Break out your blue henleys! Class is back in session at Sexy FBI High School. If your memories of Quantico's first season are a bit hazy, don't worry. "Alex" is very much a catch-up episode, easing its way into the new status quo, letting us know where everyone is at in both the past and future timelines, before it slowly introduces new complications.
Since Quantico's stories tend to unfold in real time, we're rejoining the action three months after the mid-season finale, in which the mastermind of the Grand Central Station bombing — who was strongly suggested to be Caleb Haas — successfully duped the Feds and attacked the FBI's New York command center, pinning the whole thing on Elias Harper.
In the three months that have passed, the official government stance on the bombing was that Elias acted alone. There is no evidence to suggest otherwise. As the sole holdout who has testified under oath that Elias's claims he was coerced were not made under duress, Alex has gone from redeemed fugitive to pariah — she won't be reinstated until she changes her tune, and her vocal stance has made her something of a celebrity. A hard-drinking celebrity, who chases down leads on her own, trying to dredge up any clue she can find to lend credence to what she believes really happened.
Unfortunately for her, there's not much out there — not even after she makes out with a telecom CTO in order to steal his security fob and access Elias's phone records to see if the FBI missed anything. There is one thing, though: Duncan, one of the hackers who helped her discover the second bomb, killed himself by jumping off a bridge. Before he jumped, he told the officer who tried to save his life to find Alex Parrish and tell her that he "didn't have a choice."
Alex sees this as vindication to keep digging, but admittedly, it's barely even a clue. Furthermore, as the government hearing about the command-center bombing continues, Alex's fortitude is chipped away, as her colleagues and mentors — Simon, Shaw, and O'Connor — all testify that the evidence suggests Elias worked alone, and they do not believe there is a second bomber.
The final blow is when Ryan comes to Alex's new Williamsburg apartment, saying he found out she was using the telecom guy's security credentials to dig through records. He also just wants to reach her; he doesn't think she's crazy, just in pain. But Alex won't change her tune.
Until she does. The next day, it's her turn to testify again, and Alex shocks the crowd by reversing her position, saying that there is no evidence that Elias did not act alone. The room freaks out, Alex is escorted to a side room where her former colleagues — Ryan, Shelby, Nathalie, and Simon — are all waiting. Except they want nothing to do with her, and Ryan explains why: They're furious because she lied under oath, because she clearly doesn't believe what she said about Elias acting alone. Alex doesn't get it; she thought this is what everyone wanted from her. Ryan says all they wanted was for her to tell the truth. "I thought you'd come to your senses," he says. "I thought you'd come back to us. But you're still lost."
And so, Alex ends the episode in a lower place than the one she started it in. She's reinstated, but also getting angry anonymous calls and texts. People consider her a traitor. She's once again the center of a media circus. And she's the recipient of a strange phone call from a disguised voice — the mastermind's voice. Is that you, Caleb?
The voice tells her to go to a specific location, where someone will be waiting for her. It's Natalie, and she's wired to blow. We still don't know what the voice wants, but it lays out the next steps clearly enough: Alex wasn't a terrorist before, but she's about to become one.
Meanwhile, in Quantico:
The past timeline takes a bit of a back seat, mostly concerned with some straightforward bits of table setting that don't tie too closely with the main action (again with that infamous Quantico tonal whiplash). Let's run through ’em, list style.
Color wars. We're introduced to the class above our gang of NATs, who boast an extra month's worth of training. The two classes are pitted against each other in typical Quantico high-stakes montage fashion, which climaxes in a simulated hostage crisis in Hogan's Alley — a crisis that our NATs lose, because the older ones rig the game. (That's the point, since criminals don't play fair.) This leads both groups to pretty much hate each other, because both end up having classmates sent home from Quantico; our NATs because they lost, the older NATs because they cheated. But they're going to have to get along now, because they're getting clumped into one class. Are you ready for some drama?
My fake half-sister. In a plot thread I didn't suspect would be picked up, Shelby decides to confront Samar, the woman who conned her into believing they were long distance half-sisters, by inviting her to come stateside. It doesn't work out that way: A man named Khaled shows up, claiming to be her husband and saying she's been kidnapped. He needs them to help find her.
Caleb may be evil, but he's still funny. This also leads to the funniest bit in tonight's episode, when Khaled makes it clear to Shelby that he knows Caleb is watching them from the bar. Seeing Caleb go from his cover ("Are you in my SoulCycle class?") to being told to drop it at a moment's notice is hilarious.
The trouble with Charlie. Now that Charlie is back and fully recovered from his kidnapping and beating, the FBI really wants to know everything about his abduction, as well as the Islamist cell he's back in touch with. After a lot of coaxing, he finally gives some names to Raina (in a great scene where they trade anecdotes about being discriminated against) only it doesn't seem Raina brings this information back to Shaw. Instead, she reaches out herself. Also, a line from Future Alex seems to suggest Shaw was "right about Charlie," which is a heartbreaking hint that he might still want to work with his old band of internet terrorists.
How's it feel to be back? Quantico feeds off of momentum. It's a mystery-fueled soap opera that works best when it keeps the twists coming and the pacing fast. It's not a show that benefits from distance. I suspect the first few episodes back from this three-month break will be a little rough — it took me a while to attune myself back into Quantico's unique blend of soapy tension and plate-spinning machinations, and the show's tendency toward the unsubtle is harder to overlook when you're not wrapped up in trying to piece it all together. I'm still hopeful, though — this week's cliffhanger can lead to all sorts of fun and games. Here's hoping both come soon.