Homeland recap: Chipping In
Normally, I’m accustomed to picking my jaw up from the floor at the end of a show’s season, not after its second episode. But the final minute of Sunday night’s Homeland broke open the season in such a shattering, brilliant way that hours later my mind’s still aquiver with the wild possibilities that could unfold in the coming weeks. After a blown mission to assassinate Abu Nazir that almost resulted in Carrie’s head getting shot off (or worse), Saul found a small flash disk hidden inside a canvass satchel. He plugged it into his laptop, and to Saul’s shock (and ours), up came Nicholas Brody’s face. It seems this little plastic chip contained Brody’s confession video, which he shot before his aborted suicide bomber mission to take out the vice president.
“By the time you’ve watched this, you’ll have read a lot of things about me,” said Brody in the video. “About what I’ve done. And so I wanted to explain myself. So that you’ll know the truth.”
And just like that, Brody’s secret was out. How Saul came by this satchel involves one of the best episodes of Homeland‘s still short run, a welcome improvement over last week’s comparatively awkward and slow season premiere. Having successfully evaded her pursuer, and with Saul’s cover as an agent clearly blown, Carrie took it upon herself to connect with her Beirut contact Fatima Ali, seeking the woman out at morning prayers. While I personally began to question the woman’s judgment after she mistook Carrie’s wig for dyed hair, Carrie — betraying none of the tumult churning inside her psyche — took what Fatima had to say as gospel truth: Her husband, a Hezbollah district commander, was going to meet Abu Nazir. The next day.
When Carrie finally did come in, she was so overcome with the rush of possibly hooking the big kahuna, she barely seemed to acknowledge that she had not even checked in with Saul, and worse yet, she’d gathered this crucial intel without Saul there. “Meaning you don’t trust my judgment,” asked Carrie, incredulous, the calm facade she’d maintained with Fatima melting away. “Meaning the entire point of the protocol was to keep your judgment out of it,” said Saul. Ouch.
When Carrie and Saul briefed Estes and CIA operations head Scott Ryan, i.e. the guy who will eventually be responsible for the global blackout on NBC’s Revolution (i.e. the scrupulous investigator from CBS’s The Good Wife, i.e. Tim Guinee), Carrie found her judgment questioned even further. The timing was suspicious, coming smack in the middle of an international crisis where any wrong move from U.S. could badly inflame the situation. The area Nazir was going to be at was deep in Hezbollah territory, in tight, narrow streets that would be perfect for a Black Hawk Down-style ambush. Factor in Carrie’s historic obsession with Abu Nazir, and suddenly this slam dunk was looking like a very costly air ball. (One question, though: Does the CIA really have top secret briefings via Skype?)
NEXT PAGE: “I have never been so sure and so wrong.”
Saul, Ryan, and Estes’ concerns were entirely fair and rational, which only made things worse for Carrie, who proceeded to have a grade A meltdown as she heard Estes and Saul argue over what to do in the other room. Watching Danes work through the torrents of feeling overwhelming Carrie’s mind has made for riveting viewing, but I do hope Carrie will begin to piece her way back to a reasonably stable sanity soon — there’s only so much of watching her be crippled by grief and pain that I can really take.
After escaping to the roof for air and a good ugly cry, Carrie made clear to Saul that she’s still keenly aware of her place — at the CIA, and within her own mind. “It f—ed me up, Saul, being wrong about Brody,” she said between sobs. “It really — it f—ed me up. Because I have never been so sure and so wrong. And it’s that fact that I still can’t get my head around. It makes me unable to trust my own thoughts. Every time I think I see something clearly now, it just disappears.” Most people, whether diagnosibly bipolar or not, have at one time or another faced the dismaying chasm between their convictions and reality — of course, most people’s convictions don’t affect thousands of lives and American national security, either. But Carrie still had at least one last tether to hold onto: Her former self, the one who had helped Fatima survive her abusive husband, the one firm in the knowledge that her actions had developed a bond that would result in exactly the windfall that had now landed in their laps. Turns out, Saul believed in that Carrie too. The mission was a go.
Before we get to it though, we’ve got to circle back to Brody. Roya Hammad’s scoop from last week was legit: As the vice president explained to Brody during a Washington social function, Israel hadonly hit four of the five reported Iranian nuclear facilities. The fifth was buried too deep; Israel needed a “bunker buster” bomb to finish the job, but the president — waddaya know, he exists! — was blocking the export. Walden told Brody he needed him to sell the necessity of the bomb to the Secretary of Defense. It was a perfect moment for Brody to wield that influence he’d been clinging to as his best weapon to help Abu Nazir. He noted that the world would know that Israel used an American bomb. “The cry on the Arab street will be ‘U.S. bombs Iran.'”
The vice president fixed Brody with an even stare. “You really give a s— about the Arab street? They yell ‘death to America’ whatever we do.” So that didn’t work.
Backed into a corner, Brody had no real choice but to agree to help Walden. Just as he was about to leave for the Pentagon the next day, Brody was paid a visit by his old war buddy and frenemy Mike Faber, who told Brody that their fellow platoon mates were unsatisfied with the official report of Tom Walker’s death: Why had he missed all those shots? Why had he killed Walden’s aide instead of Walden? And why wasn’t there any evidence about who killed Walker?
