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Brody's mission to cross the border into Iran doesn't go smoothly; Carrie and Saul try to keep the op in play from home

By Shirley Li
Updated May 28, 2015 at 05:10 PM EDT
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Homeland 310
Credit: Kent Smith/SHOWTIME
S3 E10

Looks like Saul’s lucky gum, er, sort of worked.

Brody got into Iran and has met up with Javadi. Pieces all in place, right?

Not quite. See, at this point, I know I shouldn’t be surprised by the plot holes, or by Homeland glossing over finer details to simply push the story forward — after all, I’ve been overlooking them for past few episodes, because the pacing and the action trumped nonsensical plot devices — but tonight’s episode was just a little too uneven, and it makes me nervous that the rest of the mission will follow this format. Whatever happens, I’m hoping the writers have more up their sleeves.

Despite successfully packing in some thrilling, edge-of-your-seat moments, much of the hour felt like a parade of obstacles. To me, it seemed like the writers knew that Brody had to go from point A (being cleaned up, but worried about the mission) to point B (a confident Marine, picked up at the border), and they knew they had about 45 minutes to do it. But in order to make the journey compelling enough to last the entire episode without devoting most of the screen time to the final moments, they had to add some conflicts.

And in doing so, the episode made each segment feel as if Brody were a character in a video game, encountering one level of obstacles after the other, while Carrie, Saul, and company watched from home base. First came the faulty drone and the blocked border, which attracted local police — and plenty of bloodshed with the delay. Next came Brody’s freak-out session. Afterwards, it was the Iraqi patrol, forcing Brody to move in with only the leader of the special ops team accompanying him, and then came the land mine. It’s a miracle Brody even made it within 300 yards of the border with all the speed bumps that felt like they were inserted just because the writers needed something to make his life difficult.

Of course, I’m not denying this episode wasn’t intense — it was full of riveting moments and unpredictable scenes that followed a straightforward, linear overarching story. It just made for a bumpy ride, plot-wise.

Anyway, the hour opened with Carrie tersely dismissing Quinn’s questions about her pregnancy while heading to the CIA mission center. Quinn, being Quinn, only wanted to help, but Carrie’s still not happy about being shot in the shoulder, and is now even more pissed at him for looking at her medical records. “Carrie, you’re 15 weeks pregnant,” Quinn tells her. “So?” she replies. “Stay the f–k out of my way.” (Ouch, Carrie. You’re telling this to the guy who was about to quit the CIA just weeks before, but came back because of you.) Frustrated, she even says the baby’s not Brody’s before rushing out of the elevator.

Meanwhile, Brody’s in Iraq, waiting for the op to begin. He removes his socks and turns them inside out, an old habit he picked up as a Marine to switch it to the “fresh” side before a mission. One of the special ops soldiers points out that even though he’s flipping it, one side’s sweaty and the other’s dirty. Brody smiles. “Well, look at me,” he says, dragging the socks back on. “I’m a new man.”

Sock drama aside, the teams are waiting for nightfall before they move toward the border, and back in D.C., Dar Adal has seated himself next to the Chief of Staff to reassure him of the plan. If anything goes wrong, the CIA will “have it covered,” he tells Higgins. “I’m not even going to ask what that means,” Higgins responds, but Dar says the mission’s simple: All Brody has to do is cross the border and ask for asylum. Piece of cake!

Saul is also watching the preparations in his office, but nervously rummages for a piece of gum — his “lucky gum,” we find out later — in his drawer. Despite all of Dar’s reassurances, he’s not 100 percent confident going in.

And neither is Carrie. The screens show Brody — the Passenger — doing fine, but she’s worried. There may only be eight border patrol officers in their way for now, but who knows? Brody, for his part, is just following the motions so far, doing night vision checks and reciting his story one last time, explaining how he reached the Canadian border, got transported to Colombia, was aided by members of Hezbollah to reach Venezuela and was eventually taken to Iraq by members of Al Qaeda. “Join Al Qaeda, see the world,” one of the special ops team members quips.

