Carrie was right to fear a trip to Beirut, but not for the reasons she thought.
Credit: Stephan Rabold/Showtime
Episode 601
S5 E2
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M-A-T-H-I-S-O-N. Those eight capital letters Quinn scrawls at the end of the episode, spelling out his next target, make quite the gut-punch. Carrie has faced plenty of danger before, but putting her in Quinn’s crosshairs (I’m assuming “Mathison” isn’t referring to Maggie or Frannie, of course) is a twist that’s particularly wrenching given how far she’s come in two years.

Deep down, Carrie Mathison wants to be back in danger, but she knows it’s not right to be. We see that mix of trepidation and anticipation cross her face in the opening minutes as she arrives at the Lebanese/Syrian border, gazing outside as the Foundation team approaches General Alladia Refugee Camp. Just look at her: She’s excited, but she’s worried. She wants to reenter the game; she wants to be home with Frannie. She’s eager to dive into the action at a city in which she used to operate; she’s looking forward to this trip being over because this city’s full of ghosts from her agency days.

Inside the camp, Carrie and her trusty messenger bag follow the Foundation’s men — Philip, who handles foreign aid, and Mike, who’s been there before with Angelina Jolie, per Homeland-land — to meet the UN colonel who advises them not to leave the tiny area in which they’re safe. Carrie learns that it’s not safe for Otto, it’s not safe for her, and it’s not safe for the dozens of journalists they’ve brought with them to see Otto’s Big Beirut Adventure.

Good (?) thing she’s secured a meeting with the Hezbollah commander. Carrie is taken to by a silent envoy to the commander, but not even he can guarantee more than an hour of protection. Carrie offers $40,000 to him, effectively making a deal she had just told the UN colonel was simply a conversation. It’s worth noting that during this pay-to-play “conversation,” Carrie looks more assured than ever, despite the commander’s upper hand. It’s like she had never left the agency.

Then again, Carrie knows Beirut. At the Commodore Hotel — where we’ve been before, back in season 2, when Carrie donned a brown wig and smiled — she runs into Hank, a ghost colleague she knew back at the CIA, and one we met last season working with Carrie-as-Drone Queen. He greets her warmly before revealing his suspicions about what she’s doing in the city. Carrie looks affronted, but Hank is speaking from experience: After all, Carrie and Saul worked together and pulled the rug out from not only the agency, but the viewers, with Majid Javadi. Classic Trojan Horse, indeed. Even so, Carrie says nothing’s happening in Beirut with Otto or with Hezbollah that the agency need know about and besides, she doesn’t want to be seen as helping the agency… and by extension — given the sour look on Hank’s face — her homeland. Oof. Tough call there, Carrie: Either you betray your boss or you betray your country. (Damn you, patriotism!)

Later, Carrie heads to Otto’s white wine-drenched, oddly relaxed party (seriously, Otto, just because you’re a billionaire philanthropist doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let your head of security look over the guest list), and, while sipping water (she’s been sober nine months, she tells Otto), reflects on her struggle to leave her past behind her. Because Homeland doesn’t include a singing and dancing warthog and meerkat to help her move past her demons, Carrie ends up spilling her memories to her boss, who acts like he understands while getting shaken up by what sounds like gunfire in the distance. But Carrie doesn’t seem to mind them; she remembers Beirut, her first overseas posting as an agent, as a city in which she dealt with truck bombs, assassinations, and hostage takings, and all of that just made it “a big adventure,” she explains.

But with all her reminiscing, she still can’t put her family out of her mind. Unlike the Carrie of two years ago, she checks in on Frannie and Jonas, assuring them she’ll be home once Otto’s Big Beirut Adventure ends. She thanks Jonas for looking after Frannie in her absence: “No, seriously, I’ve never had that before.” (Somewhere, Maggie Mathison’s skin just started crawling.) Carrie reassures him she’s well-protected, too. “I’m hiding behind a team of hunky ex-special forces guys,” she says. (Hmm… I can think of a hunky ex-special forces guy hanging out back in Berlin…)

The next day, Otto’s campaign has started, but only after he begrudgingly accepted the one-hour rule — Otto would really rather stay and do his business with the folks he knows there — and he’s speechifying to the crowd of photographers, journalists, and refugees about bringing in more food and resources to the area. Carrie’s not really listening; she’s watching the crowd, brows furrowed. When the hour hits, Otto wants 10 more minutes, because screw the war zone, he’s having a ball. Another tough call there, Carrie: Either you follow your instincts or your boss’ orders. (Damn you and your deep pockets, Otto Düring!)

