Homeland recap: 'The Man in the Basement'
If they gave awards for Worst TV Houseguest, Peter Quinn would be in the running.
It’s not his fault; the former super-spy doesn’t even remember exactly what happened to him, and he’s constantly grasping at straws, at anything that makes his world look a little less blurry and feel a little more sane. But he’s really driving Carrie up her wallpaper-less wall: He’s locked the door to the basement in which he’s staying and cranked up the volume on a radio blaring extremist views, and he throws a coffee mug through the window when Carrie tries to enter from outside to deliver a stern talking-to and a bottle of pills he needs for his seizures.
Upstairs, with Franny off to school, Carrie calls Max (but where’s Virgil?) for help babysitting Quinn. She warns him that Quinn’s been acting up, but Max assures her things will be okay. And at first, they are. Quinn pokes his head out of the basement as soon as Carrie’s gone and calmly asks for canned food. When Max brings an assortment of soups and sauces back, the two talk about how Quinn should shower, but Quinn concludes that he’d only get dirty again if he did. (If you think about it, that’s a pretty good metaphor for Homeland‘s take on homeland security, but… um, moving on.) Max tries getting an answer out of Quinn about his nasty behavior toward Carrie: “You’re in Carrie’s house, you said you wanted to live here, and she said, ‘Okay,’ so why are you giving her such a hard time?” he wonders. Quinn doesn’t answer — he just sinks back into his bed and listens to the radio again.
But while Quinn can at least lock his doors and throw a tantrum, Sekou can’t do the same. Carrie and Reda (the small-potatoes professor, remember?) visit again, this time asking him about the cash and Conlin’s intel that Sekou wants to take the money to a foreign terrorist organization in Nigeria. Sekou bristles at the accusation and says the money was for the trip, not for some nefarious group. But when Reda presses for more answers, Sekou finally gives in, writing down the name of his friend and videographer: Saad, who Sekou says wanted him to meet with some man before going to Africa and then gave him the money anyway after Sekou said no.
Carrie seems surprised at his answer and decides she and Reda should talk to Sekou’s sister and mother about this odd friend of his. The mother knows nothing, but the sister, Simone, runs after them to admit that she knows Saad; they had quietly dated for a while.
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With Simone’s connection established, Carrie convinces the girl to give her a photo of Saad and sends the image to Max, who works on finding a match. As he gets going, Carrie gets a visit from — gasp! — Saul, who at first greets her warmly before pivoting to talking about the President-Elect’s interest in covert action programs. He bluntly wonders about their connection, saying that he hears a lot of Carrie’s voice behind the PEOTUS’ thoughts, and considering how Keane knows Otto During, maybe there’s a connection between his former protege and the incoming Commander-in-Chief?
Carrie just laughs. “Really,” she says. “I’m not advising the president-elect.” When Saul scoffs, she uses their last conversation against him. “This is all I do now, right here. The new paradigm we talked about, this is it,” she says, shrugging. “You worry about the fate of the world. I’ve got more important things to do.” Looking convinced but stubborn as ever, Saul offers one last thinly veiled warning: “It’d be a huge embarrassment to everyone if it got out that you’re a secret adviser,” he says. Annoyed, Carrie retaliates: “You know why I left, Saul? It’s the bulls—, you coming all the way out here to say what you said just now.” She asks him to leave, and he does, because at this point, they can’t even agree to disagree.
NEXT: Who is Saad?
Carrie doesn’t get a chance to stew over her heated exchange with Saul. Max calls with an update on Saad and offers a whopping amount of eyebrow-raising info: Saad isn’t Saad, he’s Tyrone Banks, Jr., a member of Pittsburgh’s Steel City Gang who was actually an FBI informant who landed his fellow members in federal prison on drug charges. So if Saad’s an FBI informant, then that means… what, exactly?
For one thing, Conlin’s about to get an earful from Carrie — and he does as soon as she gets the chance. Carrie and Reda set up a hearing to try and get Saad on the stand, but while Reda argues the case, Carrie chases down Conlin and confronts him for planting Saad to make Sekou look like he’s aiding a terrorist organization. “This was just another Muslim kid you entrapped,” she says, to which Conlin replies, “‘Entrapped?’ Are you kidding?” (I agree, Conlin — you can just say “trapped,” Carrie. It’s like when people say “amongst” instead of “among.” Anyway, back to the story!) Conlin says he won’t put Saad on the stand unless Sekou does too, and Carrie has to admit defeat when Reda arrives to report that Saad is completely off-limits, and that if they try to contact him, they’ll be in contempt of court. The only good news they got out of all that was the fact that Sekou’s sentence has been trimmed to, well, seven years. Did I say “good news”? I meant “news that’ll piss Carrie off so much she’s going to try to fix it no matter what.”
Dar Adal, meanwhile, has a headache of his own to deal with. Arriving at a restaurant to meet with Rob Hemmis, Keane’s Chief of Staff, Dar puts on an air of importance, saying that he’s not there to impress Rob. This restaurant, after all, was the one he was in when the towers came down — and Dar effectively uses his 9/11 story (one we’ll later learn is fake) to appeal to Rob about Keane’s views on the Iranian nuclear deal. Dar tells Rob that the Iranians are cheating the deal and pursuing a parallel nuclear program outside of the country, as an Iranian suspect just got back from North Korea with engineers and scientists in tow.
Rob is incredulous: “Is that it?” he asks dismissively, to Dar’s chagrin. Dar says that the CIA will pick up the man in question and interrogate him, but Rob says this will only provoke a crisis with Iran. Finally, Dar lets it go, telling Rob that it’s the PEOTUS’ call on how the agency should proceed. Oof. She already has to help the country avoid war, and she’s not even president yet!