By this time, Saul has joined the party at the CIA. Brody steps away from the team to pray as the sun sets, while Saul, watching the screens, tells everyone to get ready.

“Stand by, people, it’s show time,” he says.

NEXT: ‘A problem with the drone? That’s a good start.’

Two trucks, with the Alpha team accompanying Brody in the first, leave for the border, but the op immediately hits a few snags. The first, in D.C., is due to a faulty sensor in a drone, which causes a delay. The second is a blocked road to the border, forcing the A-team to pause and wait for Langley to confirm an alternate route.

Unfortunately, their stalling attracts the local Iraqi police, who arrives to question the team. The officers eventually draw their guns, asking to look in the truck. Quinn mutters that Kilo Alpha (the leader of the A-team; his name is listed as “Azizi” in the cast but he’s never spoken on screen, so I’ll continue to call him Alpha from here) should say the words “good night” (the episode’s title) before the cops see Brody. Carrie looks confused at Quinn’s explanation, but realizes what he means when Alpha says the words and the A-team violently takes out all three policemen.

Brody isn’t as comforted that the danger has passed. Instead, he loses all trace of the bravado he had exhibited since getting better, and dashes away from the car in panic, face covered in blood. “What the f–k are you doing?” Alpha asks him after pinning him down. “I can’t do it,” Brody whimpers. “I f–king can’t.”

“Are you f–king scared?” he asks him bluntly. “I’m scared,” Brody replies.

Alpha sighs, then tells him how he’s afraid every time he’s forced to return to the field. Quietly, he asks Brody to calm down. “Tell me you’re going to be okay. Tell me this is not the end of the road for you,” he says. “I need to hear you say it.”

Brody slowly steadies himself. “I will be okay,” he says. “I’m okay. I’m okay. I’ll be okay.”

Carrie’s been watching it all with a worried expression, and Higgins isn’t too pleased with the Passenger freaking out, either. He calls in his reinforcement: Lockhart, who, along with a general, visits Saul at the CIA to “advise and observe,” according to the senator. Dar already warned Saul about Higgins’ call, but even though he’s on the defensive, Lockhart warns him he’s not there to disrupt the mission.

“Saul, whatever this turns out to be — bold stroke of genius or otherwise — I’m destined to inherit it. So now that it’s actually in motion, I have no choice but to wish it every success,” he says.

His appeal doesn’t fully convince Saul, who asks to speak with him privately and then questions the terms of their deal: Didn’t Lockhart agree to give Saul and the CIA some breathing room in exchange for keeping the Bernard photos secret? “Consider yourself lucky, Saul, that the chief of staff called us and not the president or the national security adviser,” Lockhart responds, saying he only agreed to postpone the confirmation hearings.

Carrie’s just as cold to Lockhart when Saul eventually lets him in. When the senator praises her for being “one hell of a salesperson” in convincing Javadi to help the CIA, she looks at him and replies, “Here at the agency, we call that ‘recruiting.'” (Burn.)

While this was happening, Brody’s been taken closer to the border, and the team stops to plan their next moves. Unfortunately (again), the Iraqi patrol is too close for all the members to help him along — only Alpha can accompany Brody ahead. The two begin driving across some bumpy terrain while Alpha tries to make conversation, asking about Brody’s family and what he wanted to do. Brody proves himself a poor conversation partner, however, and Alpha rattles on to fill the silence, commenting about how he used to ride bulls in Texas.

Halfway through joking about his previous profession, the truck hits something — a mine, an IED — and flips in the air as the explosion goes off and a smoke plume rises.

“What just happened?” Carrie asks, stunned.

NEXT: ‘Saul, you had some bad luck. I’m sorry.’

The CIA isn’t able to assess whether anyone is alive, and for several minutes, Dar and Saul try to keep the calm. Dar tries to talk Higgins down from calling the president — “Keep a cool head and take great care not to panic,” he says — but Higgins finds another possible solution.

