Quantico postmortem: Showrunner talks rejected romantic plots, previews 'most moving' episode yet
The task force came this close to bringing down the collaborators this week, but after letting one of them slip through the cracks, they’re exposed and broken apart. Not all is lost, though: The episode ended with Alex (Priyanka Chopra) infiltrating the collaborators’ ring, and the task force still knows the names of the ones they’re hunting.
Below, showrunner Josh Safran talks the Haas family drama, whether Alex and Owen (Blair Underwood) could ever be more than just friendly colleagues, and what to expect next week.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Caleb (Graham Rogers) leaves after helping Shelby (Johanna Braddy) push Clay (Hunter Parrish) away. Where does that leave this relationship?
JOSH SAFRAN: We in the writers’ room had the same reaction [to that pairing] that the fans are all having, like, of course Shelby can’t fall in love with another Haas man. But at the same time, that’s going to be the question within Shelby, like, “Will I or will I not?” … Clay is the right man for Shelby, and so I think the pain that they both feel is that they met at the wrong time, and it was very important to us to not have them jump into bed like she had done before with the others, and for him to not forget her history. Between the three of them, he knows that she probably didn’t sleep with Caleb, and she knows that he knows that she probably didn’t sleep with Caleb, but it’s just the idea that it could have happened is enough.
We went back and forth on losing the line, “Make me hate you again,” but we felt that Hunter delivered it so well that we decided to keep it in the cut. It also lets the audience understand that in that next scene they are all aware of what’s happening. I think once we removed that line, we were like, “Wait, are we trying to tell the audience that Clay really believes that they slept together?” Like, no, they just know that it’s a messy situation and they’re reminded of that messiness.
As for Maxine (Krysta Rodriguez), then, will we see that side of the story come to a head? She’s already suspicious about what he’s up to and how much he’s telling her.
There’s definitely a twist in that story, but Maxine is much like Sasha. We all watch the responses online, and everyone’s so tuned in to somebody being someone you can’t trust on this show, that I think they haven’t quite caught on to the fact that that’s not what we’re doing anymore. Maxine is a good person and Sasha was a good person and Clay and Shelby are good people; they’re just complicated. So Maxine isn’t going to do something evil, Caleb isn’t going to do something evil, like that’s not who these people are anymore, they’ve all grown.
So yes, I would say it comes to a head, but it comes to a head in an adult, mature way, not a twisty-turn-y, somebody’s-a-backstabber way. There’s no backstabbing.
The task force is falling apart; both Ryan (Jake McLaughlin) and Shelby have been exposed. Where do we find them going forward?
Ryan and Shelby have been exposed, so they are on lockdown in the Farm in episode 20 [next week], which is really fun, because I don’t think we’ve seen a lot of dedicated Ryan and Shelby time. The task force is really fractured, and I’m not entirely sure if they’ll come back together again. Alex is now in the inner circle, and in episode 20, she’s gonna have to prove that she is really there and not there undercover to the collaborators. If she’s able to prove her bona fides, and when her team finds out where she is, it’s gonna cause a lot of friction so I don’t think the team will ever be the same again. Episode 20 is probably our most moving episode of the year, at the end.
What do you mean by that?
We are poking a very recent wound that was very hard for everybody to film and to do, and it is very emotional and it’s aided by the fact that Lorde graced us with her songs. That song “Liability” can make anybody sad, but also just the sequence itself is very moving… There’s a big change at the end of 20, I think that’s part of what’s so moving.
You’re almost at the end of the season. It looks like Owen and Alex are the task force’s last chance to take down the collaborators, and they have moments that seem romantically charged. Are you planting seeds for a relationship between them?
Here’s the thing: Yes we did, and I pulled it back because I realized they were definitely up for it and the seeds were all there — it was always going to go at the pace it’s going but we would have left it open as to whether it would go further — but because I have to plan the season finale as a series finale just in case, since we’re not picked up so I didn’t want to take us there and leave us there. I think I knew that around the time we were writing episode 17, so everything you’re watching, we knew we had already decided they wouldn’t be romantic, but we still kept those scenes there in that way, because they really do respect each other.
We went to Priyanka and Blair and said, “I know we talked about moving this maybe into a romantic direction, but instead we’d just like to play the beginning of that, when you just see somebody with fresh eyes, and they respect them and it’s not a teacher-student [relationship] anymore, even though there’s the jokey comments about that at the beginning of episode 19.” They really are equals — this is new to her, and it’s also new to him, because he’s been so walled-off for so long, so I just think this really lovely mutual respect plays out for the rest of the episodes, and it doesn’t boil over, but it was lovely to watch.
Weirdly, we shot a kiss between them for episode 9, and then we cut it. In the hotel room when he was drunk, she was saying that women don’t need to use their bodies to get what they want anymore, and she went so far as to kiss him before being like, “See? That’s all I needed to do.” But we cut it because we realized we didn’t want to start that romance then.
All year there’s been hints of it, but ultimately, we decided to go for the respect route. Now should there be a season 3, I think they have incredible chemistry together so it would be really sad not to explore that.
Quantico airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.