Before Quinn nearly died of sarin gas, he wrote Carrie a letter. “Think of me as a light on the headlands,” it read, “a beacon steering you clear of the rocks.”
Turns out he was right — and prescient — about that. Quinn tracks the man in the apartment across the street and finds the pieces that lead to the episode’s horrific ending, but he’s too late (and too addled in the mind) to convince Carrie.
After all, Carrie thinks she’s won. Conlin couldn’t worm his way past her ultimatum, and Sekou’s released. She tells him that it’s all over (without telling him what she did) and that they can’t go after him again as long as he doesn’t go public about what happened. He chafes at the condition, but accepts — until he returns home and encounters friends at his surprise homecoming party who think he’s now an FBI informant in exchange for his freedom.
They have good reason to doubt him; Carrie and Reda haven’t told him the full story about how he miraculously won his freedom. Carrie says that it’s enough that they got Sekou out — as she puts it, “a win is a win” — but Reda argues that it looks suspicious not to file a civil suit to win compensation for Sekou and his family. Yet because Sekou himself doesn’t know how much is at stake, he releases another video to clear the air with his friends, this time saying that he’s no informant, but that he has more to say. While he films, Carrie leaves the party. She’s received another message summoning her to Keane, and Reda watches warily as she dashes away from the building.
Keane is anxious to talk to Carrie. Earlier in the day, she was ambushed by headlines saying that she’s been ignoring pressing reports about Iran’s parallel nuclear program. The source, of course, is Dar, who wants to force her into action, but Keane isn’t one to back down from a confrontation. Instead, before she ventured out to her daily press conference, Keane took a few minutes to ambush Dar right back. She accused him of undermining her agenda, informed him of her conversations with the POTUS, and put her foot down about the Iran issue. “What’s not wise is peddling unverified and politically motivated horse s— to the press,” she said, glaring at him. Dar apologized but looked on icily as she walked away.
Naturally, Keane (and Rob, as always) brings up Dar immediately when Carrie arrives. They no longer want to talk strategy about Iran; instead, they want to find a way to shut down Dar, to cut him out of the spy game entirely, to leverage him by any means.
Carrie’s shocked. It’s not just a big ask, she tells Keane; it’s illegal. Sharing any intel on Dar — any dirt, rather — would be against the contracts she signed when she left the CIA years ago. She could be taken to court if anyone discovers she’s the source, and, as we saw last week, Dar knows exactly what role Carrie’s playing in the PEOTUS’ understanding of the CIA. Plus, having been in black ops for decades, even Dar was her friend once in a while, having her back when no one else did.
It’s not the answer Keane was looking for, so she plays her final card. She tells Carrie that whistle-blowing could lead to major reforms in the CIA — reforms Carrie wants. “What is the use of being in power if you can’t correct things that are demonstrably bad for America and wrong for the world?” she asks. Carrie stays silent, not convinced that that’s enough to throw Dar (and Saul) under the bus.
Not that Dar helps his case with her. When Carrie goes to pick up Franny from school, he approaches to talk about her work with Keane — and gets in a dig about Carrie’s past with Brody at the same time, commenting on Franny’s red coif with a glib “striking hair” and a smirk. Annoyed, Carrie asks him to get a move on, so he does. “I know you’ve been meeting with her,” Dar says of Carrie and Keane. “I’m not Saul.” He outlines their history, saying that he knows she met Keane at Otto’s in Berlin, hit it off with the candidate, and now secretly advises her.
He warns Carrie that she’s in over her head. Three years outside of the agency is three years too long; the intelligence and the ways of the CIA can change dramatically from day to day, and Carrie is frozen in time, unaware of what exactly is going on. Miffed, Carrie argues that she’s not pretending to be a spy, that she knows exactly who she is and how much she can advise, and that Dar should be the one to stand down. He’s an old agent now and more vulnerable than ever because of it. Franny interrupts just as the conversation grows heated, and Carrie leaves without looking back. She’s perturbed by their talk, though — even Franny notices. “What’s wrong, Mommy?” she asks, concerned.