NEXT PAGE: Brody risks warning Nazir, while Carrie risks her life
It was with those questions ringing in his ears — and the obvious answer that Brody could never give even though he promised he’d use his security clearance to find them — Brody stepped into the Pentagon, and into a nightmare scenario. Instead of meeting with just the Secretary of Defense, Brody found himself surrounded by the Joint Chiefs of Staff watching the covert operation to capture or kill Abu Nazir.
Special kudos to writer Chip Johannessen for getting us to this incredible sequence elegantly, and to director Michael Cuesta for staging it all with maximum tension and clarity. (Though I still don’t understand how the vice president and Joint Chiefs could be crowded in a room watching an operation to take out one of the most wanted terrorists in the world and not be joined by the president. Maybe he’s invisible?) Once again, even when they’re not directly involved in each other’s lives, the show found a way to connect Carrie and Brody to the larger story: Just as Carrie’s hunch was proven right, Brody’s loyalty to Nazir was put to an extreme test. He only had time enough to send a brief coded message — “May 1,” which I’m guessing is Issa’s birthday — to warn Nazir before the sniper shots rained down upon Nazir’s heavily guarded caravan. He escaped, barely. Walden raged, “Somebody warned him!” And Brody gripped his leg to keep his hand from shaking with total panic. (Man, is Damian Lewis great at expressing barely contained anxiety or what?) (UPDATE: Several commenters have noted that “May 1” likely means “May Day” — and it also happens to be the day Osama bin Laden was killed.)
As they raced to get Fatima out of her home and to safety, Saul tried to assure Carrie. Even though Nazir escaped, he said, “Your source came through. You were right. I won’t have you call this anything but a victory.” Come on, Saul; when have you known Carrie to call anything a victory? Rather than remain content that her job was done once Fatima was in the car, she instead grabbed Fatima’s keys and sprinted back up to her apartment to try to collect more intelligence and salvage the mission — no matter that a growing crowd of Hezbollah loyalists had started to surround their SUV. Which is to say, yes, Carrie is still completely crazy.
In fact, as I watched Carrie tear through Fatima’s apartment, grab a random canvass satchel to stuff a stack of documents inside it, and barely evade the men who thought nothing of shooting to kill her, that’s what I kept thinking about: There’s a necessary madness in careening yourself into mortal danger in the vague hope of aiding what you believe is the greater good, of trusting only your gut instincts even when you have no earthly reason to.
That’s as true for Brody as it is for Carrie, only Brody isn’t surrounded by compatriots as crazy for his cause as he is, and his grasp on what constitutes “the greater good” for him seems to be slipping away. He protested to Roya Hammad in the dark of night that “I’m not your guy….I’ve done my role,” but even if he were to stop cold turkey now, he’s dug himself too deep to ever hope of crawling back out. And he knows it.
NEXT PAGE: Jessica takes another step into politics, and final thoughts on Saul’s big discovery
Meeting his platoon at apparently the only bar in the greater D.C. area, Brody had barely told the guys that there was no definitive word on Tom Walker’s death when Lauder “The Injured Jackass Everyone Barely Puts Up With” Wakefield began ripping the official line on Walker apart. It’s a great dramatic trick, giving the truth to the least likable jerk you can find, and it provoked Brody to admit out loud what had been roiling inside him for months. “The fact is, Walker’s not the person you think he is,” he barked at Lauder. “He stopped being a marine the day he turned traitor.” The words had barely escaped Brody’s lips when you could see their double meaning wash over his face, and Brody immediately fell silent. I don’t think, however, that Lauder is done speaking his mind.
Elsewhere in the Brody family, Jessica found herself being pulled further by Cynthia Walden (Talia Balsam, i.e. Mona Sterling on Mad Men) into the world of Washington power wives. The vice president’s wife had asked Jessica to co-host a fundraiser for wounded veterans with her, and invited Jessica to their palatial home to discuss convincing Nicholas Brody to be the keynote speaker. “I want you to me the junta that actually runs D.C.,” said Cynthia, taking Jessica’s arm and leading her into the inner circle, whilst Dana flirted with Finn Walden by trading insults in their stuffy study upstairs. Before any of that, though, Jessica had asked Dana to describe what she saw when she found her father praying. After Dana obliged with a reenactment, neither of them could quite shake how much it worried them. “It was actually kind of weird,” said Dana. “Yeah,” is all her mother could say in agreement.
They don’t know the half of it, either. It’s a testament to both these actresses that even though Dana and Jessica aren’t exactly aces in the likability department, I’m still filled with dread at the idea of them discovering the truth about Nicholas Brody. And since the show has been so willing to rip apart Brody’s fragile cover in the early going of the season, we very well may get to see that happen sooner rather than later.
Or, well, maybe not. Saul has already demonstrated a tendency to hold onto evidence incriminating high powered Washington figures until his back is to the wall, though I don’t know if Saul could sit on something that suggests a still-simmering threat. At the very least, the political fallout from a bombshell this massive is no simple thing, and Saul is nothing if not cautious. Handled correctly, it could exonerate Carrie and bring Abu Nazir to justice. Handled poorly, and it could crater the career of everyone who’d come into contact with Brody, including Saul and Carrie.
In any event, we’ll have to endure the agonizing week-long wait (at least) to learn how Saul chooses to handle this bombshell, and how it will affect Carrie and Brody’s lives, personally, professionally, and in Brody’s case, quite literally. But for now, I think my feelings on this development can be best summed up like so:
Holla! (That’s never going to get old.)
What did you make of “Beirut is Back”?