Quantico 1.1-1.4: The Blacklist Meets How to Get Away With Murder; What We Know So Far

Flash forwards seem to be all the rage this season, and Quantico uses them as its main plot device – going between Alex Parrish starting her training at Quantico to 9 months later when she ends up a suspected terrorist. To clear her name, she tries to investigate the Grand Central Station bombing and find out who really planned it, with the help of a few of her fellow trainees. Each week we learn a little more about what happened in the interim and the various people involved.

Since lots of good recaps exist out there for each individual episode, and I’m adding Quantico to the Fangirl Forum after 6 episodes have aired, I’d rather focus on the clues and character info we’ve learned up until now. Thus, there will of course be spoilers. Consider yourself warned. :-)

At Quantico (9 months ago to Present Day)

The tagline description of Quantico is “100,000 apply, only 1,200 get in. One will become our nation’s biggest threat.”

I don’t know if those statistics are true, but it wouldn’t surprise me. The pilot episode also makes it clear that while 1,200 students may get accepted to Quantico, only a portion of them actually graduate. Each assignment and test comes with the risk of elimination if it’s failed. And since 1,200 is a bit too many characters for even this show to handle, there are 50 in the class we’re following. They’re known as New Agent Trainees, or NATs.

Alex Parish

The main character is Alex Parish, an extremely observant and talented agent-in-training. When she was a child, maybe 13 or 14, she overheard a horrible argument between her parents – and it’s implied her father was regularly abusive to her mother. During the argument, her father yells to her mother “Stop lying to [Alex]. Tell her the truth for once in your life, Sita.” Alex then shoots her father to stop him from beating her mother (although her mother took the blame and claimed she shot him in self-defense, it’s only later that Alex admits the truth to Liam then eventually Ryan and Shelby too). After shooting him, she learns her father was an FBI agent, which is one of the reasons she wanted to become one. Knowing her mother wouldn’t approve, she lied about it and told her mother she was going off to graduate school. At Quantico, she asks Liam if he can get her her father’s file so she can learn more about him.

The second episode showcases Alex’s genius, as she’s the only recruit ever to succeed in the how-to-find-a-terrorist training exercise (auspicious considering her eventual circumstances). In the third episode we learn more about her character. The recruits are instructed to each recommend 3 people to be cut from the program or Miranda herself will cut 10. Alex gets everyone to agree not to submit names, saying it’s better for Miranda to eliminate 10 of them than for them to turn on each other.

When she finally gets her father’s file from Liam, she ends up confessing everything to Ryan, bringing them closer when he offers her his support. The file showed her father was a decorated agent who saved a lot of lives, so now rather than feeling justified over killing an abusive husband she feels like she shot a hero. Ryan’s there for her. In the fourth episode when Alex is on the verge of quitting the FBI over her guilt for killing her hero father, Ryan has Miranda talk to her, and Alex learns (from Miranda) that her father did have a terrible reputation. He was often drunk, he abused authority, and he did threaten her mother’s life on more than one occasion.

Ryan Booth

This is Alex’s main love interest. They sleep together in the pilot as a random hook-up when they meet on a plane, neither knowing the other is going to Quantico – or so we think. It turns out that Ryan is already a full FBI agent, and Liam (see below) has put him there to get close to Alex and spy on her. When Ryan tries to find out more about why Liam’s given him this assignment, Liam refuses to say, leading to Ryan commenting “It’s Chicago all over again.” This could relate  to other references about Chicago (see Liam’s character below). Liam also threatens Ryan, telling him if he ever wants to go back to his life and his family he needs to stop asking questions and do his job.

Ryan’s clearly conflicted over his role, as during their late night chat in the third episode it becomes obvious he does sincerely care about her. That becomes even more apparent in the fourth episode. Liam tells him that Alex has been flagged as an unfit candidate, but since she’s given such an exceptional performance in everything it’s important that she quit herself. Ryan fortunately finds this as suspicious as I did, and instead of pushing her into quitting as Liam tells him to, he takes Alex to speak to Miranda and has Miranda convince Alex to stay. He also tells Miranda that he’s there undercover because Liam asked him to spy on Alex, and smartly keeps his phone on when confronting Liam so Miranda can hear Liam threaten him (see Liam below).