Carrie has another headache waiting at home, but this one’s much more urgent. During the day, Quinn carried out a recon mission of the apartment across the street, and he has plenty of evidence to back up his suspicions, even if he narrowly avoided being caught. After watching the suspect leave, he stumbled inside the building, clumsily picked the lock of the apartment until he made it inside, and investigated the room facing out to Carrie’s place. While the rest of the place looks messy but innocent, the smaller bedroom has clearly been arranged for surveillance: There’s a stool positioned in front of the window that’s been there for a long time, with indentations in the carpet showing how much it’s been used.
Quinn’s eager to share all of his findings with Carrie, but just as he starts speaking, Reda calls. Sekou’s video has gone online, and it outs Saad as the FBI informant who led to his arrest. Carrie leaves for Sekou’s right away, leaving Quinn behind.
NEXT: Better Stall, Saul
At Sekou’s, Carrie tries her hardest to make him take down the video, but the stubborn teen only responds with eye-rolls and annoyed sighs. She asks why he puts up ugly content — photos of fallen soldiers taken out by suicide bombers, for example — and he dismisses her concern, saying that it’s meant to be ugly. Putting up those photos isn’t illegal, and it’ll shock people and help them wake up.
Carrie watches as Sekou makes his case before gently telling him that she understands his anger over the way America has invaded parts of the world, but that she has also lost friends in that fight, and those images deeply offend her. “Good,” Sekou replies, whispering. Realizing there’s pain on both sides, Carrie forgives him for his hurtful perspective but tells him that he has to take the video down no matter what. It’s a red flag, she says, and reveals that she did illegal things to help him get out. Intrigued, Sekou wonders why a blonde white woman who isn’t even his lawyer went to great lengths to save him. “Because this whole country went super crazy after 9/11,” she answers, “and no one knows that better than I do.”
No one but Saul, who’s ventured into uncharted territory out of paranoia and uncertainty over the Iranian nuclear program. The taxi he took in the middle of the night veered off the road to an unmarked van into which Saul was thrown, and by the time his blindfold is taken off, he’s confused and alone in a compound. “What the f— is this,” he whispers to himself as he remains on his hands and knees. Finally, an old “friend” enters: Majid Javadi, the Iranian intelligence chief who masterminded the Langley bombing and became an asset way back in season 4.
Javadi isn’t happy with this covert meeting so close to the border, but he listens as Saul anxiously explains the situation with Nafisi — whom Javadi knows — and the man’s trips to North Korea. “You sound convinced already, so why are you here asking me?” Javadi wonders. Saul doesn’t relent, finally spilling the truth about why he’s so invested: He and Javadi helped start this deal three years ago, and he wants to save it if he can. Javadi doesn’t give him a straight answer about Iran’s dealings; instead, he points out that even if they’re not cheating the program, Americans still consider Iran the enemy, and Iranians will continue to think the same about Americans.
But still Saul presses on. He says the truth matters and that his job is to make the truth matter. He asks Javadi to find out more about Nafisi’s movements, and Javadi sighs as he gets called away. “Just when I thought my part in this play was written,” he says. “Don’t thank me yet. The news might not be so good.”
Despite the brief meeting, Saul seems pleased to have finally reached an asset he can trust. In the morning, he returns to his sister’s home and finds her awake and concerned about where he had gone. Though he tells her he had to go on a walk, she’s not fooled. “You went across,” she says, fuming as they have breakfast, knowing that Saul went to meet someone. “I suppose he was an Arab. Why do you always take their side?” Saul looks wounded by her assessment. “I don’t,” he says, but he can’t defend himself when she points out the fact that he used her as a cover to gain entry into the area. When she asks him to think about how hurt she feels, he apologizes.
