Quantico Recap: Let’s All Hang Out on the Dark Web


Season 1 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 1 stars


Season 1 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 1 stars
The trainees leave campus for the first time while undergoing their first undercover assignment. With an evening full of unpredictable events, Alex and Ryan find themselves getting close while the recruits’ skills are tested. In the future, Alex decides to tell her side of the story and sits down for her first public interview, leaving everyone watching to wonder who is really telling the truth. Photo: Phillippe Bosse/ABC

“Found” is simultaneously the best and worst episode of Quantico thus far. It has a fun exercise for the trainees to undertake, and a pretty tense present-day story line. It delivers on the promise of some sexy hookups and fills in some blanks in the ongoing mystery.

It also goes about much of these high points in the clumsiest, most groan-worthy manner imaginable, which undermines just about every ounce of goodwill it earns. Get excited!

Alex Parrish is now a part of the modern miracle that is the 24-hour news cycle. The news media have also noticed that Alex Parrish is pretty hot, in addition to being a woman, and a terrorist. A “Terror Babe,” if you will. I did not make that phrase up. (See also: “Jihadi Jane.”)

Alex herself is still hiding out at Shelby’s home, which the FBI still thinks is clear after they raided it and found nothing at the end of last week’s episode. Shelby tells her that the wire that Alex is using as her Big Lead is some extremely thin evidence that could point to any one of their classmates.

Which makes this a good time for the episode to head back to FBI HIGH SCHOOL.

After an initial bit of drama involving Shelby spotting Caleb sneaking off for unauthorized visits to the gun range (analysts don’t get to play with all the toys, it seems), he gets reprimanded by an instructor and thinks Shelby ratted him out. She swears she didn’t, and there’s no real reason not to believe her, but it doesn’t matter because this is only meant to foreshadow later sexual tension.

This week’s group project is a field trip! But before they go anywhere, they have to learn how to go undercover. That means they have to construct new identities.

Back in the present, Ryan calls Alex and tells her how last week’s episode ended. (“Yo, Alex, I’m pretty sure the cliff-hanger had that O’Connor guy telling us we’re supposed to kill you if we see you, FYI. Just in case you forgot to set your DVR.”) He also volunteers himself and Simon to do some legwork and figure out another likely suspect, by cross-referencing a list of FBI agents at Grand Central with their Quantico class, a move so simple and obvious, it’s kind of ridiculous it’s not being done as a part of the main investigation. (Something up ahead is going to provide a possible explanation for it, but I’m not sure it makes things better.)

Meanwhile, Alex is not going to sit idly by. She’s noticing all the headlines and wants to get her side of the story out there, change the conversation a bit. So she goes to the Dark Web and just sends out a blanket message asking for help.

No, seriously, she, like, goes to a computer and is like, “hello is this the dark web,” and then the Dark Web is like, “yes hi how are u,” and then Alex is like, “I am not a terrorist can someone help me,” and the Dark Web is like, “yea no problem bro meet my hacker buddies THE UNKNOWN.”

The Dark Web: a totally chill place to meet friendly hackers that will help you clear your name.

Anyway, said hacker collective meets with Alex and agrees to broadcast an interview with her as long as they vet her, effectively judging her to see if she’s innocent enough for them. This involves bombarding her with questions about the day of the attack and her former classmates. They also have some questions about someone named Amir, someone we haven’t met before and might be connected to a club bombing in Bangladesh? It’s something that has a connection to Alex’s ten years in India, which the Unknown have a pretty strong interest in.

Meanwhile, back at Quantico, the trainees go about crafting new cover identities, which is kind of like making a Dungeons & Dragons character but with less math. They introduce their new personae to the class while being mercilessly grilled by O’Connor. Then he takes them out to their actual assignment: the Dystek Corporate retreat, a big company gala where the trainees are supposed to schmooze their way into a meeting with the company CEO while maintaining their cover, only — surprise — they have to swap cover identities because going undercover is something you have to do on the fly in the real world, not with a full day of prep work.

This is something that is ostensibly supposed to make the assignment harder, but it really doesn’t do anything at all. They are still people pretending to be other people, and they perform about as well as you’d imagine them performing if they stuck with the IDs they crafted. There is schmoozing and mingling, and Simon and Shelby perform the most amazing fake-dancing I have ever seen in my life.

