Homeland recap: 'A Red Wheelbarrow'
Now that’s more like it, Homeland.
When you compare this episode with last week’s, it’s easy to see what the series’ strengths are: Carrie, watercooler moments, and character development. Tonight’s hour highlighted all three — along with zero Dana, which by now, can always be considered a plus — beginning with Carrie, who stays true to her character in a gripping plot that helps her realize Saul’s odd behavior, and ending with a watercooler moment that pushes the plot forward instead of simply grabbing our attention. The plot is finally steadying itself instead of introducing new twists that have been making the show feel nonsensical for the past few weeks.
We begin with Saul, whose victory last week has made him the most confident man in the CIA, despite 99 percent of the agency being kept in the dark and despising him for it. No matter; Saul delicately arranges breakfast in bed for Mira and the two lovingly reminisce about a trip to the Philippines as if nothing ever came between them.
Saul heads to a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Mike Higgins (William Sadler, last seen during the geese-hunting trip), which Lockhart has crashed. The senator, unsurprisingly, is incensed over the entire Javadi affair (and probably over being locked in a conference room like a disobedient child) and has tattled on Saul to Higgins. Though Higgins’ reaction is apt — “Jesus f–king Christ, Saul,” he says — Saul looks indifferent to his panic. “We didn’t just let [Javadi] go, Mike, we debriefed him, turned him, and sent him back to Iran,” Saul says matter-of-factly. Higgins is confused, asking Saul the same questions Fara and Carrie had last week: How can the CIA trust that Javadi will help them? “Because I know the man,” Saul replies.
Lockhart interrupts to make the same arguments he’s made before (poor Tracy Letts — having to play the same scene over and over again must be exhausting), and tells Higgins they need to send the Iranians a “clear message” instead of playing the spy game. Saul, though, insists that Javadi is the highest-placed source the agency has ever gotten, and nonchalantly dismisses Lockhart, telling him he called for a one-on-one meeting with Higgins. Lockhart leaves the room in a huff, but only after Higgins tells him to do so.
Higgins immediately turns to Saul. “Goddamn it, Saul, I spent the last month and a half arranging a marriage between you two,” he warily tells him. Saul knows this, but again, he tells Higgins that Javadi was a worthwhile goal, and he couldn’t cooperate with Lockhart until the agency won Javadi.
Left with no other choice, Higgins asks Saul to give him a summary of the second phase of the Javadi op: Let Javadi move naturally up the chain of command as the Iranians will believe he has added Carrie as an asset, then use him to instigate a regime change. As far as how that will happen, Saul just commands Higgins to keep reading his report.
Satisfied, Saul leaves the meeting and fills Dar Adal in on the plan. “Saul, it’s f–king genius,” Dar says, telling him exactly what he wants to hear. The two join Carrie and Quinn, who have been poring through intel for possible candidates for the Langley bombing. Quinn is skeptical they’ll find anyone they can target — “Are we even sure the guy who made the bomb moved Brody’s car?” he asks — but Carrie believes what Javadi said. Harried, she shoots Quinn an exasperated look, and then watches as he looks down at the files of victims of the Langley bombing, including David Estes. “I still can’t believe all these people are gone,” Quinn says.
By the time Saul enters the room, Carrie and Quinn are no closer to finding a suspect. Instead, Carrie’s confused about Saul’s account of what Javadi told him. Saul is oddly defensive, answering Carrie’s questions with more questions: When Carrie asks why Javadi would answer the two of them differently for the same question (“Was Brody behind the bombing?”), Saul looks frustrated and asks, “Is that a question or an accusation?” Her mentor’s behavior throws Carrie off-guard, but she stands her ground. “I’m angry because you seem indifferent to catching the actual bomber,” she says.
Saul reassures her that he’ll do anything it takes to help her apprehend the bomber alive, and Dar volunteers (or at least is “comfortable enough”) to talk to Leland Bennett, the lawyer who put Carrie in contact with Javadi, and who Javadi pinpointed as the man who knows the bomber’s identity.
NEXT: No more secrets
Before the mission begins, the episode turns its focus to the women of Homeland, checking in on Mira, Fara, and Carrie with her pregnancy. First up: Mira, who meets with Alan Bernard to, well, dump him as her lover. “It’s Saul,” she explains. “We made a decision. I made a decision to give the marriage another chance.”
Bernard is understandably defiant. “Forgive me, but didn’t we just spend yesterday in the suite at the Ritz Carlton?” he asks. Mira ignores this, and barrels on about how she and Saul have been talking for the last two months and that Bernard just needs to understand that she’s come to a decision. He plays his last card, telling her he loves her, but Mira walks out the door.