Speaking of provoking a crisis, Quinn
escapes leaves Carrie’s home and heads to a bodega, where his symptoms only get worse. As he tries to grab cans of beer, his vision blurs, his ears start ringing, and he can barely say the word “wipes.” By the time he notices Max tailing him and tells him to pay for his booze, Quinn begins to collapse and winds up having a seizure on the floor.
When the paramedics arrive, Quinn insists on being taken home instead of going back to the hospital. He’s better — but not by much, and though Max tries to convince him to get proper help, Quinn fights back, asking him not to tell Carrie, even though it’s clear he’s not okay.
Max will have to wait a while to even try to relay the news to our heroine. Done with her day job, Carrie hops into a black van that takes her to a building with tight security, and — another gasp! — straight to President-Elect Keane, waiting with Rob inside the 1600 suite. Keane embraces Carrie warmly, warning that “it’s about to get real now, not just campaign talk.” So Saul was right: Carrie has been advising Keane all along, and now Carrie will be in the thick of it all.
NEXT: Carrie makes a suggestion
Rob briefs Carrie about Dar’s intel on Iran’s parallel nuclear program with North Korea, and the CIA’s request for the PEOTUS to decide whether they should pick up a suspect in Abu Dhabi and interrogate him. Thinking this through, Carrie says that this type of CIA operation is tricky and should be avoided, but in this case, because the accusation involves nuclear arms, it’s too serious to ignore.
Instead, she tells Keane that the best approach is to have someone trustworthy from the U.S. on the ground in Abu Dhabi. Obviously, Keane and Rob’s first choice is Carrie, but Carrie quickly plays the “don’t make me sing” card, saying she really would rather not be involved (while clearly loving the nomination) and suggesting Saul instead. Keane and Rob aren’t so sure about Saul — they call him “the enemy” — but Carrie talks them down. After all, Saul had worked on the nuclear arrangements from the very beginning; he has the best knowledge of the entire deal.
Yet even Saul’s not sure he’s the right man for the job. Dar meets with him after looking at photos of Carrie entering Keane’s, and when he passes along the PEOTUS’ request for Saul to travel abroad, the CIA veteran hesitates. Still, Saul defends Carrie, even when Dar starts to talk about Carrie’s involvement. Saul was convinced after meeting with Carrie earlier, but Dar, with the cards literally in his hands, dismisses his trust. “She’s a menace, Carrie is,” he says, without showing Saul the proof.
But if Saul’s in trouble, Carrie is, too. In the projects, Carrie sets up a meeting with Saad through Simone and manages to make Saad reveal exactly what happened between him and Sekou. Even though he tries to leave, Saad finally admits it: Conlin found him in Pittsburgh after learning he was half-Pakistani, recruited him for “important work” in New York, and asked him to make Sekou take the $5,000, even if Sekou had nothing to do with terrorists abroad. Yet Saad still refuses to help protect Sekou, and when Simone pushes him away, Saad warns both women that they “f—ed up” by going this far. Hmm… sounds like Sekou’s case is just the beginning of whatever Conlin & Co. is cooking up.
At home, Carrie checks on Franny, who’s sleeping soundly. She feels guilty for missing her daughter all day, and when she returns downstairs to talk to Max, she starts feeling even worse. See, Max finally delivers the bad news: the seizure at the bodega, and the fact that Quinn wants to keep that from her. Carrie calls it a big deal, but Max shuts her down. “Not really [a big deal], not if you think about everything he’s been through,” Max says. “He’s not happy, Carrie… I mean, he’s really not. And he’s got this strange thing about you which is not helping.” Carrie starts tearing up as she hears that she’s part of the problem.
So, after Max leaves, Carrie heads downstairs to see Quinn. There are no flying coffee mugs this time — he’s all out of energy for that. But he does make an odd request: He wants to see the video of himself being tortured with sarin gas. Carrie’s surprised to hear he’s never seen it — it made the rounds on the internet — and tries to discourage him from watching it now. Gently, he tells her to just play the video, and to leave it at that.
So she does. And in a beautiful, painful final scene, the two watch as the old Quinn suffers the effects of sarin gas. The new Quinn’s reaction is haunting: He just stares at the footage, while Carrie narrates. She says she must have watched it a hundred times while trying to find him, and she finally did after looking at the floor tile patterns. When she tells him he actually flatlined on the way to the hospital for a full three minutes, Quinn finally snaps out of his reverie and looks up at her. “You saved me,” he says. “Why?”
Oh, Quinn. Carrie doesn’t have an answer — not one she can put into words, anyway. She cries, finally letting go of some of pain she’s been holding in for months. “Why?” she asks him right back, before apologizing for breaking down. She places her hand on his chest and then leaves without one more word as Quinn watches carefully, widening his eyes and struggling to understand. At the top of the stairs, Carrie lets out a long sigh, wipes away her tears, and turns out the lights.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting for this scene. We’re only two episodes into the season, but it felt as if all of the characters have been holding their breaths, unsure of where everyone stood. Here was a bit of a release for both Carrie and Quinn — and earlier, for Carrie and Saul — and I’m glad to see Homeland take a step back to focus on the intimate dynamics between its characters before it moves on to telling the story of the season. As much as I’m sure that Sekou’s case and the Iranian nuclear program will add tension to the drama, I’m wary of those macro stories. So far, they seem like overly complicated distractions, and if we don’t see more action soon (Carrie bantering with Conlin doesn’t count) I’m going to start feeling as entrapped as Sekou does, stuck inside a plot with too many strangers fighting over the outcome. For now, though, this hour did right by Carrie, Quinn, and Saul. We’ll see if the next will do the same for Dar Adal, Keane, and Sekou.