Homeland recap: Carrie, Scorned
Did you see that coming? I sure didn't. After spending the entire hour setting up our expectations for what the next few episodes would entail — namely, the careful surveillance of Nicholas Brody by the CIA, as his family and friends begin to fall away from him and suspect his motives — Carrie pulled the rug out from everything, including herself. Watching her stand in Brody's hotel room, I was convinced we were about to witness Saul and new agency hard-ass Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) witness Carrie get it on again with Brody. That would have been enough of an OMG moment, and a fitting reversal to all the times Carrie had witnessed Brody's painful fornications with his wife in the first season.
Instead, after some coy flirtation that effectively scrambled Brody's radar, Carrie's soft face suddenly hardened. "It reeks, you know," she told Brody. "My confusion?" he replied. "Your bulls—." Turns out Saul and Peter witnessed Carrie blow something entirely different: Their mission. Agents burst in. A hood was thrown on Brody's head. And just like that, Carrie had forced the CIA to take a sitting U.S. Congressman into custody.
I'll delve more deeply into this scene later on, but for now let me just give the folks at Homeland a one-man standing ovation for yet again exploding the possibilities for their show (and the minds of their audience) wide open, and for doing it with such effective misdirection. (Check out Ken Tucker's excellent piece on the general narrative pleasures of Homeland here.)
Misdirection No. 1: The budding romance between Dana Brody and Finn Walden. After a few months in her new, posh private school, Dana had started to grow apart from her nominal stoner boyfriend, Xander. (I loved her response to Xander's entreaty to get high: "That can't be the only thing to do." The "Just Say No" of the 2010s!) Pissed at her father ("a liar") and embarrassed by her mother ("a rube"), Dana needed to talk with someone as jaded and cynical as she was. Enter the vice president's son, wooing with saucy talk of Thomas Jefferson's illicit affair with his slave Sally Hemings. While she was studying with Finn, the VP offered his best attempt at Dickish Dad of the Year by observing that his son is "all about the gentleman's C's." Dana, bless her filterless brain, had a quick retort: "He got an A on yesterday's quiz…I guess gentleman's C's don't get you there anymore, not like in your day." Burn.
Finn, of course, swooned, so much so he ditched studying, ushered Dana into his ridiculous BMW, and broke into the Washington Monument with the Secret Service in tow. Xander never stood a chance. With the D.C. skyline stretching out before them, the two teenagers kissed, and Finn proclaimed he wanted to be her boyfriend. Even though she was mindful of Xander, she wanted it too. She promised to break things off. That evening, Finn texted "Good night, Sally" to Dana; she responded, "Night, TJ," sealing their bond with historical snark.
Watching this all unfold gave the episode a feeling of incremental advancement, of things slowing down enough to allow young love to take root. Instead, it would appear we're headed to a star-crossed lovers story on speed, as the Brody family is likely to very soon find itself politically and socially radioactive. Just as well, really; I think Dana could do a lot better.
Misdirection No. 2: Mike and Lauder become unlikely Hardy Boys. From the moment he showed up on Homeland in season one, Lauder (Generation Kill's Marc Menchaca) has been a fountain of rude truths, a fountain so foul that no one pays attention to it. Lauder seems like a man possessed with the need to return the world back to when it made sense, when Mike hadn't slept with Jessica, when Brody wasn't a slippery politician, when Walker hadn't turned traitor — and when his legs were in working order. The righteousness of his quest gave him permission to show up at the Brody homestead, drunk and demanding to speak with his congressman, and camp out in their kitchen until he did.
Instead, Jessica called Mike, who hauled Lauder back outside to take him home. But unlike Jessica, who had no time for his ravings, Mike listened while Lauder claimed that Brody knew something about Walker's death, and the day Walker shot the vice president's aide, that he wasn't sharing. "Maybe he was a part of it," Lauder said, jabbering about how Walker and Brody were a sniper team for years. "Maybe they were working together like old times." By the time Lauder sobered up, Mike was intrigued. Brody had been acting strangely, and Lauder's points about Walker did make a crazy sort of sense. The conclusion he and Lauder arrived at — Brody was working for the CIA — was all wrong. But it was clear these two would not be letting this go, adding yet another team attempting to uncover The Mystery of Nicholas Brody.
Again, like the Dana/Finn subplot, this set us up to expect a steady march forward, as Mike marshaled together scraps in information about Brody over the coming weeks, and Lauder used that info to make wild leaps of logic that also happened to be correct. Now that Brody is going to be majorly MIA (at least, now that it seems like he will), I suspect Mike and Lauder will only be more determined to figure out what the hell is going on.
