Priyanka Chopra, Jake McLaughlin

For a show pitched as Homeland meets Grey’s Anatomy, ABC’s Quantico has cribbed more liberally from the prestige drama than its network peer, at least in terms of subject matter and themes. In terms of style, Quantico is quite like Grey’s, particularly in its sense of constant urgency and its (over)reliance on moody music cues. But the main thing that has always distinguished Grey’s from other medical shows is its focus on the characters’ romantic lives, something Quantico clearly wants to do but hasn’t gotten around to, what with the fifty-eleven interlocking mysteries it’s trying to juggle. “Found” changes that, because as it turns out, NATs need love too. The shift toward sexy time doesn’t automatically make Quantico a better show, but that shift is made possible by a merciful relaxation of the full-on plot assault that has made the show feel somewhat inaccessible even when it’s entertaining.

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“Found” is definitely the best episode of Quantico following the pilot because watching it doesn’t feel like hitting a pinata filled with thousands of tiny, random plot points. There comes a point in any show structured as two colliding timelines where one or both of those stories has to slow down in order to hold the biggest fireworks for the final episodes. Quantico isn’t quite to that point, but it’s getting closer. With so much going on, the show is still relatively hectic even in its moments of respite, but at least “Found” feels like a proper episode of television rather than a massive data dump. More impressively, for once, the flashback story is more interesting than the present-day story because the mission of the week comes together well. It’s as silly as the Quantico-based stories tend to be, but it’s also pretty fun and doesn’t exist simply as a means of bluntly presenting the theme of the week.

The weekly training exercise is unsubtle as ever, and the lesson to take away from “Found” is that people aren’t always who they claim to be, a sentiment that’s repeated an average of 63 times per episode of Quantico. But that idea is reinforced in an exercise that turns the classroom exercise into a caper. The NATs have to absorb invented identities and mingle at a corporate event, and if they can be sufficiently charming in their new personae and sidle up to the corporation’s CEO, they’ll win the challenge. I’m not sure the FBI turns every teachable moment in its training academy into a reality competition, but for the purposes of the episode, it’s goofy in the best possible way. Alex and Ryan are finally free to circle each other romantically after weeks of being at odds over Liam’s covert assignment and Alex’s father’s FBI file. Caleb and Shelby’s feud finally reaches its boiling point, while Nimah and Raina face their biggest challenge yet in their ongoing ruse.

The instinct to sex up Quantico is a good one, but the actual result is less than thrilling. Alex and Ryan had good chemistry in the pilot, but not to the extent that their relationship could absorb so much damage and distance and remain intact. I’m still not sure why I’m supposed to be into the idea of a relationship between the two aside from the fact that they’re both attractive and had sex in a car within an hour of meeting. Plus it’s weird that Nathalie, who we know will eventually emerge as Ryan’s significant other, just vanishes all of a sudden. The actual love scene was brief and surprisingly tame considering how far Shonda Rhimes has been able to push the envelope with sexual content on primetime network television, so Alex and Ryan’s reunion wasn’t quite as satisfying as I’d have hoped. Then there’s the Caleb and Shelby tryst, which I simply can’t abide. Starting with its pilot, this show has been building the idea that Shelby finds Caleb irresistible despite her better judgment, and it was obvious the breadcrumbs were leading to a furiously passionate encounter. But I’ve never, ever believed anything about that relationship, and I don’t buy it any more now that they’ve consummated their prickly flirtation.

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Yet again, the most interesting story belongs to Nimah and Raina, the Quantico storyline I least expected to invest in and the one I now most look forward to seeing each week. There wasn’t even that much meat on the bones, except that Miranda gives them a trial by fire to ensure they’ll be capable of passing as the same person in her still-mysterious effort to bust terror cells. The sisters have to trade places once an hour, and one must provide the necessary information to the other in passing so she can pick up her conversations. I wanted to spend more time with Nimah and Raina, if only to see how they kept explaining why “Nimah” went missing at hourly intervals. Can’t go wrong with overactive bladder, I suppose.

The present-day story was especially maddening, though thankfully slower than usual. Alex, still on the run with Shelby as her captive, connects with some Anonymous-lite techno-crusaders who help her record a video to broadcast her claims of innocence to the world. Shelby is like, “OMG, Tor? You’re going on the dark web?” which makes it sound like a copy-store blunder resulted in the Quantico actors getting a few pages from a CSI: Cyber script by mistake. Everything involving The Unknown feels really dumb, and while the pair’s portentous exit all but guarantees that story will return at some point, the less said about the dark web, the better.

“Found” is interesting in that when I actually inventory the episode, I realize that while I didn’t like that much of the individual pieces, I sort of liked it overall. When a show has this many parts, the ideal outcome is a whole that equals more than the sum of them.

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Stray observations:

  • I liked all the glamour shots of Alex in the news coverage of the bombing, which sadly is exactly how such a terrorist would be portrayed were she as gorgeous as Priyanka Chopra. People used to say “Foxy Knoxy” with a completely straight face, so the Jihadi Jane stuff is fairly plausible.
  • There’s a case to be made for Nathalie as the culprit, since she was nearby at the time, and because it makes no sense to have Alex’s nemesis pop up at random intervals. We still know nothing about her estranged family or that stupid fake scar.
  • But if I was to bet on the terrorist’s identity, my money would be on whoever Jacob Artist is supposed to be playing. He popped up in the credits, then appeared for literally like 15 seconds and said nothing.
  • At long last, Simon came out of the heterosexual closet, which was super hard for him. Whichever sister he’s into stopped by to invite him to take a walk with her, proving once again that though it’s hard to come out, it does indeed get better.
  • Miranda and Liam weren’t just hooking up, they were planning to leave their respective spouses to be together until Liam got cold feet. Miranda is still beat up about that, but she’s at least on board with his operation with Ryan, having heard Liam’s offscreen explanation for why Alex’s ejection from Quantico is a matter of national security.
  • Caleb is still pretending to be someone else on Facebook and wants to interview someone for something? I don’t have the energy for all of that, honestly.

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