By the time she returns home, however, Bernard is already there and has mysteriously replaced the computer mouse with a different, identical one, and entered a password to access the Berensons’ P.C. We catch a glimpse of him scurrying out before Mira sees him, but have no other clue as to what he was up to — have we got another villain on our hands, or is this just a tech-savvy, vindictive lover?
Either way, Mira’s safe, and Saul later greets her at home with the information that he’ll have to go away for “a week at the most.” Her face falls as she asks if he’d be willing to have her tag along. “It’s not that kind of trip,” Saul responds. “I wish it were.”
Meanwhile, Carrie takes some “personal time” to visit the hospital for an ultrasound — and refuses to find out the baby’s gender. She’s told that she’s 13 weeks in, and that she desperately needs to modify her behavior after confessing to taking lithium for a month when she was “out of control” and “a lot of drinking before that.” The doctor raises her eyebrows and asks if Carrie was doing all this after she already knew she was pregnant. “I haven’t been painting a nursery,” Carrie says with a guilty look on her face. “Let’s put it that way.”
Fara, who earlier spent half an hour sitting in the CIA HQ parking lot before driving home, is also dealing with guilt. The hour reveals more of her backstory, as she talks to her father about their situation. Her father, believing her to work at an investment bank, is suspicious about why they have so little money; he worries they’ll lose their home.
But because of her inaction at the agency since the Javadi operation began, Fara finds a visitor at her door — a man who claims he’s from the Inspector General’s office and is there to check in on what she’s been up to. He tells her the agency knows she sat in the parking lot, biding her time, and that she later visited Fariba’s home, the site of the double murder. “The agency had to call in a lot of favors,” he tells her. “Your going over there jeopardized that.”
Fara is immediately apologetic, explaining that the incident upset her. Even so, the man sternly informs her that her state of mind is a “live issue” but Saul has an “unusual degree of confidence” in her — and if that’s not another indication of Fara as Carrie 2.0, I don’t know what is — so she must return to work the next morning. Fara nods, but her father, who eavesdropped on the entire conversation, confronts her. “You went ahead, didn’t you, in spite of everything I said,” he says angrily, while Fara tries to defend her decision to join the CIA, saying she had to help the agency after the bombing. Her father warns that they still have family in Tehran, who will likely be shot and hanged if word of Fara’s involvement in the agency went out. But Fara stands her ground. “I’m an American,” she says, glaring at her father.
NEXT: “Let me handle this.”
Over at the CIA, Dar’s been carrying out the first steps of Carrie’s plan. He meets Bennett and casually transitions into warning the shady lawyer about how the agency is looking into his firm’s doings. Dar encourages Bennett to come in and explain whatever’s going on first, but Bennett says he’s not buying it. “You know what, 20 years ago, I might have fallen for that weak s–t,” he tells Dar, “But today, come after me if you want, I’ve got nothing to hide.”
Still, it turns out Bennett isn’t completely indifferent to Dar’s warning — he reaches out to his associate and right-hand man Paul Franklin, who sounds the alarm for a meeting with Carrie by texting her “so much depends upon…” She replies, “a red wheelbarrow,” the phrase used for the episode title (more on this later). Carrie meets him at a church, and Franklin watches her light a candle before asking her to look into the warning. Just as she had done before (when we didn’t know she was acting), Carrie plays dumb, asking Bennett for more details and sounding frustrated that she has to work with Bennett when the agreement was for her to work only with Javadi. Either way, she tells him she’ll figure something out.
Franklin’s panic reassures Carrie, who’s happy to hear that Bennett and his associates aren’t comfortable with the fact that the CIA apparently knows something. And when Carrie meets Franklin again, she pretends to have talked to high-level agency officials and found out that the CIA has connected Bennett to the Langley bombing, which worries Franklin. But Carrie plows on, asking for confirmation that the man who bombed Langley is still in the United States. Franklin reluctantly answers her, telling Carrie the CIA’s right, but asks her to “take it easy, Carrie, take a breath.” Carrie ignores this, and asks where the bomber is. At this, Franklin realizes he doesn’t have to reveal more information, instead telling Carrie to “lay low, and let me handle this.”
With that dead end, Carrie leaves and listens in on Franklin’s phone instead, along with Dar, Quinn, and the other agents on the op. Franklin calls Bennett, who tells him to get the bomber out of the country as soon as possible. At this, Franklin sends a text to the bomber with an address and a time to figure out their exit strategy. Carrie is anxious, making sure the CIA are still tracking Franklin, but Quinn tells her not to worry. “As long as we stick on Franklin, you’ll get your bomber,” he says.
