Homeland recap: 'Big Man in Tehran'
If your heart was pounding at the end of tonight’s episode, you’re not alone. I was pumping my right fist in the air, at the edge of my seat, with my left palm against my forehead. And needless to say, my jaw was wide open.
Because wow, just wow, what an episode. What a penultimate episode for the season. (Speaking of which, just FYI: Showtime does not post screeners for Homeland’s final episodes of the season, hence tonight’s delay. Same goes for next week.)
The show did what it does well — deliver twists — but more important, it did so with what it does best: spotlight each of its character’s flaws while pushing them to move the action. I’ve grumbled about its shaky treatment of Carrie, Saul, and Brody this season, but tonight’s hour used them all without making any of their scenes feel overkill or unnecessary. Thrills and characters — that’s what we need.
Sure, it had some usual Homeland-esque holes, but this was overall a sharp hour. I think it’s thanks to three components: a) having Carrie, Brody, and Saul never in the same place at the same time and therefore upping the anxiety of not knowing what each one is up to, b) using Javadi as a fleshed-out character beyond simply being the bloodthirsty Big Bad, and c) introducing characters that were essential to the story and had motives of their own. Oh, and the shots of Morocco-as-Tehran were certainly beautiful, much better than last week’s hazy terrain.
We began with Saul, who’s hastily making his way to Alan Bernard, the, well, “greaseball who f–ked my wife,” as Saul puts it. He’s there to ask Bernard a favor (more like demand it, actually), in which Bernard will talk to the Israeli Mossad for help in the Brody operation in Iran, seeing as the original CIA support team couldn’t cross the border with Brody. “No one wants you here, not Mossad, not me,” Saul growls at Bernard as Bernard cowers in his cell. “Do everyone a favor. Make this happen.” And he does, as we see later.
Brody, meanwhile, is on tape again, this time recording the “truth” about his journey for Javadi, who will deliver the message to Akbari, Brody’s target. The former Marine is impatient with having to repeat his answers to Javadi, but Javadi coolly asks him to repeat his story, one in which Brody glosses over his time in Caracas and claims an imam got him out. Brody says this with a straight face, and looks almost proud to say that he’s the one who bombed Langley — “their heart,” he says to Javadi — but Javadi replies with a scowl. “You think what, we like traitors here?” he tests Brody. “No,” Brody responds, and then puts his head in his hands. “I told you, I just want asylum. I just want to rest.”
From there we meet Brunette Carrie, scarf around her head as she enters a hotel and grabs her key. She’s looking over her shoulder every other second, nervously glancing at everyone around her. As soon as she’s shown to her room and the bellboy leaves, she hurries off…
…and ends up at the home of Fara’s uncle in Tehran, whom Fara promised she would talk to about helping Carrie. He looks worried, and doesn’t answer when she asks if he has something for her. Carrie notices the opened package and begins to confront him, but he’s going first. “Tell me what’s going on,” he says.
Carrie outlines the plan: He’s just helping the CIA operation and cannot know every detail, for his own protection. “I’m a friend of your niece’s,” Carrie says again, trying to appeal to him. “So she’s CIA too, working against your country,” he answers.
“Working for her country,” Carrie corrects him. “She trusted you to understand that.” He finally hands her the phone he took from the package, and courteously asks if she needs anything else. Carrie doesn’t answer, but we know what she’s thinking: She’ll likely need him to help again once Brody’s in play.
NEXT: “We need to be sure we can trust him before we let the world see him.”
So the CIA and Brody are in place: All that’s left now is for Javadi to play his hand. And he does, when Akbari calls for a meeting.
But before he enters, we catch a visibly nervous Javadi approaching Akbari’s office and secretary and seating himself outside, constantly checking his watch. It’s a fascinating glimpse into Javadi’s role — so far we’ve only seen him smooth and collected, toying with Saul and Carrie with his mind games. (That is, except for the time he committed a double murder.)
Anyway, the IRGC leader has seen Brody’s tapes and wants to gauge Javadi’s take on the matter. “Do you believe him? That he’s just looking for asylum.” When Javadi tries to step around the question by saying that they’re still working on talking to Brody more, Akbari interrupts to say that Javadi seemed to have gone “soft” on Brody. “My feeling was he’s a guest here,” Javadi calmly replies. “An important guest potentially with huge propaganda value.”
