The pressure becomes too much for Brody, so Carrie takes matters into her own hands, and how!

By Adam B. Vary
May 28, 2015 at 04:57 PM EDT
Kent Smith/Showtime
S2 E8
  • TV Show

I have a feeling that this week’s Homeland may have been a make-or-break episode for some viewers. It showcased many of the show’s best strengths, including Claire Danes and Damien Lewis’ acting; the taut, ruthless storytelling pace; and Mandy Patinkin’s advance placement beardage. It also, however, exposed several of the show’s weaknesses, like how thinly written Jessica Brody and Mike Faber are; how little David Estes has to do; and how much credulity-straining leeway the CIA continually gives Carrie’s brazen behavior. Mostly, though, I think your appreciation for this episode — and for the show in general — may come down to whether you thought Saul and Quinn arguing while listening to Carrie boink Brody like they’re on a hotel adult cable pay-per-view was a brilliant juxtaposition, or a laughable self-parody.

Or, possibly, you could have shared my reaction: It was kinda brilliant and kinda laughable. My first thought watching this scene unfold was that the Saturday Night Live writers are likely kicking themselves for not waiting to do their Homeland sketch until after this episode aired. But I’m also willing to cut the show some slack. That scene was preceded by one of my favorite Carrie/Brody exchanges ever, and I at least liked the idea that Carrie’s professional life had become so fully enmeshed with her personal desires that her CIA colleagues were dragged into it too.

Oh, also, so I guess Abu Nazir is in the United States now?!?

Before we begin to full unpack all of that, however, we have to talk about Dana Brody. If ever there was a character who embodied all that is good and not-so-good about Homeland, it’s her. With each episode, Morgan Saylor has deepened our understanding of her character, finding the fragile child tucked inside the snide teenager and creating one of the show’s most complex personalities. And over the last four weeks, she’s done it trapped in a storyline that has teetered dangerously close to falling into a Kim Bauer cougar trap. Miraculously, this week, the writers found a way to get her out of it that also worked as genuinely affecting human drama.

We started the episode just an hour or so after the end of the last episode, with Dana alone on the streets of D.C. At first, I thought she was going to the home of the woman Finn Walden hit with his car, but instead, she paid a visit to the only real father figure she’d known in her life: Mike Faber. He let her in, and she promptly passed out, exhausted. Jessica dropped by later to check up, but instead of scooping her on home, she at least had the presence of mind to realize that Dana needed some time away from her crazybrains family. She clued Mike in on what was going on with Dana — explaining about the hit and run but not about who was behind the wheel — and then left because she’d dragged her son Chris along for no apparent reason other than to remind him that he will always be the second most important child in the Brody family.

When Dana woke up, Mike gently pushed her to call her mother while he was making dinner. Jessica agreed to let Dana stay the night, but with Brody once again MIA and Chris resigned to perpetually play Xbox off camera in his room, she was feeling quite suddenly all alone. “I miss you,” she told Dana. Therare expression of unambiguous affection that prompted Dana to tell her mother that Carrie was the one who put the kibosh on going to the police. “I’m sorry,” Dana said, knowing how hard it was for her mother to hear. “I didn’t say it to hurt you.” And for maybe the first time in years, she meant it.

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NEXT PAGE: Dana makes an unwelcome house call 

The next morning, Dana felt so much better that she dreamed up an entire conversation with her mother that never seemed to happen. “You know what she said?” Dana asked Mike. “She said that she ‘trusts my judgment.'” I re-watched Dana and Jessica’s conversation, and never once did the worst “trust” or “judgment” escape Jessica’s lips. I suppose one could extrapolate from Jessica giving Dana permission to stay with Mike that she trusted Dana’s judgment to stay with him — or someone just wasn’t paying enough attention in the editing room. Either way, Dana was shocked by the revelation, but Mike wasn’t. “If you could hear what she says about you,” he said, “you’d know, Dana, she thinks the world of you.”

On something of an empathizing-with-adults winning streak, Dana asked Mike about how hard it had been for him to disappear after Brody came home. “It was difficult,” he said. “But there was no question in my mind it was the right thing to do.” At this moment, Dana seemed to realize that Mike Faber was pretty much the perfect man. He cooks. He keeps a clean home. He’s got good taste in furnishings and decor. He’s thoughtful and considerate. He’s easy on the eyes. And he’s just dim enough that he’ll basically do anything you ask him to do — like, say, drive you to a strange home so you can apologize to the daughter of the woman you were complicit in killing, without any adult supervision whatsoever.

