Homeland recap: 'Still Positive'
Carrie attempts to lead Javadi to a meeting with Saul, but the slippery villain has other plans in mind
This episode can be divided into two acts: The first would encompass Carrie’s mission to bring Javadi to Saul, and the second would include the tense showdown between Saul and Javadi, though the two don’t meet face to face until the end.
These two acts are pushing the plot much faster than I expected, though it’s on par with what Alex Gansa told EW would happen to the show a few weeks back, when he promised everything would reach a “breakneck speed” by the last five episodes. We’re suddenly barreling through plots, bringing Javadi into play earlier than first season Homeland would have done. (Remember how long it took us to see Abu Nazir interact with the CIA? Now we’ve got Saul and Javadi meeting in only the second episode we’ve seen Shaun Toub as Javadi.) Still, we’ve got more intriguing ground to cover with this episode, titled “Still Positive”: As the name suggests, Carrie’s pregnancy is bound to take center stage, and Saul’s miscalculation about Javadi (and their complicated history) will mean consequences for not only him and his close colleagues, but I’m guessing the entire agency. More on those twists later.
Let’s start with Carrie. Held in the same room we saw her in at the end of last week’s episode, Carrie is strapped in, wired to a lie detector, and questioned. Though the machine says she’s lying, Carrie insists that her focus is wandering because of Javadi’s men in the room, and asks that they leave because she requested a one-on-one meeting. Javadi relents, and just as he’s about to start over with the questioning, Carrie switches on her confident CIA case officer mode and tells him their little act is over. “It’s time we talk about Nasser Hejazi,” she says, referring to the 1978 Iran World Cup team’s legendary goalkeeper, whose name Javadi has used as an alias to siphon off money from Iran. “You are now an enemy of your own state.”
Carrie stands up, stares Javadi down, and walks out with Javadi in tow. “Brava, Miss Mathison, quite excellent,” Javadi says, apparently seeing no other option than to go with Carrie’s plan. But he challenges her, asking her why she and Saul haven’t arrested him already. Carrie replies that Saul wants to speak with him first, and then bluffs, saying Javadi’s outnumbered and outgunned. (Of course, she has no idea Saul has already lost track of her whereabouts.) Javadi, hearing this, almost takes pity on Carrie. “Saul Berenson, after all these years, still putting other people’s lives on the line,” he comments. Toub, seasoned character actor that he is, inserts just a hint of disdain in the line, but his face conveys a shadow of understanding of Saul, foreshadowing the connection between them we learn later.
Unfortunately for Carrie, the plan hits a snag: Javadi refuses to be led off the compound because it’ll arouse suspicion, so she must carry out a test of his and meet him later. Carrie tries to reassert her control, choosing the meeting spot and demanding that Javadi “make it quick” while he passes the information to his men. Javadi pauses and turns to face Carrie. “Saul should have trained you to treat me with more respect than that,” he tells her. Carrie is driven away from the compound by two of Javadi’s men, who drop her off at a deserted location.
While all of this is happening, Quinn, Fara, Max, and Saul are helplessly monitoring their last known location for Carrie. Max scrolls through the footage, but Saul realizes what’s happened. He tells them to keep looking, but when he shuts off his feed, he curses to himself.
Poor Saul. Does anything ever go according to plan for him?
NEXT: “This isn’t going to be easy, is it?”
By the time we see Saul bury his face in his hands after hearing they’ve lost Carrie, it’s clear the confidence we’ve seen him build since the premiere has mostly shattered, thanks to an ill-advised geese-hunting trip and a chance encounter with Mira’s lover.
A cautious Mira approaches Saul in their kitchen and tells him the truth about Alan Bernard, the man she was having dinner with the night before. “I didn’t do anything wrong, Saul. When I met him, you and I had separated,” she says. “And then your world collapsed, and I came running. But I left something behind.” Saul takes the passive-aggressive route, asking Mira if she’s in love with him, like a father coaxing an answer out of a guilty child while trying to bury his anger. “We had fun. He makes me laugh, how’s that?” she replies, defending herself. “The day’s better with him in it.”
“That’s all I needed to hear,” Saul says, ending the tensest, yet most polite argument the couple has had on the show. Saul is obviously furious, but he’s refusing to let it boil over. He casually remarks to Mira that he won’t be confirmed CIA director. Mira sees through his feeble attempt to make her feel worse, and though she sympathizes with him, she tells him off. “For God’s sake, Saul, stop this detached routine,” she pleads. “Get angry at something.” Oh, Saul’s angry, but he’s resigned. When Mira tells him he still has power at the agency, Saul shrugs and says, voice trembling, “Not anymore.”