It’s a rehearsed line from the CIA, of course, but Akbari appears to buy it as he listens to Javadi’s argument. Still, he says, “We need to be sure we can trust him before we let the world see him.” And Javadi complies before making one last suggestion, that Akbari himself meet Brody to determine his trustworthiness. “It’s worth considering, sir, a matter of this importance,” Javadi says before he leaves. Akbari looks thoughtful at this, and thus the next phase of Brody’s mission begins.
Carrie, now armed with the phone Fara’s uncle delivered, calls Saul at CIA HQ. They’ve both got good news. Saul reports that Bernard got Mossad to say yes about helping them, and Carrie reports that Fara’s uncle can be trusted. Brody’s been in three days of interrogations so far (a little of his hair has grown back, by the way — RIP Bald Brody), and Carrie thinks things are moving along. A more pressing issue, however, is the fact that her pregnancy’s showing much more than before as she spots herself in the mirror, so Carrie tells Saul she has to go. “It’s a big day tomorrow.” Saul briefly looks confused, but it’s Carrie, so he leaves her be.
At least she wasn’t lying. Carrie’s big day begins with a meeting with two Iranian nationals sent to help her, and she’s talking them through what the mission needs — while holding back crucial details, like Brody’s identity. “This is not how we work, everything wait and see,” one of the men says. But Carrie tells them it’s to take out the head of the IRGC, and that bit of intel quiets them immediately. The other man produces the cyanide injection Brody will presumably receive and use to kill Akbari. The two promise to create a diversion using a motorcycle bomb to thin Akbari’s line of guards.
When Carrie returns to her hotel, two other men take her away from the lobby and down an alley to Javadi. As Javadi waves away the pair of guards, Carrie launches into her protests about having them pick her up from the lobby. But Javadi quickly silences her, telling her that the mission’s in motion: Akbari rarely leaves his office, but has called for a convoy the next day, and considering how Akbari responded to Javadi’s suggestion about Brody the day before, Javadi’s quite certain they’ll be meeting. Carrie, satisfied, passes the cyanide injection to him. “Can you get it to Brody?” she asks. “I’ll find a way,” Javadi says.
Back at CIA HQ, Saul readies the team. “Listen up, we have movement in Tehran,” he tells the room. In what feels like a high-stakes version of Ocean’s Eleven, Saul goes over the plan and the obstacles, including the guards and the diversion. Brody will meet Akbari, the motorcycle bomb will attract the guards, leading to enough confusion for Brody to inject cyanide into Akbari and make his way through a door in the rear of the compound and finally get picked up by two agents. “I’m aware it’s a lot of moving parts,” he concludes.
Quinn, hearing all this, is more concerned about a missing piece in the rundown: Carrie. He asks where she fits into it, and wonders why she isn’t being extracted before the mission begins. “She doesn’t see it that way,” Saul says, showing just how much pull his protege has over his calls. Carrie goes where she wants to go, Carrie stays when she wants to stay, and Carrie leaves when she wants to leave. What pregnancy?
NEXT: “My Nicholas.”
Brody is back in Marine mode at this point — he’s received the cyanide injection from a nimble doctor, he’s tucked it away in the rolled left cuff of his sleeve, and he’s got his shoes on. Everything’s in play.
Except again, this is Homeland, and every op must end in a “What the f–k is happening?” moment for poor Saul and the CIA. Their intricate plan doesn’t even get a chance to begin when Brody is unexpectedly ushered away from the compound to meet Akbari at an undetermined location. Carrie follows closely, but it turns out Brody and Akbari are meeting out in the open, at an intersection where passersby can watch their first interaction.
As the tension mounts, Carrie begins to move her men into place, with one riding the motorcycle off to an alley to wait for her call, while Saul watches the proceedings from a satellite feed. Everyone is silent as Brody and Akbari both step out of their respective vehicles, and Brody shakily grasps the needle in his hand.
The seconds pass. Brody approaches with a guard. He and Akbari lock eyes.
