Quantico -- The Big Bad (S1 E21 Recap)

quantico logoFor coherence, this penultimate Quantico episode recap will be presented without the vertigo-inducing time jumps.

Let’s start in the past:

It’s almost graduation day which we’ll presumably see next week, and somehow that will make the whole season make sense, but not too much sense because (a) that would be impossible and (b) if something that would have explained EVERYTHING happened Alex would have seen it and being the FBI-savant that she is, she would have known immediately who done it.

Alex is back to flirting with Ryan because whatever happens that drives him into Natalie’s arms, hasn’t happened yet – also they are epic and meant to be unless you’re shipping Alex and Simon, or Alex and Shelby, or Alex and the twins, or Alex and Hannah.  Liam tells Alex that the Dad she shot and killed in cold blood would be so proud of her, only he leaves out the shot and killed part.

Shelby continues her dealings with Clayton who warns her that delivering her parents to justice is a path she needs to be sure of as though the FBI is a very understanding place that would totally give her a choice about helping to bring in her war profiteering on the lam folks, and wouldn’t be threatening not just to destroy her career before it starts but to throw her in jail if she doesn’t help reel them in. Shelby accuses Caleb of writing another heartbreaking letter from her mom, but he denies it was him. She doesn’t believe him and neither does Start Up Queen who has lots of time to be up in everybody else’s bidness because she’s waiting for her security clearance, and can’t believe that Caleb is still at the academy even though he’s in a cult and beat up a fellow recruit. Could it have something to do with nepotism, maybe? Will she ultimately be cast out and turn evil and team up with evil Drew who we still think at this point is the Voice of Doom?

The counter-terrorism boss lady tells the twins there’s an opening in the terror cell. The cell must have put something in the classified section of Inspire: “Wanted pious but slutty female jihaddi with a split personality.” The girls’ new assignment will start immediately, so no graduation for them. Besides, how would that even work with the switches and never be seen together at the same time and all?

This week’s bathroom/locker room sequence features Shelby and Alex, with Alex sporting tights and a sports bra. You go, girl! Shelby recounts her history with her parents in case anyone needed a recap, or maybe she figured Alex was way too self-involved to have gotten it the first time. Then it’s time for agents and ex-agents like Senator Claire and Big-Shot Baxter to recount the aftermath of horrific events that the FBI failed to stop like the real life 911 attack, the real life Boston marathon attack, and the fictional Omaha attack. This brings us naturally enough to this week’s challenge, which has something to do with looking through the files on the cases where the FBI kind of screwed up and didn’t stop the terrible thing that happened from happening.

Shelby hears from her mom, which presumably means she knows the last letter was for real and Mommy really loves her, or maybe she doesn’t care because she’s been hurt, or maybe it doesn’t matter because she realizes her parents are awful human beings who belong in Gitmo whether they love her or not. She asks her mother to meet her, but mom is like “You know I’m a wanted fugitive even though everybody thinks I’m dead,” and Shelby tells her, “Don’t worry Mommy I can get you immunity from the 911 commission!”

You’d think her parents, would be savvy enough grifters to smell a rat on that one, but they’ve probably been shooting heroin in Morrocco on Shelby’s dime for so long that they’ve lost their edge. There’s no deal. Shelby is trying to entrap her parents though I leave it to any lawyers watching the show to comment on whether or not this is in fact entrapment given that she’s trying to lure them back, not get them to admit to wrongdoing, which they’ve already done. She could have just as easy (and legally) offered them something else they might want – like money and made up an excuse for why they’d need to come and get it.

But somehow the show has equated with this the “compromises” and “shortcuts” we keep hearing about which are apparently the road to perdition and the path to madness. Start Up and Caleb initially figure out that Shelby switched cases with Alex to get a hold of some 911 files so she could forge an old agreement. Start Up knows some of this she snoops. Caleb knows because he’s been hacking into Shelby’s computer again. They are desperate to stop her because they believe this is crossing the line and will destroy her career before it starts because aiding and abetting her fugitive parents wouldn’t be a problem, but setting a trap to get them back on US soil would.

Hello Assistant Director Hass. Thank you for helping me work through my daddy issues.

Hello Assistant Director Hass. Thank you for helping me work through my daddy issues.

Alex who got access to the Omaha files in return for giving Shelby 911, has a chat with Big Shot (Assistant Director? Very Special Agent?) Baxter about a missing file. She suspects a cover up, and he finally tells that her that hypothetically, maybe  sometimes bad guys need a little nudge, like they aren’t really going to bomb a building they’re just going to talk about it so maybe you have to get them the blueprints of the building and hope you get there before the bomb goes off, because you gotta break some eggs even if that’s a metaphor for hundreds of people being killed. But she’ll never prove it.