Simon Asher

We know there’s something suspicious about Simon from the first episode, when he asks an anonymous guy to kiss him for a photo that he places in his dorm room so he can show everyone his “boyfriend.” Later in the episode one of the characters, Nimah, uncovers the fact that he’s a virgin. He speaks Malawi, Swedish, and probably several other languages we don’t yet know about. He also traveled to Gaza to live with the Palestinians even though he’s a conservative Jew from a strongly Zionist family. He claims it’s because he wanted to be better informed, but it’s implied there’s a real reason he’s hiding.

In the second episode, after a flashback showing his interview for why he wants to join the FBI, he breaks the glasses he’s wearing then tapes them back together to continue wearing them – presumably to make himself look less threatening. The glasses themselves aren’t prescription, so he doesn’t actually need them. The third episode, in the same exercise that showcases Alex’s strength, we see Simon’s weakness. He does nominate 3 people to be cut from the program, saying he’d rather lose only 3 people than 10. Miranda then informs all of them that they run this exercise every year, but this is the first time anyone has ever turned in names, so she gives him a formal reprimand.

Nimah and Raina Amin

These two are twins posing as one person at Miranda’s request. She wants to try something new with the two of them, thus they need to learn how to trade places seamlessly and can’t let anyone find out they’re actually two twins. They’re the first experiment of their kind in bureau history.

Problems arise when Raina starts to like Simon, and she’s also a better athlete than Nimah. Niman complains that Simon always hanging around pulls her focus, and she’s frustrated that she’s only average unlike her sister. But Nimah is the one who actually wanted to join the FBI, not Raina. When Raina yells at Nimah about how annoying it is to pretend to be worse than she is, Nimah takes off, leaving a note for Raina that simply says “Let’s see how you do without me.”

In the next episode, Miranda finds Nimah and tells her that the reason she recruited the twins and came up with this plan was because of her son (see Miranda’s character later). Somehow Miranda hopes to use the two of them to infiltrate the group who corrupted her son and take them down, and other groups like them.

Shelby Wyatt

Shelby starts off as Alex’s roommate and her first real friend at Quantico. She’s from an extremely wealthy family, but her parents died on 9/11 – she carries around a piece of the plane they were in. She’s an amazing marskwoman, famous along with her father from their days hunting together. After the flashback to her FBI interview, she deletes an Arabic contact in her phone. When that person calls her, Shelby says “I thought I told you not to call me for a while.”

As she grows closer with Alex, she admits that when her parents died she was left with a mess to  clean up and learned all sorts of things her parents probably hoped she’d never find out. Then later she transfers a million dollars to someone. Hmm, slightly suspicious.

Later we learn that the Arabic contact is Shelby’s half-sister, whose existence she only discovered after her parents died.

Caleb Haas

Caleb is gorgeous with an amazing body, but is terrible at all the physical training. In the first episode, his bluffing to another student, Eric, that he knows Eric’s secret leads Eric to snap and kill a polygraph analyst before killing himself. Later we learn both of Caleb’s parents are FBI agents, plus other family members going back to Hoover’s day. It’s all he’s ever wanted to be. However, he’s kicked out for not being able to keep up with the training. His sister (another FBI special agent) makes some calls on his behalf and gets him accepted into the analyst training program, which is also at Quantico alongside the agent training program. There are only 12 analysts who work with the NATs.

He also has a fake social media (Facebook?) account under the name Mark Raymond. It has a prominent picture of Catcher in the Rye, which Caleb mentions during the evidence training exercise as a common clue for psychos.

Miranda Shaw

Miranda and Liam (see below) used to be both partners in the FBI and a couple. They both lost their families to the job. She’s the Assistant Director of Quantico, and no woman has risen higher than that position. Liam encourages her to try to break that glass ceiling. At first, she doesn’t know Liam has put Ryan in her class, but she does know he’s an undercover agent. She assumes he’s there to spy on her: “There’s always someone who knows something you don’t.” Liam lies to her, saying he has no idea who put Ryan there.

