Carrie's singleminded focus on recruiting Aayan Ibrahim leaves the rest of the team vulnerable.

By Kat Rosenfield
Updated May 28, 2015 at 04:51 PM EDT
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Homeland
Credit: David Bloomer/Showtime
S4 E5

The destructive power of Male Butthurt was an emerging theme on last week’s Homeland, but this week, it seems to be the seed from whence this season grew. Very little was resolved by the time the credits rolled on “About a Boy,” but one thing became abundantly clear: that this whole sordid mess, from the wedding bombing to the murder of Sandy Bachman to the yucky seduction of Aayan Ibrahim, never would have happened if one Professor Dennis Boyd had just learned to channel his marital insecurities into something other than high treason.

Alas, he didn’t. And now he’s a sad, scared traitor under the thumb of the ISI. Womp, womp.

Tasneem, the woman handling Boyd, is definitely both an official agent and a high-ranking one. At the start of the episode, we see her in conversation with the same Pakistani official who was so smug and shady in his meeting with Saul. Having worked out that Saul and Carrie might be working together, Tasneem is intent on finding out more about Carrie, including how she keeps getting in and out of the embassy without being observed.

As for the poor Professor, he seems to have a pattern: Every time he feels emasculated by his wife, he goes and sells out America to make himself feel better. It’s how we see him abortively attempting to break into Carrie’s apartment early on in the episode; it’s also how he ends up doing it for real, later, after getting belligerently drunk at a hotel bar and then overhearing his wife tearfully talking to John Redmond about what a loser he is. He takes photographs of everything, including Carrie’s baby and Carrie’s medicines (which means that I, for one, will not be able to watch her take a pill again this season without wondering if it’s been poisoned. Thanks a lot, Homeland!).

Meanwhile, Carrie isn’t home to see her medicine cabinet being rifled through, because she’s still in bed with her asset. Aayan is wildly conflicted about having done the sex with a lady — when he’s not peeping saucer-eyed at Carrie’s body, he’s feeling deeply ashamed of having betrayed his religious values — but ultimately, he succumbs to her wiles, as we knew he would, because Carrie Mathison’s wiles are just too damn wily. The scene in which she leverages her own painful past to gain Aayan’s trust, faking vulnerability by tapping into a very real, very deep well of sorrow and regret, is a stunning bit of manipulation. Carrie’s agenda may be hidden, but the emotion she shows to achieve it is 100% authentic.

NEXT: Saul misses a plane.

While Carrie works on Aayan, Quinn and Fara set up surveillance on Haissan Haqqani’s associates, specifically the cleric who was present at the meeting between Haqqani and his nephew. Fara seems dazed at the way her duties have evolved — she was never supposed to be on the front lines like this, spying on dangerous people — but Quinn points out that it was her own nerve and focus that got her into this position.

“You’re in it now,” he says. “And guess what: You’re good at it.”

Unfortunately, she’s not good enough to stop the awful series of events that come next.

Because right about now, Saul is at the airport, about to board a plane back to the U.S. But as he passes through security, he spots a familiar face: Farad Ghazi. Saul’s skills might be a bit rusty, but there’s nothing wrong with his instincts, and he immediately leaps into action to track Ghazi through the airport. The assassin is headed to Johannesburg, information which Saul relays to Quinn, so that a CIA team can pick up Ghazi’s trail in South Africa when his plane touches down. But wait! When the time comes for his flight to board, Ghazi steps into the line — and then steps right back out of it, creeping into a nearby men’s room. A pair of skulking gentlemen (intelligence agents?) go in after him, then come back out, and Ghazi is nowhere, and something is happening, and it’s all too much for Saul: He goes in.

And all this time that Saul thought he was tracking Ghazi, it turns out that actually, Pakistani intelligence was tracking him. Seconds after he enters the bathroom, he’s grabbed (no!), injected with a sedative by waiting assailants (NO!) , and dumped unconscious into a wheelchair (NOOOOOOO!!!).

At the same time as Saul’s unconscious body is wheeled out of the airport to who-knows-where, the cleric that Quinn and Fara have been observing suddenly appears, on the move. They follow him to the street, where two familiar-looking men hand him the keys to a car, and the chase proceeds on wheels: out of Islamabad, up a winding road, until both the cleric and his CIA pursuers begin approaching the mountainous region that Quinn calls the “no-go zone.” And though a drone could follow the cleric where Quinn and Fara can’t, they need Carrie to order one — and she’s not answering her phone.

NEXT: Quinn says what we’re all thinking.

Eventually, the two cars come to the uncrossable boundary: a military checkpoint. With traffic stopped, Fara makes one last-ditch attempt not to lose their quarry, walking ahead to try and affix a magnetic tracker to the car. But before she can get there, a guard steps into her path and orders her back…

…which is why she doesn’t see them open the trunk of the car ahead, revealing Saul bound and gagged inside.

Needless to say, this is not good. And worse, with everyone expecting both Saul and Ghazi to be on planes for the next several hours, nobody has the slightest idea yet how very not-good it is.

Which brings us to the next morning, when Quinn show’s up at Carrie’s safehouse, furious at her for the lapse in communication that caused them to lose track of the cleric, but also equally furious that Aayan was the reason behind it. When Carrie retorts that she’s recruiting someone, he says, “To me, it looks like you’re f—ing a child!”, and then angrily demands, “Is there no line?!”

Which is an interesting question, but let’s be real, also pretty rich coming from the guy who kills people for a living. Carrie might be ruthless, but at least her targets tend to live through their encounters — and as she points out, seduction was the best (if not the only) way to forge a connection like this in the time she had available. It’s not nice, and it’s certainly not fun to watch, but at the end of the day, she’s just doing her job. And also:

“What’s it to you, anyway?” she asks.

Gratefully, the answer is not a shrieking melodramatic declaration of love; actually, he doesn’t answer at all. And for the rest of us, it still remains delightfully unclear whether Quinn actually wants Carrie, or whether he just wants to drag her back from the precipice of total moral corruption. Even now, he seems more interested in the state of Carrie’s karma than in Carrie herself, which raises the question once again of what exactly she represents to him.

But whatever Quinn thinks of Carrie sleeping with Aayan, it’s a good thing she did, because her relationship with her asset is the only remaining connection to Haqqani — and the only possible way that they might be able to find and save Saul. And at the close of the episode, once again, we see her ruthless seduction pay off: Standing on a rooftop, with the call to prayer echoing in the distance, Aayan confesses that his uncle is alive.

Let’s hope Saul hangs on long enough for Aayan to spill the rest of the beans.

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