Quantico Recap: The Blue Flame


Season 1 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 4 stars


Season 1 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Phillipe Bosse/ABC

Early on in this week’s Quantico, we’re told about something called “blue flamers,” a bit of law-enforcement slang referring to young recruits who are overeager and plunge headfirst into their duties, only to burn out in the long run. It might also prove to be an apt metaphor for Quantico — will it burn out, or will it steadily crackle into something consistently good?

“Kill” is the best episode of Quantico so far, but one that excels by perfectly executing everything Quantico is already good at. There aren’t any new tricks here, just faith in the formula and some assured plotting that doesn’t waste much time. Right now, that’s totally fine — one of the most admirable things about Quantico is how well it spins every plate it tosses into the air.

This week, the first plate we turn our attention to is the fallout of Alex discovering the truth about her father. While she maintains that she’s fine to anyone who asks, she’s throwing herself fully into training. She’s up earlier, practicing harder, and performing better than any of her fellow trainees. It’s at this point where Nathalie Vazquez suggests to Shelby that Alex might be one of those aforementioned blue flamers.

She might be right — at least Agent O’Conner thinks so. He tells Ryan his undercover mission is over, and his last task is to convince Alex to quit the FBI. Alex is, O’Conner points out, in a pretty vulnerable place and “more fragile than you think.” Why O’Conner wants Alex gone makes very little sense, though. This is just consistent with O’Conner’s track record of being a shady dude in the Quantico flashbacks while being a dogged (but kind of sincere?) jerk in the present, post-terror attack time line.

Speaking of the present-day storyline, it’s primarily concerned with last week’s cliffhanger: Who the hell is Simon working for? Simon wants him and Alex to hang tight in their hideout for his bomb-making pal to meet them, but that’s just a cover for an FBI raid that’s headed their way — it really seems like Simon is ready to sell her out, again, but Ryan, who is privy to the raid-in-progress, texts Simon asking who the hell he’s really working for, because everyone watching at home would like to know.

Eventually, he caves to Ryan’s texts or his conscience, and tells Alex they have to ghost out of there. Alex is totally ignorant of the fact that she almost got made. When the FBI unit tasked with apprehending Alex turns up nothing, O’Conner criticizes his superior officer, Agent Clayton, for trusting Quantico reject Simon Asher with apprehending Public Enemy Number One, which is a totally reasonable criticism, I think.

Clayton responds with a bit of exposition: Simon started working for a company the bureau was investigating, and Clayton, wanting to take advantage of that, reinstated Simon.

With that taken care of, we can now talk about this week’s Quantico training exercise: hostage rescue. This is great, because we can finally talk about my favorite thing in all of Quantico so far: Hogan’s Alley, “The FBI’s very own Smalltown, USA.”

As a rule, I am very suspicious of the way Quantico depicts the rigors of FBI training, but if there’s anything I desperately hope is true, it is Hogan’s Alley: a completely inhabited, fully functioning suburbia just chillin’ there waiting for fake crime to happen so baby FBI agents can pretend to save the day, or pretend to die trying.

I am going to put off researching whether or not there is a real-world equivalent to this for as long as I can, because I’m not sure if reality can live up to the ridiculous place I imagine it to be.

Anyway, the actual exercise isn’t all that fascinating — they just have to raid a house and shoot paintballs at the targets with guns pointed at them, while not shooting the targets that look like innocent people. I have played several arcade games like this, and it is much harder than it looks.

Of course, Alex rages through it, just clearing it like a one-woman army because she is Working Through Some Stuff in a Negative Way. Some of her compatriots notice this, but she just says they have to keep up with her. No one calls her a jerk, but I wouldn’t blame them.

BUT WAIT: The exercise isn’t over! O’Conner intercepts the trainees on their way back and says elsewhere in Hogan’s Alley, a bank robbery has turned into a hostage situation! Oh man!

While the gang loads up, O’Conner tells Ryan that this next phase of the exercise will be his moment to give Alex the push towards her breakdown that he feels is coming.  And he’s right — the exercise is an almost complete disaster, with almost every trainee gunned down, including Alex, after Ryan tells her a room is clear when it isn’t and she freezes, flashing back to the night she killed her father.

It ends up being “Nimah” (Raina, pulling double duty since her sister left at the end of last episode), who has to be convinced that Caleb is a decent enough analyst to lead her through the chaos and have her save the day. O’Conner plays Bad Cop and lays it on thick, reprimanding Alex for her recklessness.