Just like Carrie, Saul effectively switches on CIA mode by the time he reaches the safehouse, demanding the Venezuela bank files as he strides past Fara and Max. When Fara brings the files, he silently gestures to where he’d like them placed, and then launches into a lengthy explanation of why he’s insisting on seeing Javadi first.
It turns out Saul and Javadi had collaborated in the late ’70s, when Saul needed to move assets out of Tehran and asked Javadi for his help. Javadi betrayed Saul, helping the new Iranian regime capture Saul’s contacts and thus earning himself a ticket into the new regime’s ranks. Saul helped Javadi’s wife and child escape from Javadi four months later as revenge, but never saw Javadi again. “I watched a man I thought I knew become an animal in front of my eyes,” he tells Fara, who responds, “This isn’t going to be easy, is it?” Saul shakes his head. “Turning an intelligence officer against his own country, well, that’s the most delicate and uncertain work there is,” he admits.
But before we get to the second act, we interrupt this fascinating, nail-biting mission to bring you an update on Dana Brody. Great! (Dana thankfully has a relatively short appearance without any sign of Leo, so this won’t take long.) Dana convinces her mother to take her to the courthouse and apply to change her name — to Dana Lazaro (Lazarow? Lazero? I don’t have subtitles in my screeners, unfortunately), as in Jess’s maiden name. Here’s all it takes for Dana to have a new identity: $41.14 in processing fees, a signature on the application, three to six weeks of waiting, and a whopping load of emotional baggage. Well, good for Dana — this is a logical step for her character to take. As she signs the application, hair pulled back and with a small voice as she answers questions, Dana looks and sounds more innocent and young than she has since early season 1. It’s like a breath of fresh air to see her so… unburdened again.
Of course, I spoke too soon. She breaks Jess’s heart when a friend stops by to pick her up, because she’s ready to move out. “I told you, mom, I can’t be Dana Brody anymore,” Dana says. “It’s not just about my name… There’s no point in talking about this because there’s nothing to talk about. Mom, I can’t live this life anymore, I just can’t.” Hearing this, Jess accepts her daughter’s decision, cries, and steps aside to let Chris (!) hug his sister goodbye. Jess and Dana say a final goodbye in front of the tree that once had a yellow ribbon tied around it and served as the backdrop to their family photo. Those were simpler times, and though Dana says goodbye now, those nude selfies she took in the premiere are definitely going to resurface. Calling it now. Sigh.
NEXT: “The past is the past. I’m more interested in what happens next.”
Back at the CIA — the agency HQ, not the safehouse — everyone’s favorite politician is gearing up for his new position as CIA head honcho. Unsatisfied with simply rubbing his impending confirmation in Saul’s face, Lockhart visits the agency to rehash what he’d already said, but with even more vitriol than he had during the Senate hearings. “The agency is a mess,” he tells Dar Adal, in for the absent Saul. “As far as I can see, it’s being driven into the f–king ground by poor decision-making and poor leadership.”
Yawn, Senator. We’ve heard all this before. I was instead more fascinated by the way Dar Adal reacted during the visit. Lockhart cheerily grilled Saul’s right-hand man about his views on the agency, and he says he agrees with Lockhart before vaguely stating, “The past is the past. I’m more interested in what happens next.” What is Dar Adal doing? Is he just acting to please Lockhart and get rid of him as quickly as possible? Or does he believe what he’s saying about the CIA, and in turn, blaming Saul for its failures?
Whatever the case may be, Lockhart seems satisfied by Dar Adal’s answers and tells him he wants a smooth transition into his new position. “I don’t want any surprises on my first day as director,” Lockhart warns, adding that he wants no mention of Brody or Carrie getting in his way. “God forbid,” Dar Adal replies, another headscratcher of a line. It’s not the line itself — it’s the way F. Murray Abraham plays the character in this scene. Plus, the scene feels out of place with the rest of the episode in a “Dana scene” way, and I have a feeling it’s leading up to something bigger than just Dar Adal agreeing with Lockhart to keep up appearances.