Not long ago, Miranda stopped an attack on a school, but the would-be perpetrator – who we later learn is her son Charlie – is going to be up for parole soon. Miranda visits him in prison but he doesn’t want to talk to her. We later learn Charlie was contacted online by religious extremists who gave him purpose, a purpose that somehow led to him planning an attack on his high school. Miranda learned about his plan and stopped it in time, then helped cover for him somewhat so he only went to jail for two years for unregistered possession of a firearm. She’s afraid he may try something else, though, so she’s hoping he doesn’t get parole. 

Liam O’Connor

Liam screwed up at some point in the recent past, although it’s unclear what precisely he did. It has something to do with Chicago, since Miranda says to him, “I vouched for you. They were gonna fire you after Chicago.” We do learn later the FBI stopped a terrorist attack in Chicago in 2014, so it could have something to do with that. It drove him to drink heavily nearly every night. He’s lost his family (to divorce and distance, not death), and Miranda has given him a job to allow him to ride out the days until he can retire with his pension with some dignity.

When Alex and Ryan have their bonding moment in Episode 3, Liam watches them from the shadows – kind of creepily. In the next episode he’s even more of an ass, since it turns out he lied to the FBI and told him he put Ryan on probation and he’s having him retrain at Quantico. So if he flunks Ryan out of the program, that’s the end of his FBI career.

Natalie Vasquez

She’s a former cop who’s ultra competitive with Alex and, at some point, also gets together with Ryan since she’s dating him in the present (see below). She has a scar behind her ear, which we later see is fake – it’s a sticker. She’s also eager to nominate people for elimination in the 3rd episode, but since Miranda addresses the group before she has a chance she doesn’t get reprimanded like Simon.

She has a daughter who she tries to video chat with, but the father tells her that because she left she’ll never talk to their daughter again. It’s the first moment I felt some sympathy for Natalie, who’s normally incredibly annoying in my opinion.

Elias Harper

He’s an analyst who starts out intrigued by Simon, but as he finds more and more discrepancies in Simon’s stories and character, he begins investigating Simon for real. At first Eliot admires Simon for being the first openly gay NAT in FBI history, but later when he learns Simon isn’t gay that’s a huge sore point. He discovers Simon’s glasses are fake, and he questions how Simon got into Gaza in the first place since entry requirements were really strict and he would’ve needed a Palestinian entry permit, which doesn’t exist in his name.

The Grand Central Station Bombing – Present Day

Alex wakes up in the middle of the rubble of the bombing but she’s not remotely injured. As the FBI questions her about the bombing, they tell her they received an anonymous tip that someone from her class at Quantico is the terrorist. But it soon turns out they think she’s the terrorist and are merely stalling her. The tip was real, but they’re already convinced she’s the guilty one.

While they’re stalling her, they get a team to raid her apartment where they find a bunch of evidence that Alex swears was planted – none of it was there when she left for work. They also find Ryan lying on the ground in a pool of blood, having been shot 3 times. Alex’s gun also has 3 bullets missing, which match the ones found in Ryan.

Liam (who’s now Assistant Director, possibly having replaced Miranda?) tells Alex he thinks she’s guilty, which Alex has trouble believing – she later tells Liam that he knows her better than anyone, he has to know she didn’t do this. Miranda, on the other hand, believes her. When Alex is arrested and being transported to prison, Miranda breaks her out and helps her escape. When the FBI catches Miranda and Liam questions her, Miranda tells him her belief that someone’s framing Alex. And she asks him an important question, giving us a hint as to one thing that might have happened back at Quantico: “Tell me something, Liam. When you look at her what do you see? The recruit you fell in love with? Or the terrorist who rejected you?”

Alex manages to get camera footage of her apartment from a restaurant across the street. She sees someone moving around in the room after she left, but no one entered the building after her until Ryan arrived a little later.

Natalie is part of the team who investigates Alex’s apartment, and she thinks Alex must have a safehouse or other location where she actually built the bombs used in the attack. She leaves with the others when they get a clue about Alex’s potential whereabouts, and Alex uses the distraction to get into her own apartment to grab any clues she can find (like C4) and some clothing. When Natalie returns, Alex locks herself in the bathroom, only to discover by smashing through the mirror that it opens up to another apartment – one full of, you guessed it, bomb making supplies in packages all addressed Alex Parrish. Natalie catches up with Alex and the two of them fight, during which Alex asks her “Why would I shoot the man we both love?”