It’s not enough — but when Etai, the Israeli ambassador Saul knew well from their work in Germany last season, arrives to greet and question Saul, Saul’s sister keeps his cover. The siblings hug — Saul thanks her quietly — before Saul heads inside Etai’s car. Though Etai had offered to drive him to the airport, he reveals that he’s actually taken Saul in for questioning. The Israeli intelligence already know of a covert meeting between a senior Iranian officer and someone else in the West Bank, and Etai’s sure that Saul was there. After all, who visits his sister for the first time in 12 years and stays only one night? “You f— with us,” Etai warns, “we f— with you.”
When Saul arrives in his holding cell, he tries to explain that if he knew for certain of Iran coming close to developing a nuclear weapon, he would definitely tell Etai. But Etai isn’t consoled: He points out that even if Israel received a warning, there’s no way they would be able to save the population. If there are already rumors of Iran having a weapon, then it’s already too late. “Just pray that it doesn’t happen here first, in a flash of light,” he says. He’s angry at Saul for tiptoeing around potential destruction, and Saul suffers the consequences of his caution.
And as it turns out, so does everyone in New York. Carrie considered Quinn to be alarmist, but when he heads out in the middle of the night on another mission, he discovers even more proof that something shady is going on with the man across the street. Grabbing Carrie’s car keys, he tails the man until he arrives at a side street filled with trucks for a company called “Medina Medley,” and there, he (miraculously) takes a series of clear photographs of the man walking in with a bag before a cop tells him to drive away. (Ugh, parking rules suck when it comes to spying.)
A few hours later, Sekou’s mother wakes him up for his first day of work. Reda had arranged a job for Sekou doing early morning deliveries, and Sekou’s mother offers him tea and tells him how pleased she is to have him home. Sekou smiles, before heading to his job at…
Medina Medley. (Oh no.) There, he greets his friends again, who praise him for exposing Saad and then chide him for taking down the video. Sekou maintains that the video still did plenty for them when it was online — now everyone knows Saad’s identity — and that he only took it down to avoid going back to prison. “You gotta choose your battles,” he says, reaching a truce with the other guys.
At Carrie’s, Quinn talks to her about his trip to Long Island City in the middle of the night, but she’s not convinced he saw anything out of the ordinary. (Oh noooo.) Just then, Sekou drives across the bridge into Manhattan and looks over his list of deliveries. (No no noooo.) He turns on the radio and pauses at a red light. He hears beeping. (NO.) He turns and — a flash of light.
“You’re needed back home,” Etai tells Saul thousands of miles away, shortly afterward. “There’s been an attack in New York.” The hour ends with a birds’-eye view of that attack, a cloud of black smoke rising over the towers and streets, with panic and fear precipitating back in, seeping across the city where it all began.
So, there we have it: The true beginning of this season. It’s clear what happened as far as the bomb goes: If we follow the idea of Occam’s razor, then the man Quinn tailed across the street planted that bomb inside Sekou’s truck, and that man knew to target Sekou after following Carrie’s actions and work.
Tracing any of this further back will be the challenge — for those of use who like to theorize, and for Homeland itself. There are several suspects: Assuming Dar and Tova want America to act against Iran, then they’d have to make something happen before the Carrie-advised Keane enters the office, and that something could be an attack. But would Dar go that far to convince Keane that an old spy is necessary? Would Tova? There’s Keane herself, who did, in her first briefing with Dar and Saul, want to talk about lethal programs right off the bat. She wants the war to be over; she lost her son abroad. Could this possibly have something to do with an urge to bring the fight back home to homegrown terrorism? Is Carrie’s secret advising about to come out? Was Dar trying to protect her, not threaten her? And then there’s Reda, who according to Sekou got him the job at Medina Medley. Is there a thread to pull there with him? Is the good professor really just a good cover?
I’m leaning toward the first explanation, but it remains to be seen what exactly happened — and, more importantly, why it would make sense for whoever the culprit may be to attack New York again and take the life of an innocent (albeit radical) teenager. Only one thing’s for certain: Quinn was right all along.