From the start, Dana’s attempt at an apology went sour. The victim’s daughter recognized Dana from her hospital visit, and surmised immediately Dana was responsible for her mother’s death. “I didn’t kill her,” Dana meekly protested. “I was in the car.” The daughter sneered: “It’s the same exact thing.” Dana forged on, the words barely tumbling from her mouth, as if she knew they were wholly inadequate before she spoke them: “I am so sorry, and I’m trying…”

“Trying what?” the daughter spat.

“Trying to take responsibility…” Again, the daughter interrupted: “What does that even mean?!” The reality of her seething anger, of her inability for forgiveness, overwhelmed Dana. “I’m sorry,” she murmured, her voice thick with tears. “I want to go to the police.”

And that’s when the other shoe dropped. Keep in mind that in the timeline of the show, this conversation came roughly 48 hours after Dana and Finn confessed their crime to their mothers — and in that time, the Waldens had already paid off the victim’s family. “I got two sisters to take care of, so don’t you dare mess that up,” the daughter snapped. “If you tell anyone, I get nothing.” Chased out of the house, Dana collapsed into Mike’s car, staggered by the moral purgatory she found herself sucked into — unwilling to do the wrong thing, unable to do the right thing.

Back at home, while Chris obliviously marveled with Mike at the Redskins’ fortunes against the Dolphins (I’m about 80 percent certain that that’s what Chris meant by being “up by five against Miami”), Dana explained to her mother what she’d just done. (UPDATE: It was the Wizards vs. the Heat. Basketball. This is why I don’t write for Sports Illustrated.) “She basically called me a murderer,” Dana said of the victim’s daughter, dissolving into tears. Jessica tried to tell Dana that she wasn’t a killer, but Dana wouldn’t hear it. “It’s how I feel about half the time.” She then explained about the deal, and Jessica — who had been so righteous with her husband about not letting politics prevent them from doing the right thing with Dana — rolled her eyes and said she wasn’t surprised. “There’s a presidential campaign in the works,” she sighed.

Dana, bless her breaking heart, refused to give in to such sudden, easy cynicism. “So, what, it just goes away? We’re supposed to pretend like it never happened? Because I can’t. I killed someone.” In Dana’s grief and guilt, in her refusal to explain away her crime — indeed, in her fearless need to atone for it — she proved herself a stronger soul than either of her parents. The writers may have given her an easy out as far as the law is concerned, but since they’re clearly not keen on letting her father off the hook emotionally, I don’t think Dana will be back to her old sunshine-and-snark self any time soon.

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NEXT PAGE: The Brody breakdown bonanza continues!

{C}Instead of confronting his sins, Nicholas Brody didn’t try to run away from them so much as he simply stopped moving in any direction. When Jessica pressed him to tell the CIA he had to go to the police for Dana, Brody bellowed “I CAN’T I CAN’T I CAN’T!” — a primal scream, his declaration that he was simply done with everyone and everything, especially himself.

Carrie, however, was not done with him — not even close. Finding him huddled in a fetal position in his home, muttering about the “nightmare” his life had become, she propped him up for the meeting with Roya that was meant to introduce him to his new contact. (I remind you, this meeting was scheduled for the same day that Brody brought his daughter to the D.C. Metro police, which was also the same day as the end of their weekend presidential fundraiser with the Waldens. So, you know, busy day.) But when Brody got to his meeting with Roya, while never blowing his cover per se, he supremely and utterly lost his s—, telling her, “I’m through.” Roya tried to win him back with veiled threats that quitting was “not an option,” but Brody was resolute. “There’s nothing more to say,” he growled, pulling away from her. (Nice visual touch with that swarm of kids in blood red polos racing by them at this moment.)

The CIA, naturally, was just as freaked out as Roya was. Quinn believed the mission was blown, but Carrie refused to give up — as long as his cover was intact, Brody was still in play. She ordered Virgil to kill the transmitter on Brody’s phone and blame it on technical difficulties. And while she told Quinn she would bring Brody in, instead she took his keys and spirited him out of town. “Do you think I really care what happens to me anymore?” Brody said before they drove off. “Well, I do,” she replied. “I care what happens to you, even if you don’t.”

