After some stumbles, we've got our old Quantico back. "Care" has just about everything a good episode of this show needs: a Quantico exercise that allows all sorts of goofy NAT high jinks, a straightforward present-day plot that edges us closer to the endgame, and a final twist to fuel another week of theories. It's Quantico embracing its fun and ridiculous soapy self, complete with the requisite sunny pop song that plays while trainees learn about a horrific real-world problem. This time, it's human trafficking.
O'Connor's big exercise for the NATs involves studying this problem by going to the nearest border: Canada, where he (and new counselor/old undercover trainee/drama fuel Ryan Booth) will take them on a field-trip flight out to the airport and leave them stranded without passports. From there, they'll have to find their way back to the States by whatever means necessary. If they're able to do it, imagine how easy it must be for smugglers and criminals.
In the present, things start with a bit of a twist: Simon is meeting with Ryan, apparently ratting out Alex and telling him about her next goal of tracking down a mysterious CIA asset. While this is, in fact, Alex's actual goal — it's the final task the Voice (the sadistic terrorist, not the hit NBC singing competition) has given her — Simon is only pretending to turn on Alex. In reality, he's using the chance to bug Ryan and spur him into getting Liam to move the asset to a safe house where they can meet him. That way, Alex and Simon can get to him first.
Like I said, it's a pretty straightforward plan, but it takes an interesting twist once they find out the asset is … supergenius former NAT Will Olsen.
Meanwhile, there's some ancillary shenanigans happening alongside this week's Escape Canada challenge: Since Shelby's parents can't come back to the country, this exercise affords her the chance to get away and meet them at a hotel with Caleb, where everyone finally gets the answer as to why they faked their deaths.
The answer is that they are freaking war criminals, responsible for an off-the-books deal that put some tech in Taliban hands and made them indirectly culpable for 9/11.
I swear I'm not making that up.
Anyway, they explain to Shelby that a life spent mourning them was better than a life in hiding with them, and she's kind of okay with their deception and willing to just start over again. Caleb, however, never really lets his guard down, eavesdropping on them to learn that they want to keep shaking Shelby down for money. Angry, Caleb confronts them privately and offers them a deal: He'll give them $5 million to disappear forever, or he'll hand them over to the Feds and make sure they pay. They take it, and Caleb lies to Shelby about her parents suddenly taking off, leaving her hopeful that she'll one day see them again.
During all this, their fellow NATs are struggling to get out of Canada. Alex and her partner for the exercise, Drew (of course), are stuck neck-deep in the icy Canadian creek when their initial plan — pretend Alex is taking Drew into custody and lost her passport — gets shut down hard by airport security. The two of them end up hiking their way through the snow, bickering the whole way, to cross the border on foot. Except it's snowing and freezing and there's no way they're making it all the way across in one night. Lucky for them, they find a cabin in the woods! I wonder what happens in those?
If you guessed sex stuff, you'd be right! Alex and Drew finally do sex stuff!
As you can probably surmise, there are a lot of ridiculous scenes in "Care." (I mean that in a good way!) Nevertheless, it ends on a genuinely terrific one. In the present day, Alex and Simon are ready to hand Will over to a driver hired by the Voice, following a crazy and successful escape attempt from the two agents who were guarding him in the safe house.
Will has convinced them that the best thing to do is just comply, and let him be their inside man with the Voice. Handing him over is the last job the Voice has for Alex, but as she sends him off to the van, the Voice calls one more time and tells her Simon needs to come too. She also needs to hand her phone to the driver.
Alex doesn't want to let him go. He's been one of her biggest friend in all of this, but Simon doesn't see any point in resisting, and smiles so damn sadly as he says it's okay: "I've come back from the dead, before, right?"
Simon Asher is the best damn thing about this show, and Tate Ellington SELLS THIS SCENE SO HARD.
Oh, and when it's time for Alex to hand the phone to the driver? It's Shelby.
- The award for best scheme to escape Canada goes to … Iris and Will, who stop at airport security and strip naked in the hopes that they'll get deported for indecent exposure. I'm not sure that's how it works, but I love them for trying.
- Henleys. They're back! Is the weather unseasonably cold in Quantico this week? It is in the Northeast, that's for freaking sure.
- 2 Secret 2 Twins. I wish Nimah and Raina were more interesting this week. Since Miranda is no longer in charge, her Secret Twin program has been jettisoned. Nimah and Raina think that's a bad idea, so they prove their worth to Liam, using their Twin Powers to get themselves out of Canada. Liam is impressed and says they have to double down on their commitment if this is going to happen: Two women, one life.
- Quantico burn of the week. In front of Alex, Drew introduces himself to Ryan by saying, "I've heard a lot about you." To which Special Agent Booth replies, "Ryan Booth. I've heard nothing about you." DAYUM.
- Speaking of Ryan. Alex isn't particularly thrilled he's back, huh? And Booth is still kind of hung up on her. Pretty sure he won't take the Drew hookup very well — which of course Ryan will find out about, because the only reason you have sex on a show like Quantico is for the wrong people to find out about it.
- Conspiracy corner. The Shelby reveal seems like a development meant to tide fans over before Quantico decides it's time to start the real endgame. She's clearly not the Voice, just someone working for it. Perhaps she's under duress, just like Alex? Either way, as nice as it is to get an episode that feels more like Quantico than the last few, "Care" does seem to tread water in spite of itself. Even though the plot is moving forward, there's not a whole lot to sink our teeth into. Maybe that's a good thing. The show needed a solid, straightforward, (sometimes) wacky episode to reassert its groove. Now it's time for things to get really wild, right?