Anyway, from here we shift back to Carrie, who has returned home and immediately calls Saul on her secret cell phone (which was not the one smashed last week, my mistake) to argue her reasoning for letting Javadi go. Saul admits that they lost her the night she was taken, which shocks Carrie, but Saul doesn’t pause to hear her take. He asks her about Javadi’s reaction to their plan. “A thousand-yard stare for a few seconds, then he began to wriggle a little, reassert himself,” she says. “He talked about you, too.” The last line piques Saul’s interest — looks like his old friend remembers him well.
Saul, satisfied with Carrie’s report, is optimistic that Javadi will meet them at their appointed stop. Carrie’s not so sure, pointing out how Saul hasn’t known Javadi for decades, and Javadi could have drastically changed his ways since then. Saul brushes this point aside, and Carrie, after hanging up, goes upstairs. She heads to her bathroom, pulls out a pregnancy test, uses it, and reads its result: positive.
And she’s been taking these tests, saving each of them in a drawer, all of them showing a positive result. “Still Positive” — so that‘s what the episode title’s referring to.
Well, this certainly feels like it’s coming out of nowhere, Homeland. Carrie’s got a whole stash of these results and knows she’s in trouble. My mind went blank as soon as this scene ended. Call it another “Saul throws Carrie under the bus at the Senate hearing” moment. What’s the point of this? That’s my first question. Second question: Who’s the father? I immediately guessed it was Brody’s child, but the show’s not pointing fingers just yet. Instead, it’s raising more questions: Does this have anything to do with Carrie tossing her meds? Does Saul know about this? How long has she known? Did she enter into Saul’s plan before she knew she was pregnant? No matter what the answers are, this changes the entire game, because with a child on the way, Saul and Carrie’s secret operation has an expiration date. We can’t expect Carrie to continue carrying out her missions while pregnant, can we?
It’s a brief scene, and we see Carrie pulling the sheets to her chest as she curls up in bed. Quinn then stops by to prepare her for the rendezvous with Javadi and notices her Wall of Crazy, with the map tracing sightings of Brody. Both of them know why she’s tracking him (well, now we know there might be one more motive), but Quinn feigns ignorance, offering the excuse, “because it’s your job.” (By the way, who else here likes Quinn best now out of all the characters? I’m raising my hand.)
NEXT: Mission… accomplished?
Finally, we reach the op, which Saul thinks is foolproof, given how they’ve cornered Javadi and how Javadi has enough incentive to turn. Quinn and Carrie aren’t so sure, but Saul’s confidence pushes them to carry out his plan.
And, surprise, surprise… Quinn and Carrie were right. Javadi, who’s supposed to meet Carrie off of Exit 1, drives past their predetermined spot and instead heads to a quiet residential neighborhood, parking on the same street he waited at while eating a sandwich and watching an innocent family last episode. Fara and Max scramble to figure out who he’s there to see, but Javadi answers the question for them, getting out of the car and approaching the house he’d been gazing at before. It belongs to one Susan Roberts, Javadi’s daughter-in-law. At this, Saul finally breaks his stoic shell, telling Carrie and Quinn that they must stop Javadi from going inside the house. “For Christ’s sake, Carrie, hurry,” he says, panicked.
Too late, Saul. Javadi shoots Susan in the head, steps across the threshold and quietly walks into the living room to see his grandson, a toddler who starts to cry when Javadi crouches to talk to him. In that moment, Fariba (Mary Apick), Javadi’s ex-wife, appears, sees Susan dead on the floor, and tries to run. Javadi reaches her in a few strides, knocks her to the floor, breaks a bottle, and bends over her as she screams “You betrayed us!” He raises his arm, glaring, and stabs her until she’s a bloody mess in the middle of the hallway.
(First thoughts: …Wow. And at the same time, what?! That entire sequence, set in a well-to-do suburban home, was arguably the most violent death we’ve seen on Homeland.Javadi is clearly a villain out of his mind, but I think it was quite a lot to take in for one scene. Fariba’s final line raises new questions, and the only thing that saves the scene from crossing the line into being ridiculous is Toub’s performance. I know I’m giving him a lot of credit, but we barely know Javadi, and this, to me, feels out of character with the show, whose past villains were more strategic than impulsive like this. That said, Javadi appears to be a different breed of Big Bad with these actions, and that might turn out to be a good thing. It’s still too early to tell.)
Quinn and Carrie arrive just as Javadi’s finishing off Fariba, and Javadi calmly raises his bloody hands and tells them, “Now I’m ready to see Saul.” Javadi has successfully carried out his short con and in the process, screwed up Saul’s long one.
