May 11, 2018
Quantico: How to Get Away with Terrorism
Welcome to the Church of Shonda – a diverse congregation inclusive of all races, ethnicities, genders, and orientations. While there is a strict ceiling on olds (over 40), those few senior members who make the cut are often in leadership positions, including philandering President of the United States, totally unethical law school professor, and head of medicine who used to sleep with your mother. There is no need for shame within the church as everyone has secrets, usually involving murder although generally for a really good reason.
As with all religions, there must come a time when the congregation outgrows the individual upon whom the faith was founded. Today, we’re baptizing the newest baby born into the flock, Quantico, over which the divine Shonda Rhimes serves only as spiritual godmother with no actual role in its creation or development. Forever may she continue to inspire its heights and depths, its sins and confessions, its forbidden loves and sexy betrayals, its star-making performances and preposterous plot twists. Amen.
We open with a big boom and a hand rising as if from a grave because why not start off with a visual trope? There’s what looks like snow bouncing off the hand, but it’s not snow; it’s debris and ash. The rubble the hand is sticking out of is the remains of the recently blowed up Grand Central Station. There are cabs squashed by stone pillars, and why the person the hand belongs to wasn’t also squished is an interesting question that we shouldn’t think about because there’s no logical explanation.
Those of us who are over twenty-five and from the New York metro area may ask ourselves, “Too soon?” And the answer is, “Yeah. Probably.” But the rest of America turned Ground Zero into a tourist attraction by Christmas 2001, so better learn to deal or change the channel.
Then there’s a flashback because in the Church of Shonda, linear time means nothing. Here we meet the owner of the hand. Her beauty may even surpass Olivia Pope’s. She’s also deceptive. First, she deceives her mother, who is smoking cigarettes, a sure sign of pathology and bitterness, about headed to the train when she’s actually taking a plane. Then, when she meets a cute man on the plane, she immediately lies to him about who she is and where she’s going. Next, she’s having sex with him in the front seat of his car, maybe because the restroom on the plane wasn’t available and they couldn’t get a room at the airport hotel, or even use the backseat which might have been a tad more comfortable. This was not one of television’s finer sex moments. If you are going to show us two attractive people doing it, we’d like some skin in the game, or at least some skin and not just seeing her pull up her pants from her ankles after the fact.
The beautiful woman is our hero (or heroine if that’s not completely anachronistic) Alex Parrish. But we also get quick shots of other attractive people. There’s Mormon Man, and Gay Guy. Gay Guy has gotten some random person to agree to meet him and pose for a selfie of them kissing. Is he going to meet his mother who is continuing to pester him to settle down? Is he sending it to his ex to say, “I am so over you and look how averagely cute my new boyfriend is?” Maybe we’ll find out later.
There’s also Hijab Woman. She tries to use a restroom at a convenience store but gets hassled because America hates her. Also, she doesn’t actually use the restroom, but instead retrieves something from under the toilet tank cover. When she leaves, another car appears to be following hers. Very mysterious, but there’s no way that television would actually have the woman in the hijab turn out to be anything but a loyal American, so there must be some not-a-terrorist explanation.
But back to Alex. After boning her rando (whose name is Ryan Booth), she refuses to tell him her name and gives him a quick peck goodbye. Of course she soon runs into him, and the other assorted beautiful people, in the auditorium at Quantico where they are all new recruits.
Next, the recruits are settling in with their roomies in the dorm. The Gay Guy and the Mormon practice their Arabic or are just showing off in front of the good-looking but dickish (in a frat boy kind of way) blond-bit-of-beefcake. The Mormon knows Arabic from his mission to Malawi. The Gay Guy, who knows? Maybe he learned it on vacation in Morocco. But we do find out he used to be an accountant and he loves coffee. It’s noted that Hijab Woman (Nimah) has a single room because she’s devout and that way she wouldn’t be changing in front of other people and men wouldn’t accidently see her because of the close quarters. This doesn’t stop Gay Guy (Simon) from knocking on her door and opening it before she has time to say, “Don’t open it.” She is not amused.
What is the first assignment that the first year law students new medical interns NATs (new agency trainees) have? They have to find out each other’s secrets! How? By picking a photo of another recruit and researching them, then later asking the recruit yes or no questions in an interrogation room with everyone watching on video, while the subject is hooked up to a lie detector and retina-scanning thingamajig. Worst training icebreaker ever or the best?
It’s flashfoward again, where we learn that Alex, who has just survived the worst terrorist bombing on U.S. soil since 9/11 uninjured, is at FBI headquarters. She’s been an agent a few months by now and has just been told that they have a tip that one of the recruits from her class was in on the bombing and probably was always a terrorist, so she is forced to remember everything she can about everyone from Quantico.
Although the flashbacks all begin with Alex being pressured to remember, they do not adhere to the rule of only showing us what she would know. We see the tough-as-nails Assistant Director Miranda Shaw talking to Liam O’Connor, an agent working with her. They used to be partners, and lovers. He’s sliding downhill career-wise while she’s stalled due to the glass ceiling. She got him this gig in an effort (she says) to save his pension, and she doesn’t want to see him screw it up. He seems strangely ungrateful. But then again, it was one of those awkward conversations designed to pack in the backstory.
Now it’s time for some boot camp-like training involving pull-ups and guns. We learn more about our NATs – and thank you, show, for not making the recappers think up the cute name for them. Caleb, the beefcake, can’t do pull-ups despite being totally ripped. He’s investigating the Mormon (Eric). Caleb claims he has something on him. It has to do with his mission and it’s big. Eric is clearly rattled.
