Homeland recap: 'Gerontion'
Quinn is forced to confess for a crime he didn't commit; Saul pulls off the final act of his secret operation; Javadi reveals the truth about Brody
If, like Quinn says, confession is indeed good for the soul, then I’d like to get this off my chest: This show has become a mess, and tonight’s hour proved just how much of a mess it’s made for itself. For one thing, this episode — titled “Gerontion,” but more on that later — neglected almost all plot and character development, and instead distilled the story down to a series of redundant interrogation scenes with characters confronting each other. Quinn vs. the police. Carrie vs. Javadi. Saul vs. Mira. Saul vs. Dar. Saul vs. Lockhart. Saul vs. Javadi.
Saul, Saul, Saul.
It’s a Saul-heavy episode (and a Dana-free one) that tries to tone down the action and focus on Saul’s character, but the writing is too clumsy to make all of this work. Yes, every show, every story needs a conflict, but Homeland chose to show conflicts by using blunt “Q&A” style confrontation scenes, and dialogue that repeated much of what the audience has already learned. It’s not working.
Why? Because by the end, we have no idea who to root for. By stripping Saul down to make him seem like an acting CIA director in over his head who would use juvenile techniques like locking a senator inside a conference room, the show leaves us with the impression that Saul actually does not know what he’s doing. And because of how implausible much of what comes out of Saul’s mouth ends up sounding, we’re losing sight of who to root for: Should we be cheering on the CIA? Should we only be cheering on Carrie, who gets barely a handful of scenes tonight? Should we be thinking about Quinn? Or should we start siding with Lockhart, because he seems more logical with every passing second? What is the point of Dar Adal again?
I know not everyone had qualms with the believability of the twists that have happened this season, but to me, piling them on has only made the show lose sight of what it set out to do in the first place: Tell the story of a bipolar CIA agent who’s doing her best to save the country. Carrie’s mission right now may be to exact revenge on whoever bombed the CIA, but the audience is being pulled in at least a dozen other directions with the plot.
It’s one thing to keep the audience guessing; it’s another to simply toss story lines at the audience and see what will stick.
NEXT: “That’s classified.”
We begin with Quinn’s conflict, when police investigating the bloodbath from last week at Fariba’s home discover that the neighbor’s security camera got a clear shot of him. From there we get a totally gratuitous (but, well, not unwelcome) shot of Quinn in the shower as she’s disturbed by a visit by Dar Adal. Dar is there to figure out where Quinn and Saul have been the entire week away from CIA HQ.
And he’s not happy. “You’re my guy, Peter, I recruited you, I brought you up,” he insists to Quinn, then asks him about the double murder. Quinn feigns ignorance, telling Dar, “Would you like me to look into it for you?”
“F–k you,” Dar responds, as he shows Quinn the surveillance photo. Quinn freezes, takes in the situation, and hurries off to the CIA safehouse to find Saul. He runs into Carrie first and relays the news to her. “S–t,” she responds. Same, Carrie, same.
After Saul hears the news, the A Team decides Carrie should talk to a police chief who apparently owes her a favor — a.k.a. the show skimming over plot points, just like it skimmed over why the security camera failed to pick up Carrie or Javadi — and that she should “play the national security card,” according to Saul. (Hmm, just like the show plays the “just believe us, we know what we’re doing” card? We’ve been dealt a lot of those lately.)
Carrie does her best, going to the police chief, and replying “That’s classified” to every one of his questions. As the inspector bombards her with questions to try and get something out of her, Carrie starts feeling sick and ends up throwing up in Fariba’s downstairs bathroom. Morning sickness? Or lightheaded because she can’t explain the situation and it’s been an exhausting season? A mix of both?
When she regains composure, the chief tells her he’d be happy to cover it all up, but at some point, he wisely points out, the details of the case will show up on “goddamn Wikileaks, and then you got yourself a real problem.” (Nothing gets past Julian Assange, even in Homeland-verse.) Carrie can’t argue back, and returns to tell Quinn the bad news. Quinn then volunteers to confess to the police, enters the house, and gazes at Fariba’s blood, still pooled all over the foyer floor. Expressionless, he sits down at the dining table and waits.
