Quantico Recap: The Glass Ceiling


Season 1 Episode 18
Editor’s Rating *****
Marcia Cross as Senator Haas, Priyanka Chopra as Alex. Photo: Betrand Calmeau/ABC

For a show about subterfuge, Quantico has been surprisingly light on spycraft and cat-and-mouse games. Most things in Quantico play out in a rather straightforward fashion, as relationships between characters are shuffled around to best facilitate the soapy friction it needs. That’s totally fine and doesn’t detract from the fun in the least — but it does make everything feel a little off-kilter. Are these characters really the best and brightest FBI recruits?

It would be fun to watch them try to outsmart each other in extremely elaborate fashion, is what I’m saying. Kind of like they do in “Soon.”

Alex is now back in the FBI’s good graces, but not Ryan’s — he still strongly suspects her, and Nimah doesn’t trust her either. Together, they’re watching Alex, and she needs to get information from them in order to pin down Caleb’s whereabouts, since she can’t get in touch with Shelby to find out if she’s being coerced or not. Alex knows she’s going to have to get past them, so she enlists Raina — who’s been out of the game, happily living with her mom in Dearborn, Michigan — to help with a deft series of moves and countermoves that ultimately fall apart, landing Raina in custody after Ryan figures out Alex enlisted Raina to impersonate her sister.

It’s a great sequence because, for once, Alex’s opposition is just as smart as she is. Even though her plan is clever (I’m being a bit judicious with the word clever here, because it’s absolutely ridiculous the FBI doesn’t have security measures in place to keep twins they know about from impersonating one another), it still falls apart. Alex has probably burned her goodwill with the FBI yet again, but, inadvertently, she does get what she wants.

As Alex leaves HQ to avoid getting taken in for questioning, Senator Haas picks her up. Haas is irked that Alex is trying to find her son, who has been marked as undercover, whereabouts classified. Alex tells her about how the name Mark Raymond was associated with the Voice’s machinations, and that Caleb has used it as an alias, so Haas reluctantly agrees to show Alex what’s become of Caleb.

He’s a heroin junkie. Like, really. Watching his father die protecting him in the explosion seriously messed Caleb up. Besides, he couldn’t help Alex if he wanted to; he doesn’t talk to Shelby anymore.

But let’s put a pin in that for a minute, because “Soon” is an episode where the Quantico stuff is just as good as the present-day stuff, even though it’s somewhat reminiscent of past story lines.

This week, Special Agent Clayton returns to Quantico, because he’s not dead at this point in the timeline and Agent O’Connor would like a break. Clayton wants the NATs to fill out a HUGE ASS FORM designed to figure out what they’re hiding, because massive amounts of paperwork is the means by which our deepest and truest selves are made known; they are a bright light into the tepid and dark corridors of our hearts and minds, the only means of communication between the common folk and the entity that governs them.

Basically, it’s another excuse to have the NATs grill each other and reveal things that ratchet up tension.

It’s rote, but Quantico has gotten good at this sort of thing, so it’s far from boring. Two details are extremely important: Iris finds out about Caleb and Will’s Systemics infiltration scheme but doesn’t really understand it, and Miranda and O’Connor meet for drinks.

First, drinks: Miranda has been fired from her position at Quantico and demoted to a field office position after an extremely narrow vote. Naturally, she wants to find out who voted against her — suspecting Liam first and foremost. He says he fought for her. She counters by saying fighting for her isn’t something he does. (Damn Miranda, back at it again with the breakup burns.) Nonetheless, she invites him to the bathroom for sex stuff, but also for surveillance stuff, because in their postcoital panting she gets him to mention his tryst with Alex while secretly recording him.

Then she brings that recording to Agent Clayton, demanding that he shoulder responsibility for his many missteps if she’s going to be punished so severely for one. Clayton doesn’t budge, though, and in a meeting with Alex afterward, Miranda imparts one final lesson: They’ll never budge. The glass ceiling is real, and the only way around it is through.

Iris, meanwhile, discovers that she’s failed the clearance test after manipulating Caleb and Shelby into doubting one another. She vindictively calls the Systemics office to tell them about Will’s pending infiltration, which is the biggest dick move anyone on this show has ever made. Iris, as they say, is not here to make friends.

Of course, this sends Caleb into a panic, because crazed cults are not known to be kind to those who join in bad faith. He immediately takes off for the Systemics HQ (which is clearly inspired by the Scientology one in Los Angeles) to plea with his, uh, brethren to let Will go. It’s a tough job, given that he’s also trying to maintain his cover and not clue them into the fact that he’s investigating them. He can’t have it both ways; they ask him to prove his loyalty by beating Will. Caleb complies, until Shelby shows up and everyone scatters. Good thing she followed him.

And we’re not quite done with Caleb just yet. Back in the present, Alex leaves the Haas estate, only to bump into Caleb, who is sneaking out without his mother’s knowledge. Turns out that he wants to help someone — just not Alex. He takes a call, then tells this mysterious person that Alex fell for it, and both he and Alex will be on their way soon.

Other Notes:

  • So much eye candy. Yo, did you know that FBI agents need to be in PEAK PHYSICAL CONDITION? It’s PHYSICAL WEEK, which means lots of sweating and shirtlessness and sports bras. ‘Sup.
  • Wonder Twins. Raina and Nimah get a pretty extensive flashback subplot in which they’re struggling to match up and imitate each other after spending so much time as their actual selves once again. Their solution? Instead of matching each other, they need to create a third persona, combining their powers to become the perfect Islamist-infiltrating supserspy. I dig.
  • Hot Guy, I hardly knew thee. Dirty little secret: Up until this week, I had the hardest time remembering Drew’s name. In my notes he was always just HOT GUY because that was his thing. He was the Hot Guy for Alex to hook up with. Except now they’re not hooking up anymore, because Drew realizes that Alex and Ryan have unfinished business that needs resolving, so he gets out the way. Good for you, Hot Guy, but I’m really mad I have to remember your name now.
  • But really, who saw that heroin thing coming? I’m not sure I buy it. Graham Rogers has grown to become one of Quantico’s better actors. He’s been really good at the whole “I’m hiding stuff” thing, especially once the show started giving him so much more to do. But something about the way he plays a junkie is … weird. Maybe he’s bad at it? Maybe we’re supposed to suspect him? Maybe he’s faking so his mom will shield him while he schemes? Is she actually that gullible? She seems smart. I don’t know, man.

Quantico Recap: The Glass Ceiling