He calls Saul, asking to use one of the drones to strike the explosion site and say that the U.S. found an Al Qaeda cell trying to smuggle Brody into Iran as the cover story. Carrie, of course, immediately refuses. “It’s a smart play if they’re dead,” Higgins says, taking the title of Cold Government Rep from Lockhart. “He doesn’t care if they’re alive,” she spits back. “All he gives a s–t about is covering his ass.”

She doesn’t have to worry for long, though — Saul refuses to order a strike and hangs up on Higgins. Minutes later, they see movement in the vehicle and watch as Brody rolls out from the passenger side of the truck and drags out Alpha with him. Both are determined to be alive from the heat signatures, but as the camera goes back to showing Brody and Alpha in the flesh, we see that the soldier has lost his leg.

Brody takes Alpha’s satellite phone and explains what happened, while Carrie looks relieved to hear his voice. Brody is back in Marine mode, quickly relaying how he can treat Alpha’s shock but needs more men to help get them out. “I’m going to get you out of here,” he tells the wounded soldier.

But once again, the task’s not easy. Iraqi patrol has closed in after seeing the explosion and begins firing at Brody and the soldiers. The CIA calculates that they’ll need eight minutes to get out and across the border, but it’s clear that they can’t manage to achieve enough of that time. Saul turns to the general for advice, and he explains that the only option left is to think about getting the entire team out. “In other words, we have to abort,” Carrie realizes, and Saul gives the go-ahead for abandoning the intelligence mission. Even Lockhart looks disappointed. “Saul, you had some bad luck,” he says. “I’m sorry.” Carrie tries a different approach, reminding Saul of their silver lining. “At least we have Javadi,” she says. “He’s still in play. That’s not nothing.” Saul replies with a quiet “yeah” and then turns and leaves the room. Still chewing his lucky gum, he walks over to the elevator, presses a button, removes his glasses, and rubs his forehead. The CIA acting director looks overwhelmed and exhausted, and there’s nothing he can do about this mission going wrong.

Except that Brody is protesting the call to abort. “I’m not going back,” he declares. “I’m gonna walk across that border.” No matter what happens, Brody will always defy the initial orders. The B-team leader (who I’m going to call Bravo, though he’s listed as “Yousef” in the credits and is the same soldier who talked to Brody last week about Carrie over a game of chess) tries to hold him down, but Brody slips away. “The Passenger is not f–king compliant,” he yells back over his sat phone.

Yet again, the CIA tries the Carrie Card, as she insists on speaking to Brody. Quinn gives her a vote of confidence as well, though he may have banked on her appealing to Brody with the pregnancy news.

She doesn’t bite, however, instead trying to coax Brody away from his stubborn belief that he can make the 300 yards to Brody in the middle of gunfire and accomplish the mission in Iran alone. “You can’t do this by yourself,” she says. “Stop and think this through.”

“You’re wrong, Carrie,” he responds. “You’re gonna get me home.”

It’s a completely ridiculous belief, and Carrie tells him this. “No, don’t put that on me, it’s a fantasy,” she says. “You’ll find a way,” he replies, not backing down. “I have faith. That’s all, out.”

And just at that moment, Brody manages to dash out into the open and toward the border. The CIA mobilizes the drone, which kicks in and fires, as Bravo ushers the team to move out. At the last minute, he turns back to run to Brody and buy him time to cross the border.

Brody thanks him, takes a deep breath, and turns to run. But just as he stands up, he’s met with a line of soldiers, slowly approaching their position.

NEXT: ‘Are you ready?’

It turns out the soldiers are from an Iranian military unit, and after a few tense minutes as Brody recites his lines — “My name is Nicholas Brody. I am wanted in America for the bombing of the CIA, and I request asylum in your country” — they capture Brody and Bravo. The CIA receives notice that Iran has picked up two prisoners, and Carrie smiles at the news at Quinn, who smiles back.

