Homeland recap: 'The Covenant'
Paranoia drives everyone in Homeland‘s spy game this season. It courses through Carrie’s veins as she listens to Keane talk about Saul finding evidence “conclusive,” blinds Conlin from seeing that Sekou isn’t a threat at all, makes Saul dwell on a discarded cigarette pack, Dar trust only his “old friends,” and Quinn obsess over every shadow he sees and squeak he hears. At one point in tonight’s episode, Saul wonders if his sister feels bothered by the frequent gunshots outside her home. “I don’t hear them,” she says. “It never bothers me anymore.”
But Saul does and will always hear gunshots. When he arrives in Abu Dhabi, he’s cowering in the back seat of his cab, instructing the driver to lose the suspicious-looking town car behind them. Though his guess turns out to be correct — the car follows them down every alley — Saul starts his latest operation tightly wound, always looking over his shoulder.
Finally, he’s taken to the operation coordinated by Tova, Dar’s Israeli contact. Nafisi, the man they want to interrogate about the possible parallel nuclear program between Iran and North Korea, arrives and quickly gets captured and dragged into the interrogation room with Saul. Saul outlines why they’re there, saying that Nafisi’s actions have raised flags: He’s barely attended the financial conference he’s apparently there for, and he has a connection to the Iranian nuclear arms deal. Saul leaves Nafisi alone to catch his breath and ruminate over his defense, and takes some time to chat with Tova. She warns Saul that everyone knows he supports a deal with Iran, so he needs to be sure not to let that drive his interview.
Saul assures her he’s not there to push his own interests. Back in the room with Nafisi, he looks over the man’s money movements, noting that he recently and quietly moved $120 million in the UAE. “Friends don’t sponsor terrorism,” Saul points out. “What’s the money for?” Nafisi has an answer ready, saying that the money’s for a delivery of Russian anti-aircraft batteries, ones provided from Putin.
This wasn’t what Saul was looking for, of course, so he goes straight to the point and asks Nafisi about nuclear weapons and North Korea. But Nafisi just laughs and calls the allegation “fantasy,” saying he never met with North Korean officials; his recent flight itinerary is the result of a meeting with the Kremlin and a fuel stop, nothing more. Saul tries to trip Nafisi up, asking about the specs on the anti-aircraft devices, and Nafisi answers them all breezily. Tova watches, unhappy with this non-confession. She’s right to be frustrated; Nafisi ends his relatively easygoing interview by walking free with a (non-)threat from Saul that they have the photographs of Nafisi’s, well, personal business in Abu Dhabi. Nafisi doesn’t bat an eyelash. “Iran doesn’t want a nuclear weapon,” he says. “It never did.” In other words, he’s saying that everything Saul worked for on the deal is ultimately pointless.
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But Saul’s not finished. When Tova comes in to chide him for letting Nafisi walk away, Saul says he actually agrees with her point that those funds were from a covert account and should be taken more seriously, but that all he can do now is relay the intel to Dar. Which he does — but Dar’s unhappy with Saul’s complicated findings. Dar just wants confirmation of the parallel nuclear plan, but Saul warns that they’ve been devastatingly wrong before about something like this (e.g., the WMDs after 9/11). Saul only gets more rattled when he heads back inside and finds a cigarette pack in the trash that he had seen Nafisi take with him. What could this mean? Did Nafisi drop it as a clue? Did he plant it for someone else to find? Does everyone just smoke the same cigarettes?
Whatever the case may be, Saul’s suddenly convinced to stay a little longer on foreign soil. He reports to Dar that he wants to visit his sister in the West Bank — it’s been a while, and he’s already in the neighborhood. Dar accepts Saul’s detour and says that he’ll give Keane the update that they need more time to gather more intel on this alleged parallel plan. Saul agrees to the plan.
Dar, though, doesn’t do that at all. Instead, in his briefing with Keane, he says that Saul called the evidence of a parallel program between Iran and North Korea “conclusive.” Keane bristles at the news. “Motherf—ers,” she curses before asking Dar for his advice. Dar says he can’t recommend policy unless asked, and Keane quips that he can probably already guess how she’ll feel about any advice he does give. Here, Dar makes a rare misstep: He quips right back that as an old spy, he trusts old friends more than he does new ones — a thinly veiled remark about how much he trusts the incoming POTUS. But Keane presses on, smiling thinly and saying she’ll keep him on board for now. “As you wish,” Dar says in response.
Keane knows better than to shake up the CIA before she’s even sworn in, but at this point, it may be a self-destructive idea to keep Dar around. Later, when she meets with Carrie in a favorite restaurant, he listens in on their conversation about his report. As expected, Carrie’s not convinced Saul was so confident in the evidence of a parallel program that he’d call it “conclusive.” She warns that that’s just spy-speak to throw officials off the scent of a case that might be more complicated than it seems. She advises Keane to talk to the current POTUS so she can continue to be a part of the talks.