Then the questioning begins. Quinn is terse with his answers, but the detective sees through his impatience. “Look, I know you think I’m just some dick jacking you up ’cause you were unlucky enough to get yourself photographed,” he tells Quinn. “I’m just trying to understand this s–t that you people do.”
When Quinn says it’s about national security, the officer sighs. “You f–kin’ people,” he says. “Have you ever done anything but make things worse?”
At that, Quinn looks down, frowning and unable to explain the “s–t” he does for national security. The national security card was harder to play than he thought. And so he takes the blame for the deaths of Javadi’s ex-wife and daughter-in-law, confessing for their killings and playing Javadi’s role, doing a favor for Saul, Carrie, and Javadi — the man he obviously wanted to kill last week for the carnage. Quinn realizes that all he’s done has only made matters worse.
So when Carrie comes to see him afterward, he makes his true confession of the night, telling her he was glad to tell the police he committed the murders. “It made me feel better. Wrong crime, right guy, I guess,” he says. “You know what else I realized? Just how through I am with this. The CIA. I just cannot believe it anymore… that anything justifies the damage we do.”
Carrie gapes at him, but she pulls him back in to help her with another op (more on that in a bit). “You can’t go yet,” she says. “I need your help.” Carrie always needs his help, and Quinn knows, but he can’t say no. “Sure, Carrie, whatever you need.” Aw, Quinn. Poor Quinn: When he saw Carrie, he probably thought she was there to check on him. Instead, he’s pulled back into the game and won’t be leaving the CIA anytime soon.
He’s not the only one.
NEXT: “You’re the one who made it possible. I want to return the favor.”
At the safehouse, Javadi is patiently taking in Saul’s questions — a little too patiently. He already shrugged off Fara’s questions, and asks Saul, “What’s your point, Saul? That I’m being brought down by a girl? By two girls?” Fara doesn’t take to this well, and disapproves of the interrogation when Saul asks her to leave — “Enough. I think he appreciates the situation,” Saul says as he dismisses her.
Javadi, amused, tells Saul that Fara “won’t last,” but Saul’s not about to play games with the terrorist mastermind. He may not be slaughtering his ex-wife with a bottle here, but Javadi seems like an even more cartoonish villain as he smugly manipulates Saul and negotiates his way out.
But Saul turns the tables on his enemy, telling Javadi that he’s not there for intel because he’s got bigger plans: He wants to use Javadi as an asset and place him back in Iran. “From now on, you work for us, for me,” Saul says. “I’m your new case officer.”
Javadi scoffs, and tells him the plan won’t work. (Javadi’s always telling everyone their plans won’t work.) The men raise their voices, until Javadi can’t take it anymore and slaps the desk, yelling, “I can’t go back!”
Saul’s second attempt to turn his enemy works better, when he returns to the room after hearing about Quinn’s situation. Javadi has come to terms with his predicament, but first asks Saul, “How does it work?” And by “it,” he means covering up the double murder he committed. Saul asks him why he did it, but Javadi just shrugs and answers that Fariba was unfaithful to him, and she had to be punished because they were still married “in the eyes of God.” Hearing this, Saul gets up, grabs Javadi’s file, and hands him the photo of Fariba’s 21st birthday, showing the four of them — Saul, Mira, Javadi, Fariba — during happier times, when they talked about what the future might bring. “It wasn’t this,” Saul says sadly.
As the unfeeling villain in the room, Javadi looks unperturbed by Saul’s nostalgia. He hands the photo back, and silently watches as Saul places more photos on the table, each one showing an act of violence, mostly bombings, that Javadi committed. Javadi glances at them apathetically, then teases Saul. “You left something out,” he says. “The bombing of the CIA.”
It’s the cue Saul was waiting for, and he launches into his reasoning behind recruiting Javadi. “My first thought was not revenge; it was something has to change,” he tells Javadi. “You had us, we had you. It’s always the same.” He adds that the time has come for “change,” and Javadi is the agent of it for the CIA.
And now it’s Saul’s turn to look smug. “Majid, thanks to you, I stand at the center of things,” he says. “You put me in power. You go back to Tehran, I’ll do the same for you. I know a way.”
