Quantico doesn’t come across as a show that aims to put its characters through too much turmoil outside of the crazy terrorism frame and the soap operatics of FBI Summer Camp, but “God” is a taut hour that doesn’t set out to do much, plotwise, other than apply serious pressure to the cast and their relationships. It’s great.
It even might make me reconsider the Shelby/Caleb romance, people. I’m so conflicted.
So, first, the scene set in the Future (which is what the Official ABC Synopses refer to what I’ve been calling “the Present,” so I’m going to try to do the same for consistency’s sake, even though I’m clearly the right one in this argument). Alex is hanging out with Shelby and talking about how they need to find Caleb. The problem, of course, is that, despite the fact that they were an item back in Quantico, they are no longer on speaking terms.
So they contact Ryan and ask if he can help tab into whatever social media surveillance the FBI is conducting to look for Alex, and use it to find Caleb. Ryan agrees to help and sets his phone back on his nightstand (because he’s in bed) and Natalie is like, “Sup, boo?” (because she is his boo), and then joins him in the shower (because SEXY TRANSITION TO EIGHT MONTHS AGO).
At this point in our cast’s lives at Quantico, there is a lot of sex on the brain. Everyone is either having sex or thinking about sex, and yeah, I guess six weeks of staring at each other in those blue pajama shirts they have to wear every day will do that to you. Ryan and Alex are having shower sex, Caleb and Shelby are having secret sex, and Simon and Nimah are finally dealing with all that sexual tension they’ve been slowly accruing that I don’t think I’ve ever really noticed.
Miranda Shaw, however, is in a decidedly less-rosy place. Missing from the Academy for three days, she’s been home and on edge since her son Charlie’s parole was granted and he came back home to live with her. It’s the first time the show is frank about what she turned him in for — planning to shoot up the high school O’Connor found her at a few episodes back.
O’Connor visits her at home to try to talk her down, and tells her to get back to work.
They call it D2, and the trainees are told that it monitors computers on the internet in real time. It’s relevant because this week’s training exercise is all about surveillance, and, because this is Quantico, it will also tie into the Future Terrorism Plot. Because D2 is what’s being used to monitor all media, social and otherwise, in order to find Alex and any other evidence of the attack. And it’s being run by Caleb Haas, which is good news (they found him!) and bad news (he can easily wipe any data that makes him look suspicious).
Team Alex hatches a plan to have Simon bug Caleb’s computer while he’s away so she and Shelby can see what he sees from where they’re holed up, which more or less goes off without a hitch.
Flashback with me once more to Quantico Time. Shaw is back and instructing them on their assignment: Go to Fake FBI Suburb Hogan’s Alley to bug a house, and hopefully extract some data from a seemingly normal couple.
This scene is probably the most unintentionally uncomfortable in all of Quantico — the casual way pop music plays as the trainees all pair off and gossip about whom they’ve hooked up with or want to hook up with while simultaneously acting as the long arm of the post-9/11 government and implementing invasive surveillance tech in an ostensibly normal domestic environment. It’s kind of clever in its casualness — suppose there was someone monitoring everything you do, either on your computer or at home. Most of our lives aren’t all that interesting. Wouldn’t they idly chat with whoever’s next to them about sports or dates or any other mundane crap?
Anyway, this exercise is extra weird because there is no clear pass/fail state for it, we’re just told that a certain group of trainees pass and some fail. Like the Nimahs. They fail on purpose because Simon failed, and Raina-Nimah wants to help Nimah-Nimah (Nimah Prime?) land some alone time with Simon.
Over at Shaw’s house, O’Connor helps himself to a BLT and tries to chat with Charlie, but it doesn’t go so well. Charlie isn’t inclined to listen to a guy who was horning in on his mom, who disappeared after being confronted by Charlie’s dad (who is now dead) and is clearly not on his side. O’Connor backs off, but not before removing a bug from Charlie’s room disguised as a copy of War & Peace and telling Shaw to quit spying on her son, as it flirts with breaking the law and it’s a guaranteed way of losing her son.
The trainees that passed the Hogan’s Alley exercise are then given their next gig: to surveil Shaw. Twisty, right?
The gang then goes about monitoring Shaw’s every move while talking about stuff like Caleb’s suspicion that Shelby is just taking him for a ride and really trying to date Brandon, the second-wealthiest guy in their class. This seems dumb at first — especially when he finds out that Brandon is actually dating Natalie — but it’s pretty important.
