[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Monday's episode of Quantico. Read at your own risk.]
Showrunner Joshua Safran told TVGuide.com in late January about the episode, which was filmed the week President Trump issued his immigration ban order. While Trump's ban has been shot down, Quantico's bill was passed despite Clay (Hunter Parrish), Shelby (Johanna Braddy), Ryan (Jake McLaughlin) and Nimah's (Yasmine Al Massri) attempts to pick up swing votes. Its passage was never in doubt after a terrorist attack at a mall in Dayton, Ohio, for which the collaborators framed — you guessed it — Raina (Al Massri), who had been investigating the AIC along with Leon (Aaron Diaz).
That's when everyone realizes what this is really about: The shadow group wants to take down President Claire (Marcia Cross). Claire won't sign the bill, which means the next orchestrated attack orchestrated will be perceived to be her fault. There will be huge pressure for her to resign, and because her VP nominee has been in Senate purgatory, Speaker of the House/collaborator Henry Roarke (Dennis Boutsikaris), the main force behind the bill, would be the next in line to become POTUS. (Talk about long ball, huh?) Complicating matters: Raina has been ID'd as the bomber. Feeling guilty about what she put her sis through during the G20, Nimah convinces Raina to let her turn herself in as Raina. This'll turn out well.
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Meanwhile, Sasha (Karolina Wydra) is flagged as a Russian asset, but she assures Ryan that she only helps the FSB from time to time in exchange for them keeping her parents safe. Alex and Owen's (Blair Underwood) mission to nail the goons who framed Raina ends in a shootout, during which Owen freezes, prompting him to ask Alex later for help. As they head out, Sebastian (David Lim) follows them.
Safran breaks down the episode below, including the "tough day" they had on set and what's ahead now that we know the shadow group's ultimate plan.
A lot of people might assume this was in response to Trump, but you guys were filming it while the travel ban was announced.
Joshua Safran: Yes, we wrote it beforehand and then the travel ban was announced as we were shooting. We planned this storyline probably in the beginning of December and the script was written over our hiatus, Christmastime, so when we came back on Jan. 3 or 4, the script was done.
What was everyone's reaction when the ban was announced?
Safran: It was a tough day when the travel ban happened. It was just weird timing. It was especially tough because that was actually the day we were shooting all the stuff that took place in the Capitol with Yasmine and Hunter and Johanna and Jake. We knew we were doing topical things anyway because that was our point in this back nine [episodes], but it definitely made for a more somber air that day because suddenly we were not just in the realm of fiction.
Was there anything you guys amended or cut?
Safran: No. Didn't touch a thing. We left it as it was.
What do you hope fans get out of this episode? It's so on-the-nose right now.
Safran: We didn't do it for fan service. Again, this back nine is about looking at our contemporary political landscape and trying to find a way to reflect it. ... The thing about fiction is that it allows for us to disconnect in a way because we know it's fiction. And then you slowly get sucked in and see the parallels and actually feel what the characters are feeling. I look to fiction to do that. That initial distance is comforting and then you slowly feel the discomfort of what's happening because you understand how it relates to what's happening in the real world. I don't know. I hope they enjoy the episode, that it sparks conversation.
I think ultimately, as we are doing in this back nine, it isn't like, hey, the Muslim registry is bad; it's also [to show] that these things are done for political purposes. People use people for political gain as opposed to, it's a belief that they truly believe in. You see a bunch of representatives on our show saying, "I'm going to vote for it for these reasons that actually have nothing to with the humans that are involved." That's what Nimah calls them out on. I just hope people watch it and understand that in politics right now we're all caught up with people speaking for us but not on our behalf.
We find out that this is part of their plan to take down Claire. What is the shadow group's next move? Is there going to be another attack to force her to resign?
Safran: There may be, but I can't say just yet. But yes, they have gotten what they wanted and now the next phase begins. The next episode we dive a little deeper into Henry Roarke, who you don't really meet in this episode; you just see him on television. You're going to learn a lot more about him and you're also going to learn who all of the collaborators are by the end of the next episode.
How much does Clay tell Claire? How much does he warn her about what's happening?
Safran: He went to tell her to sign it because he didn't want the collaborators to win, but instead Claire was like, "No, I'm doing the right thing. I don't care if I go down." I think that's her mentality now and the question is, how long can she do the right thing before they take her down? From this moment forward, it's not so much about the collaborators anymore, which is why you learn who all of them are by the next episode, but about what they're actually planning. ... There's still a procedural element because our group starts to see what the bigger picture is and they start to go after that bigger picture piece by piece.
Are we going to find out exactly why they want to take her down?
Does it have anything to do with the fact that she's a woman? Would they be doing this if she were a man?
Safran: I don't really think it has to do with her being a woman. I think her being a woman allows them ease in taking her down, unfortunately. But I think they would've taken down anybody who was there to get what they want. Actually, I take that back. I think the truth is — and I think this reflects current politics — the expectation is that their side would've been in power. So when they weren't in power, whoever would've gotten in power they would've taken down.
Nimah and Raina swapped identities. Is anyone going to realize?
Safran: The most unlikely person realizes first, I'll say that. It's a really funny moment.
Would Nimah have done this if she hadn't used Raina during the G20? It seemed like she just did it out of guilt.
Safran: Nimah feels like Raina is in the position she's in because of her and this is her way to pay penance for that. Thematically, the first half of the season was, sometimes you have to do bad to do good. The second half of the season is, sometimes you have to pay the price for doing that bad thing to do good.
What's the next step there? Can they get her exonerated?
Safran: Nimah is going to pretend to be Raina for a while. Exonerating her is not likely. I don't want to give too much away. We have jumped a little out of fantasyland, where things on the show could be resolved very quickly. You do see in the back nine there's a lot more air in the show, a lot more time with the characters. If you go to jail and the people who put you in jail are in power, you're not getting out of jail until they're out power, and what if they're never out of power? So that is not an easily solved issue nor is it necessarily even solved.
Is Sasha telling the truth about her ties to the FSB?
Safran: I don't want to say ... but the definitive answer to that question is in the next episode.
How much is her and Ryan's relationship going to progress? He told Alex to mind her own business.
Safran: I think he believes he's an adult and he's capable of making his own choices and own mistakes and he's not going to listen to Alex tell him what to do anymore. He's not a quarterback and she's not the coach. It's his own life. I think that's more what it's about. You'll see him being a good agent in the next episode. This is not a story of a guy who's blindly not paying attention to what's happening around him.
How does Alex help Owen become the agent he wants to be?
Safran: The opening of the next episode is really fun. What we wanted to do and were not able to do because the episodes were fairly complicated to produce this back nine ... we weren't able to go to the location I wanted, but there is still a very fun location. You'll see her help him. After you watch it, I'll tell you what was planned.
It's a role reversal, but they're also equals now.
Safran: Yes. The way we talk about them, and Blair and Pri are really great at this, is that they really are equals. She's never truly had an equal before. He might have been her if he hadn't gotten benched all those years ago. So they have things to teach each other, help each other. The mentor-mentee relationship flips all the time between them and I really love that. They have a true equality between them. The playfulness in their scenes is just fun.
Why is Sebastian spying on them?
Safran: That is all cleared up in the next episode, for better or for worse.
What happened to Harry (Russell Tovey)?
Safran: I can't say you're not going to see him again, but I will say that Harry's fate is answered in the next episode. Miranda (Aunjanue Ellis) and Caleb (Graham Rogers) also return in the next episode.
Quantico airs Mondays at 10/9c on ABC.