[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Sunday's episode of Quantico. Read at your own risk.]
Ryan (Jack McLaughlin) made his long-awaited return in the future timeline on Sunday's winter finale of Quantico -- but definitely not in the way Alex (Priyanka Chopra) expected.
Her former betrothed is revealed to be one of the terrorists, after she kicks his ass and right before he locks her behind a force field that would detonate the bioweapon if she crosses it (how convenient, eh?). The reveal is slightly less shocking when you consider what Ryan goes through in The Farm timeline: As suspected, he was in fact recruited by the AIC, along with Leon (Aaron Diaz) and Dayana (Pearl Thusi). All three pass a three-step "test" to kidnap (Ryan) and kill (Leon) an innocent guy and to clean up (Dayana) the aftermath. Ryan follows up being an accessory to murder by popping the question to Alex. As you do.
That's the best thing to happen in days to Alex, who learns she is in fact dropped from the FBI's AIC mission -- or as Shelby (Johanna Braddy) bluntly puts it, "You failed" -- but that doesn't deter her from staying at The Farm to out the AIC herself. Or maybe with some help from Harry (Russell Tovey). He returns home to London to debrief his handler, Charlotte (Lara Pulver), who is the sister of his late love Elliott.
Ryan wasn't the only major reveal though. Nimah (Yasmine Al Massri) tells a captive Raina that she joined the Citizen's Liberation Front six months ago after resigning to discord, and that people will "never stop fighting each other." "If we want to survive, we have to fight as dirty as everyone else," she tells her sis. This whole storyline was originally cut from the episode, but as creator Josh Safran told us two weeks ago, it was added back in after the election, with a newly shot scene as well.
Safran goes into detail on that decision, whether Ryan has really turned, and more below.
So, what is Ryan doing?
Josh Safran: [Laughs] You will find out soon enough. We always knew we were doing to do this. This has always been part of the plan since Day 1. It wasn't a twist for twist's sake. It's based on something that will be revealed very soon.
Are Ryan, Leon and Dayana all working together, since we know they were recruited by the AIC at The Farm? Have they all been fully indoctrinated?
Safran: I'll say that's a nice theory.
Since Leon and Dayana stayed back while Alex, Sebastian and Harry went up in the vents, they could've led the terrorists to them, right?
Safran: This is a good theory. I like this theory! [Laughs] But I can't say.
Can you say why the AIC only want to kill people inside the building and not blow up the whole city, which is a nice change of pace?
Safran: Yeah, we didn't want to blow up the whole city. It's supposed to be such that the terrorists, if they don't find who they're looking for, will just kill everybody that they have.
Let's talk about that scene between Nimah and Raina that you added back in after the election. What was cut, and what did you shoot after the fact to put back in?
Safran: So, the entire storyline was cut and we put the entire storyline back in. We reshot the last scene, where [Nimah] comes out of the room and breaks down and cries. ... Once you see [Episode] 9, you'll totally get it. What happened was, we were afraid we were giving away too much of the story too quickly. The reshoot of her coming out of the room and breaking down -- there was another scene there and that was the scene that was tipping too much, and it never occurred to us that we could just eliminate that, because we never thought we could add something else. Meaning, if we had just taken that out, Nimah and Raina would've just been suspended in animation in that room.
We knew we needed a final moment; we just couldn't come up with it. Yasmine came up with it and we literally shot it five days ago on our set here. We weren't in the building we were in before, which was 4 Times Square. That totally made everything work. But when you see 9, ask me again, because there's a broader conversation that will make sense.
How did Yasmine figure out how to play it?
Safran: We told her we wanted to put it back in because we knew how relevant it was and how important it was. We never really wanted to cut it anyway, because it was so important to us. Beth Schacter, who's a writer/producer, Yaz and I were truly wandering around the building of Silvercup [Studios] for 20 minutes -- empty hallways, stages -- and finally when Yasmine got it -- she's a former dancer -- she jumped and twirled in the air and landed on the ground really gracefully. It was really dramatic and really hilarious, and we knew she had it, and we got suited up at shot it. She's so attached to those characters and she's in them so strongly, and Yasmine is also so politically minded, so tapping into those feelings was easy. And also, it was two days after the election. Yasmine is a new American citizen. This was her first election she voted in. It was not hard to get to an emotional place for her.
When I watch her, it's so easy to forget that it's just her. The dynamic between those characters is such a joy to write, think about, watch be filmed. We're always going to be incredibly proud of that and that story, and I think it's actually not going at all where you think it's going.
The speech was very prescient. It seems very on-the-nose now, but you guys obviously shot it months ago. Nimah's argument is that there's no way they can stop fighting each other and they have to go low and fight dirty. How are you broaching this going forward?
Safran: Yeah, it was two and a half months ago, which is crazy. That's now the ongoing conversation of the show. Now that the audience knows that Ryan is part of it, that Nimah is part of it, we are now able to get into that conversation and that is absolutely the underlying conversation of every episode moving forward. The other thing that was so sadly prescient about the show this year that we didn't plan on was the divide inside America and what the government believes it can do and what the government believes it should do. It's sad. So you're going hear more on that, clearly, but that was always where we were going. That was the mask we were waiting to lift off.
You obviously filmed a couple episodes before the election. Are you tweaking anything else?
Safran: We always knew we had a big break, but I think it didn't occur to me until later that you should watch Episode 8 five minutes before Episode 9. The only thing we're doing right now is making sure that people who haven't seen the show in however long the break is, that it still tracks. But we haven't made any changes to the story at all. Zero. It's liked we're backed into the world that suddenly exists, which we never meant to.
