Carrie returns to Pakistan with two missions, while Quinn contemplates leaving the CIA for good.
Credit: Joe Alblas/Showtime
Episode 601
S4 E3
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After watching “Shalwar Kameez,” I’m convinced that the producers of Homeland have perhaps been doing some spying of their own in the off-season: tapping our phones, monitoring our browser histories, listening through tiny fiber-optic microphones as we ran screaming from the room rather than watch one single second more of Dana Brody’s rehab romance. It’s like they know that we’ve had it with that sort of nonsense—which might be why, having neatly established Carrie Mathison as the Most Unfit Mother On Television by the end of its first episode, Homeland happily left behind all things baby and family and got back down to state business.

Newly arrived in Pakistan, Carrie immediately runs into problems in her new position as station chief. For one, the entire embassy is locked down, making it impossible for her to dig in earnest for clues about Sandy Bachman’s death. For another, a petulant weenie man named John Redmond (Michael O’Keefe) is beyond peeved that Carrie has taken the job that was earmarked for him: first trying to undermine her plans to call a staff meeting, and then interrupting her during said meeting to scold her. He actually calls her “young lady.” Big mistake, dude: Carrie Mathison is not here for your paternalistic resentment party, or your greasy beer sweat. Also, big ups to this scene for including the best baldfaced lie Carrie has told to date:

“You really want to know how I did it?” she says to the befuddled Redmond. “I asked nicely.”

Oh, Mathison. You glorious snake.

And speaking of snaky business: Carrie has been in Islamabad for, like, three minutes before she’s back out the door with a security team, spycrafting her way to a secret meeting with a mysterious contact. After evading both her own security and the ISI guys tailing her, she goes to an apartment and finds… Fara! And Max! So glad these two are back. And hopefully we’ll be seeing lots of them, because Carrie wants Fara to pretend to be a British journalist, and to set up a meeting with Aayan, a.k.a. the famous survivor of the wedding bombing in “The Drone Queen.” This is the mission beneath the mission: Officially, Carrie is here to untie the knots left by Sandy Bachman’s death. But really, she’s out to recruit Aayan as an asset to the U.S. government.

Meanwhile, back stateside, Quinn is really seriously for real this time going to leave the CIA. His pre-exit interview doesn’t go well, though: He’s hostile to begin with, but when the interviewer asks if he and Carrie are romantically involved, he gets up, says some very bad words, and walks out. All of this is witnessed by Dar Adal, who’s watching the whole thing remotely, and you can practically see the little light bulb go *ding!* over his head when it happens… although personally, I am not sold on the idea of Quinn secretly pining for Carrie. We’ll see.

NEXT: Dar Adal and Chekhov’s doughnuts

Quinn resumes his busy schedule of drinking and doing the naked tango with the Big Red Hottie who manages his hotel, and seriously, he’s really really for reeeeal going to quit this time! Really! Look, he even throws his phone into the pool when Dar Adal keeps calling! (Note: Dar Adal is listed in Quinn’s cell phone as “Dar Adal,” which is possibly the least believable thing ever to happen on this show. A guy like Quinn doesn’t list a guy like Adal in his cell phone under his real name! He gives him a fitting nom de guerre, like “Voldemort.”)

There’s only one thing left for Dar Adal to do: show up on Quinn’s doorstep bearing threats and doughnuts. At first, Quinn is unflappable. But when Adal accuses Quinn of saving Carrie’s life at the expense of Bachman’s, Quinn nearly strangles him to dead. (In combination with last week’s “bloody waffle” incident, this officially establishes breakfast foods as the Chekhov’s gun of Homeland: if a pastry appears in Act I, it’s only a matter of time until someone gets physically assaulted in its general vicinity.) The odd thing about this little interlude? Adal is downright delighted over his near-death experience, as it seems to confirm for him that Quinn is still a murderous bastard at heart, which is good because of… reasons. A few more of these bizarre “That’s my boy!” moments between the two, and I don’t think any of us will be surprised if it eventually turns out that Adal is actually Quinn’s father.