Shaw, by the way, knows about the Nimah Girls’ predicament (I honestly have no idea of the most effective way to refer to our Secret Twins, but I’m doing my best) and tracks down Nimah, opens up about her son — how he was an angry young man and connected with some extremists online that inspired him to plot an attack on his high school. She confesses that she doesn’t want him to get parole, and says that that’s why Nimah and Raina are here — that same extremist network is still active and recruiting. It’s going to be their job to help shut it down.

Meanwhile, in the present day, we get to catch up with Shelby! She has a haircut now, and it is very flattering. She has also taken to wearing this deep red lipstick that I’m not sure works, though? But I’m not very knowledgeable about lipstick. In things that are actually relevant to the plot, Shelby has taken on her parents’ company, which is compared to Halliburton. If I remember 2003 correctly, that is not a favorable comparison to make. It seems fitting, though, since Alex tells Simon that after he was booted from Quantico she found out some juicy dirt on Shelby’s folks that, like, totally changed her opinion of Shelby. (Okay, she didn’t say it quite like that, but pretend she did! It’s fun).

Oh, and we’re here because Simon’s bomb-making friend — a phrase I never tire of — says that that bit of wire we’ve been concerned with came from the Wyatt Empire. Anyway, Shelby wasn’t expecting the company of Simon and Alex, so Alex draws on Shelby, Shelby draws on Alex, and it seems like nothing is going to get accomplished until Ryan shows up and draws his weapon on Shelby, but then Shelby is like, What the hell man why aren’t we apprehending the fugitive? And then Alex is like, Wait what, and the people waving guns around are all confused, which is almost never a good thing.

Finally, good sense prevails and Shelby is disarmed as Ryan takes Simon back to the FBI and tells Alex to get the hell out. So she does that, taking Shelby with her and hiding in a car while the Feds, for the second time in this episode, raid a place that Alex is no longer in.

Oh, and there’s a fight scene, but it’s pretty inconsequential because Shelby is not that great at fighting. It is, however, very funny to see Alex punch her out when she tries to call for help from the car.

Returning through the mirror of time, we are once more in Quantico, where some resolutions are in order. Elias, who doesn’t have much to do on this show other than talk about being gay and exhibiting a creepy interest in Simon’s carefully constructed history, talks about being gay and picks at the holes in Simon’s carefully constructed history. He also delivers tonight’s worst line, which is always hard to find because the writing in Quantico is often bad but never like, quotably bad. Even clunkers like, “The most dangerous enemy America faces is the enemy within.”

Thanks to Shaw’s pep talk/confession, Nimah returns and apologizes to her sister, also telling her what Shaw has planned for them. Meanwhile, Alex is called to Shaw’s office, where Ryan is also waiting. They ask her what’s got her so shook, and so she tells them about her father, and how it’s got her messed up real bad. They reaffirm how she belongs in the FBI, and that a good agent doesn’t make a good man — all the accolades in her father’s file don’t wipe away the fact that he was often drunk, abused his power, and threatened his wife.

As Shaw is telling Alex about how a good agent doesn’t make a good man, O’Conner walks by the office to see his work edging Alex out being undone — even better, Ryan steps out of the shadows and totally Diane Keatons him, slowly shutting the door as he looks on.

Afterward, Shelby and Alex have some dorm-room bonding (boy what a difference nine months can make!) and Shelby says — by way of the world’s worst game of Two Truths and a Lie — that the mysterious person she’s been calling is a half sister she didn’t know she had until her folks died. Following that, Alex catches up with Ryan in the bathroom (these two talk in the bathroom lots, don’t they) and thanks him for his help that day. She also flirts and stuff.

This episode, like every episode before it, ends with a lecture from Shaw juxtaposed with Big Character Moments, like Alex calling her mother and finally telling her she didn’t go to grad school like she thought, but ran off to join the FBI. Also, Ryan confronts O’Conner, saying that he is what rappers would refer to as “mad sus,” and probably doing something off-book. O’Conner than plays his trump card to keep Ryan in line: He’s not really at Quantico undercover as far as the Bureau is concerned — he’s on probation, undergoing retraining. If he doesn’t fall in line, O’Conner can easily have him scrubbed for good. Ryan, however, is covering his ass: He had called Shaw before chatting up O’Conner, and she listened in on the entire exchange.

Finally, in the present, Ryan grapples once more with the question we started with: Whose side is Simon on? Simon continues to say he’s Team Alex, while Nathalie Vazquez looks on at this exchange suspiciously.

Alex herself is now back in Shelby’s house, holding Shelby hostage there until she decides to tell her how that wire ended up in the bomb that blew up Grand Central Station. But things are going to get a bit more difficult for Alex, because Agent Clayton has new marching orders for the FBI manhunt: Take no prisoners. Shoot to kill.

Quantico Recap: The Blue Flame