[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Sunday's episode of Quantico. Read at your own risk.]
The Curious Case of Simon Asher just got a little clearer. Or did it?
With Elias (Rick Cosnett) still hot on his tail on Quantico, Simon (Tate Ellington) tried to take some of the heat off of himself on Sunday's episode by inviting his "boyfriend" Max (Maxwell Eddy) to the fancy shindig the trainees were attending on assignment as their undercover personalities. Hoping to sniff out Simon for good, Elias approaches Max in a hotel room, where Max shares that he had only met Simon once in Grand Central Station and Simon just randomly friended him on Facebook out of the blue to come down and play his beau for the night. Pissed, Elias confronts Simon and warns that he's gonna spill all to Miranda (Aunjanue Ellis) the next day. The crux of his anger: Simon pretending to be gay, since he was never bullied or fought for marriage equality like Elias was. "Don't co-opt that struggle," he fumes.
In a Hail Mary, Simon tearfully spills all to Elias: He was in the Israeli Defense Force and, traumatized by things he had done and seen in Gaza, coped by reinventing himself as a whole new person. "I don't wear glasses, I don't even like coffee and I'm not..." he says, barely getting the word "gay" out. "I understand if you hate me." Instead, Elias decides not to turn Simon in, but suggests that he keeps wearing glasses because he looks good with them. (Clearly, he does not heed his advice! Tsk, tsk.)
Simon gets another lucky break in the present following Alex's (Priyanka Chopra) first public statement declaring her innocence, which she broadcasts from a mosque with the help of the Unknown hacker group. Alex — who, according to Past Liam (Josh Hopkins), has intel on everyone at Quantico — evades the FBI yet again by wearing a hijab among a sea of fellow female worshippers and leaves Shelby (Johanna Braddy) behind. Shelby, however, does not give up Simon and Ryan (Jake McLaughlin) because she believes Alex is innocent. Who could've framed her? Maybe Caleb (Graham Rogers), whose name is on a list of agents who were at Grand Central the day of the bombing — and who finally hit the sheets with Shelby in the past. (Not to be outdone, Alex and Ryan hooked up again in the past.)
So did Simon actually come clean? What will Elias do with this info now? Is Simon really on Team Alex? Ellington answers our burning questions about the most enigmatic trainee of them all.
Was Simon telling the truth or was he just playing Elias to get him off his back?
Tate Ellington: That's what I love. For me, I still don't think there's a definite answer. People are definitely going to have strong opinions after this episode. There are things that happen in [Episode] 6 that just twists it a little bit more. ... There is stuff that comes up in 6 that still makes it like, "Well, did he give an answer or not?" That's what I want. You're still not sure even when he seemingly gives you an answer, but you're like, "Wait, he never really says anything." ... [Elias] was already suspecting this stuff. So maybe I'll wear contacts instead of glasses now! Me and [creator] Josh [Safran] had a talk, and he told me some more backstory on Simon and some of the things that happened to him, and he's sticking to that. It can all change, but there's still a question there, I think, about [his sexuality]. As more is revealed, you won't necessarily get a full label or answer.
It's also not black and white like loving or hating coffee.
Ellington: Exactly. Sexuality is fluid. Maybe he doesn't really know himself right now. ... I played it very much as he was telling the truth. It was a major confessional moment. I think it's him wanting to confess to someone. It's something that's been on him for a long time. If he is telling the truth, then he has fully come up with a new personality to cope with things that he's done. That's a pretty heavy psychological burden and to go to those lengths to do that and cope with whatever you've done is fairly extreme. That points to him being involved in an extreme thing, so I decided to play it as him really confessing to at that point a potential enemy that you want to keep close. I kind of like that relationship. It's like the bully who beats up on you and you tell him the truth of what's really going on for you. How much of it is the truth? I don't know. It's definitely saying as much as you can, wanting to really get something off your chest.
Simon's very purposely guarded. Would you agree this was his most honest, vulnerable moment?
Ellington: That's what I tried for as much as possible, really lay it in that this is him putting it all on the line. It really is him putting it all in Elias' hands: You do with this information what you will. You are onto me on some things. I'm tired of keeping this secret. I think it his being open and vulnerable as he can be. Elias could turn him in or be his friend and look after him.
He chooses not to turn him in. Is that because he sympathizes with him or do you think it's more calculated than that? He'll have this in his back pocket to lord over Simon.
Ellington: I think this has to do with [Elias'] feelings of being used. I loved the speech Rick gave. It's one of my favorite moments so far. ... He's like, "I feel very offended. I've been beat up, I have been called names because I'm gay. How dare you co-opt this and say you've had the same experience and steal this? You don't have the right." I think that's true and that gets to the heart of it. Before he wanted to figure it out and now he's like, "How dare you? You're stealing something that's not yours to take, all this collective history you can't have."
