Quantico 1.7 – An Explosive Episode

It’s week 7 at the Academy, time for an exam! In the world of the bombing investigation, the FBI closes in on Alex as more secrets are revealed. A lot happened in this episode! Sorry for the long recap, but couldn’t get it any shorter without cutting important scenes.

As always, the ongoing questions and answers we’ve gotten are at the bottom if you want to skip ahead and scroll down. :-)

At Quantico Academy

Shelby might qualify for the most awkward way to meet the Executive Assistant Director of the FBI, ever. She goes storming into Caleb’s room pissed off that he didn’t show up for their sex date only to realize Caleb’s dad Clayton is standing behind her. Oops! Caleb introduces them but she’s naturally horrified. Anyone else feel like this makes the affair between Shelby and Clayton even worse, considering how they first met?

In other rooms, Ryan receives something from the FBI that causes him to get a very serious expression on his face. Natalie, fresh out of some shower sex with Brandon, stands in front of the mirror to reapply her scar sticker. Brandon’s still leaning against the wall of the shower looking distraught. 

Alex continues spying on Liam via her well-placed bug. She watches him meeting with Clayton. Liam tells his boss, ”She’s exhausted every avenue there is for digging into her father. She’s done.”
Clayton: As long as you’re sure.
Liam: Booth’s the only one I’m worried about now. When he followed orders in Chicago, I thought we could trust him. 

After the morning drama, the NATs go to the physical component of the exam. They have to beat their scores from their first fitness test or they’re out. (The analysts have their own tests to pass too). Shelby and Alex continue gossiping about their love lives, with Alex telling Shelby she must have a type – “pathological liars.”

Meanwhile, Miranda goes to free Simon, who’s locked in the twins’ bathroom (I’d thought it was a closet last week). It turns out Simon’s read a Russian play about using twins to infiltrate groups where they can gather lots of intel but have very limited access, so one twin can switch with the other, get debriefed, switch back so the other can get debriefed, and so on. But he seems more pissed off that Miranda chose two women who couldn’t remember to keep their door closed, and who jeopardized Miranda’s career by locking him up, so clearly they’re incompetent. “I don’t have questions,” he tells Miranda, “I have plans.” But Miranda gets his silence by promising to strike his probation from his record if he’ll keep this a secret.

After the physical tests are done, Clayton re-introduces himself to Shelby and actually comes across very sweet, trying to help her recover from their earlier meeting. That image doesn’t last when he talks to his son next, starting out well by saying he and Caleb’s mother are proud of him, but that Caleb needs a contingency plan for when he fails. ”I was there the last time you screwed up and the time before that.” Caleb says it’s fine, he’s at the top of his class, but Clayton warns him to prepare for that status to change. What he does next confused me – he basically tries to bribe his son to fail, offering to unlock Caleb’s trust fund as long as whatever he chooses to do next has nothing to do with the FBI. Why does Clayton want Caleb to fail again?

Finally, we get to the heart of the Academy part of the episode – the very explosive midterm exam. She explains the FBI doesn’t need more agents, it needs better ones, so this is a test to see not only what they’ve learned but who they’ve become. She tells them to turn over their paper when she leaves the room, but when the NATs do they discover the paper is blank. Alex soon guesses the paper itself must be evidence, and Natalie has a decent moment when she adds,  ”I can’t believe I’m agreeing with you but let’s take a look.” Working together they figure out there are only 60 pieces of paper but 61 people (NATs and analysts) in the room. Next they check surveillance to see who didn’t get a paper.

As they’re waiting for the surveillance footage, Alex confronts Ryan once again. He’s miserable over their situation, and delivers the fantastic (or at least romantic) line: ”I hate seeing what I did to you, almost as much as I hate knowing you’ll never look at me again the way I look at you.” Shelby and Caleb also take advantage of the wait to talk. He tells her that his father “offered me money to fail today” so that Caleb won’t ruin his father’s reputation. Shelby tries to cheer him up by finding another interpretation for it, but when Caleb thoughtlessly says she’s lucky her parents are dead she tears up and walks away. 

The trainees figure out Brandon didn’t get a paper, and he said he kept quiet because he assumed it was the FBI’s way of telling him he’s out. He’s upset, shouts at them, and leaves the room. The moment he does the A/C shuts off, the doors lock, alarms blare, and they find a timer under Brandon’s chair. Not good.

Considering they all saw Elder Eric shoot himself in the pilot, it’s understandable that none of them are sure if Brandon snapped and lost it or if this is part of the exam. Caleb tells them all, ”I know for a fact they opened their doors wider this year… A guy like Eric got in with skeletons in his closet, don’t you think there’s room for another psychopath?” They interrogate Natalie since she knew Brandon best, and she confirms Brandon hasn’t been himself. He went for a walk for a few hours night before and came back talking about how mismanaged the FBI is and something needed to be done. He’s also on a bunch of meds, and sometimes he doesn’t take them.  So the group watches footage from night before and figure out he left something in podium – a bomb.