Everything is going according to Saul’s plan, but at the last second, when he and Javadi leave the room, Saul pauses. Away from any surveillance, he quietly asks Javadi who was responsible for building the bomb and moving Brody’s car before the CIA bombing. Javadi smiles as he readies his answer. “It wasn’t him,” he says. “It was one of Abu Nazir’s guys. Who exactly? I don’t want to know.” The two men stare at each other until Saul turns his back on Javadi and leaves.
Saul’s ordeal with Javadi is over, but he has more work to do, thanks to an impatient Lockhart and a frustrated Dar Adal.
It’s Saul’s turn to be questioned. Dar, cutting Saul off as he walks into the CIA, sums up the situation: Lockhart is no fool, and has noticed Fariba’s death and the fact that Saul’s done little to bring in Carrie, even though she’s been out of the mental institution for a week. Lockhart, as Dar puts it, is not a “civilian f–kmonkey,” which means he can put two and two together.
Saul vs. Lockhart: the most pointless sequence of the entire episode. See, Saul tells Lockhart everything the audience already knows, but has to because Lockhart doesn’t know it. Lockhart is understandably furious about Saul’s secret operation, but spews the same lines he’s had for much of the season, calling the CIA “human intelligence nonsense,” and reiterating to Saul that he’ll be “inheriting your mess in 10 days.” Disapproval from the senator again? Yawn.
NEXT: “I guess you don’t want the truth.”
Things pick up when Saul tells Lockhart and Dar that Javadi had been in the U.S. and is about to leave. Lockhart just continues to make his “I’m furious at you and can’t wait to be the new director of the CIA” face, while Dar gapes at Saul. When Saul refuses to ground Javadi’s plane, Lockhart wakes up and threatens to call the president. Saul says that trying Javadi in the U.S. would go nowhere, because he’ll just be replaced by someone else in Iran. But Lockhart’s having none of this, and tells Saul, “You sound like you’re f–king high. I’m calling the president. Did you hear what I said?”
Saul did, and quietly leads Lockhart to the conference room to a phone that Lockhart doesn’t know how to operate. But by the time he realizes this, Saul and Dar are already out the door, which Saul locks shut, trapping the senator inside.
“What the f–k?” Lockhart says. Exactly. What. The. F–k. This is maybe the worst-planned plot Saul has pulled off — it’s as cartoonish as the actions of Abu Nazir last season. And what about Dar? He’s just flip flopping sides, with neither Lockhart nor Saul doing anything about it. Again, what is the point of Dar Adal?
Evidently, the point of Dar Adal is to bring the booze and glasses so he and Saul and congratulate themselves on a job well done. “You don’t have to explain yourself, Saul, you were the goddamn acting director of the CIA. To ten more days,” Dar says, raising his glass. So… Dar just took a 180 in allegiances. Where did that come from? More important, how can Saul still trust him?
But enough with the questions. During all of this, Javadi and Carrie are on their way to the plane, and their scenes are much more watchable. As Javadi leaves the safehouse, Fara, displeased with being kept in the dark about Saul’s plan and disapproving of said plan because she believes Javadi is a bigger danger in Iran than in the U.S., grabs a pair of scissors to… prepare for an attack? Or to protect herself? Her intentions are unclear, but whatever they were, she doesn’t go with her instinct, and Javadi safely enters the car with Carrie. He drives them to the plane, where his men will be none the wiser about his status as a double agent.
Inside the car, we finally reach a useful scene: Javadi attempts to manipulate Carrie, while Carrie tries to get the intel she wants without betraying her emotion. Just like Saul, she’s curious about who planted the bomb at the CIA, but only after Javadi tells her Saul asked him first. Caught off guard, Carrie watches Javadi as he smirks and explains Saul’s stumble when he asked the question. “That implies that there’s a difference of opinion on that subject, right?” he asks Carrie innocently. She relents, and asks him about Brody. Javadi confirms that it wasn’t Brody who did it, and Carrie looks almost relieved.