Carrie ends up giving him some more time, but it’s a reckless move, and she knows it. When she finally manages to get Otto going to their vehicle, she and Mike notice a suspicious man approaching, and at the last second, Mike stops him in his tracks before he can bomb the street. The team manages to escape, but on their way back, things don’t feel right. Carrie is in agent mode now, and she commands their driver stop when she notices the streets are empty. Something’s about to go wrong. The guilty driver bolts. And then BOOM:

(Director Lesli Linka Glatter, ladies and gentlemen.)

NEXT: What’s German for “clusterf—“?

Before the dust has even settled, Carrie has taken the front seat and driven Otto to the airport, where she makes one more call: She’ll stay behind in Beirut to figure out what exactly went on. The attack had been premeditated, she explains, and Otto reluctantly lets her go. Carrie seemed confident in her choice, until we see her in the next scene holding back tears (and that cryface) as she leans over a sink. “Oh please, please,” she sobs. “God help me.”

She’ll need more than a deity to help her now. When she returns to the hotel, the Hezbollah envoy she met earlier to take her to the commander is waiting inside her room — not to harm her, but to warn her. The Hezbollah commander had captured the runaway driver and tortured him until he revealed that his target wasn’t Otto; it was “the CIA woman.” So… is it too late to recall Otto’s jet?

Back in Berlin, Laura, after publishing the damning document exposing illegal surveillance by the BND, the German intelligence agency, through the CIA, has become an overnight whistleblowin’ star. The leather-jacket-donning Snowden wannabe is on TV, being introduced as “the dissident American journalist.” And she’s dissenting all right, using her air time to both boast that she knows the document is verified, that she knows the BND is probably searching her apartment (she even mentions a cat to throw them off), and that Germany’s surveillance of its citizens is outrageous and intolerable and yada yada yada.

Saul and Allison watch back at the CIA Berlin Station, where Allison cements her position as the show’s deliverer of killer one-liners, summing up Laura’s crusade by saying, “Talk about a clusterf—.” A similar term in German is likely passing through Astrid’s head in Laura’s apartment. The BND officer who met with Saul and Allison in the restaurant last episode (and, I forgot to mention last week, was once Quinn’s lover, per actress Nina Hoss’ appearance last season) watches Laura on Laura’s own TV. Her frown deepens as Laura waxes poetic on how surveillance tears societies apart, so she requests to have the idealistic journalist brought in.

In Club King George, Not Adam Goldberg Numan and Not Dane Dehaan (I have to stick with this nickname because actor Sven Schelker still hasn’t been given a character name, as far as I can tell) watch Laura as well. She baits them, expressing how honored she is to be the journalist they reached out to, and that she’ll continue to trust them. At this, Numan wants to bring Laura more documents, and even though Not Dane Dehaan thinks it’s dangerous to expose themselves as the pranksters-turned-hacktivists behind the first document’s release, Numan leaves to catch Laura at the TV station. Not Dane Dehaan scoffs, thinking Laura just wants to get rich off of their not-so-hard work, but Numan has a point: They’re they ones making money off of sex in the back of a seedy club, so who’s the bad guy now? Either way, they fail to reach Laura. Just as Numan is approaching the TV station and makes eye contact with her, a black van suddenly approaches and takes Laura away.

Yet, even with all the theatrics of getting Laura to the BND, Astrid’s meeting with her goes nowhere. Astrid argues that Germany’s state secrets have been exposed and that the document forces the country to release terrorists they had captured based on surveillance records; Laura argues that the BND is using the threat of terrorism as an excuse. “That woman,” Allison comments while again watching Laura on the monitor. “She’ll let the country burn as long as she got a Pulitzer Prize.” Laura gets away eventually: Jonas arrives later to spew German rage at Astrid as he ushers Laura out, reminding the BND they have no right to hold an American citizen.