What’s happening with the twins?

QUANTICO -- The Big Bad (S1 E21 Recap)

I meant Nimah and Raina! What did you think I meant?

Nimah naturally can’t wait to go undercover and get her some bad guys. Raina is having second thoughts, and goes to Liam for advice. Uncharacteristically, he does not advise her to search for courage in a bottle – but does suggest (having seen Lost) that she find a constant whom she can go to or at least think about in times of stress to keep her grounded and prevent her from becoming a bomb-making super-villain not that that would ever to him, no sirree. She runs off to New York which on this show is about a twenty minute commute from DC and meets Simon in a diner to chat. Simon who’s already working at the tech company but might not have been recruited yet by Clayton, tells her that it’s a super groovy place to work and she should come there too. Then they both notice that Nimah is there spying on them. Nimah then talks to Raina telling her she should make her own decision, and then Nimah comes out to talk to Simon to tell him that Raina will be coming with her.

Alex finds out what Shelby is doing and yells at Shelby in her usual “OMIGOD THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT AND I KNOW WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU” way, which would be even more annoying if she wasn’t the most beautiful woman in the world. Shelby tells her there is no need to worry about what she’s doing as she’s “protected” and also that Alex needs to stay out of her way.

Alex then talks to Ryan whose help she wants to enlist in talking Shelby down. They’re interupted by Liam who tells Alex that Shelby just reported her for taking the Omaha files she grabbed.

Caleb goes to talk to Shelby’s mother who’s come in to sign the forged document, though why there’s not already a swat team there to arrest her is not clear. Shelby’s mom insists she is terribly sorry for being a sociopath and was surprised to find she did have real feelings and it wasn’t just about the money. Caleb tells her Shelby’s deal is a fake, if she wants an honest relationship with Shelby she needs to turn herself in.

Meantime, Liam tells Shelby that she’s crossing the line and she’ll start doing even worse things after that and he outghta know. Then Liam tells Ryan “the truth” about Omaha, which is mostly what Baxter told Alex, but in Liam’s version it’s the higher-ups, some mysterious “they” who told him and Alex’s father to “expedite” things and gave them the blueprints. He claims Alex’s father wanted to come clean and “they” wouldn’t let him. Ryan then breaks up with Liam for good, telling him he’s not following him to DC because he takes too many shortcuts. He doesn’t also bother to say, “and then you blame others for your lousy decisions, plus you’re a miserable alcoholic AND you tried to get Alex kicked out of Quantico to cover up your bullshit, and then you slept with her.”

Shelby yells at Alex that she is dead to her on account of her mother was gone when she showed up to meet her, and somehow this is Alex’s fault. No one wonder Alex acts like it’s all about her. Everyone in both timelines blames Alex for everything that happens to them.

Ryan and Alex then commiserate about how lonely is the life of a special agent. Alex proposes they run off together for some hot times between graduation and starting their new jobs. We get the usual Liam on the podium voiceover telling the youngsters whatever it is they were supposed to learn – blah blah cutting corners, blah blah blah knowing what’s right. Then we see Clayton on his cell telling Shelby not to worry. They’ll get her parents later – when she’s working for him. They can work on it 24/7, maybe over dinner and drinks and in a swanky hotel room. He’s about to go dinner with Caleb and his wife. Yeech.

The counter-terrorism lady tells the twins that plans have changed so they are going to graduation. Start up gets her clearance from Senator Hass, which apparently can’t be questioned. There’s a little post-it note making sure Start Up knows this was due to Caleb’s intervention. Dude, I don’t think showing off your privilege is going to make her hate you less even if you are trying to help.

And here’s what happened in the present:

Alex is still driving around in a Tacoma allegedly with a nuclear bomb attached while the Voice of Doom – now speaking in the Voice of Drew gives her orders and tells her what an awful person she is and she how she messed up his life.

quantico s1 e21 alex driving

Alex remembers better days in the Tacoma, like that time she and Ryan did it on the front seat.

Because it’s Ryan’s car with the bomb, Miranda has Nimah take Ryan to a holding pen until they can figure things out. There’s a swat team heading for Alex. Shelby runs to talk to Claire Hass even though Claire’s handler slut-shames her.

Sure, we all slept with Clayton, but you're the one that got in the papers!

Sure, we all slept with Clayton, but you’re the one that got in the papers!

Meanwhile, Alex is trying to talk Drew down, but he insists he has to teach America a lesson. What lesson exactly? Unlike in real life where terrorists usually want something they could explain in ten words or less on Quantico they just don’t like Mondays.