But when the two are silent again, Javadi tries one more time. “Almost there, and you still haven’t asked,” he taunts her. “Who handed him the keys? I bet you wonder all the time… Fine, I guess you don’t want the truth.” Carrie stays resolute, and replies, “I do. I just don’t think I’d get it from you.”
It’s a tense conversation, and a dialogue that’s actually driving the plot somewhere instead of rehashing what’s been said. But even though Carrie tries to stop herself, she runs after Javadi as he boards the plane to ask him who made the bomb.
Javadi gleefully tells her what he knows. “He didn’t die in the explosion like they say,” he says. “As far as I know, he’s still in the country.” He then says the man who knows the identity of the bomber is “the man that brought us together.” Carrie believes he’s referring to Leland Bennett, the lawyer she met in “Game On” who she used to lure Javadi into the U.S. And when she asks Javadi, he doesn’t confirm her guess; instead, he replies, “The way this worked out, he’s not my lawyer anymore.” There it is: One last cheeky statement from the newly minted CIA asset.
Carrie, armed with this information, runs off to find Quinn.
NEXT: “I had a good day. Actually, a really good day.”
Saul returns home late to Mira, just as he told her he would earlier on the phone. He believes it’s a pleasant homecoming, telling her he had a “good day,” but in fact, Mira had spent the day with her lover Alan Bernard. Saul, oblivious, believes this is the right moment to reconcile with his wife. “Forgive me,” he says, approaching her in her bedroom. “I’d forgotten how beautiful you are.” His voice trembles, and he wraps his arms around her. Mira looks uncomfortable, but she hugs him back.
From there, the camera pans out, and the jazz music kicks in. If a viewer were to tune in at that exact moment, it would look like a sweet, quiet scene for the couple. Instead, it just shows how clueless Saul really is, and how unjustifiably confident he is in everything simply because he succeeded in making Javadi an asset. But he’s failing to examine the work he’s doing and how his colleagues feel about it. He has no idea about Fara’s disapproval, and he brushes aside the possibility that Javadi won’t keep his promise.
Which brings me to the episode title. “Gerontion” refers to T.S. Eliot’s poem, told from the point of view of an old man, who darkly observes life and death and ends up feeling defeated because of the destruction he sees around him. The episode doesn’t explicitly refer to the poem, but I think it’s safe to say that the reference is pointing to Saul, considering the whopping amount of screen time Mandy Patinkin got this week. The man in Eliot’s work is spiritually lost, but Saul doesn’t seem that way at all. He thinks he’s safe, leading the CIA to success and glory. So perhaps using the poem’s title here is foreshadowing for darker times ahead? Or maybe it’s merely referring to the Big Man in the CIA business coming to the end of his term. I don’t want to read too much into it and say that its use is definitely spelling disaster for Saul, but I think we can all sense that Saul’s “success” in this episode is barely a success.
In the poem, a passage states “Think now/History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors/And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions/Guides us by vanities. Think now/She gives when our attention is distracted/And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions/That the giving famishes the craving.” I point out these lines because I think this describes what’s come about with Saul — here’s a man who believes the traditional, old-fashioned way of running the CIA is the right way, and he’s being deceived into thinking his plan is working. At least this is a surface reading — the poem delves further into themes of religion and hopelessness that I’m not sure applies to this show… yet. Plus, I don’t want to go too far into a poetry lesson because, well, I’m quite rusty on the subject. So there’s another one of my confessions.
But who knows what the writers are thinking? Perhaps they figured a Saul-heavy episode would shed light on the character, and that’s true — it’s made me see Saul in a different light, as a weaker man oblivious to what’s really going on with his plan. But this episode failed to shed light on some other twists this season, specifically Carrie’s pregnancy, and I’m wondering when that will take the spotlight in an episode. And finally, I’m more eager than ever to see Brody again, now that we know there’s a lead on the bombing. He’ll have to be brought back at some point this season, won’t he?
So tell me: What did you make of “Gerontion”? Are you satisfied with what Saul’s plan was for Javadi all along? Are you as confused as I am about Dar Adal? Did you miss Chris Brody?
Did you miss Dana Brody? Should Quinn be in more scenes? (Always.) But most important, what’s your take on Saul after this episode? Confess your thoughts in the comments below.