Alex and Ryan, meanwhile, have taken stakeout duty, and are parked outside of Shaw’s home in a fully equipped surveillance van. They’re surprised to find O’Connor there, and Charlie! They don’t know about Charlie. So they look him up and find out the actual thing he was arrested for was possession of unregistered firearms. However, things get pretty hairy for them. O’Connor is trying to give Charlie a come-to-Jesus speech about all the young people who are able to live happy lives thanks to Charlie not being able to act out on his supposed plans, and Alex and Ryan suddenly have a hard time hearing what’s going on, thanks to interference.
Ryan gets closer to try to get a better signal, but he’s caught by O’Connor, who makes the grievous error of thinking Ryan has become paranoid and is stalking him over his operation looking into Alex. This, of course, blows his cover, because Alex is listening in. She is furious and takes off in the van, but not before noticing Charlie leaving through his bedroom window.
Back at the Academy, Simon and Nimah are drinking tea together in her room where he opens up about pretending to be gay — it just was something that it was easier to let people believe rather than let them see the real him. I’m not sure how I feel about this whole thing, but it’s a sweet scene, especially when Nimah takes off her hijab and lets her hair down before they kiss.
Meanwhile, Shelby comes to Caleb’s room and he confronts her about what she’s hiding. She tells him that she likes him a lot but she really wants to be an agent, and being with him makes her lose her focus and drive, and she hates that — so she asks him to keep things fun and casual. Caleb says he’s cool with that, as long as she’s honest with him.
Time to go … back to the future!
Alex, now able to monitor everything Caleb is doing on his computer, spots a video he deleted of Caleb and his father (Agent Clayton!) arguing before the bombing. We don’t get to hear what they’re arguing about because Shelby and Alex can’t stop arguing over whether or not it’s important — Shelby is very anxious about this stuff, and it’s very suspicious. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long for us to find out why. The next video they see Caleb queue up is his father kissing Shelby.
Caleb, then, isn’t involved in the bombing at all — he was looking for the identity of his father’s mistress. Who, to his shock, is his old flame. This is wild. Even Quantico admits this is banana-pants, as Shelby tells Alex that it sounds like “a soap opera.” It’s the thing that makes me want to forgive my initial hostility to the Most Boring Romance on This Show, mostly because of what it means for Caleb, and the way it plays to some very specific anxieties of his that the show has been careful to build up.
Caleb tells Shelby this much when she goes to apologize to him. It’s genuinely wrenching stuff for a guy who’s spent his whole life struggling with the fact that he probably can’t live up to his father’s reputation, only to find out someone he loved and confided in about all that went on to sleep with his father. It’s pretty messed up!
This scene takes place in the middle of several intense confrontations that close out the episode. Shaw finds Charlie in front of the high school he’s accused of wanting to shoot up. She reveals to him that she burned a note of his that would have put him away for much more time than he got had the police gotten ahold of it. It’s a great scene, and I’m partial to thinking of this as Quantico’s most meaningful and important subplot.
Shaw isn’t the only one with making up to do, though. Ryan finds Alex in the van and wants to explain everything. He does, too — he was told to get close and report to O’Connor regularly, insists that the sex and affection was all him and not his assignment, and tells her that O’Connor took him off the assignment once he got too close. But that’s not enough to overcome a betrayal that big — Alex wants nothing more to do with him.
In his office, Agent O’Connor tells Alex that the whole thing was meant to monitor her for any potential signs of trouble, given her situation with her father. Alex accepts this and swaps rooms with Natalie, which is probably how they end up being a thing.
As Shaw lectures about the nature of surveillance, she cautions how surveillance will teach you things about people and forever change how you see them, but it can never tell you why. In the accompanying montage, we see a few things that illustrate that — Charlie is contacted by what seems like the same anonymous group that inspired his supposed plan to commit a school shooting. Caleb, in the future (along with Alex and Simon by proxy) notices Nimah at the station, which makes them seem like the next likely suspect on the list.
And then, finally — Simon walks back into Nimah’s room to find both Nimahs caught completely unaware. They panic, and in the ensuing struggle — and this is the soapiest soap thing to ever soap — he gets knocked unconscious, and the Nimahs trap him in their closet.
It’s a bizarre, dissonant note to end on, but it’s the note we end on nonetheless. Next week is going to be crazy interesting.