When it’s time for the yes-or-no interviews, Nimah starts quizzing Simon and reveals he’s a virgin, which everybody thinks is hysterical. Also, even though he’s from a conservative Jewish “Zionist” family, he spent time living with Palestinians and didn’t tell anyone. Which frankly makes perfect sense because that could make for some very tense Passovers and Thanksgivings. Simon gets to interview Shelby, a lady blonde who we’ve learned once posed on the cover of a gun magazine – which is completely different from posing for lingerie like the blonde intern on some Shonda show did. But that’s not her secret. Her secret is both her parents died in 9/11.
Alex, of course, is interviewed by Booth. Her secret: Her mother shot her father in self-defense, except when we see her flashback within this bigger flashback, that’s not how it looks. Also in the flashback, her father is arguing with her mother because he wants to tell Alex “the truth” about something. Given that the theme of the episode is the need to face the truth about yourself, this might be an important clue for later, don’t ya think?
Then, it’s Beefcake Caleb’s turn to interview Mormon Eric. Caleb is needling him as they are on their way to the interrogation room. It’s all fun and games until Eric pulls the gun he was supposed to have returned after shooting practice, shoots a random person, and is about to shoot Caleb because no one must ever know his horrible truth. Caleb starts to beg for his life, fessing up that he’s got nothing, barely passed the entrance exam, and is there because his parents are agents. He thought if he bluffed, Eric would let something slip. As Ungrateful Pity-Hire Liam shouts for Eric to open the door, Eric shoots himself. Afterwards, Caleb is booted from the program.
Eric’s secret was he knocked up a fourteen-year-old girl in Malawi, and she died having an illegal abortion. Miranda is pissed at Liam for not uncovering that, which she apparently got from a couple of very quick phone calls. Liam points out that she was the one that recruited Eric. Then it’s show time, with Miranda turning tragedy into teachable moment and talking more about the honesty thing, which maybe leads Alex to seek Liam out or maybe he’s seeking her out because her retina scan indicated she wasn’t being honest. Whichever it is, she tells him that she was the one who shot her father, and also she found a “special agent” ID in his effects. Is lifelong deceit about killing an agent grounds for booting her from the program? Nah, not for a main character.
She shows the ID to Liam, because obviously that’s the kind of thing you keep around, explaining that as far as she knew he was a “simple man” and he worked a “simple job.” She was sent off to her mother’s family in Mumbai for the next ten years and never discussed this with her mother – because the Church’s First Commandment is that people never tell each other essential information because if they did there wouldn’t be a story. Now Alex wants to know about her father: Who was he? Was he a good man or a bad man? And of course it’s better to ask a stranger than try to pry it out of your mom.
Liam says he’ll look into it and warns her she might not be thrilled with the answer. As soon as she walks away, Booth literally jogs up to Liam. Booth, it turns out, is already an FBI agent, and his assignment was tracking Alex. The sexing in the front seat of his car was not part of the plan, and Liam doesn’t want there to be any more of that. Why is Liam looking into Alex in the first place? Booth would like to know this too and thinks it’s a pretty crazy gig, but Liam pulls rank. But wait, there’s more intrigue to go around.
Simon continues to be way too interested in Nimah – especially given that she basically humiliated him in front of everybody, not that there’s anything wrong with being virgin.
He knocks on her door, offering to make her a cup of coffee. She tells him she’ll be out in a minute. And hey, guess what! There are two of her in there! This explains Simon’s earlier observation that she was ambidextrous and sometimes wears the hijab to the left and sometimes to the right. Lest we think this makes her or them terrorists, we learn they are getting their orders from Miranda, who even decides which one is going out for the coffee. Unless of course Miranda is in on the terrorism. This is so hard!
So does each of the recruits have one or more people who aren’t recruits spying on them? Because I don’t think that’s a great use of taxpayer dollars.
Back in the post-rubble world, Alex is now being accused of being the terrorist and all this nonsense of making her have flashbacks to her first two days at the Academy was for what purpose exactly? There’s evidence against her: she shouldn’t have been where they found her, and three shots were fired from her gun. At that very moment, there’s a phone link to the team breaking in to her apartment to get more intel. They find C4, blueprints, plans, the whole megillah. Oh, and also Booth’s bloody body. Is he dead? Maybe. They refer to him like he is, but we don’t see his face, so who knows for sure?
Alex sure looks guilty. They put her in shackles and haul her to a van, but not before she passes Liam and begs him to get her out of this because he has to know she’s innocent, right? But he tells them to get her out of his sight.
She’s brought to a van, but guess who’s driving? It’s Miranda, who knocked out the real driver. Miranda tells her she’s being framed and if she goes to jail, she won’t get out alive. She gives Alex a key for the shackles and a bag of handy stuff. She tells her she has to investigate the other recruits and find out who done it. Then the police cars start chasing them and the van tips over and somehow Alex gets away, but Miranda is sure going to have a lot of ‘splaining to do.
The goodie bag had a hat, which Alex puts on. It’s an FBI cap that maybe has the power to make her invisible because nobody notices the ridiculously stunning FBI agent whose face would have been plastered all over the internet by that time. She disappears into the crowd – which, by the way, seems like a normal Manhattan workday crowd and NOT like people who just found out about a terrorist bombing that brought down Grand Central Station, which, in addition to probably killing thousands of people, would royally screw up their commute and close the subways. (And yes, I do know from personal experience that this is not how the average New Yorker reacts to news of a not-so-distant major terrorist attack.)
So, too ridiculous to watch? Maybe, but not too ridiculous to snark watch!