Misdirection No. 3: The return of sane Carrie and The Brody Show — and the introduction of a wild card. Throughout the episode, we heard person after person sing Carrie's praises. She was right about Brody (and only taciturn tech-hand Max truly believed her!). She handled the tasks handed to her with her old wily aplomb. Plus, no hair-trigger, lip-quivering breakdowns! Couple that with the familiar sight of Carrie parked in front of a TV screen watching Brody squirm, and I will admit to being duped into thinking the season was settling in for the long game outlined by Saul in his awesome tête-a-tête with Estes: "We leave [Brody] right where he is. … See if we can get a lead on what they're up to — when, where, what kind of attack. Nothing changes." (Aside: I wonder if Damian Lewis had any idea that his bomber video would end up being his most re-watched performance on the show?)
Much of the episode was spent introducing Peter Quinn, the CIA agent Estes had brought in to run the Brody operation and keep an eye on Carrie. Unlike Saul's fatherly coddling, Peter did not mince words. "I don't like surprises," he told Carrie. "I'm not crazy about them either," she replied. "Crazy," he replied. "Interesting word."
Before Carrie had much of a chance to protest, Peter was already sending her out into the field, having her exit CIA HQ at Langley just as Brody was arriving for a meeting. "We want to throw him a jolt," he explained, "so we figured go for his Achilles heel. Which is you." In just this scene, their prickly banter and Rupert Friend's bemused performance already made Peter miles more interesting than the target of his plan, Brody's minder, Roya Hammad. But as Peter would discover, Carrie's Achilles heel also happens to be Brody.
At first, Peter's plan worked perfectly. Virgil (welcome back!) and Max tailed Brody's efforts to scrub his car clean from his deadly misadventure with the tailor the day before, all the way to his cab ride to Langley. (Some nice touches here: Brody mishearing the car wash attendant say "blood splatter" instead of "bug splatter"; and the seemingly foreign-born cabbie grousing that by passing Brody a piece of paper outside Langley, he was doomed to be followed the rest of the day.) Already on tilt, Brody was primed when he "bumped" into Carrie for the first time this season, and Claire Danes and Damian Lewis proved yet again that there may be no better scene partners working on television today. They both expertly played the duality of the moment, as Carrie and Brody simultaneously performed the fiction of their cover stories and betrayed the truth of their real, raw, complicated feelings for each other. "You kind of saved me," Carrie told Brody, at once a total lie (he pushed her into insanity) and truth (had he not ratted on her to Estes, she may never have tried to get well). When he asked why she was there, she paused, perfectly. "I actually can't tell you," she said. "I have good boundaries now. It's part of being well." Indeed.
Before they parted, Carrie reached out her hand to Brody. "I'm glad I saw you," she said. "Yeah, me too," he replied, realizing he meant it as he said it. The hook was set. Brody immediately went to Roya — which the CIA team could see, but not hear — and unloaded his anxiety about why Carrie was suddenly back in play. Concerned but not overly worried, Roya encouraged Brody to renew his relationship with her, possibly the worst advice she could have given him in that moment. (Echoing the feelings of legions of commenters in last week's recap, Brody also called his episode with the tailor "a f—ing travesty that should not have gone down.")
Brody finally returned Jessica's calls about Lauder, but it was too little, too late — she wasn't interested in getting his help. "You're going to go to your hotel," she ordered, "or wherever it is you go when you disappear." Her devastating declaration from that morning had stuck; she did not trust him anymore, and his inability to connect how his covert life was affecting his family had seemingly claimed Brody's marriage.
Meanwhile, Saul, Peter, and Carrie briefed Estes on the day's surveillance: 43 contacts, too many to follow with their current staffing, so, as Saul put it, they would have to focus on the "dark skinned" ones first. "That's racial profiling!" Max futilely protested. My beef was more with the timeline: Brody interacted with the car wash guy and the cabbie before he encountered Carrie. Shouldn't their attention be on the people he saw after Carrie, dark skinned or otherwise?
As Carrie and Peter settled in for the night shift, Brody settled into the hotel bar, and Virgil set up the hotel security camera feed to include that location. (While the camera placed in the bar itself pointing out at the patrons may seem a bit convenient, it isn't out of the realm of possibility; some bars use them to keep tabs on the size of the bartenders' pours.) Brody took out his phone. Downed his drink. Stared down the sudden wreckage of his personal life. And rang up Carrie — whose number, it seems, he had never deleted from his phone. He told her he wanted to bury the hatchet over a drink. "Ho-lee s—," said Peter. "It's on," said Carrie. They quickly talked strategy — spook Brody more by dropping Abu Nazir's name — and she headed out while Peter looped in Saul and Estes. "Crap, I'm nervous," she told Peter. "I'm not; you're good," he replied. Bolstered by the support of a man she barely knew and trusted, Carrie headed out to meet the man who had ruined her life.
