Homeland recap: Trust Issues
Did we just get a glimpse of Homeland‘s future? Right as the season 2 end game turned a definitive corner, we briefly met a brand new character whose storytelling reach could easily extend far beyond whatever explosive finish Nicholas Brody appears to be taking the show this season. Sure, Peter Quinn’s mysterious CIA minder/contact/svengali — who Saul said used to run “company missions we don’t talk about” — could vanish after an episode or two. But I don’t think so. One, upon looking at his photo, Saul acted as if he’d seen someone just about as shocking, and formidable, as Abu Nazir — he even said of the man, “That’s him, in the flesh.” Two, you don’t give a character as portentously peculiar a name as “Dar Adal” if he’s only around for an episode or two. And three, Adal is played by the Oscar-winning actor F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus, CBS’ The Good Wife), and you don’t hire an Oscar-winning actor with a first-name initial if you aren’t at least thinking long term.
More to the point, the introduction of Dar Adal was just one of several new complications orbiting Peter Quinn. I’ll cover them later on, but suffice to say, I would not exactly be surprised if next summer I start seeing bus stop benches with Claire Danes standing enigmatically next to Rupert Friend instead of Damien Lewis.
Part of my highly dubious Homelandclairvoyance stems from how this episode — the best in a month — began to send the frayed strands of Brody’s storyline on a descending trajectory. First, there was his family. After getting dumped in a random Baltimore warehouse by Abu Nazir, Brody’s very first act was to call Carrie and urgently request the CIA place his family in protective custody. Knowing it was too risky for the CIA to just show up at Brody’s home, Carrie instead had the brainstorm to make Mike Faber relevant to the central plotline for the first time this season and have him collect Jessica, Dana, and Chris Brody. Ever the dutiful soldier, Mike even went above and beyond by giving a particularly petulant Dana the verbal smackdown she’s been asking for all season: “Hey! You don’t talk to me like that! I’m here to help, and you damn well know it!” Parenting! Whodathunk?!
Mike deposited everyone in a palatial D.C. penthouse apartment with two massive aquariums and, as Chris pointed out, a big-screen TV in every room. (With his peerless ability to find the silver lining in any s—show scenario, I would not be surprised if Chris grew up to be a cable morning news pundit.) Our tax dollars hard at work on behalf of the Brodys, the posh new setting allowed Jessica the mental space to see how good Mike was with Dana, talking her through her feelings of deep resentment about how much her life had turned sour since her father had come home. Those feelings drove Dana to refuse to talk with her father on the phone for the first time since she bolted from the police station. But there was no specific mention of Dana’s hit-and-run; instead, it seemed we were setting up the next (final) act in Brody’s all-but-broken relationship with the one person who saved him from oblivion last season.
Jessica, meanwhile, strikes me as a woman who has made up her mind about the man she wants in her future. During their first night in the penthouse, she slipped away from her kids — the image of them sleeping next to her was unexpectedly comforting — and into Mike’s room. Wordlessly, she disrobed, and they made love. I don’t think it was an accident that this private, hushed, but still quite steamy sex scene was in stark contrast to Carrie and Brody’s raucous, quasi-public rutting last week. The next day, in that same phone conversation with Brody, Jessica could not have looked more disappointed when her husband promised, “It’s all going to be over real soon, then we’ll get back to the way we were.” And yet I’m beginning to think Brody’s words could prove to be more prophetic than he realizes: When it is all over, the Brody family will be right back to the way they were — with Nicholas Brody out of the picture, and Mike Faber in his place. (So much for Jessica’s early season flirtation with the trappings of political fame.)
NEXT PAGE: Brody resurfaces
At first, Saul, Estes, and Quinn already believed Brody was likely dead, if not bodily, at least operationally — but only Carrie was brave enough to say it out loud. (This episode appeared to be the first under the Claire Danes pregnancy regime; homegirl did a lot of sitting and standing behind large objects.) They were all ready to roll on Roya Hammad — with Quinn notably the only one willing to entertain the notion that Brody was still alive and in play — when Brody phoned in from a borrowed Baltimore cell-phone, asking for his family’s safety. He appeared to be writing something down on a piece of paper, but oddly, we never got to see what it was.
Later, Brody had Carrie pick him up outside the church where they “first met.” (I loved Carrie’s quiet smile when she said “in the rain?” It was one of the very few grace notes to what was otherwise a relentless episode.). After a brief moment to acknowledge how happy they both were that he was still alive, Brody dropped the major bombshell: Abu Nazir was in the United States.