The voice goes on warning Alex to keep driving because if she opens a door or even a window, BOOM.

Shelby arrives at the FBI with Claire who is one-giant get out of jail free card who can magically make things happen. Claire demands to see her baby-boy and explains that Alex is not a terrorist. Caleb and Raina are both released and reinstated to help. Looks like the band’s getting back together although Ryan is a little bit worried on account of Alex may be crazy, and Caleb should really be in rehab but he doesn’t want to go to rehab, no, no, no.

Within minutes Caleb and Raina have tracked down an apartment rented in the name of Drew’s dead girlfriend. And then we see the inside of that apartment before the SWAT team arrives. It’s a super-villian lair! Simon and Drew are both tied together back to back on chairs. There’s all sorts of equipment and we can hear Alex and the Voice of Doom speaking. Just in case we the viewers have any lingering doubts about Drew’s innocence, Drew is asleep and he wakes up confused about how he’s hearing his voice saying things he’d never say.

So if he’s not evil then who does the show want us to think is evil now? That would be Miranda, who tells Ryan she has to go upstairs for a meeting, but he watches the elevator and it’s going downstairs! Therefore: EVIL!

Hey remember that weird getting out of being tied together that the NATs did way back in the swimming pool around at the beginning of the season. Simon and Drew try to work together to put that into practice, but their hands are too big. Drew tells Simon to go ahead and break his thumb to get them both loose. Simon obliges. Then Simon runs out to get help and Drew runs to the phone to tell Alex he is not evil. But no sooner does he yell that out than a Swat team bursts in an a booby trap explodes.

The Voice must have been leading Alex pretty close to where Simon and Drew were or maybe once Claire came in they were sharing information with her or who knows, but Simon is suddenly standing by Ryan’s Tacoma, which is also surrounded by armed FBI, and he’s telling Alex that it’s all good. The bomb isn’t actually attached to anything, and she can unlock the car door and walk away.

No, I'm not trying to get back at you for the time you made me let go of the trigger and it went boom!

No, I’m not trying to get back at you for the time you made me let go of the trigger and it went boom!

Alex is naturally skeptical especially because she was the one who told him that time to let go of the trigger only that’s what set off the second exploision, but he finally convinces her and nothing blows up. And then Alex is on the television next to Claire who’s thanking her for saving the universe. Isn’t this going to make it pretty much impossible for Alex who is now the most famous woman in the world to ever work undercover?

Then we see Miranda sneaking sneakily into an office. She gasps when she sees the computer monitor showing all the locations. There’s a gun click, and she starts talking, because sure that’s what you do when someone evil has a gun on you, you explain the exact circumstances that lead you there. She turns and shoots, but it’s too late, the Big Bad shot her first. She’s down but still alive and still talking even though it looks like the Big Bad is about to put her down for good.

Who is the Big Bad? Why it’s Liam of course. Why is he doing this? “To make things right,” he says.

We suspected he had to have some purpose.

We suspected he had to have some purpose.

Is this the final reveal or will there be another twist? The show runners have been saying this is it – though there will still be a finale in which more nontwisty stuff will be revealed. The problem isn’t that we were told the “traitor” (a word a show now prefers to terrorist)  was a NAT. We learned early on the tip wasn’t reliable. The problem is that the strategy of the show has been to do nothing except throw around red herrings. The entire subplot about Miranda’s son? Meaningless. Shelby’s parents? So what? Caleb’s cult? Irrelevant. The show’s habit of making someone look suspicious and than providing an explanation got tired. It was as predictable as the comic-style physical challenges, the soap opera romances, and the inevitable wrapped in a towel sequences.

Liam’s guilt is not a reveal that makes everybody somehow culpable. It’ not a surprise that makes you go, “Aha! Now it all makes sense!” or “Yay me! I knew it.” It still feels random, like they could have just picked another name out of a hat or could provide a new explanation next week for why it’s not him. Sure it probably makes the most sense that it’s Liam – the only one besides Miranda that knew all of the NATs and their weaknesses, but trying to divert our attention by making him a sad-sack alkie  feels like a cheat. Could the Liam we know really have pulled all this off? And for what? He killed hundreds of innocent people because he felt bad about actions that led to the deaths of hundreds of innocent people? And he pulled all of this off by his lonesome (and by forcing them to do stuff) like Lex Luther?

So all of the lessons the NATs learned at Quantico were taught to them by a mad man. Then again Darth Vadar is Luke’s father, Rosebud was a sled, and Wayward Pines is the future.

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

TV Show: Quantico

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