Homeland recap: 'Iron in the Fire'
It’s anyone’s guess exactly which plotline this episode’s title, “Iron in the Fire,” was meant in reference to—so packed was this hour of Homeland with double-crossing, nail-biting, jaw-dropping, and occasionally faith-in-humanity-ruining intrigue. (That last descriptor reserved especially for the final scene, over which a certain recapper may or may not still be barfing.) The bones of a big, bad conspiracy began to truly emerge this week, as Fara stepped up her game, Quinn stepped back into action, and Carrie stepped in the same steaming pile of shenanigans that we all must have known was coming, yet somehow still managed to be a big, gross surprise.
We begin with Carrie, trying to track down the identity of the Pakistani agent who coordinated Sandy Bachman’s murder, who you might also recognize as the same rude intruder who kicked down Aayan’s door and squished his face in the middle of the night. This bad dude is unfindable in the CIA’s database, but John Redmond, who pops into Carrie’s office and catches her looking at the photo, identifies him: He’s Farad Ghazi, a freelance dirty-work-doer for the ISI. (Note: Ghazi isn’t listed in the Homeland credits as of this writing, so if I’m spelling his name wrong, apologies.)
At the same time, Aayan returns to Kiran’s home to get his bag of contraband medicines, only to find that her aggro father has smashed them all, and reported him to his medical school for stealing, to boot. Aayan is apparently the only person who didn’t anticipate this—did he see the dad’s forearms? They were like sides of beef! That guy had “angry medicine smasher” written all over him!—but he’s horrified and devastated, and the plot thickens: what were those drugs, and who were they for?
Whatever their purpose, they were important enough that Aayan does the inevitable: He goes to Carrie for help. He wants her to get him out of Pakistan, but first, he wants cash: 80,000 rupees.
Carrie gives it to him along with a renewed promise that her “newspaper” will get him asylum in England—a vow which earns serious side-eye from Quinn—and then sends Fara and Max to follow the money. Fara seems anxious to prove that she can be as gutsy and effective as Carrie in the field, and she tails Aayan diligently: first to the teaching hospital where he exchanges the cash for more drugs, and then to another part of town, where she’s forced into the risky business of following him on foot.
NEXT: Boyds will be Boyds!
And now, for something completely different: cut into the scene of Fara pursuing Aayan, such that it’s not entirely clear at first that the plot is thickening, we follow a veiled woman as she slips into a darkened auditorium. When the lights come up, a surprise: It isn’t Fara, but someone else, a slightly older woman with a cynical smile. And another surprise: She’s here to see the lecturing professor, a man named Boyd.
A man named Boyd who knew Sandy Bachman.
A man named Boyd who knew Sandy Bachman, and whose “friendship” with Sandy Bachman was greatly beneficial to our cynical smiler, because Boyd was the one feeding Bachman those valuable state secrets from the ambassador’s desk.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet your mole.
Boyd, for his part, looks like he’s about to soil himself.
Boyd is, of course, the disgruntled husband of Ambassador Boyd. And now that he’s being stalked by ISI, it’s suddenly occurred to him that committing treason was perhaps not the best way of dealing with his resentments over playing second fiddle to his powerful wife. Next thing, he’s on the phone begging to be reinstated at his former university in the U.S.—and lying to the Ambassador about it, telling her it’s a done deal and he needs to fly home next week. She notes that the separation will have a deleterious effect on their relationship, prompting the following exchange:
Professor Boyd: I think our marriage could stand to put my career first for once.
Ambassador Boyd: We tried that. You ended up plagiarizing an entire chapter of your book.
For the second time, Boyd looks like he’s just filled his underpants. It seems that a theme is emerging, here: Between last week’s Mathison/Redmond conflict and this portrait of a marriage, they’re going to need to invent a special Emmys category for Best Moment of Male Butthurt. And in this case, the butthurt is followed swiftly by actual hurt, as Boyd’s smiley new friend finds him and informs him that he won’t be leaving the country until he does her multiple treasonous favors.
Meanwhile, Carrie and her team have begun surveillance on Ghazi, necessitating a harrowing scene in which Quinn sneaks into the sleeping assassin’s apartment to tap his cellphone in the middle of the night. And at the same time, Saul calls in a favor from a Pakistani general to try and probe for more details of Bachman’s death. The general, a 9/11 denier whose nickname is, inexplicably, “Bunny,” reluctantly connects Saul with a source inside the ISI; the source shows up to his meeting with Saul, but only so he can sit across the table and make smug faces at him while neither confirming nor denying anything. And then, everything happens at once.
NEXT: No, really, EVERYTHING.
At Ghazi’s apartment, the phone rings. The surveillance team listens as a woman tells him his laundry is ready, which turns out to be a code: With likely thanks to Saul’s pot-stirring maneuver earlier in the day, their target is about to run. Carrie wants to chase him; Quinn insists that it isn’t safe; the two of them begin arguing. And as they’re arguing, with the window in which to track Ghazi rapidly closing, the phone rings. It’s Fara, and she has shocking news: Aayan has delivered his bag of drugs…
…to Haissam Haqqani.
Whose still-alive status is quite the big surprise, considering that he was supposedly taken out by the wedding bombing in the season opener.
This revelation changes everything and explains the mystery of Bachman’s murder: In all likelihood, he was fed bad information so that someone could fake Haqqani’s death, then killed to tie up loose ends. Now that they know Haqqani is alive, two things are clear: first, that there’s a major conspiracy afoot, probably involving official folks inside the Pakistani government. And second, that Aayan has gone from being a potentially valuable asset to being a six-foot slice of bait.
Which brings us to a final moment, both familiar and uncomfortable. You know the one: It’s where Carrie Mathison gets into her target’s head by taking a shortcut through his pants.
And unlike her affair with Brody, this seduction felt like a pure, cold, perfectly calculated performance in which she was in total control. Whatever her reasons for sleeping with Aayan—the better to emotionally manipulate him, probably—they certainly have nothing to do with genuine desire, which is just one more reason why this scene easily eclipsed the almost-infanticide from the premiere as the most cringe-inducing yet. The moment at which she (literally) makes a grab for the goods is actually less disturbing than the flirtation that precedes it; Carrie has never seemed so practiced, or so predatory. And it doesn’t help that Aayan, with his innocently-mussed hair and his perpetually-confused facial expression, comes off like a scared 15 year-old boy throughout the entire thing. Seeing him coercively seduced felt like watching a statutory rape (which is why, as the credits rolled, I found myself googling for photos of Suraj Sharma looking like the handsome, confident, definitely-fully-grownup man that he is, in order to combat the sensation of having just seen something criminally gross. Here you go, by the way. You’re welcome.)
That said, there’s a reason why this is Carrie’s go-to move: it works. One even wonders how many times it’s worked for her in the past, times we don’t even know about. And while her gift for sexual manipulation doesn’t come as a surprise, it does speak to her uncomfortable conversation with Quinn earlier in the episode about his reasons for leaving the CIA: This is what they do. This is what she does. Her skill set might be a bit different from Quinn’s, but Carrie is just as derelict, just as mercenary, just as bad of a Bad Guy as the guys who carry guns. Did she need to hear that? Probably.
But it doesn’t look like she was listening.