The hardest skills to master are often the simplest ones. Quantico’s intelligence agents must be able to shoot guns with pinpoint accuracy, read other people, know how to create wiretaps, and hack into computers with ease. On the Farm, training isn’t just physical; it’s a mental burden, as newfound skills must be directly applied to real-life missions. In past episodes this season, those lessons have been incredibly difficult — like, say, seducing a bride at a rehearsal dinner — but this week, the show reverts to the broad, utter basics. It’s time for some misdirection.
Misdirection, as Owen Hall explains early on, is the art of designing a plan to distract your target. The goal is simple: Trick someone into looking somewhere else so that you can do whatever needs to be done to accomplish your mission. As a theme for the episode, however, “misdirection” is too loose to tie disparate subplots together — and as a result, many of the big reveals don’t land with much of a punch. “Fallenoracle” can’t even fully nail down how misdirection is used, because it can be used in so many different ways. It isn’t just the work of CIA operatives; it’s also the work of common criminals. A whole scene focuses on a pick-pocketing lesson because of this, as if pick-pocketing someone’s purse at a bar is on par with breaking into NSA headquarters to tap their information.
In the past timeline, three intertwined story lines are all running in different directions. I couldn’t really parse two of them, despite watching very intently, but let’s go ahead and give it a try anyway. Owen and Alex Parrish are still on the hunt to uncover the AIC, a rogue CIA operative group that supposedly commits acts of treason and terror in the name of what they consider “right.” To stop them, Alex and Owen hope to design a lesson at the Farm that’ll simultaneously trap the AIC.
Alex recruits Harry Doyle to help her with spying on the AIC recruits who are their friends during the mission — but in return, Harry asks for a favor. He wants the files on Sir Lawrence Bishop, a rich English man whom we later find out was the very religious and oppressive father of Harry’s late ex-lover Elliot. Once again, Harry provides the only true emotional story line of the episode. In a distraught scene with his roommate/enemy, Sebastian Chen (David Lim), Harry explains how he and Elliot were kept apart by Sir Bishop, and how Elliot committed suicide in front of him. Tovey carries the scene, bringing an emotional depth for the second week in a row that Quantico desperately needs.
The mission at the CIA headquarters goes fairly smoothly, except for the fact that Léon Valez is sent away from the Farm. (I guess that’s the end of his very brief arc as a double agent.) Valez also wins the award for the worst line of the night when he says, “I have to be spy and assassin and a traitor all at once; it’s not easy.” Nevertheless, it’s a revealing admission because the show faces a similar struggle for balance. In order to be so many things at once, something always has to suffer. For Valez, he failed as a spy and got caught. For Quantico, the failure lies in its inability to let plotlines linger so they can build emotional weight.
The stories of the past timeline end with two “shocker” moments that both make very little sense. In one, Alex and Owen stumble upon a room with computers and a wall of photos where the data stolen from the NSA is being funneled, only to have the room explode seconds after they leave it. In the other, Sebastian tries to choke Harry to death, and would probably have succeeded if not stopped by another agent.
The Sebastian and Harry love-hate relationship reaches its peak in the present-day timeline. In the past few episodes, the stories set on the Farm have felt slow and boring compared to the darker, more brutal stories happening in the present. (These scenes — either to make them appear more grim, or to distinguish them from the scenes in the past — are shot with a blue-gray coloring so that everyone appears very serious all the time.) We pick up roughly where we left off last week: Set inside a secured perimeter, Alex and the other recruits are trapped with a group of hostages and a group of terrorists. The terrorists have blended in with the hostages, standing among them while everyone tries to escape.
It’s pretty unclear to me why Alex & Co. couldn’t figure out who the terrorists were, especially since so many of the hostages know each other by now. But, I digress. The whole group has to travel through a dark and scary tunnel! Fun! The first misdirection here happens when Will Olsen admits to working with the terrorists in order to make himself bait. Fine. Sure.
The second misdirection has a lot more bite to it. Sebastian’s presumably non-CIA girlfriend Carly Klapp steals Alex’s gun, reveals herself to be AIC, and puts the gun at the base of Harry’s neck. This is actually a good and surprising twist! Well done, Quantico. Carly’s character has been hanging around being boring for weeks, and now, her role in the past suddenly makes much more sense. It could even lead to some entertaining dilemmas. Of course, that’s probably all for naught: Sebastian shoots Carly after she shoots him, and it’s unclear whether she’ll even survive to next week’s episode.
Ultimately, “Fallenoracle” suffers because it introduces far too many misdirects, far too quickly. Instead of producing shock, the episode merely produces a flood of small surprises that fade once the next plot twist emerges. Like the show at large, it’s just too unclear what we, as viewers, are supposed to be looking for. Misdirection is a great technique for stealing a wallet, or for sneaking undetected into the NSA, but it’s not a good way to build a television show.