Then, Akbari smiles and turn away, scurrying back into his car and speeding away with his convoy. Brody spins around, confused at the commotion and the failed meeting. Carrie frantically tries to see what’s happening, and Saul questions what he just saw.
They get answers soon enough, as Brody’s led into the building in front of him and taken to a woman, who calmly stands up and reveals her identity. “Nicholas,” she says, as Brody’s expression softens and the CIA finally figures out who she is: Nassrin, Abu Nazir’s widow.
Nassrin, a.k.a. a familiar face for Brody, is there to vet Brody for Akbari. “My Nicholas,” she says, urging him to tell her why he’s in Tehran. Brody tells her, and sounds more honest than he has this entire season. “I’ve lost so much,” he sobs, pointing out his ruined relationship with Dana (and not Chris, because obviously Brody forgot he has a son) and how she tried to kill herself over his actions. “She had faith that her own father wouldn’t betray her and make her life unlivable.”
But Nassrin consoles him, telling him that they all learn to survive. “Yes, we crawl out of the rubble and we gather up the bodies,” Brody replies, and she takes the opportunity to finally ask him for his motive. “I want to stop running,” he says.
Apparently satisfied, Nassrin allows Brody to leave, and in the streets, people begin to cheer for Brody and take his picture, treating him like a welcome hero. Brody, right on cue, makes his speech: “By the grace of God, I am here to seek asylum. This is the only place in the world that I can find peace.”
Carrie, watching all of this, can only walk away when Brody is taken back into his car. “You’re a big man in town, Brody, you’re a really big man now,” Brody’s guard says.
The music swells. Brody smiles, takes out the cyanide needle, and crushes it against the car door.
NEXT: Six Days Later
Suddenly, the CIA is in a rut. Saul watches Brody denounce America on television as he continues his propaganda run from Iran. Lockhart is worked up, and the president’s pushing both of them to take action. “Bottom line, Brody’s gone from asset to serious liability,” Lockhart says. “It’s obvious what he’s saying: Iran saved his life; he loves them, hates us.”
Instead, he insists, the CIA needs to think about Javadi. “That’s a huge victory worth preserving,” he tells Saul, who picks up on what he really means. “You mean end Brody?” he asks. “The President wants this resolved,” Lockhart says. “It’s time.”
And at this time, when Saul doesn’t answer, I almost believe that this is where the show’s headed, that this is where they’re finally going to kill of Brody and be done with it. Because that’d be something we didn’t expect — for Brody to be taken out by the CIA, not Akbari and the IRGC.
But of course, I forgot about the Carrie Card.
Saul unsurprisingly gives Carrie a call for her thoughts on their Brody problem. “He’s doing what he needs to,” she tells him, saying that Brody’s only playing along with the PR game because he needs the time to figure out how to get close to Akbari. “Saul, I have been right about him this whole time.”
This time, though, Saul’s not going to talk it through with Carrie, and instead orders the hit. Carrie, sensing Saul’s hesitation, rushes out of the hotel to warn Brody, calling Fara’s uncle on the way for one more favor: Deliver a phone to Brody so she can contact him.
The uncle proves himself the CIA’s most underrated asset as he makes the drop, and Brody waits for the call. Finally, Carrie calls and the two see each other. But before Brody can ask what’s going on, Carrie’s asking him to please come with her and get in a car to leave Tehran. “I think they’re cutting their losses to protect Javadi,” Carrie says, pleading with him to go with her immediately. “Meaning me?” Brody asks, telling her he has nowhere left to go. “I’ve been through that already, Carrie. I don’t want to do that again, and I won’t do it to you.”
Carrie spots the men heading for Brody, but Brody knows what he’s doing. He briskly walks away and disappears into the crowd, leaving Carrie and the CIA in the dark. Brody’s gone rogue, and Carrie’s gone rogue. Who’s on which side?
Saul’s still with the CIA, and Carrie’s latest move has made him lose all sympathy for her mission to save Brody. “You really f–ked up this time,” he reprimands her. “The plan failed… Now thanks to you, he’s loose on the streets doing who knows what.” But Carrie doesn’t listen. Does she ever?
Having shaken off Carrie and his tail, Brody visits Nassrin, asking for her help. He tells her someone just tried to kill him, and that he needs to see Akbari right away to talk about Javadi.