The subsequent scene was easily one of my absolute favorite of the entire series. They were off to the races from the get go. "You and me and bars," Carrie said as she walked up to Brody. "Always ends up in an interesting way, doesn't it?" he answered, unwittingly foretelling his own doom. After making clear he wasn't asking for a booty call, he confessed he had been kicked out of the house by his wife. "That can't be good politics," said Carrie. "You're supposed to be the new J.F.K. and Jackie." Brody winced. "So this all ends with a bullet in my brain, huh?" he said, deliberately foretelling his own doom. Whoa, I thought, just as Carrie said the exact same thing. "Dark turn!" I laughed out loud at the audacity of Brody's line, but I don't think it was just a cheap joke; this is a man whom but for a fortuitous phone call from his daughter would be not much more than splattered blood and guts. That line revealed that there is at least some part of Brody that realizes he cannot keep his high-wire juggling act going indefinitely, and that he's performing without a net.
Yet again, Carrie and Brody's conversation quickly took on double meanings, as she skillfully found a way to drop Abu Nazir's name into Brody's lap. "I'm getting pretty close," she told him. To? "My goal." She pushed things even further. "I'm circling a certain terrorist," she said with a knowing smile. "Hey, so long as it's not me!" Brody said, which he meant as a joke, but taken literally actually amounted to something of a passive confession. Nope, it wasn't him, Carrie lied. She was after the big guy, "the head of the snake guy." As Brody nodded, thrilled his plan to pump Carrie for info was working so well, she went in for the kill. "Who stole eight years of your life," she whispered. Bingo.
It was a great moment for Carrie — and then it all went to hell as Brody went about doing precisely what he said he wanted to do: Bury the hatchet. He apologized for calling Estes and ratting her out. "I did it because I was worried about you," he said. Carrie deflected. "It was worrisome, my behavior." But then Brody brought up Carrie's electroconvulsive therapy, which Carrie wasn't expecting him to know about. The balance of power had shifted. She was no longer in control of the conversation, and she did not like where it was headed. Brody asked how often she had to do it. "Uh, Mondays and Thursdays for six weeks," she replied, her voice rising. "Was it terrible?" Brody asked, his voice a condescending whisper. Carrie paused. "No," she said, completely thrown. Of course it was terrible, she wanted to scream, but instead she lied, saying she didn't even feel it.
The moment was so painfully awkward, it killed the conversation. Brody billed their drinks to his room, and left. To Peter and Saul, it was a successful interaction. To Carrie, it was disastrous. I'm not sure if Carrie believed that Brody had made her in that moment, or if she was so overwhelmed with rage that all she wanted was to bring down the man who had brought her to her lowest point ever. (As Peter himself had put it earlier: "If he did to me what he did to you — got me fired, and made me think I was crazy when I wasn't; send me off to get my brain zapped — I'd f—ing rip his skin off.") I'm also unsure if Brody had deliberately meant to throw Carrie off her game by bringing up ECT, or if he was just genuinely worried about her — when he got back to his room, he did appear to have a moment of remorse.
I am positive, however, that what followed was flipping awesome. Carrie showed up at Brody's room, all smiles and nervous sunshine. She came in. They flirted. And then Carrie spoke of Brody's reeking bulls—. At first, Brody thought he was dealing with just old unhinged Carrie. "Look, I'm sorry I called. I guess I thought we could be friends," he said, talking to Carrie with a placating smile, like she was merely a crazy ex. "Friends?!" she said, incredulous. "Oh, yeah, do I want to be friends with a demented ex-soldier who hates America? Who decided strapping on a bomb was the answer to what ailed him?" Brody's smile disappeared. Something was different. Carrie seemed to know things, not just suspect them. "Okay," he said darkly, approaching her. "Not friends." I loved how, even though Carrie was completely screwing the pooch, Saul still went all Papa Bear, growling at the screen, "Get the f— away from her."
Carrie, however, was undeterred. She called Brody's bluff, practically daring him to try killing her, and blame it on rough sex. "How long could get away with something like that?" she taunted. It worked. Brody dropped all pretense. "I've had a pretty good run so far," he boasted. "I seem to be good at this. If nothing else." Carrie sneered, taunting him further. "You're special." Brody looked at Carrie and frowned, disappointed. "I liked you, Carrie," he said. "I loved you," spat Carrie.
Brody stepped forward — whether to kill or kiss Carrie, we'll never know, because in that moment, boom!, in came the agents. They brought Brody to the floor, and the look of righteous satisfaction on Carrie's face was unforgettable. As Peter and Saul grimly watched from the monitors, she finally spoke the words to Brody that she'd been waiting to say for over a year: "You're a disgrace to your nation, Sergeant Nicholas Brody. You're a traitor and a terrorist. And now it's time you pay for that."
Another show would have ended things there. Instead, after Brody was hooded and taken away, we stayed with her, the camera inching back, as Carrie stood alone in the room, realizing just what she had done. What should have been a moment of triumph won after weeks of careful planning was, instead, a devastating moment, confirming everyone's worst fears about Carrie and seemingly dooming her to never return to the CIA again.
I cannot wait to see where the show goes from here.
What did you make of "New Car Smell"? What do you make of Peter Quinn? Do you think Virgil will dig up any interesting dirt on him? Is Dana's relationship with Finn doomed? And what do you think will become of Carrie and Brody?