two episodes left in the season, Quantico used its antepenultimate hour to crash everyone down to their lowest point yet. It's surely setting up a denouement for Alex (Priyanka Chopra) & Co. where they finally prevail against the collaborators, but things definitely aren't looking good at the moment.
Trying to prove Alex's loyalty, the collaborators put her through a series of tests. That includes forcing Keyes (Henry Czerny) to resign from the CIA, and using her as a Trojan Horse to carry poison via a water bottle into the FBI, in order to frame Claire (Marcia Cross) for infecting the agent leading the investigation in Claire's impeachment. Alex and Ryan (Jake McLaughlin), who tracked her down, initially try to stop her, but at Owen's (Blair Underwood) behest to keep up the charade that she has turned, Alex knocks Ryan out and lets the collaborators' plan play out.
While Alex is able to put the mission before her own feelings for once, Raina (Yasmine Al Massri) could only think about saving Nimah, whom Felix (Jon Kortajarena) had promised to help her free. She sabotages Clay (Hunter Parrish) and Shelby's (Johanna Braddy) scheme to frame Felix and thus Roarke (Dennis Boutsikaris) for colluding with the Russians.
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In the end, Felix resigns and so does Claire, meaning Roarke will now become POTUS, just like the collaborators wanted. On top of that, Clay steps down as head of the task force, but not before admitting he has feelings for Shelby. There were no happy endings for anyone, but there was a W in one way, even if no one besides Owen can see it yet: Alex staying the course means that she's fully in with the collaborators.
So what's next? Will we see Clay again? Is Felix actually helping Raina? Creator and showrunner Joshua Safran answers our burning questions.
So that was bleak. Did you deliberately plan on them suffering so many losses at once?
Josh Safran: I was very grateful for the network, after a long time of the characters having wins, allowing us for multiple episodes where our characters don't always win and in some cases get set back. I just appreciated that and ... that sort of gave the writers and me freedom to explore what it's like to fully lose. It can be demoralizing. We always knew that Claire was going to be impeached. Even if that wasn't the plot of this season, on our show nothing good lasts forever. Things change and allegiances shift and that's what we do. That just allowed us to play into that.
But there was an entire last scene cut out of the episode. When the director, Cherien Dabis, who was one of our writers last season, turned in the director's cut, she had taken that last scene out. She had texted us and said, "I think it plays better without it." We watched it and it absolutely did. It was supposed to end with a scene of Alex rallying the troops to not accept defeat, but it played better without it and the network and studio agreed.
It's more poignant without it. I liked the juxtaposing plots of Alex seeing the bigger picture versus Raina having the narrow focus of saving Nimah. There's no right or wrong answer, but sometimes you have to make a choice you don't want to.
Safran: Right. The whole season has been Alex learning to do bad to do good, which was the premise of the premiere this year. And she's finally comfortable in the gray area that she was not comfortable in the first half of the season at all. Raina is the idealist and Nimah is the one comfortable in the gray area. Raina is the most going towards the light of all of our characters, I'd say. It's the way the characters would react to those things. I think they're both valid positions. It's just what Alex is experiencing is a political maneuver because that's her choice for what she's doing and Raina is on a personal, emotional level.
Do you think Ryan and Raina couldn't be objective because they had such personal feelings attached? Ryan is still hung up on Alex.
Safran: Yeah, in the next episode, you see that continue -- the Ryan and Raina conversation about that. They have one of Yasmine's most funny line readings as Raina to Ryan about that next week.
Does Ryan understand on some level that Alex did what she had to do? Is he just angry about being left out of the loop?
Safran: Yes, I think he understands. But like he says, when she goes rogue, people around her get hurt. I think what he has to come around to learning is that that is the nature of their business. If you are going to be her partner or not, that is what happens. That is a question that is going to be answered in the remaining two episodes.
What about Raina?
Safran: Raina is very key in the next two episodes. She allows for a turning point in the whole story. She definitely makes a choice.
Is Feliz genuinely helping her with Nimah?
Safran: I don't want to give too much away, but he tries his best to help her and the question is whether he can still help her even though she was inadvertently involved in getting him in trouble and forcing him to resign and potentially lose his green card. He definitely has some residual issues with her even though it's not her fault.
He's refreshing in that he really is just looking out for himself and reacts very directly to things.
Safran: You'll see Felix again. The writers and I have talked about how he is a character who was always out for himself, but he probably is also the truth-teller. Raina is emotional, so she can sometimes speak out of emotion that isn't necessarily the truth, but Felix is the truth-teller. He is very clear about who he is. He's like, "This is what I'm doing." Clay's like, "I don't know what side he's on." But Felix is very clear: "I believe in my boss, I'm doing my job." He's probably the most honest character.
Clay stepped down, but I'm assuming we'll see him again.
Safran: We will see him again, but this was at one point potentially going to be Hunter's last episode, so we had to write it as if we wouldn't see him again, but while we were writing it, he became available for the final two, which we all wanted, but it became an issue of scheduling. You could never see him again from this episode, but you will. ... He's now a civilian for the first time in his life, which is a new side of Clay that we haven't seen before.
What about Clay and Shelby?
Safran: That story continues, but I can't say how. It's very much in the style of a '30s or '40s movie. We're not pushing them towards anything; it's just like the organic exploration of their feelings.
Where is Ryan going at the end?
Safran: He wants to leave, but he's unable to leave because the FBI is doing a sweep of The Farm. That is the one unfortunate casualty of the last scene being cut because it had information in it. The next episode, that information is also there, but I wouldn't be surprised if it takes the audience a second to understand why Ryan packed his bags at the end of this episode. [In the cut scene] Raina was going to leave with him and they're told by Owen that they can't leave because the FBI is coming to do a sweep.
What is Owen's mindset now? Does he feel confident he's back on his game?
Safran: Yes. I think Owen is very much learning what his role is. He went from being angry that he was a teacher and not an operative to being an operative and realizing "maybe I don't have what it takes" or "maybe I do." And where we're coming out the other side is, "I am OK. I've learned enough that my job maybe is to operate somebody else. Maybe that's what my role was always meant to be."
What is their next move?
Safran: The tricky thing is even though this all fell apart and Claire got impeached, Alex did what was asked of her, so the collaborators believe that she's on their side. She's going to get a front row seat to what they're really after. And again, that was also in the scene that was cut. The characters have all known that the collaborators wanted Claire gone and for Roarke to be president, but the question is why. The next episode answers the why. The next one is our big action episode. ... That plot happens early in the episode, so there's a lot of fallout from it and a lot of emotional conversations.
Miranda (Aunjanue Ellis) and Will (Jay Armstrong Johnson) are back next week. What can you tease about that?
Safran: You're going to have to watch! It's fun. You'll see Keyes as well and all of our collaborators. You will not see Marcia again. I will say that.
Is Notting Hill Ryan's favorite movie or just his favorite movie to decompress to?
Safran: [Laughs] Well, you heard what he said. He lived 13 Hours, so he needs the escapism of Notting Hill.
He's just a boy sitting on a couch...
Safran: Exactly! Whereas Shelby has lived Notting Hill, so she needs the escapism of 13 Hours.
Quantico airs Mondays at 10/9c on ABC.