‘SEAL Team’s Max Thieriot on Jason & Clay’s Fight and a ‘Bates Motel’-like ‘Reveal’

SEAL Team Season 3 Episode 17 Clay Reassigned Jason Fight
Spoiler Alert
Sonja Flemming/CBS

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 3, Episode 17 of SEAL Team, “Drawdown.”]

Bravo Team is in the middle of a three-month deployment in Afghanistan, during what they thought were peace negotiations, but it becomes clear in Wednesday’s episode of SEAL Team that there’s more going on.

But first, Clay (Max Thieriot) tells Jason (David Boreanaz) that he accepted Lindell’s offer and plans to leave the team. “Three years dealing with your ego and second guessing, and this is the thanks I get?” Jason asks in disbelief. Clay sees it as a way to be in a position where he can help reshape how wars are fought; Jason sees it as him having one foot out the door and becoming a distraction for the others on this deployment. And so he reassigns Clay to an outpost.

But near the end of the episode, Bravo Team finds an ally’s hands cut off (and his body in the next room), which means someone thinks the peacemakers are traitors.

Here, Thieriot discusses directing those two key scenes and previews what’s next.

Jason sends Clay away after finding out he accepted Lindell’s offer. Can you talk about that scene as a director and for your character?

Max Thieriot: For me, it’s one of the big scenes of the episode because it’s two guys who are really pressing each other. There’s a little bit of this father-son relationship between Jason and Clay, and Clay wants to be like Jason but also he doesn’t want to be like Jason and he looks up to the guy. From Jason’s side, since he’s brought [Clay] on to Bravo Team, he’s basically been teaching this kid everything he knows and raising him. It’s this big father-son letdown. From Clay’s side, it’s speaking to your parent almost and saying, “Hey, I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me, but I actually don’t want to do that thing that you’ve been teaching me to do.” Then the huge letdown from Jason’s side, just disappointment.

Max Thieriot SEAL Team Season 3 Episode 17 Clay Leaving

(Sonja Flemming/CBS)

The biggest thing is it comes off as anger in the beginning, but it’s really a scene about letting each other down and being let down and just frustration and disappointment. Those scenes are always hard to get, but he and I were really on the same page. I had Chris Chulack come out that day, just to watch me shoot that scene. I said, “I’d love for you to sit there and make sure you feel like you’re emotionally connected.” It’s easier for me to do normally when I’m in a scene and you just know when you’re acting, you’re like, “That just felt right.” It was important to me there was another set of eyes that’s out there and went, “Yeah, that scene felt right.”

What come next for Clay at his new post? The logline for the next episode says that he “learns what it means to be a leader.”

Obviously, he gets sent to [a combat outpost], and it’s in one of the worst places you can be in Afghanistan. Guys who don’t have the proper tactics, weapons, they’re outmanned and outgunned and stuck on a mountainside, and he gets sent out there. He goes through some things there where all of a sudden, he understands some of the sacrifice that has to be made. He sees things from a different perspective after his time there with these guys, who are not guys from the SEAL teams.

At the end of the episode, Bravo finds Jack Daniels dead, his hands cut off, and we see his legs in the other room.

Originally, there were no legs in the script. I was like, “Okay, guys, so, let’s talk about this scene. So we go into a room, and we find hands, but where are the bodies?” Everybody looked around and looked at me, and I was like, “Are the bodies outside? Did these guys carry the bodies off? I don’t understand where the bodies are.” They’re like, “Well, what do you want?” I’m like, “I think we should show some bodies. We don’t have to look at them, but we could have a couple people laying there and at least understand that the bodies didn’t leave.”

I hate when an audience goes, “Well, there’s no bodies anywhere,” and they start asking questions and then everybody starts pointing fingers. “So let’s put some bodies in the back room, and this way, we’re not worried about, why isn’t there blood outside where they took the bodies?” I just felt like it left a lot of questions that were not to be asked.

SEAL Team Season 3 Episode 17 Bravo Team Mission Deployment

(Sonja Flemming/CBS)

For me, shooting that scene, I really wanted to leave showing what everything was until the last second. That comes from my thriller/horror/suspense background. It’s a very Bates Motel-y reveal. Let’s leave this all right until the end, and then instead of showing the hands in a POV, I’m going to do this dramatic insert push on these hands and the watch. I was very much back in my element there shooting that scene.

What comes next for the team and does that bring Clay back sooner than he might have thought?

Yeah, I think it [does]. He goes from this outpost and thinks he finds himself a little bit and then comes back. It just also means they’re going to need more help. They’re going to need all hands on deck for what’s about to come down the line, and they’re realizing that there’s more to what’s going on over there than they thought. This isn’t all about peace talks. S**t’s about to hit the fan again.

Clay’s love life has been a bit complicated. He’s with Rebecca but Stella showed up again. What’s coming up there before the end of the season?

We’re definitely going to dive into a little more of that. I don’t think any of that is going to get totally resolved. We’re going to leave the audience wondering a little bit. I don’t think either girl is finished.

SEAL Team, Wednesdays, 9/8c, CBS