NEXT: Carrie, Carrie, Quite Contrary
Before that dinner with Keane, Carrie had a busy day dealing with the consequences of her meeting with Saad. After checking in on Quinn in the morning — and rejecting his misguided advances when she hugs him to bring him back from a nightmare about sarin gas — Carrie’s summoned to the office, where Reda scolds her for taking Sekou’s case into her own hands. Now that Conlin knows that she spoke with Saad against court orders, the plea deal of seven years in prison has been withdrawn. Sekou, again, is looking at 15 years in prison. Carrie tries to defend herself, saying that Saad’s admission of the FBI’s hand in Sekou’s wrongful incarceration should be enough. Without any credible witnesses, however, there’s nothing more Reda and Carrie can do.
Except apologize, of course. So, Carrie visits Sekou and confesses that she’s the one who’s forced them to go to trial, which Reda had advised against. Without a chance to win freedom again, Sekou grows angry. “You’re sorry?” he shouts at Carrie. “I could be 40 years old before I get out of here… How could you do this to me?” Well, Sekou, you know what they say about best laid plans…
Luckily, Carrie still has a card left up her sleeve — albeit another illegal, dangerous card. She visits an old contact of hers from her Baghdad days and asks him to give her a recording of a conversation between Conlin and Saad. Her contact, Roger, refuses at first, saying that even if there were a recording, he’d lose his job if he gave it to her.
The next day, though, Roger pulls through (Carrie really can pick ’em) and delivers the recording hidden in a note with a bouquet of flowers. Carrie immediately takes the evidence to Conlin and gives him an ultimatum: Either Conlin drops all charges, or she releases this tape proving that the FBI has been fabricating evidence and obstructing justice in order to arrest people for crimes they have not yet committed and may never commit. Conlin tries to fight back, but Carrie holds her ground and even smiles as she strides out of her office.
Saul could use some similar success. After warmly greeting his sister and sitting with her to look over family photos, he starts to lament their fractured relationship. The ensuing conversation gives us the clearest picture of Saul’s early life yet. When they were children, it turns out, they used to be so close, living in rural Indiana as one of few Jewish families in the area. When his sister grew up and met her husband, she adopted his fanatical views and moved abroad, faithful to the idea of holding on to holy ground that, Saul says, will never allow for peace in the region. He calls it a “covenant with God” that’s a form of insanity.
Naturally, she grows angry at his accusations. She says that she has so much: a family, a community, a life with faith and purpose, and then twists the knife by saying Saul has nothing. He no longer has a wife, for one thing, and she guesses that he’s lacking a lot more than that.
Saul doesn’t respond, but later that night, he leaves her home. While staring down at the crumpled cigarette box, he receives a text and departs for a car waiting a short walk away. He’s told to stay down and hidden out of sight as they leave — but for where? And for whom?
That’s one mystery Homeland will have to unravel later on, along with what Quinn’s after. Alone without a babysitter for the day, Quinn becomes hyperaware of every sight and sound around him, and when he hears noises above him, he grabs a knife — Carrie, you left Quinn with a set of knives?! — and waits at the basement door. He doesn’t confront whoever or whatever he thinks is out there and instead listens before heading back downstairs to peer at the people outside. He notices a man walking into the brownstone across the street and watches as he enters a room upstairs.
Quinn decides he needs a weapon and devises a way to obtain a gun. He calls the woman who’d driven him away from the VA hospital back in the premiere and demands she lead him to Tommy, the man who had hit him in the head and stolen his money that day at the brothel. He heads inside and, grinning, timidly accepts a deal to pay $2,000 for Tommy’s gun and for a hit of whatever Tommy’s smoking. When Tommy hands him a joint, Quinn quickly knocks him out, takes his gun, and says that they’re even.
That night, after Carrie returns home from her dinner, Quinn lurks outside the basement door and watches as she walks up her stairs and goes safely inside. He peers over at the man in the brownstone across the street he was watching earlier and holds his gun ready. Quinn senses something is wrong — but could his impaired senses be betraying him instead of helping him?
Nothing is, as Dar says Saul says, “conclusive” — and that idea leaves this episode feeling like it’s just hanging in limbo. Because everyone’s in limbo, it seems: Even though Carrie made a bold move in trapping Conlin, she’s now painted a target on her back. Even though there’s finally some form of detente between Carrie and Quinn, Quinn’s still not capable of understanding cues and has made an enemy of Tommy, though I doubt we’ll see him again anytime soon. And as entertaining as it is to see Saul play the game abroad, it’s unclear what any of it is for. Are we about to see Saul embark on a solo mission against Dar? Is he following some message that we don’t understand just yet? In the end, it’s clear the enemy isn’t anyone like Sekou; instead, it’s the doubt that fuels assumptions and causes mistakes and encourages potentially un-American actions. And removing doubt, when it comes to both Homeland and to real life, is never as simple as it seems.