As everyone starts to panic, Elias says Simon’s been around bombs before, he could disarm it, so Simon decides to try. When he cuts one wire, it seems like it’s working, and the doors unlock. But then when someone opens the door it triggers something and makes the counter go faster – after all it wouldn’t be a bomb defusing scene without the counter speeding up, right? Elias and a bunch of others are terrified and run out of the room in case the bomb is real. Others, like Alex, Shelby, Ryan, Natalie, Caleb, and Raina (or Nimah? Not positive on that one) stay with Simon. They decide they’re all in this together and make tense jokes as the counter runs out. When it reaches zero, Miranda comes in clapping. Everyone who ran out failed. This was a test about sacrifice.

After the test, Shelby is proud of Caleb that he didn’t run. Elias, nearly crying, complains to Simon that he gave up a 7-figure income because he thought he had some noble calling to help the FBI, and then he threw it away with seconds to spare because he ran from a firecracker while Simon stayed to try to save everyone. Simon tells him, “I’m gonna miss you.” Actually has tears in his eyes. Elias kisses him. Things sure have changed between them!

Alex naturally goes to talk to Ryan again, this time to ask him about Chicago. He starts to stay silent, but when she starts to storm out he speaks up. Chicago was a blown sting. “Someone above me screwed up and people got hurt. I took the blame. I’m a good soldier. I did what my superior asked me and you can see how well that worked out.” He then tells Alex that he tried to turn down the assignment to watch her, that he told Liam no more times than he can count, but Liam said if he wanted a future in the bureau he had no choice. Alex says she’s sorry for blaming him for taking the assignment. He’s sorry too. Their hands touch, but when they get close to kissing she walks away. Why??? I sure wouldn’t walk away from Ryan! :-) How about you?

Shelby confronts Clayton on behalf of Caleb, but Clayton tells her his son is a screw-up. He wants Caleb to find his place in the world, but he doesn’t for a second believe it’s at the FBI. “He’s a greater danger to himself than you know, but I do. I was there. I saved his life and the lives of those around him with my own two hands.”

The twins tell Miranda they want to tell the class the truth, that ”Everyone in that room deserves to know who we are.”

Alex goes to see Liam and shows him the bug she planted in his office. She offers him a deal – she’ll forget everything she heard and stop looking into her father if he’ll let Agent Booth “get back the career that he worked so hard for.” If he doesn’t, she says she’ll keep digging until she uncovers whatever he and Clayton had Ryan cover up in Chicago.

The analysts have graduated – it was their final exam, not their midterm – but the NATs gather back to hear Miranda congratulate those who passed the test. This scene gets intercut with Liam telling Ryan he’s been reinstated, not mentioning it’s because Alex is blackmailing (or bribing?) him. Ryan wants to think about it. Caleb thanks Shelby for whatever she said to his dad, because he’s been made a NAT again. Then Miranda brings out both twins and tells the class the truth.

Finally, Ryan looks at a picture of a young Liam with someone. Presumably, this is what he received in the FBI envelope at the beginning of the episode. Alex comes running out to see him before he drives away, but he doesn’t see her.

Grand Central Station Bombing (Present)

Alex wants to find the twins and needs Simon’s help to do it. No one has heard from the twins in month. Ryan asks Miranda how to contact them and she gives them the burner phone she last had for them, but said it’s not her op anymore and hasn’t been for a long time. Wonder what happened there? She tells him to keep Alex safe as he leaves.

Natalie and Liam, watching them from a monitor (which I don’t think had audio but not sure) confirm that Ryan’s helping Alex. Natalie wants to arrest him and make a big show of it, but Liam tells her to follow Ryan and not make a move until she’s sure he’s with Alex.

Simon and Alex burst into a room where Raina’s praying, with Simon pointing a gun at her. They demand to know why she was at Grand Central two days before the bombing, but this is news to Raina – news she’s thrilled with: ”You saw Nimah? She’s still alive?”  Raina explains how three months earlier the twins infiltrated an Islamic terror cell. Then Nimah missed their swap last Friday, and then missed it again. She’s now gone 5 days without hearing from her sister, and after the bombing she feared the worst.