The scene shifts to Carrie visiting Saul’s office, where her mentor has been sitting at his desk, still pondering the apparent failure of the mission. She reports that Alpha is stable, and that “there’s something else,” she says, pausing before breaking into a smile again. “Brody made it across.”

Saul blinks at her, confused. “He made a last second run for it,” she explains. “He’s okay?” Saul asks. “Yes,” Carrie replies, looking the happiest she’s been all season. “He made it — and you, Saul, are still in the game.”

“I’ll be damned,” he says.

Things aren’t so picture-perfect in Iran, though, as Brody and Bravo sit together. Bravo is scared, having been picked up when Brody was the only one who was supposed to cross. “You were tortured,” he asks Brody. “Just tell me what to expect.”

“Expect to break,” Brody responds, and tells the soldier how he lost track of time and held out for about seven days.

Meanwhile, Carrie’s moved on to her next mission: Find a way to extract Brody when the time comes. She turns to Fara, praising the new officer first for helping recruit Javadi before launching into her request. “Javadi’s only half the plan,” she says. “There’s another half you weren’t aware of.”

But Fara resists immediately as Carrie explains they need a safehouse for Brody to go to when it’s time to leave Tehran, and that Fara’s uncle in Tehran can provide the space. “You’re asking me to put my family at extreme risk. You know you are,” Fara says. “You forget I’ve seen firsthand how fast an operation can go sideways. Tell the truth. You would never ask your own family to do this.”

Carrie pauses. “I might,” she replies, earnestly looking at Fara, who shrinks from Carrie’s gaze.

The last scene of the episode shifts back to Brody and Bravo in their cell being greeted by a visitor: Javadi, who leers at Brody as Brody launches back into his rehearsed lines about requesting asylum. “I know who you are,” Javadi says. “Are you ready?”

“Ready for what?” Brody asks. “To go with me to Tehran,” Javadi responds. Brody is confused and asks what will happen to Bravo if Brody’s the only one heading to Tehran.

Javadi doesn’t blink as he pulls out his gun and shoots the soldier in the head. Brody screams, launching himself at Javadi, as Javadi simply points his gun at Brody instead. “Calm down, calm down,” he says, forcing Brody to stop. Brody furiously watches Javadi, and faced with no other choice, listens to his next command. “Now, we go to Tehran,” Javadi says.

Again, Brody makes it out alive as everyone around him falls because he’s, well, lucky. The fallen include Bravo, the soldier we learned last week has a young family at home, and in fact, every soldier we’ve met on the special ops team who has had close contact with Brody has been sympathetically portrayed with back stories or has appeared likable in limited screen time. Maybe I’m the only one here, but I can’t help but feel a bit cheated by the writers — it’s as if they set up these characters just to dispose of them for emotional impact with this mission.

So overall, I found the episode a mixed bag: The mission lent itself to some powerful moments in the battlefield, but a lot of it also felt forced. As one tense sequence played out after the next, it made each one lessen in impact in a way, and I found myself questioning how the soldiers reached Alpha and Brody so quickly, and how Bravo was able to navigate around the gunfire to get to Brody in less than 15 seconds. (The darkness didn’t help the look of the shots either. It’s almost a missed opportunity to shoot everything in Morocco but shoot at night with the low visibility, even if it makes sense to carry out an intelligence op during the night.)

I do think the scenes at the CIA were strong, and it was wise to concentrate the camera on the individual reactions of Carrie and Saul, the two people who care the most about the op succeeding. Claire Danes didn’t need to say half her lines as she conveyed her worry, and Mandy Patinkin, as always, did the most with his silent scenes — in this episode, that meant the one by the elevator and the one of him at his desk, anticipating the op as he reached for his lucky gum.

Still, perhaps you disagree with my lukewarm assessment — perhaps you loved the entire episode, or perhaps you hated it all. Were you pleased with the hour revolving around the mission, without any B-plots or scenes outside the CIA or the op? What did you think about the use of the special ops soldiers? Do you think Brody will make it? Will he listen to Javadi? (My guess is no.) Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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