Again, uh oh.
NEXT: “I came here to redeem myself.”
Brody heads to the IRGC headquarters and gets led by Akbari’s men to his office. Javadi sees this and, knowing he’s in danger, calls the CIA to pass the message on. Lockhart again notes the obvious: that Brody must be there to tattle on Javadi. “Brody knows we just tried to kill him,” he tells Saul. “He’s going to burn the whole f–king thing down.” Speechless, Saul just looks down at Dar.
(And here’s where the episode trips up a bit. It’s still a great hour, but with Lockhart constantly stating his worries and not-quite-screaming bloody murder about the mission, I began to think we were all just being fed a red herring. If we were left with just Saul’s anxiety, Carrie’s hotheadedness, and Brody’s vulnerability, this might not have come up. Alas.)
Akbari welcomes Brody into his office and dismisses his guards, honoring the Big Man of Tehran with his full and undivided attention. The IRGC head stands up and seats himself nearer to Brody, then asks, “Why would anyone want to kill such a treasure?” Brody answers just as he promised he would earlier. “To stop me telling you about Javadi,” he says, explaining everything the CIA knows about Javadi embezzling from the IRGC and how he was sent to Tehran to take out Akbari.
At this, Akbari doesn’t make a move to leave. He simply sits and states that he will deal with Javadi, but Brody has one more thought in mind. “You spoke with Abu Nazir about me, in this room?” he asks. Akbari confirms it, and Brody nods. “Good,” he says. “It all started here.”
And then he leaps up, grabs the glass ashtray — Chekhov’s Glass Ashtray, if you will — and slams it across Akbari’s head, knocking him out. The music shifts to near-white noise as Brody, panting and sobbing, grabs a pillow and suffocates Akbari on the floor. It’s eerily similar to the way Javadi held his ex-wife to the ground as he stabbed her again and again, but this time with Brody, it’s a much more emotional kill. Brody cries as his saga comes full circle — Abu Nazir first spoke of Brody there in Akbari’s office, and it’s in the same office Brody finishes off the last man who thinks he has a hold over him.
Brody lifts the green pillow and moves away as the blood pools around Akbari’s head. He grabs the dead man’s phone, dials Carrie, and waits as it rings. Carrie, sitting on the floor of her hotel room, picks up.
“It’s me,” Brody says. “I’m in Akbari’s office.”
“Brody, what have you done?” Carrie asks.
“I killed him,” he replies. “Get me out of here.”
The episode ends with the shocked Carrie, on the brink of panicking about the next phase of the mission (the one she cares the most about, as Javadi reminded her earlier): Extract Brody.
Right now, that’s not looking so easy. There are guards outside the door, a dead IRGC leader in his office, and a CIA that still needs to be warned to not take him out. Brody just proved himself to be as rash with his actions as Carrie, and it’s going to be hard to clean the mess up.
But was he completely rash and going off his instincts with this murder? Was it ingrained in his DNA to carry out missions, lest he lose himself? It strikes me that maybe Brody did plan this out after the failed meeting, like Carrie thought he was doing, but he simply needed the catalyst of the CIA trying to kill him to make things happen. Or maybe I’m giving him too much credit. Maybe it’s just piece after piece moving into place so we can barrel on to a finale that will definitely be about Carrie trying to remove her baby daddy from Tehran.
And speaking of the baby daddy, the show could not make it any clearer that Carrie’s pregnancy is about to take the spotlight. When is she going to tell Brody? (I thought she was about to play that card when he was refusing to join her in the courtyard.) How will he react?
With one episode left this season, that’s quite a few loose ends to tie up. We still don’t know if Brody’s sticking around, and I for one fear the writers will use his actions at the end of this hour to hurt us even more by offing him in the finale.
Still, that’s enough speculating for now. I’m pleased that this episode pulled off its twist without making it feel like the audience was the only one duped (as the third hour of this season did for me), and I’m most pleased that the writers reinforced Carrie’s strengths, Brody’s heart (even if we had to hear him reference only Dana during it), and Saul’s changed faith.
So what’s your take on “Big Man in Tehran,” readers? Share your thoughts in the comments below.