This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
ABC debuted its series "Quantico" on Sunday night, and there was more for Mormons to be unhappy about than just the LDS character shown wearing nothing than his "Mormon underwear."
If you haven't seen the episode, this is a MAJOR SPOILER ALERT. If you don't want to know what happened, stop reading NOW.
As written by creator/executive producer Joshua Safran, the Mormon character Eric Packer (Brian J. Smith) is a liar, a hypocrite, a child molestor and, perhaps, a murderer. He is yet another in a long line of outwardly religious characters of Mormon characters who is not what he pretends to be.
It's happened so often that it's a hackneyed cliché.
In this case, it's worse than the usual cliché, however. Turns out the secret that Packer has been hiding is that, while on his LDS mission, he got a 14-year-old girl pregnant. And she died when he took her to get an illegal abortion.
The series revolves around a group of FBI recruits as they arrive at the training facility in Quantico, Va. Each recruit is assigned to do a background check on another recruit to uncover a secret that has been deliberately omitted from their file.
Caleb Haas (Graham Rogers) has to investigate Packer. And Haas is sort of an idiot, expressing surprise that a Mormon has been recruited by the FBI; calling Packer both "Joseph Smith" and "Romney"; and making polygamy cracks.
You know, more hackneyed clichés.
Haas is no more competent at investigating Packer than he is at anything else. But he convinces Packer that he has learned his secret.
"You should've stayed in Salt Lake, boy," Haas says.
Each recruit is hooked up to a lie detector and the entire class watches (via video link) while he/she is interrogated by another recruit. When Packer and Haas arrive in the interrogation room, Packer barricades the door, pulls out a gun and shoots the polygraph operator.
(Whether she survives is not made clear in the episode.)
Packer than threatens to shoot Haas, but ends up putting the gun in his own mouth and blowing his brains out.
Cut to a scene of Deputy Director Miranda Shaw (Aunjanue Ellis) confronting Agent Liam O'Connor (Josh Hopkins) about what happened.
"I just got off the phone with a whole host of folks," Shaw says. "From what I can piece together, when Eric was on his mission, he slept with a 14-year-old Maliwian girl and got her pregnant. He took her to get an abortion illegal, in that country she died in the process."
That's just plain dumb for a couple of reasons.
First, Safran clearly doesn't understand how a Mormon mission works. That missionaries spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week together.
Let's assume that Packer was able to sneak off in the middle of the night and impregnate the 14-year-old girl. That's within the realm of believability.
But the idea that he could somehow ditch his companion and take the girl to get an abortion strains credulity past the breaking point.
And let's forget the Mormon angle altogether for a moment. It's made clear that each of the FBI recruits, including Packer, underwent an exhaustive background check. And none of this turned up.
But Shaw makes a few phone calls and comes with with the whole story?
Granted, this is a prime-time drama, not a documentary. And there's a whole lot about the series that is, at best, heightened reality at worst, just plain dumb. For example one of these intensely vetted recruits is a terrorist.
Although, ridiculous as it is, the series did get off to an entertaining start.
But the first episode of "Quantico" goes out of its way to be respectful to a Muslim character. It doesn't go out of its way to be respectful to the Mormon character.
And it's not just a character who happens to be Mormon. His religion is just about the only thing we know about Eric Packer except that he got a 14-year-old girl pregnant and inadvertently caused her death. Oh, and that he shot an innocent woman before killing himself.
If you missed the premiere of "Quantico," ABC is repeating it Tuesday at 9 p.m. on Ch. 4.