Quinn, on the other hand, responds to this confrontation by going back to his computer and watching video of Sandy Bachman’s death: over. And over. And over again. Once he’s gotten himself good ‘n’ angsty, he unleashes the full brunt of his guilty fury on Big Red, yelling at her to get out. But because she’s a tough lady (and because she overheard his confrontation with Dar Adal), she’s going to have her say: Nobody should have to go through what Quinn went through. And then there’s her parting line:

“Whoever Carrie is, she’s a lucky girl,” says Red. Ah, yes. Isn’t it every girl’s fondest dream to be loved by a deeply emotionally damaged mercenary with a fondness for schnapps and strangling? So! Lucky!

Meanwhile, back in Islamabad, Carrie comes back from a run to find Saul (surprise!) in cozy conversation with Ambassador Boyd (double surprise!). He’s come to deliver Carrie’s new security team, and Carrie isn’t exactly happy to see him. But since he’s here, she needs a favor: can he get Boyd to lift the restrictions and let her people out on the street again?

He can! Because, among other things, he and the ambassador used to be engaged! And considering what a big deal the show makes about it, this is probably going to matter later, so let’s all keep it in mind.

NEXT: It all comes down to crying in the bathroom.

Now that she’s allowed out again, Carrie doesn’t waste any time resuming her attempts to recruit Aayan. The first meeting was disastrous; despite Fara’s best efforts, the kid is too scared to talk to anyone. Carrie’s tactics are much sneakier: She goes to a restaurant where Aayan is having lunch, and then sobs hysterically/audibly in the ladies’ room—knowing that, as a med student and all-around nice guy, he’ll be summoned to come to her aid.

And once he does? Let’s put it this way: There will never be a Queen of Lies like Carrie Mathison. Face to face with the guy—the death of whose whole family she’s responsible for, lest we forget—she uses Aayan’s fear and desperation to dangle everything he could possibly want: Safe passage out of Pakistan. A home in the U.S. or England. A guaranteed place in the Royal College of Physicians. All for the sake of telling his story, of course! CIA? Never heard of ’em!

We’ve seen Carrie push people before, but this ambush seems to take it to a whole new level, especially considering that nobody even knows for sure that Aayan knows anything. Does she secretly, subconsciously believe that recruiting him as an asset means she can be forgiven for the awful mistake she made? For all of the awful mistakes she’s made? And though Aayan refuses, again, and runs away, again, that dangled promise of safety and prestigious schooling can’t be far from his mind.

This cat-and-mouse baiting, with Carrie Mathison’s ruthless claws shining sharpest and brightest of all, feels reminiscent of the best moments from Season 1—and the few saving graces of Season 3, where there was at least no shortage of nail-biting suspense in Carrie’s dangerous ploy to play double agent with Javadi. And in keeping with Homeland tradition, we end with a familiar scene: Carrie, alone in a generic apartment with her good friend chardonnay.

That’s when the phone rings.

Because an ocean away, Quinn’s obsessive YouTube-ing of Bachman’s death has suddenly borne fruit: in every shot, something strange. A man standing in the crowd, head ducked, ignoring the action in front of him, his finger pressed to the com in his ear. A man who has to be a Pakistani intelligence agent. A man whose presence at the scene means that Bachman’s death was no random tragedy. Carrie doesn’t need Quinn to spell it out, but he does:

“We never had a chance.”

And because they never had a chance, Quinn cannot leave the CIA. Carrie asks him not to make her beg. Then, Carrie begs. And yes, yes: Quinn will come back.

“I f—ing love you,” Carrie says, before hanging up the phone.

Confession: At this moment, I was equal parts positive and aghast that Quinn, sitting there with the phone still in his hand, was going to whisper, “I love you, too.” To the wall. In a moment of pure maudlin pandering that might actually ruin the show for good. They’d certainly propped that door wide open; the guy did just spend the entire episode going bug-eyed and hog-wild at every mention of Carrie Mathison’s name, after all. I mean, let’s just be real: It could have happened. On another show, it probably would have happened!

But it didn’t happen on this show, to my considerable relief. And when Quinn arrives back in Islamabad, as he almost surely will in the next episode, this small act of restraint on the part of the writers feels a bit like a promise: that wherever they’re going with this Quinn-loves-Carrie arc, it will not derail us from what’s really important. Namely: crafty spies, spycrafting.

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