Lockhart arrives in Islamabad as part of the effort to locate Saul, while Carrie suffers a meltdown thanks to ISI saboteurs.

By Kat Rosenfield
Updated May 28, 2015 at 04:49 PM EDT
David Bloomer/Showtime

Homeland

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This week’s episode of Homeland was not made available in advance to the media, which seemed like a peculiar decision for a random, mid-season installment of the series… right up until the very last scene, when a certain someone made a sudden, unexpected onscreen appearance, and it seemed like we, the viewers, might be tripping bipolar balls just as hard as (if not harder than!) our beloved Carrie Mathison. There are no words to describe the sound that erupted from my mouth upon seeing the special guest star of “Redux,” and with only a few minutes elapsed in which to have processed what just happened, all I can say is: Well-played, Homeland. Well-played indeed.

And that’s only the last five minutes.

Meanwhile, the first five minutes of this episode set the tone—one familiar to anyone who first fell for this show’s tense, authentic portrait of a woman trying to balance the burden of mental illness with the career necessities of espionage. The first shot is of a fine-ground powder, being packed expertly into pill capsules that will eventually find their way into Carrie Mathison’s personal apothecary. It’s an ominous moment, for reasons that become clear right around the time that we see Professor Dennis Boyd subbing the pills into Carrie’s supply from his sweaty, traitorous palm. And latecomers to the series, take note: If you missed the inaugural glory of Claire Danes’ epic crying face during one of her manic aeason 1 meltdowns, the time has come for you to see what all the fuss is about.

Unfortunately, Carrie isn’t in a position to worry about her pills being tampered with, or even to consider that she might be the target of this type of sabotage. CIA Director Lockhart has arrived in Islamabad, with a) questions about her competency, and b) a directive to keep Saul Berenson’s abduction secret while the U.S. meets with Pakistan’s intelligence to try and facilitate his release. Although Quinn vouches for Carrie’s Vulcan-like cool-headed-ness off the bat, shutting down the insinuation that she was emotionally compromised by the mission, Lockhart still charges into his meeting with the ISI like the proverbial bull in the china shop. Ignoring Ambassador Boyd’s attempts at diplomacy, the director straight-up accuses Pakistan of double-dealing, first mentioning their complicity in hiding Osama Bin Laden, and then outright threatening the country with the loss of United States money if they don’t sniff out the moles in their ranks. (This is seriously bad news for international relations, but great fun for Lockhart, who whips out his phone after the fact like he’s about to snapchat a victory selfie to the President.)

NEXT: Terrorists: They’re just like us!

Meanwhile, Saul is still alive and being reasonably well cared-for by Haqqani, because as it turns out, an ex-director of the CIA is a useful fella for an international terrorist to have around.

“Praise God for sending me a human shield,” Haqqani says, grinning, while hand-surfing out the window of their moving car. Between this and the last episode’s cold-blooded killing of poor Aayan, it’s easy to see the man as monstrous in this moment, which is probably why Homeland makes sure to devote the next few scenes to humanizing him. We see Haqqani receiving a homecoming fit for a hero: flowers thrown at his car by an adoring crowd; cherubic children mobbing him as he alights; his wife, smiling and weeping and embracing her husband with tearful joy (and, later, noisily getting it on with him while Saul sits handcuffed to a radiator nearby—gross). When one of Haqqani’s older sons hurls a shoe at Saul, Haqqani scolds him and makes him apologize; when Saul sits down at Haqqani’s table, Haqqani even seems to listen thoughtfully to his prisoner’s criticisms.

“You have taught an entire generation to live with one foot in the afterlife,” says Saul; Haqqani counters with his own thoughts about the U.S. presence in Pakistan and its deleterious effects on the country’s culture. By the time he drives his prisoner to a remote location near Afghanistan, where Saul will remain until or unless the U.S. releases several high-profile prisoners in exchange for his freedom, you can almost believe that this whole hostage thing isn’t really even personal.