Back at HQ, Brody debriefed Carrie, Saul, Quinn, and Estes with the full tale of his time with the most wanted terrorist in the world. And it was, indeed, some tale — it’s just not clear if it was a completely true one. Initially, I thought the show was going to deny us outright any scenes with Nazir other than the one we saw at the opening of the show: Nazir telling Brody, “This is where we say goodbye, Nicholas — forever, if all goes well,” then embracing him warmly and driving off. That alone would have been a bold move, forcing us to decide whether or not to trust Brody based purely on his word, just like Carrie and her colleagues. Instead, the show did something more sly, or confusing, depending on your perspective: It showed us some of Brody’s answers to his CIA minder’s questions, but not all of them.
We did see Brody tell Nazir he only ever wanted to avenge Issa’s death, not kill innocent civilians. We did see Brody and Nazir debate the will of Allah, Brody saying, “Each of us must decide what we can and cannot do,” and Nazir responding, “So now you must decide what is your will, Nicholas.” We did see Nazir tell Brody with a stern, cold gaze that his family would be safe so long as he stayed true to himself. And we did see Nazir say he came to the U.S. so he could die “taking the fight to the enemy” instead of hiding “like a cowering animal, like bin Laden.” (Nazir also diverged from bin Laden in that he’s willing to shave his beard, put in contacts, and wear modern, western clothing to better blend into the American populace, and also in that he’s a fictional character with the apparently ability to teleport over international borders.)
But there were a few pieces of crucial information that Brody claimed happened that we did not see first hand. We did notsee Brody tell Nazir’s men to kill him immediately. We did not see Brody speak about his overwhelming love for his family. And, most notably, we did not see Nazir tell Brody about his plan to attack a homecoming of 300 special operations soldiers returning from Afghanistan, nor did we see Nazir ask Brody to convince the vice president to let Roya Hammad cover said event.
NEXT PAGE: So, can Brody be trusted?
These selective flashbacks could be just storytelling expediency, letting Brody cut to the chase with the CIA so we only see the more emotionally meaningful moments Brody shared with Nazir. They could be some crafty misdirection to get paranoid over-thinkers like myself to fish for red herrings. Or they could be the show’s way of tipping off its audience to when Brody was telling the truth, and when he was lying. (We did at least see Brody and Nazir praying together, which he neglected to tell the CIA about, but I don’t think that necessarily proves anything.)
While Saul and Quinn remained highly skeptical of what Brody was selling, Carrie said the prospective attack, murdering soldiers in front of their families, did sound like “quintessential Nazir” — she called it “an idea worthy of him.” More importantly, she knew that Brody’s claims, and the chance to capture Nazir red handed, were just too provocative to ignore. Back in the interview room, Carrie gave Brody his marching orders for his briefing with the vice president. Brody fixed her with soft, caring eyes. “Do you believe me?” he asked her. “Because that’s all I care about right now.”
Again, I’m likely just a paranoid conspiracy theorist, but it all set off my too-good-to-be-true alarm bells. Everyone was getting what they wanted. Carrie got Brody back and emotionally available, while the CIA got an imminent attack to thwart, with the vice president sitting in the front row to witness it happen. Even Brody’s behavior during Estes’ briefing of Walden — and Brody’s subsequent conversation with Roya about how he convinced the vice president to allow her to cover the event — went off without a hitch. Brody has been so terribly lost this season, even before he became a double agent, but this week he behaved with a renewed, urgent purpose, as if a crushing weight of doubt had been lifted from his shoulders. What remains up for debate, and one of the reasons this show remains such arresting television: Did Brody get his mojo back during his epic boning with Carrie, or from the renewal of his troubled relationship with Abu Nazir? Or maybe it was both?
One thing is for certain: All the uncertainty surrounding Brody lent the following CIA operation an added boost of suspense — even though the plan Brody laid out unfolded pretty much like clockwork. With Carrie narrating from the field, we watched Roya drive out to a diner for breakfast with her TV crew, while a blue SUV with dark tinted windows — the same one Nazir left in after cutting Brody loose — drove up carrying Swarthy Boreanaz and four other men. Three jumped out and helped SB swap out what looked like camera batteries in Roya’s news van while another, unseen person remained in the car. When Carrie noted that the new batteries appeared to weigh roughly 200 pounds, Estes called it: The FBI moved in, SB appeared to be taken down by a sniper, Roya was arrested, and the SUV was intercepted and flipped trying to escape. But the man inside was not Abu Nazir (a.k.a. “Sandman” in CIA parlance, though Carrie used the names interchangeably). So what happens now, with Roya locked up and Nazir seemingly floating in the wind? The teaser for next week’s episode suggests that Brody did indeed betray Nazir to the CIA, but I remain stubbornly skeptical of Brody’s ultimate intentions. Besides, a new wild card has landed face up on the table with the potential to scramble the whole deck: Peter Quinn.