Shelby texts Alex that Caleb spotted twins on tape and time is running out. Alex asks her to stall him, so Shelby tries to talk to Caleb, thanking him for not telling his dad he knows about the affair. Caleb didn’t do it for her but for his mom, because “Do you know how close she is to becoming the Democratic choice for V.P.?” Caleb’s positive if she’s the nominee Clayton will drop Shelby and he can’t wait to see that happen. But then Shelby slips and says, “Good luck finding Nimah,” and Caleb asks “Who says it was Nimah?” She tries to convince him he did, but he’s not buying it.

Back at the apartment, Simon, Alex, and Raina use thermal imaging to see who’s in the terrorists’ house across the street. There’s a female there, most likely Nimah. All of them need answers only Nimah has, so they figure out a plan for Raina to switch places with her sister.

Ryan and Shelby try to slip out once their cover is blown, but Natalie stops them and demands to know why Ryan’s helping her. Ryan defends Alex. He wanted to tell Natalie but she wouldn’t listen. Shelby chimes in, ”After what she did to me I wanted to believe that she was guilty, but someone set her up.” Ryan begs, “Natalie, I know you have to bring us in, but just give us a little more time, please.” Natalie gives them an hour, but she’s secretly tracking him through a chip she slipped in his jacket.

When Simon and Alex see Nimah go into a bathroom, Raina slips into the house and has her sister climb out the bathroom window where Simon’s waiting for her. At the FBI, Caleb, Liam, and Natalie discuss how to stop Alex and track Ryan.

Nimah’s furious at Alex and Simon. They’ve screwed everything up and put her sister’s life at risk. Nimah managed to get close enough to Hazma, the leader of the cell, for him to trust her. Simon realizes she must have slept with him. He’s right. ”I was handling it and I wasn’t going to ask that of Raina.” Nimah didn’t leave because Grand Central Station was only a dry run. The real attack is still to come. Before they can plan further, Shelby and Ryan show up to warn them the FBI is onto all of them. Nimah insists they can’t go  in there guns blazing or they’ll never learn what Hazma’s planning. She has to switch back with Raina, and promises she’ll get them the truth. 

Just after Nimah leaves the FBI storms the room. They get Shelby and Simon, but Ryan and Alex are in a back room and barricade themselves in so they can climb down the fire escape. The terrorist cell gets freaked out by the FBI raid and comes out shooting. Ryan gets hit in the crossfire. Alex holds onto him, even as he tries to get her to leave him and go.

Natalie intercepts them. Alex says Natalie can take her in if she’ll help Ryan immediately. Ryan, in pain, looks up and says, “Natalie, please.” In a nice moment of redemption, she lets them run away.

Ongoing Questions (From Pilot to Current Episode)

These will be updated in each blog post, with the newest questions on top. Any questions previously on the list that have been answered will be in next section below.

1. What did Liam and/or Clayton do in Chicago that Ryan had to help cover up?

2. What did Caleb do that Clayton had to save his life and the lives of those around him with his own two hands?

3. Why did Ryan receive that photo of a young Liam with someone? Who’s the other person in the picture?

4. Why isn’t Miranda running the twins’ op anymore? How did she get removed and/or demoted?

5. What did Alex do that hurt Shelby so badly she wanted to think Alex was guilty?

6. The main question – who blew up Grand Central Station? And, related to that, who’s framing Alex?

7. Why did Liam really have Ryan spy on Alex? What did he tell Miranda to convince her his op is a matter of national security?

8. Who did Shelby transfer a million dollars to? What’s the deal with her half-sister?

9. Why does Caleb have that Mark Raymond social media page? What’s the email about, and who’s he going to interview with?

10. What happened between Miranda and Liam exactly? How did her husband die?

11. Why does Natalie wear a fake scar?

12. What happens between Alex and Liam at Quantico?

13. How did Shelby end up not talking to either Alex or Caleb? What secret of hers did Alex reveal? Why did she end things with Caleb?

14. Why does Simon get kicked out of Quantico?

15. 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?

16. Is Simon telling the truth about why he’s made up this fake persona? Is there any significance to him taking photo with Max at Grand Central or was that just a convenient location?

17. What really happened with Charlie? Did he plan to kill a bunch of kids or did Miranda misinterpret something?

Answered Questions Previously on the List

1. What happened in Chicago with Liam and Ryan?

Liam and/or Clayton screwed up somehow and ordered Ryan to take the blame, which Ryan did. How precisely they screwed up we don’t yet know.

2. How does Ryan go from Alex to Natalie?

This one isn’t completely answered, but presumably things change when Alex swaps rooms with Natalie, putting her into Ryan’s orbit. 

3. Why did Simon go to Gaza?

He was in the Israeli Defense Forces, they sent him to Gaza, assuming he told Elias the truth.

What do you think? Any theories about these ongoing questions? Did you enjoy the episode? As always, I welcome your comments! 

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