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Quantico season 1 episode 2 postmortem: Josh Safran talks the agent vs. analysts dynamic

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ABC/Phillippe Bosse

Spoiler alert! This story contains details from “America,” the second episode of Quantico

Months before Alex went on the run, the NATs (new agent trainees) were learning to gather evidence and work with FBI analysts to stop attacks before they happen. They rifled through clues found in three scenarios set up by Liam (Josh Hopkins), but at the same time, more clues were shown to us. Simon (Tate Ellington) and analyst Elias (Rick Cosnett) played a mini cat-and-mouse game, Shelby (Johanna Braddy) talked to a mystery contact, and Caleb (Graham Rogers) scrolled through a seemingly different identity online. And on top of all of that, while Liam knows about Miranda’s (Aunjanue Ellis) twin recruits Nimah and Raina (both played by Yasmine al Massri), Miranda doesn’t know the undercover Ryan (Jake McLaughlin) is working for Liam to investigate Alex (Priyanka Chopra).

So yes, there’s quite a lot of evidence to sift through for us viewers. “It’s establishing a lot of throughlines,” showrunner Josh Safran says of this latest episode. “We know who the characters are from the pilot, but it’s opening up the world a little bit, and moving forward it’ll be clear and clear.” Here, Safran explains some of the twistier elements of this week’s Quantico and teases next week’s installment

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Simon didn’t seem so slippery in the premiere, but now he’s somewhere near the top of my list of suspects. What can you tell me about why he’s duping those around him at Quantico?

JOSH SAFRAN: I think that it’s a key to a deeper mystery about Simon, the first key that will unlock many doors. Elias continues to dig deeper into the mystery of Simon, especially after realizing at the end of this episode that Simon did indeed switch the glasses out. They’re playing a little bit of a game with each other.

How about Shelby? We just got two quick, questionable scenes with her and that contact she erased off her phone. Is that the same person she was trying to get off the phone later in the episode?

I mean, a thousand mysteries are starting in earnest, so there’s not really that much I can say other than that those two things are one and the same, and the story continues the story that she introduced in the pilot. 

One mystery this episode solved was how Caleb would get back involved with the FBI. Why did you decide to bring him back as an analyst, as opposed to, say, using him for a story outside of the Quantico classes?

Well, putting him on the outside would have been harder to achieve, but I think where [this decision] came from was, we read an article about how this was the first year that analysts and the NATs were being trained together, and once we read that, we knew that we were going to tell the story of the analysts and the NATs and that it was very clear to make Caleb an analyst … 

It is definitely not what he wanted or expected. He views it as a consolation prize, even though being an analyst is equally cool and valued in the bureau. It’s just an interesting dynamic there, moving forward as well, which is that Caleb is on the inside but he’s still behind glass, watching everyone else do what he wanted to do. And that reopens those old wounds within him in being less than the rest of his family.

That Facebook profile he was looking at under the name “Mark Raymond” … that’s definitely Caleb, right? As in this isn’t another case of a character having a surprise twin?

That is correct! It is him. The question is: Why is it him? And what does it mean? It is, again, the beginning of the trail of breadcrumbs for the audience to follow about his character. 

As for Liam and Miranda, even though Liam knows Miranda’s secret about the twins, Miranda doesn’t know the full story behind Ryan. Why is that? I thought they were on the same page.

Well, in the research I did with the FBI, one of the things that kept coming up was, they talked about how you could work in an office with people and be very close to them, but, you could have no idea what the person at the very next desk was doing. And you could be told explicitly that you are not “need-to-know” and that’s that, so Liam is need-to-know about the twins, but Miranda is not about Liam’s operation. Which, by the way, may or may not be a real FBI operation. 

Yeah, it seems like Liam’s running the whole thing on his own.

That may be true. Wait and see if you’re correct!

Looking ahead to next week, now that Alex’s name is out there, I know that her mother gets involved. What can you tease about that? 

Yes, once the press has revealed the name of [Alex as] the prospective terrorist, her mother’s going to have a lot to say about that. And that informs the plot of episode 3, which also shows the NATs looking more into each other’s psychology even more than in the pilot. They go deeper. 

So is next week’s class going to be the NATs interrogating each other again, as in the premiere?

Not exactly, but they’re definitely going to be pressing each other’s buttons in a major way. And it leads to a lot of interpersonal fireworks … This show is obviously densely plotted, but the fun is that while Alex remains on the run in the future, in episode 3, the snapshot widens much more than it did in episode 2, because the characters in the present find themselves with nowhere to turn just as Alex in the future finds herself with nowhere to turn. It really raises the heat up much higher on them. There’s still the “getting to know you” phase in episode 2, and then episode 3 is when now that they really know you, what will they do with that?

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Quantico airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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