Credit: Phillippe Bosse/ABC

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for episode 13 of Quantico. Read at your own risk!

If only they didn’t try to outsmart the terrorist — or terrorists. Despite being clearheaded throughout her ordeal, Natalie (Anabelle Acosta) encouraged Alex (Priyanka Chopra) to work against the terrorists — and paid the price. Alex is left with nowhere to turn and no one to blame but herself, and not even Ryan (Jake McLaughlin) can calm her down.

At least things are a bit more cheerful in the Quantico timeline. There, the trio of upper-class NATs are as competitive as ever, even though they wind up failing the same assignment as their counterparts. Below, executive producers Josh Safran and Jake Coburn break down the episode, Natalie’s death, and what’s ahead:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you decide on having Natalie be the one to die?

JOSH SAFRAN: We talked about who would be the most painful for Alex. In the midseason premiere last week, you saw that everyone else has abandoned Alex, but even if Natalie didn’t agree with her, she was actually very close to her and stood by her and agreed to disagree. We also talked about how you don’t want a character to have an easy way out, because that’s not what happens in real life. So just because Natalie regained custody of her daughter and had her life come together doesn’t mean she’s going to be spared.

It was hard to see Natalie go for us, because we really love her character. There was a lot more that we could have done with her, and I think that’s one of the reasons why we did choose her, in a weird way. If Simon were to die, you’d go, “Okay, I’m sad about it, but he has actually gone through everything. It would put him out of this misery.” … We’re sorry to say goodbye to Anabelle Acosta who we really loved working with, who’s an incredible actor and an incredible spirit. It was a really tough decision, and there will be tough decisions ahead as well.

You’ve said before that when someone leaves Quantico, they’re really gone. But if she’s on leave, is there any chance she’ll appear again?

SAFRAN: I can’t say whether you’ll ever see her again in the Quantico section, but she’s definitely dead [in New York].

Compared to Natalie, Alex is a total mess from start to finish, and breaks down by the end. What was it like writing that?

JAKE COBURN: I think it’s a testament to Priyanka that she made herself so vulnerable, and it was such an emotional scene for her. We just gave her the opportunity to do a great performance, and I think that her work with Jake McLaughlin as Ryan is just really strong in general. … For our viewers, it’s an important moment in realizing the stakes of the show, that we’re going to be living in a world where the consequences can be that big.

SAFRAN: It’s important for Alex to get to this place, because she really is up against [the terrorist] in a way that she hasn’t been before. When you’re on the run, there’s always the hope that you won’t be caught or you’ll feel it’ll all work itself out, but this is the first time Alex is realizing it won’t work itself out at all, and there’s going to be a price to pay. … That was a dark day for [Priyanka], to be in that headspace all day.

Credit: Phillippe Bosse/ABC

With all this going on in New York, we haven’t seen Caleb yet. What can you tell me now about his status?

SAFRAN: I can’t say, but it is a mystery that’s going to continue to unfold, and you will learn your first big clue in episode 15. It’s mentioned a little bit next week.

On the Quantico side of things, I want to hear more about the training sequences. What are those scenes like, and is the cast just as competitive in real life?

SAFRAN: They have a lot of fun. … They’re really in the spirit of helping each other. You know, Lenny [Platt, who plays Drew Perales] is incredibly fit and so he can do like a thousand pull-ups, and Priyanka can also do pull-ups because she trained for that, so their characters are being a little competitive, but they’re also competitive in real life.

COBURN: The funny thing too is obviously all the actors are friends, and then on the weekends they go to yoga class together. Off screen, they spend a lot of time competing.

Looking ahead, should we be considering the three older NATs as possible candidates for the mastermind, too?

SAFRAN: Yes. There’s that line where they say, “They vetted us,” in the last episode. The terrorists were there from day one, and I think the voice has even said that to her, and therefore these recruits were there on day one, they’re the class ahead of them. But as we’ve been making it clear, there might not be just one terrorist.

Also at the academy, Liam and Alex in this episode address what happened, but it looks like they’re over. Is this romance going to carry further this season or is this all we’re seeing of them?

COBURN: I would say that the information from what you sort of saw them talking about, it certainly resonated throughout their present day story and in the future story. As to whether or not we see them get together again, I can’t answer that. I can say that what we saw happened certainly informs everything else that will happen.

What can you tell me about what’s going on next week?

SAFRAN: It is an incredibly tense episode in which Alex and a certain somebody else involved in the terrorism angle of our story meet up and spend the entire episode discussing what has happened, how they’ve been used, how its affected them, and it goes to some pretty dark places. It’s sort of like A Walk in the Woods, not the Robert Redford movie, the ’80s play. It’s like two people really getting down to the bottom of everything that has happened between them. It’s a really special episode. It’s unusual for us.

COBURN: Yeah, it’s sort of our version of Deer Hunter. [Laughs]

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

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