By the end of it, I think there will be a potential friendship that develops. That could easily change, but at the end of the last scene, Rick makes a joke about his glasses. And he has a right to rat him out and fully destroy him. You don't see him do that by the end. That's the key thing for people to think about. He has this guy's life in his hands at this point. It'll be interesting to see what he does with it. For him to say, "I have endured all these things," but being able to say, "OK, this other human being has endured things I don't know and maybe I can try to understand that," is fascinating. We come from the same place of being hurt and having problems, which we all have. I think that's a really nice moment with them.
What will their relationship be like now?
Ellington: You'll see a lot more in the next two episodes. I'm sort of interested to see if anything comes up with Elias in the future, where that will go and what comes back. What's so fun about the show is you find out these tidbits and you're like, "Oh, crap! How did that happen?"
Can we agree that Elias is creepier than Simon? He was just staring at him in the doorway the other week. Not very discreet.
Ellington: [Laughs] Thank you! That's the thing with all of us: We're all sort of leering. I made fun of Jake for Ryan always following Priyanka. At least I'm not stalking anyone, weirdo! With Elias, it's just like, lay off! Get a hobby. Maybe now he will. I'm excited to see where they go with Elias. We've just seen him dig into Simon. Will he dig into anyone else?
Simon also makes a bit of headway with the twins. What's next for them?
Ellington: There's a lot of stuff that happens very quickly. To some degree, I may find out Simon's playing everyone and it's a total mind game! I do think he's genuinely looking for his place in the world and where he fits. With Raina and Nimah (Yasmine Al Massri), it's one of those things from an audience perspective, it's who does he like? He's potentially dating two people. He suspected something about them, but is he onto them more than he lets on?
Shelby let you off the hook in the present. Are the three of you going to work together now?
Ellington: You see more of this old team in the future. She's starting to believe [Alex didn't do it]. But also, one of us could totally be the person and we're just faking it. We don't know yet. It's been nice seeing that nice theme develop around Alex. I love the relationship between Ryan and Simon. I love that they're roommates and he was the person Ryan told Alex to go to for help. We know there's some history with Alex and Shelby. She's sort of on Team Alex.
Is Simon really on Team Alex?
Ellington: Even when he's there, you don't know. Playing him, I'm trying to play them straightforward. We've seen them all lie, so they're good at it. They have to pretend to help her and get things back to normal. We have some new stuff revealed with Shelby later that throws her into the light. Same with Caleb. ... The next episode, you get new information that throws your whole blueprint off.
When will we find out how and why Simon got kicked out of the FBI?
Ellington: That's the one I don't know yet. I feel like we're heading in a direction that is maybe leading towards it. ... I thought it was gonna be the "Is he gay? Is he not?" thing. Now I'm not sure that's gonna be part of it. I think there's other stuff coming that's gonna be heavier than that. ... When we find out more about his past, there's some stuff there that really, really had a bad psychological effect on him. Things in Gaza, things he participated in inadvertently that he may not have wanted to that have heavily weighed on him. He's done whatever he could to escape that person and I don't think he's realized he can't. He's trying to make amends. That's why him opening up to Elias and Raina is very dangerous for him. That's why he's so guarded and potentially volatile when he does let his guard down. I think he wants to be under a façade of [being] genuine and honest, and [also be] this heartless person. ... He sees things very black and white, which could be very dangerous for someone. As much as he is potentially lying about everything, I do think he has a very honest heart. He wants to do what he's supposed to do.
I know you're a big Lost fan, so have you confessed your fandom to Mark Pellegrino yet?
Ellington: He was there for the third episode and I was on the other set. I was trying so hard to be cool. I told my wife, and she was like, "Are you gonna tell him?" I said, "No, not today. Let me give it a beat." I missed my opportunity because I didn't realize he was only gonna be there for a day. Then I got the script for the next episode and was like, "Thank God he's back!" But I haven't fully laid in to Lost yet. We talk, and he's awesome. We sit in the chairs and read. We were reading The Martian before the movie came out. I'm one of the oldest people on Quantico, and my friend and I used to watch his movie Drowning Mona in college. He's got some freakin' hilarious scenes in it. So I was like, "Mention that one. It's obscure. Don't go for the main thing." But Lost, I still haven't gotten there yet. It's like trying to ask out someone to prom.
You should hand him a note: "Can we talk about Lost? Check yes or no."
Ellington: [Laughs] Oh, yes, totally! Check it off and pass it back to a friend. I love that show and that's what I love about Quantico — the back and forth, the different timelines. You always couldn't wait until the next episode. ... I'm always dying to get the next script to see what crazy thing happens. And there's some stuff coming up that I never would've guessed.
Quantico airs Sundays at 10/9c on ABC.