Fake news alarms a small community while Clay and Owen engage in a power war
This week’s episode of Quantico is all about identifying weaknesses — your own, each other’s, and, naturally, America’s. Clay asks Owen to tell him what an enemy might point out in each of the team members, and he goes all out in “helping” Clay. He confides in him about Alex’s hero complex, Ryan’s willingness to abandon the rule book when Alex is in play, Dayana’s lingering darkness from her violent childhood… The only two Clay doesn’t need help with are Nimah — he says she isn’t a real team member so he can just ignore her, I guess — and Shelby, whom he knows a little too much about.
Owen and Clay are in the midst of a power war. Clay wants to be the leader, but the group keeps looking to Owen for guidance, and Owen suggests it’s because of what he perceives as Clay’s weakness: his lack of experience. They table their squabble and head for the bunker, where, as the team is entering, a video of Owen reciting their flaws is streaming on the smart board. (If Clay really wants Owen to respect him, this was an interesting move on the chess board…)
There isn’t much time to waste on the drama. A small community in Virginia has been evacuated over an explosion at a nearby plant. All the nearby water supplies have to be checked for contamination before any of them can return. While this doesn’t qualify as terrorism, it’s the latest viral crafting of fake news (FAKE NEWS!). Someone accessed the Cache to pull this off, so there’s potential to get another name on the collaborator family tree.
Shelby realizes that a bunch of the IP addresses for the material coming out about the blast are all coming from the same location, not far away. Once Dayana realizes that most the tweets spreading information about the damage originate in the same place, they’re sure that it’s a troll farm.
So Shelby, while finding really good info, does something really weird. When Clay asks her how she traced the IP addresses, she tells him her boyfriend, a photojournalist, taught her how. When Clay tries to land a joke about how he hopes that boyfriend doesn’t have a dad or a brother, it all just gets too weird. Shelby tells Alex about her blunder, which Alex basically skips over to tell her about León’s current state of panic.
The only person missing from the brainstorm is Nimah. Hearing she was a mascot and not a real member of the team understandably has her upset. Shelby won’t let her wallow, though. She tells her to make herself irreplaceable so Clay is forced to respect her.
With enough evidence, Clay says that the group can pay a visit to the trolls. The only problem is that this crew, in case you forgot and needed to be reminded for the 70th time, is highly illegal and covert. There are ongoing FBI and CIA investigations into this group and they can’t compromise any active missions. They decide that Alex and Harry, who has done work with this faction before, will go in and pretend to be in the market for a fake news campaign.
NEXT: A lot of moving FAKE NEWS! parts…
The only people left behind on the mission are Ryan and Nimah. Ryan has been in text conversation with an unknown number all day, but he agrees to meet at the Gold Leaf (duh!) for last call. When he arrives, it’s Sasha, our inquisitive reporter. She threatens Ryan with his real identity and says that she will reveal that he and his co-agents were all at Sean Gregory’s party if he doesn’t give her more information. Ryan doesn’t bite. (Yet.)
While Harry and Alex are meeting with the troll leader, she tells him that she wants to see a previous campaign before transferring him any bitcoins. After a brief gun-threat, he admits that the chemical spill isn’t real. He gives them the number of the person who commissioned it for a reference: Greypool, a private, American military company.
Back in the van, everyone is trying to figure out what Greypool’s motivation is for clearing out that town. Owen realizes that while he doesn’t know what the reason is, he knows that they’re still looking for it because they’ve had to keep the news cycle spreading and the town evacuated.
Still holed up in her room, Nimah finds a break in the case. She calls Clay to share her discovery, but Clay screens the call. (He’s busy continuing his power struggle with Owen, and also, he doesn’t care for Nimah.) Desperate, she actually goes and finds the van and breaks into it. Greypool isn’t looking for a thing; they’re looking for a person.
Which meannnnnnnsssss that as Alex and Ryan scour the neighborhood dressed as EPA workers (because, guess what, a number of the peoples dressed like EPA workers are actually Greypool agents) they have some idea of what to keep an eye out for. It doesn’t take long — in fact, it’s the first house they go into — before they find a very scared Mallory Hanes.
Mallory recognizes Alex, which helps Alex keep her calm but also raises the question of how Alex ever goes undercover… She tells them that she’s hiding because up until a few days ago, she was working as a media guru (her words, I swear) for Senator Baynard. She says that she created fake news stories for the senator, but recently, one of the stories she planted resulted in a bakery getting shot up. Eleven people died. Now, the Senator is trying to eliminate anyone who knows the truth behind the matter.
Harry and Dayana create a diversion upstairs so Alex and Ryan can slip Mallory out, unnoticed. It works, and as the crew is driving out of the scene, Ryan spots his journalist friend in the crowd. She recognizes him immediately.
Considering this feels like a win for the team — and that they got to add another face to the board: Speaker of the House Henry Rourke, who used the Cache to bail Baynard out — there’s sort of a lot of unrest back at the bunker. Clay and Nimah are still uneasy with each other. The AIC, they realize, just used to Cache for personal, non-terrorist reasons, and they’ve got a fake news proprietor in their midst. Ryan doesn’t want to help her with a plea bargain when she’s done so much to sew anger in the U.S. There is also the matter of letting Baynard off the hook (for now!) while they complete the collaborators’ face board; most of the group is still annoyed Sean Gregory gets to continue as “the next Bernie Madoff.”
Clay and Owen meet separately to figure out their next moves. They decide to tell everyone that Baynard will be punished, even though he won’t be punished yet, to assuage them. Then they head off for Mallory. They tell her they can’t offer her a plea deal like they promised, but they can help her escape. Dayana is spying around the corner, so when they later tell the team that she is going into witness protection, I have to assume it’s a lie that won’t stay under wraps for long.
Meanwhile, Alex sets off to find Harry. She wants him to join the team permanently and stop trying to get back in Her Majesty’s good graces. When Harry tries to weasel away from the conversation, Alex tells him his weaknesses: He jokes his way around everything, deflects too much, and refuses to connect with people. At first, it’s hard to tell how this lands, but later, when everyone is celebrating at the Gold Leaf, Harry joins. He’s on the team!
And because this is Quantico, there’s a bit more drama that all develops right at the end to tell you about:
First, Alex and Ryan reiterate their singleness. Alex tells him that she didn’t expect him to wait for her, and Ryan fires back by admitting that he also wants time alone. The only other woman Ryan has been in touch with — Sasha, to whom he offered a bunch of stuff on Sean Gregory to take justice into his own hands — I guess immediately springs to mind. He asks her to dinner, and she agrees.
Also, Clay and Shelby have an oddly flirtatious conversation. I really hope this doesn’t go any further, but knowing this show….
And finally, Shelby tries to give León a ring. She says in her voicemail that she wants to catch up, but León can’t answer — ever. When the screen cuts to his phone, we see that he’s lying in his bathtub, dead, next to the phone while two people around him are cleaning up the mess.