Plus: Showrunner Josh Safran talks The Unknown, Simon and Elias, and which fake headline made Priyanka Chopra 'crack up'

By Shirley Li
Updated October 23, 2015 at 12:00 PM EDT
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Alex and the NATs got to toy with undercover identities at a corporate mixer this week in the Quantico timeline, but in the New York timeline, the identities Alex has been slapped with per the New York Post headlines are labels she’d rather not have. Among the titles: “Jihadi Jane,” “Bomb Bae,” and “Terror Babe” — all blaming her for the attack. Luckily, she gets help from an Anonymous-like Internet ring, and even Shelby turns out to support Alex by the end of the episode. (…Or does she?)

As for the NATs in the Quantico timeline, two couples — Alex and Ryan, Shelby and Caleb — finally, well, coupled up, the twins managed to carry off the seemingly impossible task of trading places and intel every hour, and even Simon and Elias had a pseudo-heart-to-heart about why Simon acts the way he does. So with all that to process, read on for showrunner Josh Safran’s answers to our latest burning questions:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This episode was bookended by some pretty out-there New York Post headlines. Were you all just sitting around the writers’ room tossing out puns?

I hope you saw the one with “Bomb Bae.” Priyanka and I were very happy about that. [Laughs] We should have chosen that one instead of “Jihadi Jane” but “Jihadi Jane” got the story point across whereas “Bomb Bae” would just be the New York Post headline if there ever were one. I just loved when Priyanka saw them, she was cracking up.

I also loved that the image used in the newscast is one in which Alex looks like a swimwear model.

Well, we talked about that as well. We got a lot of photographs of Priyanka from over the years, and that one in particular is the one she wears in the Pitbull video, and we were saying, if you were the New York Post and you were going back looking for photos of Alex Parrish, and you come across a photo of her on Instagram on the beach looking great, that’s what you’re using. I mean, that sells the paper. We had a ton of other photos of her in tank tops and shorts with sunglasses sitting at a beach café, where she looks very much like a normal person, but it was like, you know, the New York Post would never run with that.

Elsewhere in the New York timeline, Shelby’s no longer Alex’s hostage. Just to be clear: Who’s officially on Team Alex now? Ryan, Miranda, Simon, and Shelby?

It’s very clear that Simon and Ryan are [working together for Alex]. What Shelby says is “I don’t like her, but I don’t think she’s guilty.” So I would say Shelby’s got one foot on the plate, but Ryan and Simon are standing there.

Also on Alex’s side: Unknown, a hacker group you introduced in this episode. What made you want to push Quantico into this cyber-territory?

We were just talking about how information is given to the masses and at this point in time, people often turn, obviously, to the Internet for the truth, or to find their way through all the information. We were looking at Anonymous and all the things that have happened there, we were talking about the Sony hack and the Ashley Madison hack and how the public becomes part of the investigation in sort of everything these days. That was, basically, our version of Anonymous. I’d much rather have liked to say “Anonymous,” but we can’t on network television on this level, so you have The Unknown instead. And while we’re introducing them, they’re not the fabric of the show. It’s not like we are going to be spending a lot of time with them. Alex turned to them in this moment, and in the future, she may see them again. She may not.

In the Quantico timeline, the NATs get a chance to put on their going out outfits and work with some undercover identities. Was there a character you especially had fun writing for these scenes?

Oh, I don’t know, I think I had fun with all of them, because it was so nice to be able to show the other side. We love the Henleys and the cargo pants but we’ve been itching to see what they’re like in real clothing. It was just a chance to really dress them up and show them being other people. Tate [Ellington] had fun playing Sam which becomes Samantha that Shelby plays, because he’s from, you know, the south. He put on his real accent… Jake [McLaughlin] really loved the Tom Brady line, and I think Jake Coburn, our EP and writer who co-wrote the episode, came up with that line specifically for him.

Miranda seems to have learned the whole truth from Liam. We don’t find out what that truth is—

You will very soon. I know it seems like we’re burning through story, but in our minds it’s not, because we’re trying to answer in the appropriate time. Alex’s mission in her heart is to find out this truth, so she’s going to stop at nothing to find it and this isn’t like a lifelong crusade. The answers are within her reach, it’s just a question of whether or not Liam will tell her. But she knows he has answers, and he knows that he knows the truth that she wants, so it’s just a matter of time before that all comes out. So yes, the answer is coming, and soon.

Does that mean Miranda wants to work with Liam to get Alex eventually kicked out of Quantico?

I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that I think the idea of getting Alex kicked out of Quantico has been abandoned, because it didn’t work. Now, it’s more like, he needs more help to protect the thing he needs to protect. It’s not going to go away.

For Simon and Elias, it seems like their drama has finally cooled. Does this mean Elias believes what Simon said and that he’ll stop going after him?

When people say they’re telling the truth on this show, they actually are. Like, when someone sits down and says, “I’m gonna tell you the truth now,” it may not be the whole truth, they may be selective about it, but it is the truth. So when Liam tells Miranda why he’s been trying to keep Alex at bay, that is the truth. And when Simon tells Elias, that is the truth. Now, does Elias choose to believe that truth or not? That’s interesting. I don’t want to say in this case one way or the other, but I think in some people’s cases, they may not believe it, because sometimes the truth is harder to believe.

In the last moments of the episode, we also see Caleb doing something or other with Mark Raymond. What is going on there?

I would say Mark Raymond’s footprint in the world is getting larger… I hope that by now, people can see that there are bigger stories that get closed as we continue and there are smaller stories that grow in size to replace them as we move forward.

What can you tell us about episode 6?

Team Alex continues to draw people into it, but they come against their strongest opposition yet. Alex herself sort of discovers a new way to see the pieces of her story that she cannot remember. I think, also, as we continue in episode 6, you are seeing more of the character dynamics and less of the plot moves. I think episode 6 is heartbreaking on many levels because of the characters and their connections. I also think that in the present, you see a very cool exercise. The episode’s all about surveillance, so you learn about the tools of the trade at Quantico and how they’re used. It’s fun.

Episode Recaps

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


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