With the CIA having lost track of Saul under cover of darkness, Carrie is back in action at the embassy, confronting head of Pakistani intelligence Aasar Khan about the ISI’s connection to Saul’s disappearance. She slings accusations, prompting Khan to ask, “Are you alright? Do you always talk this fast?”

And ooooh, that sneaky snake knows exactly what he’s doing: planting a seed of doubt in Carrie’s mind, one which will send her immediately back to her apartment in order to take her poison pills.

With a belly full of whatever the ISI put into her medications, Carrie’s meltdown begins inauspiciously enough, at least if (like me) you expected her to come roaring out the door buck naked, speaking in tongues, and hallucinating that her colleagues have all turned into giant talking fruits. Instead of instant full-on crazy, she’s just keyed-up enough to aggressively call out the ISI for a convenient system crash that has wiped nearly all the footage of Saul pursuing Farad Ghazi at the airport, accuse them of losing evidence on purpose, and then demand that an airport employee open a briefcase which contains… his lunch. Whoops.

The most heartbreaking part is that Carrie knows something isn’t right. After a similar confrontation with her own people, she flees back to her apartment, where she faithfully swallows still more pills in the hopes of bringing herself back from the edge—and instead succeeds in pushing herself over it.

NEXT: Carrie sees red.

How much of what happens next is real? It’s impossible to tell: This is Carrie’s narrative, and the uneven lighting and jittery camerawork tell us that her perception is seriously skewed. Does Carrie really find Aayan Ibrahim’s friend Kiran at the hospital and aggressively confront her in the hopes of figuring out what illness Haqqani is suffering from? Is Carrie’s frantic, freaky interrogation really interrupted by Quinn, who gets headbutted in the face for his troubles as Carrie flees into the night? Does Carrie really pull a gun and shoot the two men who she suspects are following her? We know that the answer to that last question is “no”: The perspective shifts, and we see Carrie as the world sees her, raising not a loaded gun but her own extended thumb and forefinger.

Which is why, as we see Carrie arrested, straitjacketed, and imprisoned, it seems certain that we’re back on solid ground, and that what we’re seeing is really happening. And that’s also why it’s a wild surprise indeed when her captors deposit her inside a luxurious home, and spotting a shadowy figure descending toward the room, Carrie hides behind a door, tackles the stranger to the floor, and finds herself face to face with…

…wait for it…

…Brody.

(Minor tragedy: At this writing, nobody has yet superimposed Damian Lewis’ face over that American Horror Story gif of Emma Roberts saying, “Surprise, bitch! Bet you thought you’d seen the last of me!”)

Yep, that’s right: Everyone’s favorite ginger terrorist baby daddy is back, a fact which Carrie reacts to with the full and awe-inspiring strength of her magnificent lower lip. And again, it’s truly heartbreaking; again, the last remaining shred of Carrie’s rational mind knows that what she’s seeing isn’t real. But a girl can only resist so long before she falls head-first down the rabbit-hole into the mad world of desperate wish-fulfillment, and when Brody says to her, “Is it so hard to believe?”, Carrie goes the full Fox Mulder:

“I want to believe,” she sobs and flings herself into his arms.

But Carrie doesn’t just want to believe. She wants to confess; to fall down that rabbit-hole and speak aloud the terrible truth that lives at the bottom. She says, “I was willing to let you die.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. No one has died,” says Brody.

And if you noticed at this point that Damian Lewis’ diction had gotten a little bit strange, then you’re more observant than poor, drugged, delusional Carrie. Because as she curls up sobbing in her dead lover’s embrace, the camera pans out to show that the man holding her—the man now whispering, “Who’s Brody? Who’s Brody?”—isn’t Brody at all, but the awful, evil Aasar Khan. And of all the times we’ve seen Carrie Mathison in the arms of the enemy, this one is easily and by far the most disturbing.

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Homeland

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