Like I told you, the terrorist event ends midway through the season. It was never going to be all 22 [episodes]; it's just that the event that happens after that, we're trying to reflect the way the world should be, not the way the world is. It's going to be complicated until we get to that point. ... Today is Day 1 of [breaking] that first new structure, new world order. It's [Episode] 14. I probably shouldn't tell you that!
What is going through Raina's mind after Nimah walks out of that room?
Safran: I think Raina has more strength than Nimah realizes, but at the same time, I think Raina did exactly what Nimah hoped she would. ... You'll see Nimah sooner than you'll see Raina, I'll put it that way, when we come back.
Back at The Farm, Lydia (Tracy Ifeachor) tells Owen (Blair Underwood) his name was leaked because he didn't protect an asset named Helen Sharp. Who is she?
Safran: You will find out very soon. That story is continuing. She's dead. [Lydia] says, "She died because you didn't protect her." But just because somebody dies, it doesn't mean there aren't people out there connected to that person still. It's a really beautiful story coming up.
Is this going to be Owen's new obsession, as Lydia suggests?
Safran: No, I think Owen is realizing that his obsession cost him his only child and he's not in a good place when we come back.
Will we see Lydia again at The Farm or will she be in the field?
Safran: She's in the field, but we will see Lydia again. But she's not coming back to teach at The Farm.
[Ed. note: We decoded it, and it says that the FBI is undercover at The Farm investigating the AIC and he's made contact. Carry on.]
I liked the London scenes with Harry, Charlotte, Pip (Bradley Rose) and the girls. What was the message that Harry gave Charlotte?
Safran: It's funny. We shot her saying what it was. She didn't say the whole thing, but started to. We took it out because I thought it'd be a better mystery to see it. You can actually decode it. It's a cryptogram. ... Beth and Jordon Nardino, our writer, made it, but [the message] is not a surprise. I think it's fun if everybody looks it up, but it's not a twist. You wouldn't go, "Oh, that's new information." You'd go, "Oh, of course that's what he told her about." If you never knew, you wouldn't be missing something.
But those scenes were so fun to shoot with Laura Pulvert and Bradley Rose. I had always wanted to work with her. She just won the Olivier for Gypsy. She and Russell had always wanted to work together. The dynamic was so great and those little girls were so good. People always say, "Don't work with children," but we've always had such good luck. People also say, "Don't work with animals," and on Gossip Girl, Chuck's dog was the easiest dog to work with. I don't know. But the girls were so good. They're sisters too.
When they were playing with Russell's hair, I was waiting for them to pull on his ears.
Safran: Oh, my God! There are so many takes and I wish we could've let the scenes run on because Russell was so good with them and they were like obsessed with him. He was mesmerizing to them. It was like seeing this whole new side to Harry and also seeing another side to Russell. It was really fantastic. ... [You won't see] the kids [again] unfortunately, but you will see more of Charlotte and Pip.
Who is Charlotte's father and what is he getting away with?
Safran: You will find out. That's the whole nexus of Harry's story and as you know Charlotte is Elliott's sister, so there's that story as well. ... We just shot a scene last week that sort of moved everybody to tears, which was crazy.
Ryan proposes to Alex at The Farm. How much of that was borne out of guilt over what he has just done to that man and the fact that she's being frozen out of the AIC mission?
Safran: I think it's more born out of the fact over what he just did. I think it's not about guilt, but it's him being like, "Wait a minute, I want to make sure the most important and centering thing in my life is still with me. I do not want to lose her. She's the most important thing." So after doing something so bad, he needed to find a source of good in his life. That's not the best way to propose to somebody. I think it's going to be an ongoing issue.
How is their relationship going to devolve, since we know they break up?
Safran: Episode 9 has a structural reframing. Something happens that causes you to look at things differently. Let's talk about that then.
When Shelby tells Alex she failed, does that embolden her? She told Miranda (Aunjanue Ellis) she's staying to snuff out the AIC on her own, but she hasn't really trusted herself so far.
Safran: Yes. We've always talked about how Alex wasn't going to do as well at The Farm as she did at Quantico because Quantico is all about being good and moral and just. The Farm is about being dirty and what you can get away with. It's taken her a while to click into her way through that and she finally did, and the FBI is not accepting that she could've learned and adapted. So she's like, "Screw it. I'm going to do it myself." I do believe that Alex has learned to adapt. You will see that almost immediately.
Is she really going to be solo? Harry is kind of an ally now even though they're both looking out for their own interests.
Safran: I would say that's exactly what happens. Alex and Harry do sort of team up, except, like you said, they're always out for their own interests, especially Harry. Keeping up with someone like Harry is always difficult because he's so used to going it alone.
What else can you share about the back half?
Safran: As you know, the terrorist event doesn't go the whole season, so we're going to wrap that up. You're going to learn what it was really about and who was really part of it and why they were part of it. There's also a lot of surprising returning cast members, which I can't say more than that. That's pretty fun; we slowly fold people into the mix.
I would say that the things that they have to do at The Farm start to get more tricky and into moral gray areas. Obviously torture, burning bridges, near drone strikes -- they've been slowly going to the darker edges inside themselves. They're going to go even further than that. ... And always some pretty good twists, but more than anything, I think the politics of the show become more and more important and more and more clear.
Quantico returns Monday, Jan. 23 at 10/9c on ABC.