But Quinn’s wrong. As soon as Franklin arrives at the motel where he’ll meet the bomber, the plan begins to crumble. Carrie, Quinn, and their teams watch as Franklin calls the bomber inside the motel to find out which room he’s in, while the bomber asks what the firm is planning to do — “I’m the one whose life is f–ked,” he says. Franklin, though, says there’s nothing to worry about, and that the bomber should be thanking him for keeping him away from trouble. The bomber, sweating and nervously panting, relents and tells Franklin the room number.
Franklin hangs up, and then picks up his gun and silencer — which makes Carrie realize their mission’s about to fall apart because Franklin’s going to kill the bomber. Dar insists she stay where she is, but at the last minute, Carrie leaves her spot and approaches the motel to cut Franklin off.
NEXT: “Carrie, what the f–k are you doing?”
Come on, what else could we have expected from Carrie Mathison? She’s desperate to get the bomber alive because he’s the evidence she needs to prove Brody innocent, and as she had told her doctor earlier, she’s not going to be able to properly modify her behavior until her work with Brody, “the father,” is cleared.
So she leaves her position and pursues Franklin, and Quinn does his best to talk her out of blowing her cover. “Carrie, what the f–k are you doing?” he asks, but she doesn’t stop, telling him that Saul had promised he would get the bomber in alive. Dar, with no other choice, authorizes Quinn to take her out. Quinn pulls the trigger, hitting Carrie in the arm and stopping her in her tracks.
Franklin hears her scream, but sees nothing and moves on. And just as Carrie predicted, he shoots the bomber dead and disposes the body in the motel room bathtub. (How Walter White of him.) “Pick her up for God’s sake,” Quinn tells the others, and Dar’s truck gets to Carrie just in time to take her away. Quinn reaches the van and sits himself down next to Carrie, while she furiously asks if the bomber is dead. When Quinn confirms what happened, Carrie is incredulous. “F–k, f–k,” she says. “Something’s going on.”
“You got shot,” Quinn replies. “Yeah, no s–t, you shot me,” Carrie says, gritting her teeth. “Something is going on, none of this makes sense.” And then it dawns on her, and she asks Quinn to come closer. “Where the f–k is Saul?” she hisses in his ear.
Well, Carrie, this is where the f–k Saul is: Caracas, Venezuela, at the Tower of David. El Nino steps out to greet him and mentions he should have used the $10 million to install air conditioning — is that what Saul arranged for him to hold Brody? Or is it just a joke? — before taking him to Brody’s dilapidated quarters. Saul steps into Brody’s room and holds his handkerchief to his mouth as he takes in the sight of Brody, slumped against the wall with his eyes bloodshot and watery. And slowly, as the episode ends, Brody looks up at Saul.
I’ll admit I pumped my first in joy as the scene played out. It’s a watershed moment for the show, and I’m going to go ahead and call this a watershed episode for the season. The characters are finally back in play instead of dilly dallying with Javadi. Best of all, we’re seeing logical twists, not surprise pregnancies and the like.
As for “a red wheelbarrow”? It’s a line in a poem by William Carlos Williams (thanks for all the poetry lessons, Homeland!), which describes, essentially, a red wheelbarrow sitting beside chickens and glistening with rain water. Short and descriptive, all the elements in the lines are tied to the opening line, “so much depends on,” the poet’s cheeky way of saying that the sentence he’s spliced into four can only exist if all parts are there. And so, the show may be trying to say that Carrie is the peg that connects all the characters — if she falls out of place, the CIA loses its access to Bennett and his associates, as well as her rapport with Javadi and her pull on Quinn. Without her, the mission fails.
And yet, the mission has resulted in her getting shot and questioning what Saul’s up to, because as much as Saul still seems to be the Big Man at the CIA (and believes himself to be), his motives are murky to not only us, but also the rest of his team. Dar, Quinn, and Carrie have no idea what exactly he’s planning to do. So much also depends on, if you will, Saul going into the next phase of his op with a clear head.
Where Brody fits into that, I have no idea. I have guesses as to what Saul’s going to do with him, but for now, I’m just relieved we’re seeing Brody again. He’s been a carrot the show’s dangled for five straight episodes, and though he may still turn out to be a liability to the series, he’s essential to Homeland‘s plot for now, and I’m excited to see where that takes us. Call it speed-plotting, but at least it’s speed-plotting that makes sense, and that’s a vast improvement over what we’ve been subjected to for much of this season.
That said, maybe I’m in the minority (again) — maybe it’s terrible the show’s bringing Brody into Saul’s plan, and maybe Javadi should have stuck around. What are your predictions going forward? What’s Carrie going to do about Saul? Will Quinn continue to assist her in her mission? Are you becoming more invested in Fara’s story? (I am, at least for now.) What’s Bernard up to? Whatever your thoughts, share them in the comments below.