NEXT: And then the CIA gets bad news as well.

Saul, having just met with BND chiefs, tells Allison the German chancellor is “on the warpath.” (If the chancellor is Angela Merkel in Homeland-land, I imagine it went something like this.) They want to punish the CIA for the breach and to do so, they’ve asked the agency to remove an authority figure: Allison. She’s livid at the news, and Saul says there was nothing he could do. Allison thinks otherwise, and plays her trump card, initiating this epic exchange between the two:

Allison: “If I were Carrie Mathison, what would you be doing right now?”

Saul: “Excuse me?”

Allison: “You heard me.”

Saul: “Exactly what I am doing.”

Allison: “Bulls—. The gloves would be off, you’d be protecting her at all costs, no matter what she did, no matter how royally she screwed up.”

Saul: “I wouldn’t be—”

Allison: “Well guess what, she’s gone, Saul, so start showing some f—ing allegiance to the people who stuck around to support you.”

And in those couple of seconds, Saul got placed in Carrie’s shoes, as someone whose loyalties will always be questioned. Allison, though, isn’t done. The document broke the cover of two of her assets in Eastern Europe, and she believes she has to stay in Berlin because she’s the only one who can handle the region. She calls up Dar Adal and throws Saul under the bus. (Who’s showing allegiance now, Allison?) With a glass of brown liquor in front of her, Allison’s fearless as she appeals to Dar Adal’s own shady understandings of loyalty: “Be honest, who would you rather have on the ground here? Him or me?” Dar Adal looks like he’s considering it, but Saul needs to stay in Berlin, because of his dealings with…

Quinn, who’s on that mission he began at the end of the premiere. He watches and follows Fatima, the woman who recruits vulnerable children into becoming sacrificial lambs for her cause. He watches her work her magic with a young girl named Ayla, whose damaging home life led her straight into Fatima’s recruiting arms. When Ayla leaves, Quinn follows Fatima until foot traffic blocks his way. No matter — he later finds her again, talking to a group of girls she had recruited. He listens in on their plan unnoticed and goes equally unnoticed when he drives behind them and watches Fatima drop off her recruits to another man at a gas station. Fatima changes, and by the time she’s back outside, Quinn has reported her actions, prepped his gun, and slinks behind her. He gets her attention and shoots her in the head. Congratulations, Quinn, that’s one down and a possibly endless number of targets to come.

Or not. When Quinn goes to the post office to drop off his photographic evidence of Fatima’s death and to pick up his next assignment, his eyes widen as he figures out the coded message left for him. He writes down each letter, until they spell out a name: Mathison. Oh.

This begs the question, or rather, several questions: Did Saul put Carrie’s name in there, and why? Is someone else privy to the post office setup Quinn and Saul have going? If Carrie’s already a target out in Lebanon, are there multiple parties going after her same perfectly coiffed head? And why would the Hezbollah go out of their way to warn her, if not to make themselves seem innocent of the bombing? And why now, two years after Carrie made what she believed to be a clean break from the CIA?

There are, as with last week’s premiere, a dozen or so threads to follow. But if the season is going to boil down to having Carrie be in Quinn’s (and others’) crosshairs, I’m not sure I’m fully grasping why the Snowden-esque whistle-blowing plot is involved just yet. Laura is an intriguing character, sure, but she’s also a grating one, as loud, crusading journalists aren’t exactly easy to watch. With her as the face of that thread, the whole Berlin plot could fizzle without a Mathison in the picture.

Luckily, there’s an underlying theme throughout these two opening episodes that’s been electrifying the show so far, and that’s the question of loyalty. Is Carrie loyal to her homeland, even though she says she’s no longer to the CIA? Is Saul ever going to be free of his past with his reckless former protégé? Is Laura actually doing this for the German citizens or for, as Allison points out, a Pulitzer Prize? Is Allison prepared to be indebted to Dar Adal? And most importantly, will Quinn go through with his latest order? Whatever happens, we know one thing for sure: Carrie, at the very least, will never ever betray her trust in that messenger bag of hers.

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Episode 601
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