But before Javadi and Saul can meet, Quinn and Carrie must clean up the mess. Quinn is furious, his anger washing over him as he holds a gun to Javadi’s chest and nearly (again) disobeys Saul’s orders to simply follow procedure by getting Javadi out of there and pretending like they weren’t there. Carrie, at the other end of the room, asks about Javadi’s grandson but is told to leave him in the house with the bodies, inevitably traumatizing the child in the process.
Fara, Max, and Saul silently listen as Quinn and Carrie bring Javadi away from the scene. Saul takes off his glasses, closes his eyes, and lets the sound of Javadi’s grandson crying wash over him.
NEXT: “This is just the f–king beginning.”
Following that exhausting scene, Saul’s forced to concede the double murder to the police because his team’s too late to clean it up. He’s also forced to admit that Javadi just succeeded in killing the people he had helped escape Iran all those years ago.
Perhaps to clear his head, Saul walks outside the safehouse and watches as Quinn and Carrie pull up with Javadi, whose shirt and hands are still drenched in blood. Saul peers at his foe until Javadi enters the safehouse and walks past a speechless Fara and Max to reach the interrogation room. Quinn, finished with the job, sits and tells the others, “This is just the f–king beginning.”
Carrie knows that too, and shakily heads outside. Quinn hands her a drink and asks if she’s okay. “I don’t know what I am,” Carrie replies.
Saul strides past them and leads them inside, directly to Javadi. Saul, Quinn, and Carrie position themselves around their new asset, calling back to the way the interrogation room was set up in last season’s “Q&A.” This time, the room is not a well-lit CIA hideout — it’s a dusty enclave in an inconspicuous safehouse. And this time, Saul’s the one, not Carrie, who’s connected with the man they’re about to question.
Javadi looks up at them, and Saul asks Quinn to remove the chains. “Stand up,” Saul commands. Javadi stretches out, looks Saul up and down, and grins.
“Saul, you don’t look like a man who just landed the biggest asset of his career,” he snidely remarks.
Saul, in response, strikes Javadi hard in the face with his palm, relishing the sound and the sight of Javadi crumpling to the ground, nose apparently broken. Remember Mira’s wish for Saul to release his anger? It’s been granted.
Again, this is bloodier than the average Homeland episode, and I’m still wary about the pace. Even so, my immediate reaction to the episode is positive, largely thanks to the way Toub and Mandy Patinkin are playing their what I’m going to call “Magneto/Professor X dynamic” off each other. Clearly the two characters have a complicated history, and they’re revealing just enough for us to appreciate what’s going on but hiding enough to keep us intrigued. And I’m enjoying it.
What I’m not enjoying is, like I said, the pace, especially the brusque way in which the climax was carried out. It didn’t feel like Homeland at all — it felt like an afterthought. And perhaps it was an afterthought for Javadi, just to go to his ex-wife and carry out two brutal murders before he has to be taken in by the CIA. The Carrie pregnancy is another scene that felt rushed — again, where did this come from? And this twist definitely isn’t an afterthought. You don’t make your protagonist pregnant just for kicks.
But perhaps I’m the lone dissenting voice in that regard. I’ll admit that the Javadi scene was thrilling and shocking and had me at the edge of my seat. Besides, it underlined again why Javadi’s a criminal. And maybe Carrie’s pregnancy will bring Brody back into the fold quicker this way. That’s assuming he’s the father, and we have no confirmation either way.
That’s it for my complaints. Otherwise, the episode has left us in a better position that most of the previous ones this season, because we can look forward to more banter between Saul and Javadi and start putting the pieces in place for the show’s next movements.
So, congratulations, Carrie and Saul? For the former, on the pregnancy, and for the latter, on getting what he wanted, though it meant collateral damage to carry the mission out.
This leaves us with several new loose ends: what Carrie’s pregnancy will mean for her character, what Saul’s past with Iran will mean for his showdown with Javadi, and, to me at least, what Dar Adal’s game plan will be. Anyone else think his call to Saul didn’t explain everything that happened in his meeting with Lockhart? “He’s just trying to get his bearings before the big day” sounds like an excuse you tell your boss instead of an explanation.
So what did you make of this installment? What was most shocking to you — Carrie’s drawer full of positive pregnancy tests or Javadi’s unforgiving killings of his ex-wife and sister-in-law? (Or was it Chris Brody’s extended appearance? Best part of the episode, obviously.) What’s Saul going to say to Javadi next week? Make your predictions in the comments below.