Quantico often concerns itself with rules and exceptions. It’s a theme that’s explicitly stressed at the end of most episodes, when either Miranda or O’Connor delivers their closing lecture to the NATs about how the week’s exercise was actually about something else, and why they must learn to cope with that twist. The show implicitly stresses the same theme through Alex Parrish, who is a walking, talking exception to every rule in the show’s universe, almost to a frustrating degree. And it certainly stresses it the way most prime-time soaps do, by delivering a high-concept premise that’s altered to suit its needs for secrets and hookups and lies and confessions.
If there is one rule Quantico will forever abide, it’s that there are exceptions to every rule.
“Right” is probably the closest Quantico has come from turning its storytelling philosophy into a lesson for its NATs, although it doesn’t begin that way. At first, this week’s lesson is a solid end-of-semester exercise: What do you do after a terrorist attack? Or, more generally: What’s your job when the chips are down and you’ve already failed?
“Right” doesn’t really answer this question, but it’s still a pretty good episode. It falls prey to that Quantico thing where the exercise is merely an excuse to dive into whatever drama its characters are facing at the moment. This week, that means resolving Shelby’s parent problems, and finally tying up the nearly forgotten thread about Alex’s father.
The NATs are given free reign to examine evidence from past terrorist attacks, from 9/11 to the Boston Marathon bombing, while agents who worked each are available for consultation. But again: Alex and Shelby are the only ones who matter in this plotline. To that end, they both find ways to swap cases, since they’re not allowed to work on cases to which they’re personally connected. Alex gives Shelby her files on 9/11, and, in return, Shelby hands off evidence from the Omaha bombing that involved Alex’s father.
Of course, their motives are very different: Alex just wants to read the logs her father had to file as an undercover agent in a violent militia group. Shelby, however, wants to forge an immunity agreement that draws her parents out of hiding, and, ultimately, get them arrested. Since that’s the definition of entrapment, Alex ropes in Ryan and Liam, and together they try to talk Shelby down from her plan. Shelby doesn’t back down, which ultimately leads Caleb to save her from tanking her career. He intercepts Mrs. Wyatt — who wants to meet with her daughter and is actually remorseful about shaking down her daughter for money — and warns her away from meeting with Shelby.
Unfortunately for Caleb, this ultimately serves to bring Shelby into closer contact with his father, as this crazy scheme was apparently part of his off-the-books plan to help bring her parents in. She’ll just have to hunker down and continue the job from his office after graduation.
Alex breaks the rules to a lesser extent, but she gets just about as much closure. While going through her father’s logs, she finds one missing — and when she questions the agent who worked Omaha, she only finds out that undercover agents sometimes have to cross a line, and so he burned the logbook.
After hitting that dead end, Ryan is the one who gives her the full picture. He and Alex’s father had to move things along with the militia and give them what they needed for their ultimate attack: blueprints for the federal building they would eventually bomb. Alex’s father couldn’t live with that, and that’s what drove him to suicide. (Also, Ryan cannot live with O’Connor’s history of screwing up operations, and he decides he won’t be joining him in D.C.)
In the present, Alex is driving Ryan’s nuke-filled car through New York while being led by Drew’s voice. To their credit, Miranda and everyone else at the FBI office has figured out that a nuke is in the truck with Alex, and that they have to be careful, but they still think Alex is culpable. Fortunately, that doesn’t last long; Shelby has reached Senator Haas, the only person left on this show who can say, “Yo, Alex is under duress and forced to do crazy stuff by a terrorist, maybe don’t shoot her” and actually be listened to.
Miranda then authorizes Caleb and Raina to do whatever they can to track down the Voice of Drew, leaving Ryan in charge while she lies about going upstairs for a secret meeting … while actually going downstairs for a thing we’ll get to at the very end of all this stuff.
HUGE TWIST NUMBER ONE: The Voice of Drew is not in fact Drew (thank you, Quantico), but a computer impersonating him. In fact, Drew is tied up to Simon in the room where his voice is being used to direct Alex. (Yes, this sounds really weird out of context.) They quickly catch on to what’s happening, break free of their restraints, and split up. Simon races off to get to Alex before the FBI kills her, and Drew finds a phone to let her know he’s been impersonated.
Everything almost works out, sort of. Simon gets away and Drew gets his message to Alex, but while Ryan leads an FBI tactical team, he breaks in, triggering a bomb that puts most of his squad out of commission and kills Drew. Farewell, buddy. You probably would’ve been a better boyfriend for Alex than Ryan.
Simon makes it to Alex, and in a great scene that rests nicely on the terrific work Quantico has done with his character, he talks her out of the nuke-filled truck, pointing out that the FBI has discovered the truck isn’t wired and the bomb has no receiver for remote detonation. “I’m not going to let you make the same mistake I did with my hand on the trigger,” he says.
She gets out. Honestly, Simon has the best relationship with Alex.
We rejoin the team at the FBI’s New York office, where the former NATs are all finally reunited as a team — only to get a report that the nuke they recovered from the truck has immediately gone missing. The only reason why this wouldn’t be a huge embarrassment? If someone at the very top had swiped it. Someone like Miranda.
Miranda isn’t being shady because she’s behind it all, though. She’s M.I.A. because she knows who the Voice is, and went to pay him a visit. She chose to do this alone, for some reason. Which is why she gets shot, and lies bleeding on his floor.
It’s Liam O’Connor, and he wants to “make things right.”
- Good-bye, Drew. But seriously, I am so glad the show was just using him as a final red herring, which I suspected because Quantico’s M.O. pretty much requires that every cast member spend at least one episode being the Prime Suspect.
- Simon and Raina, doomed lovers. The twins spend most of this episode debating whether or not they Really Want To Do This. Nimah is clearly onboard, but Raina is not — and for a brief moment she runs off to talk to Simon about it, then strongly considers quitting and working for his company. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be her ultimate decision. I wish it were because I JUST WANT TO SEE SIMON HAPPY, MAN.
- Hello, Big Bad. Did you guys think it was Liam all along? Do you think it’s a cop-out that the terrorist wasn’t a NAT but one of their teachers? Do you think that there’s ONE MORE BIG TWIST IN STORE? Although Quantico has done a lot to depict O’Connor as a screwup with nowhere left to go, I’m not sure any motive would satisfy me. But I’m fine with that, as long as O’Connor gets a grandiose, scenery-chewing monologue to the assembled former NATs, preferably with the final reveal that he triggered his master plan 35 minutes ago.