NEXT PAGE: Saul meets Quinn’s baby mama
Show of hands: How many people knew Virgil and Max were breaking into Quinn’s apartment before they told Saul about it? Yeah, I didn’t figure that out either — I thought at first they were entering Roya’s home, and then thought maybe it was Swarthy Boreanaz’s sparse flat. But no, the practically ascetic apartment — with not much more than a sleeping bag and simple mattress as furnishings — belonged to Quinn. Saul was initially unimpressed that a CIA analyst could barely keep a decent home (he should take home decor advice from Mike Faber), but then Max pointed out that one of the only possessions of note in the entire place was a cleaning kit for a sniper rifle.
The only other object of note in the place was a tattered photograph of a woman with a newborn baby tucked inside an even more tattered copy of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Virgil tracked the mother, officer Julia Diaz, down to a Philadelphia police precinct, and Saul, with some time to kill before the massive CIA operation that had the potential to take down Abu Nazir, took a day trip drive to Philly to pay Ms. Diaz a visit.
Saul presented himself as his bizarro world counterpart, Richard Keller of the IRS. The mere mention of her son’s father put Diaz on alert, but she indulged Richard/Saul, taking him into a private room, telling him she hasn’t seen the boy’s father, “John Sr.,” since he’d been born four years ago. But she was no fool. She parried just about every interrogative volley Saul made, giving up only that she had never married her son’s dad. She pressed Richard/Saul to make a formal inquiry so she could get a tax lawyer, and then she declined to give up the last name of her son’s father, agreeing only to “confirm” a name Saul gave her. And she quickly deduced that the IRS would not likely come by a photograph of her son as intimate as the one Saul flashed her. “Has something happened to him?” she asked worriedly. “What is this all about?” Saul remained stoned faced, producing an IRS credential from his wallet. Diaz wouldn’t budge, but she was rattled. Saul left having accomplished what he’d come out there to do — getting Diaz to call Quinn in a panic, and forcing Quinn to react and thereby reveal more of himself.
Quinn, of course, is no fool either. He asked Diaz to describe the man who’d visited her, and if she’s even a halfway decent cop, then it wouldn’t take much for Quinn to realize Saul had been snooping around in his life. (“Rabbi beard” and “pageboy cap” would probably do the trick.) That revelation led Quinn to meet up with Dar Adal, and whether on purpose or by accident, allow Max to see them talking on a public bus. (Quinn seemed to be looking directly at Max’s camera, but Max was in a darkened car while Quinn was in a brightly lit bus, so perhaps the poor visibility only made it seem like Quinn had spotted Max. Man, I am really over-thinking things today.)
NEXT PAGE: “He’s here to kill terrorists, Saul.”
Saul also happens to not be a fool; he knew Quinn would suss out his involvement. When he returned from Philly, he fixed Quinn with a knowing stare that said, “C’mon, kid, don’t make me push this any further, just tell me what’s going on here.” (I loved their opening exchange. Quinn: “Where have you been? You look wasted.” Saul: “I’m just old.”) Quinn, however, wouldn’t budge either, and just went home instead. The next day, when Estes sent him out into the field halfway through the CIA operation, Saul protested. Why send an analyst to liaison with the F.B.I.? “He’s wearing two hats today,” said Estes, offhandedly speaking the episode’s title and the dilemma facing so many of Homeland‘s characters. Saul was left to press his case directly with Estes, dropping Dar Adal’s name and questioning who was really running the operation. “He’s here to kill terrorists, Saul,” Estes said, barely refraining from rolling his eyes. “Just like all of us.”
One of those terrorists: Nicholas Brody. Quinn’s task, it turned out, was to double as Brody’s driver to the troop homecoming, and execute Brody once Nazir was in custody. Twist! Brody was naturally startled to see Quinn staring back at him, but once Estes called Quinn off, all Quinn could do was reassure Brody that he wasn’t there to, you know, kill him. “Believe it or not, I’m your best friend in the world right now,” he told Brody. Now, I’ve spent the better part of this recap slogging through some wild speculation that is likely to blow up in my face, so I’m going to ignore the part of my brain that is screaming with suspicion over whether Quinn really did mean he’s Brody’s best friend, in that he’s actually working against the CIA, in that he’s really the CIA mole I’ve been harping about all season. Nope. Not gonna listen to it at all.
Instead, I will offer this far more straightforward theory: By the end of this season, not only will one of those men be dead, but Quinn will have killed Brody, or Brody will have killed Quinn. For me, at this point, the former would be much more interesting, and satisfying, than the latter. There’s just only so far Brody’s story can go before it pushes past its sell-by date.
But what do you think? Were all the new facets of Quinn’s character introduced to get us to care more about him before he’s axed? Or are they a backdoor way of expanding Quinn’s character before he replaces Brody as the show’s main male protagonist? Do you think Brody can be trusted? And what happened to Danny Galvez?!