Estes, understandably, was furious, but all he did was yell at Saul that he needed to find his protégé. Saul, who had been consumed with such resolve at the end of last week’s episode, was remarkably calm, trying to assuage Estes concerns by noting that Carrie was managing Brody to keep him in play. Estes, however, had lost his patience. “I can’t bank on that,” he said darkly. “There’s an attack planned, Saul, possibly imminent. And I don’t want to be the one standing in front of the Senate explaining who Carrie was f—ing when the bomb went off!” (I’ll pause for a moment to note that this episode aired just days after the real-life former head of the CIA testified before the real-life Congress about a recent real-life attack against the U.S. whilst embroiled in a real-life pants-dropping scandal of his own — a scandal several pundits have compared directly to the not-real-life Homeland. That sort of head-twisting serendipity is why I’m inclined to go along with what happened in the rest of the episode instead of dismiss it out of hand as simply ridiculous. Life is clearly much more absurd.)

Instead of supervising this precarious operation himself, Estes disappeared for the rest of the episode, letting Quinn and Saul battle over just how much testimony about Carrie f—ing Brody that Estes would have to give. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. First, Carrie had to check Brody into their room, at a motel that we learned later was designated as a CIA safe harbor. Still numb with apathy over his own fate, Brody soaked in a sublime sunset as possibly the last thing he saw before the CIA locked him up. “You think you can save this?” he asked Carrie softly. “You can’t.” Again, Carrie was undeterred, walking off to get food, trusting that Brody wouldn’t bolt.

And he didn’t. Instead, that night in their hotel room, he sang his own funeral dirge. “I was thinking, I’d finally done it,” he told Carrie. “Burnt every bridge. With Abu Nazir. With the CIA. With my family. I’m more alone now than I was at the bottom of that hole in Iraq.” Brody stretched out on the bed, totally spent. “I’m done,” he sighed. “At least I’ll finally be able to stop lying to everybody.”

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NEXT PAGE: Carrie and Brody unwittingly star in their own reality show

{C}Like their epic interrogation a few weeks back, Carrie simply changed tactics, bringing the conversation back to her. She sat down next to him on the bed, and began telling him about the future she’d imagined for the two of them — and in doing so, gave Brody an alternative vision for his fate. “If we saw this through together,” she said, “if we finally stopped Nazir once and for all, then you’d be a real hero. And that fact would somehow make everything you did before not matter. That it would all just be about getting to there.” It was just enough hope to derail Brody’s epic pity party. Even what he did to Carrie, even that would be absolved? “Including that,” she said. “Just wouldn’t matter any more, to either of us.” Brody sat up. “You know how crazy everyone says you are?” he said. “You’re crazier than that.” Carrie smiled. “This deal of ours, I think it’s a way out for both of us,” she said. “You said you were all alone. You’re not.”

It was such a gentle scene, marvelously underplayed by Danes and Lewis, both of them at once speaking the full truth to each other while also touching at the heart of the show’s nimble blearing of the personal and the professional. It was so lovely and moving, in fact, that what followed was, for me at least, so jarring I laughed out loud through most of it.

Carrie may be crazy, but she was smart enough to make sure Saul and the CIA could find them without any real effort. Unfortunately for Carrie, Saul found them so quickly that the CIA was listening in on their entire conversation — and the noisy, grunting, aggressive boning that followed. The sight of Saul gripping his hand to his forehead as he heard their jackrabbity happy sounds is something I won’t soon forget. Quinn, meanwhile, appeared to be consumed with a heady cocktail of incredulity that this was even happening, and jealousy that he wasn’t the one receiving Carrie’s vehement affections. He wanted to pull the plug on the entire thing, but Saul stubbornly refused to give up on Carrie. “She’s turning it around!” said Saul, which managed to be both entirely accurate and entirely hilarious. Quinn characterized it as “a stage five delusional getting laid,” but Saul pointed out that Carrie deliberately went to a place where they could be found. “All she’s asking for is time,” he said calmly. And remarkably, Quinn gave it to her. (One unambiguously terrible thing about this scene: The extras in the nerve center were behaving like background characters in a videogame, not reacting to anything Saul and Quinn were screaming at each other.)

The next day, Brody called Roya and apologized, using all the same language one would use when apologizing to an estranged significant other — and Roya’s dubious expression made clear she wasn’t ready to buy what Brody was selling right away. When they hung up, she took the battery out of her phone, already wary of surveillance. Carrie and Brody, meanwhile, spent a quiet moment cuddling on the motel walkway. Given how the episode concluded, I wonder if it was the last moment of calm affection they will ever have.

