Alex is going off book
Credit: Giovanni Rufino/ABC
S2 E19
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It’s last-ditch effort time in D.C. The task force, which has spent the entire second half of this season five steps behind the collaborators, heads into this week feeling like it has the upper hand, but that evaporates in the first few scenes. Rourke and Co. are on to them, and they need to act quickly. (The biggest tip-off? Longtime friend and honorary Haas family member Felix trying to break into Clay’s personal emails.)

The plan that emerges — mainly at the suggestion of Caleb, who is sticking around to make sure nothing transpires between his bro and his ex — is as follows: Clay and Maxine will use their engagement party as a ruse to get all eight suspects in the same room, turn just one of them against their nefarious cause, and then sink the whole cause. Maxine, who emerges as an enthusiastic Mrs. Smith this week, is on board.

Unfortunately, Maxine proves the easiest person to persuade in this episode. Despite Owen’s directive to “give them whatever they want,” everyone is striking out at flipping the collaborators once the party kicks off. Shelby goes down quickly with Peter Theo; Raina, posing as Nimah, even outs her real identity to Felix. The only person who thinks they’re making headway is Ryan. He pretends he’ll aid the bad guys to protect his friends, but then he catches Alice Winter on tape admitting to killing Sasha and León.

Ryan has a moment to get her to sign an immunity deal, but pen in hand, Alice asks him to wait. She promises she can get to more from her group to offer up incriminating evidence if he will just give her a few hours to convince them. They plan to meet later that night — and once that play is in motion, Preside Haas, who has been detaining Henry Rourke so that his minion cannot seek him out for advice, tries to tell her Speaker that he is done. She expects his resignation. (She will not get his resignation, at least not this week.)

Two interesting things happen as the party comes to a close: (1) Alex’s target, Maxwell Fletcher, catches Alex off guard. He tells her that he knows what she’s trying to do but that he is here to do the same. He wants her to come to his side. His team needs a hero, he admits. And (2) Maxine denies Clay’s plea to elope that night on the way home. She tells him that she knows he feels like he is being pulled away by his new job — and maybe even a particular person on his new team — and that she won’t marry him just to put his mind at ease.

Back at the bunker, Ryan feels confident that Alice is flipping. Shelby is on board as well. The only person who is vehemently opposed is Alex. She thinks Ryan is getting played, but Ryan won’t hear it. I think it’s probably a mixture of desperation and indignation that’s fueling him — he both furiously wants all of his friends to come out of this alive but is also probably tired of Alex needing to be the one to come up with the solution — but he confirms his late night meeting with Alice.

As Clay sends Ryan off into the night, he pulls Shelby into his office. He admits that he’s had feelings for her and asks her to help him. He wants to be with Maxine, and he needs anything between him and Shelby to be squashed. Shelby, panicked, asks if she can quit the team. He says no, because they are adults, but she can make him hate her again. (How fun for Shelby!! Be hate-able to the Haas family all over again!)

The plans she comes up with is to fake-sleep with Caleb. He is obviously on board, because it keeps his brother and ex-girlfriend apart. They “accidentally” run into Clay the next morning, and Clay buys it. She lies, with tears in her eyes that actually make me sad, and says that she thought she had feelings for Clay, but she’s discovered that they were really just left over from her feelings for Caleb. When Clay leaves, very uncomfortable, Caleb tells Shelby that his work here is done. He plans to return to school. They hug. It’s weird.

Anyway, while this fake tryst is going down, Ryan finds himself in major trouble. When he gets to the meeting spot, a reporter from the Washington Post jumps out at him. With his camera rolling, he says that he’s here on a tip that the CIA is operating on U.S. soil. As Ryan escapes, he gets a text from Alice. It’s a .gif of a chess piece falling. Alex was right — but we sort of knew Alex was right, right?

That’s not all that went wrong, either. When Ryan was wooing Alice, he gave her a lot of details about the bunker where the task force operates. That information was used in the dead of night when someone sneaked in and hacked their computers. Clay accuses Ryan of being complicit when he calls it an inside job, but Ryan is equally mad. He admits he got played. When they turn on the TV, the news channels are running reports of President Haas’ undercover mission on U.S. soil being exposed. The newscaster says that drafts for her impeachment are underway. “We’ve lost,” Clay says.

Of course, Clay hasn’t known Alex as long as we have. While the rest of the group is wallowing, Alex and Owen have begun their own off-book mission. Alex will take Maxwell Fletcher up on his offer, they decide. Before she heads up his driveway, she and Owen have a pretty intense send-off. Owen is nervous; so is Alex. Owen admits that the last time he handled an asset it ended pretty poorly (Germany… remember?), but Alex reiterates that she trusts him more than anyone else in the world. Maxwell greets her warmly and leads her inside. With only a few episodes left in the season, I wonder where this setup might lead us….

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