While all this is going on, we find out that the Nimahs (do you like that? The Nimahs? I’m trying it on for size. It’s probably the best way to refer to our Secret Twins) have their own goal: They have to trade places every hour and not miss a beat. If they’re discovered or screw up, they’re kicked out of Quantico, because they have an actual cover to maintain, not a fake one. (This is another thing that should up the tension, but really doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things.)

Meanwhile, Shaw and O’Connor have drinks removed from the night’s exercise, at a bar where they were going to leave each other’s spouses for one another? What a curveball. But we don’t get a moment to let that marinate because Shaw wants to know why the hell he’s running an unsanctioned op on Alex. We don’t get to hear the answer, but we do hear O’Connor tell Shaw that Alex has something on “all of us.”

The Undercover Party remains mostly fluffy stuff, but one important subplot comes to a head: Max, Simon’s fake boyfriend from the pilot, returns, and Elias’s creepy interest in Simon’s façade of a personal life kicks into overdrive. (The analysts are allowed to mingle at the party, too.) He waits for Simon to leave Max unattended in a hotel room, charms his way in, and learns that Max is, in fact, Simon’s fake boyfriend. When Simon returns, Max is gone and Elias is waiting, so he can dive into the most hamfisted sermon on co-opting struggles and shame Simon for pretending to be gay.

This whole plotline is baffling because it highlights what was always a strange decision by the writers to include a character whose thing seems to be pretending to be gay, with no other openly gay regular cast members (Rick Cosnett, who plays Elias, is only a recurring role, but at least they have another gay character calling out the fake-gay character? This whole thing is a mess). Also, even if Elias is right about Simon’s dick move of pretending to be gay, that doesn’t change the fact that Elias is an invasive creep.

In the present timeline, the FBI learns that Alex is with the Unknown and can trace her once they go live. The Unknown do go live after a few more questions about Alex’s time in India — she maintains this Amir fellow is not who they think him to be, and it sounds like he died in a drone strike, which could be construed as motive for Alex turning against her country.

The Unknown find Alex’s answers satisfactory and get Alex’s message out there, and the FBI arrive at the broadcast location — only it’s what Simon calls “a PR nightmare” because Alex and the Unknown are holed up in a mosque.

Oy vey.

So this whole thing is a big freaking mess. Quantico seems to want to say something about race and profiling and Islamophobia (Alex, in her broadcast, talks about how the real terrorist knew what they were doing by blaming the brown person, which is a pretty smart line!), but this clever plot to escape the FBI just feels wrong. It’s the sort of scenario that genuine Islamophobes would use as an argument to violate the rights and freedoms of American Muslims, and it undermines whatever statement Quantico is trying to make.

Maybe it would land better if there was time taken to explore the tension and moral quandaries of such a decision, but none of that is present because Quantico isn’t concerned with being that kind of show — that’s for Homeland to sort out. Quantico can’t be troubled to deal with this shit, because two pairs of characters are going to have sex in the next flashback.

I swear I wasn’t this annoyed at Quantico when I sat down to write this.

Alex and Ryan finally bang for the first time since the pilot, as do Shelby and Caleb after lots of poorly manufactured sexual tension. There is literally no reason for those two to be attracted to each other, except for maybe Strong Aryan Genes. Literally every scene they’re in together feels like it belongs in another show.

Also: Some members of the gang win the competition and meet the CEO, but, like several other things in this episode, it doesn’t really matter. Simon gives Elias a sob story about how he was in the Israeli Defense Force and did some awful shit in Gaza, and the only way he can live with himself is by pretending to be someone else, which sounds awful and like something that could be really compelling to explore, but I doubt we’ll see that. Especially because there’s no reason to believe Simon’s doing nothing but covering his own ass and making a sympathy play for Elias, who’s ready to report him to Shaw before hearing his story.

Speaking of Shaw, she finds out her son made parole and tells Ryan she’s not going to do anything about O’Connor’s investigation into Alex because it’s “a matter of national security.” Caleb continues to be a dick to Shelby, and she’s still totally into the idea of sex with him.

In the present, Alex’s interview with the Unknown (who are totally her pals now) has gone viral. The idea that she’s the victim of a cover-up is gaining some traction. Shelby is being questioned by O’Connor after they found her at the mosque, but she doesn’t cop to knowing anything, nor does she give Simon or Ryan up.

Shelby doesn’t think Alex is guilty anymore, and she wants to help. Ryan shows her the list of agents he cross-referenced at the beginning of the episode. The only name that’s on it that hasn’t been accounted for yet? Caleb Haas.

Let’s hope next week is better, yeah?

Quantico Recap: Let’s Hang Out on the Dark Web