When Ryan wakes up in the hospital, he instantly calls Alex to see if she’s okay. He says he can buy her some time but only if he makes it appear that he thinks he’s guilty – why he has to do this, I have no idea. But he follows through on that plan by telling Liam that Alex is the one who shot him. Again, that makes no sense to me, so if you can explain it please feel free to do so in the comments below!

The FBI eventually brings in Alex’s mom Sita. When Liam questions her, we learn the two of them are old friends. Sita’s also keeping a secret that involves both Liam and her late husband. Sita hasn’t spoken to Alex directly, however, not since she graduated from the academy.

Miranda manages to speak to Sita privately in the bathroom and says to trust her as a mother not to turn on her child. Unfortunately, Sita doesn’t listen. When the FBI show her a video of Alex beating up Simon (see below), Sita tells the FBI that Alex went to India for 10 years after her father’s death, which they already know. What they don’t know is that for 1 of those years Alex was missing. She then agrees to address the press, where she publicly states that what her daughter’s done can’t be forgiven.

As for Alex herself, she meets up with Simon since Ryan called Simon and asked him to help her. We learn Simon got kicked out of Quantico at some point and now works at a tech company. He helps Alex pull fingerprints from the C-4 she found at her apartment. They match Alex’s, BUT Alex cut her finger badly enough to scar during one training exercise back at Quantico. These fingerprints don’t have the scar, meaning someone took them from her Quantico application. This makes her realize someone has been framing her since before she ever started at the academy.

It looks like Simon’s going to betray her when the alarm goes off at his company, but Simon says he had to make it seem like he was under duress for the security cameras. So he has Alex hit him while holding him at gunpoint before she runs off. But then, making this seem like a double bluff, when Simon and Alex meet up again later at his house, he goes outside to take a call – from the Executive Assistant Director of the FBI, Clayton! Clayton tells Simon to maintain his cover and they’ll be in touch. (At some point, Clayton made Simon an FBI agent once he started working at that tech company, since Clayton needed an inside man there).

When Ryan learns the FBI is about to raid Simon’s house, he texts Simon to warn him to get Alex out. Simon ignores this, and Ryan discovers Clayton is also texting Simon, making Ryan panic and text “I trusted you!!!” to make Simon feel guilty. This seemingly works, since Simon decides to get Alex out of there before the FBI shows up, then takes her to see a bomb-maker friend of his. There they learn that a tiny piece of copper Alex found in the hidden apartment across from hers is from a government contractor, specifically Shelby’s company. So they then break into Shelby’s apartment to discover she just returned from Buenos Aires. Before they can find anything else, Shelby comes home, followed a moment later by Ryan who’s there to warn Simon and Alex that the FBI tracked Simon’s car. Shelby’s shocked Simon and Ryan are both helping Alex. Ryan gets Simon out of there safely and tells the women to get out too, but Shelby attacks Alex before she can. Alex manages to knock Shelby out and hides both of them in the back of Shelby’s car, where the FBI never bothers to look.

Ongoing Questions

1. Obviously the most pressing question is who blew up Grand Central Station? And, related to that, who’s framing Alex?

2. Why did Liam have Ryan spy on Alex?

3. What happened in Chicago with Liam and Ryan?

4. Why did Simon go to Gaza?

5. Who did Shelby transfer a million dollars to? And what’s the deal with her half-sister?

6. Why does Caleb have that Mark Raymond social media page?

7. What happened between Miranda and Liam?

8. Why does Natalie have a fake scar?

9. What happens between Alex and Liam at Quantico? How does Ryan go from Alex to Natalie at Quantico? And why does Simon get kicked out of Quantico?

10. What secret is Alex’s mom Sita keeping involving Liam and Alex’s father? How well did Liam know them? Why doesn’t he ever tell Alex he knew her father?

Any theories on the answers to these questions? What do you think of the show so far? Please share any thoughts and comments you have! I look forward to reading them. 

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