M-A-T-H-I-S-O-N. Those eight capital letters Quinn scrawls at the end of the episode, spelling out his next target, make quite the gut-punch. Carrie has faced plenty of danger before, but putting her in Quinn’s crosshairs (I’m assuming “Mathison” isn’t referring to Maggie or Frannie, of course) is a twist that’s particularly wrenching given how far she’s come in two years.
Deep down, Carrie Mathison wants to be back in danger, but she knows it’s not right to be. We see that mix of trepidation and anticipation cross her face in the opening minutes as she arrives at the Lebanese/Syrian border, gazing outside as the Foundation team approaches General Alladia Refugee Camp. Just look at her: She’s excited, but she’s worried. She wants to reenter the game; she wants to be home with Frannie. She’s eager to dive into the action at a city in which she used to operate; she’s looking forward to this trip being over because this city’s full of ghosts from her agency days.
Inside the camp, Carrie and her trusty messenger bag follow the Foundation’s men — Philip, who handles foreign aid, and Mike, who’s been there before with Angelina Jolie, per Homeland-land — to meet the UN colonel who advises them not to leave the tiny area in which they’re safe. Carrie learns that it’s not safe for Otto, it’s not safe for her, and it’s not safe for the dozens of journalists they’ve brought with them to see Otto’s Big Beirut Adventure.
Good (?) thing she’s secured a meeting with the Hezbollah commander. Carrie is taken to by a silent envoy to the commander, but not even he can guarantee more than an hour of protection. Carrie offers $40,000 to him, effectively making a deal she had just told the UN colonel was simply a conversation. It’s worth noting that during this pay-to-play “conversation,” Carrie looks more assured than ever, despite the commander’s upper hand. It’s like she had never left the agency.
Then again, Carrie knows Beirut. At the Commodore Hotel — where we’ve been before, back in season 2, when Carrie donned a brown wig and smiled — she runs into Hank, a
ghost colleague she knew back at the CIA, and one we met last season working with Carrie-as-Drone Queen. He greets her warmly before revealing his suspicions about what she’s doing in the city. Carrie looks affronted, but Hank is speaking from experience: After all, Carrie and Saul worked together and pulled the rug out from not only the agency, but the viewers, with Majid Javadi. Classic Trojan Horse, indeed. Even so, Carrie says nothing’s happening in Beirut with Otto or with Hezbollah that the agency need know about and besides, she doesn’t want to be seen as helping the agency… and by extension — given the sour look on Hank’s face — her homeland. Oof. Tough call there, Carrie: Either you betray your boss or you betray your country. (Damn you, patriotism!)
Later, Carrie heads to Otto’s white wine-drenched, oddly relaxed party (seriously, Otto, just because you’re a billionaire philanthropist doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let your head of security look over the guest list), and, while sipping water (she’s been sober nine months, she tells Otto), reflects on her struggle to leave her past behind her. Because Homeland doesn’t include a singing and dancing warthog and meerkat to help her move past her demons, Carrie ends up spilling her memories to her boss, who acts like he understands while getting shaken up by what sounds like gunfire in the distance. But Carrie doesn’t seem to mind them; she remembers Beirut, her first overseas posting as an agent, as a city in which she dealt with truck bombs, assassinations, and hostage takings, and all of that just made it “a big adventure,” she explains.
But with all her reminiscing, she still can’t put her family out of her mind. Unlike the Carrie of two years ago, she checks in on Frannie and Jonas, assuring them she’ll be home once Otto’s Big Beirut Adventure ends. She thanks Jonas for looking after Frannie in her absence: “No, seriously, I’ve never had that before.” (Somewhere, Maggie Mathison’s skin just started crawling.) Carrie reassures him she’s well-protected, too. “I’m hiding behind a team of hunky ex-special forces guys,” she says. (Hmm… I can think of a hunky ex-special forces guy hanging out back in Berlin…)
The next day, Otto’s campaign has started, but only after he begrudgingly accepted the one-hour rule — Otto would really rather stay and do his business with the folks he knows there — and he’s speechifying to the crowd of photographers, journalists, and refugees about bringing in more food and resources to the area. Carrie’s not really listening; she’s watching the crowd, brows furrowed. When the hour hits, Otto wants 10 more minutes, because screw the war zone, he’s having a ball. Another tough call there, Carrie: Either you follow your instincts or your boss’ orders. (Damn you and your deep pockets, Otto Düring!)
Carrie ends up giving him some more time, but it’s a reckless move, and she knows it. When she finally manages to get Otto going to their vehicle, she and Mike notice a suspicious man approaching, and at the last second, Mike stops him in his tracks before he can bomb the street. The team manages to escape, but on their way back, things don’t feel right. Carrie is in agent mode now, and she commands their driver stop when she notices the streets are empty. Something’s about to go wrong. The guilty driver bolts. And then BOOM:
(Director Lesli Linka Glatter, ladies and gentlemen.)
NEXT: What’s German for “clusterf—“?