Back at the HQ, Saul had the unpleasant task of informing Carrie that the entire nerve center had been privy to her bedroom gymnastics. “I don’t know what’s worse,” Carrie said to Saul. “Quinn’s perverts with their idiot smirks” — no, Carrie, that’s “pre-rendered videogame character smirks,” totally different — “or you giving me that look.” Saul gently pressed Carrie to own up to her obvious subjective feelings for Brody — and recognize how badly it ended for her the last time she got that close to him. But instead of having a human conversation with the one person who fought to keep her efforts with Brody alive (and how!), Carrie threw Saul’s own subjective feelings for her back in his face. “I’m not your daughter, Saul,” she said with not a small amount of contempt. “I don’t need you telling me what to do.” Not exactly burning a bridge, but certainly building a fire on top of it.

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NEXT PAGE: Bye bye Brody!

{C}Before Saul and Carrie could get into it, though, Quinn had news: Roya was picking up Brody. The meeting was back on. Roya appeared in the dark in Brody’s garage, hopped into his passenger seat, and ordered him to drive out into the countryside. En route, she passive aggressively pushed Brody to admit his time with Carrie was what turned him around on quitting Nazir’s cause. Brody protested, so nervously that Roya reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out his phone, and yanked out the battery, cutting off the CIA’s tracking and audio bugs. (There may be some convoluted legal reason why they hadn’t also separately rigged Brody’s car with tracking and microphones, but, c’mon guys, that’s an obvious one, isn’t it?)

Carrie was spooked. Roya seemed to know Brody’d been turned. She asked to go in the added follow cars tracking Brody, and even though she’d just proven herself entirely uninterested in following Quinn’s orders when it came to Brody, Quinn said it was okay. Silly Quinn. Seems like someone else is letting his subjective feelings get in the way of his judgment, hmmmmmm?

The subsequent sequence was a tour de force of tension. Roya had Brody stop in the middle of nowhere, near a large clearing, in the failing dusk. After an agonizing wait, with Carrie, Virgil, and Max just far enough away to be out of eyeshot, Roya told Brody, “You say you want another chance? This is it.” And up walked Swarthy Boreanaz, her contact and the man who mowed down Quinn and six other agents. (No mention of Danny Galvez’s status this week, by the way.) Carrie was going bananas with not being able to see what was happening, so she pushed Quinn and Saul to let her van drive by to see what was going on. They did, and that’s when they realized, holy crap, it’s Swarthy Boreanaz!

Carrie went ballistic, frantic that something awful was about to happen to Brody, demanding Quinn allow them to take all three. Quinn said no dice — Carrie was the one, after all, demanding that Brody remain in play. He ordered her to stay back. So, of course, Carrie left the van and got closer. She saw Swarthy Boreanaz grab Brody and walk him out to the field with Roya, so she followed. Quinn turned to Saul for help corralling his protégé once again, but Saul’s attention was turned to their curious location — the only clearing for miles around. And that’s when the helicopter showed up.

Brody was stuffed into the copter (and though we didn’t see it, I’m assuming Roya and S.B. followed), and they took off before anyone had time to react. “We’re losing him!” Carrie screamed into her phone. By then, it was too late. “They’re gone!” she screamed impotently. “They’re just gone!

Where did they go? I’m going to presume it was somewhere within the confines of the United States, somewhere urban enough to house a large, empty warehouse, but remote enough that the presence of the world’s most wanted man riding in a black sedan would go undetected. That’s right. Abu Nazir had arrived in the U.S., newly shorn of his beard and seemingly none too happy with his American disciple. He fixed Brody with a cold stare, and spoke just one word, a word Brody had rarely if ever heard from anyone, including his own wife: “Nicholas.” With four more episodes to go, it would appear the End Game has begun.

Your turn! What did you make of “I’ll Fly Away”? Was Dana’s storyline redeemed for you? What did you make of Brody and Carrie’s lusty hullabaloo? (How long do you think Claire Danes and Damien Lewis spent making those noises in ADR?) Does Quinn look really unhealthy to you — like, on the verge of a life-threatenting injury-related infection unhealthy? And what do you think Abu Nazir has planned for Nicholas Brody?

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