Homeland recap: 'The Return'
The Homeland conspiracy has always been larger than it seemed. With Astrid (and therefore German intelligence) back in the picture and Saul’s dealings with the Russian SVR, the midtown bombing appears to have been masterminded by someone truly hoping to shake things up.
That someone turns out to be a nameless corporation straight from a Black Mirror episode. In fact, so much of this hour felt like Homeland crossed with a dystopian drama of some sort. It begins with a blinding light that fades in on Carrie waiting hours to see Quinn, only to be told she’s wasted her time because he’s been moved to Bellevue, the mental hospital that’ll keep him isolated for at least 72 hours.
Keane is just as annoyed. In her compound, she watches as
Charles Widmore President Morse holds a press conference encouraging more action against terrorism, including additional measures to the Patriot Act. Sure, she has a TV now, but all she wants is to have her chief of staff with her and to be back in the action in New York. Later, when she returns from a jog, she snoops around in the coats hanging on the rack, hoping to find a phone she can use to contact the outside world, but Marjorie walks in — and becomes her ticket out of the compound.
Hidden in Marjorie’s truck, Keane manages to make it out just as Rob is finally allowed in, going through a ridiculously tedious security process to do so. And though the Secret Service finds Keane easily, she convinces Marjorie to help her make it all the way to New York, and the two women trade stories about the sons they lost in the war. Marjorie never voted for Keane, she explains, because Keane backed away from the war after voting for it. Keane defends herself, trying to change Marjorie’s mind, by saying that she realized it was a wrong move, as the war happened because of false and misleading reasons. Marjorie says it’s the opposite, that her son Andrew believed in the war, and that it wasn’t false at all. She encourages Keane to talk more about her son — and Keane looks thoughtful as she listens.
While the two women may agree to disagree, Carrie and Conlin fight again over Sekou, but even though Conlin would rather dismiss the photos Quinn took, he’s unsure of whether their theory that Sekou acted on his own still stands. Neither of them can live with not knowing who the man in the photo is — and Conlin ends up summoning Saad to the FBI offices to find out if Saad had ever seen him. He’s angry at Saad, but Saad makes it clear that he had never seen the man in the photos, and Sekou definitely wasn’t working with him. Rattled, Conlin asks him to take a closer look, but after a tense exchange, Saad says that simply put, the man just looks like someone from the government. “He looks like you,” he says, leaving Conlin speechless.
Afterward, Conlin goes to meet Carrie at her brownstone. He admits that he was wrong about Sekou but that the FBI couldn’t find out anything about the man in the photos either. He only has one lead: the lease on the Jeep driven by the man belongs to a mysterious corporation, and he’s going to check it out himself. Conlin also does Carrie one more solid and gets her a chance to see Quinn in Bellevue. She thanks him for his “good faith”; he just shakes his head. “Nothing good about any of this,” he replies.
He can say that again. The next day, Conlin heads to the corporation and spots the Jeep parked in the lot — and from there, the entire sequence plays, again, like something out of Black Mirror. The receptionist coolly asks Conlin if he’s an applicant for a job, and he tells her truth about him wanting to talk to the man who owns the Jeep. She replies, confusingly, that he’ll have to talk to accounting, and they’re still at lunch. As he sits, he gathers some more intel from the man sitting next to him filling out a form that has boxes for how confidential the information should be. The man asks if he’s from Langley, and it turns out that all the people there are former employees of federal agencies — basically “government” people, as Saad had said. This corporation is private and has access to “tons of data” federal agencies would never let employees touch. Conlin asks if he’s heard anything strange, and the man says that 96.8 percent of all data flows through this place, and that that’s the craziest, most exciting thing.
Conlin decides to pose with the rest of the group as an applicant and joins them as they descend six floors, (more than) six feet under the ground. The scene morphs into a horror film, almost, with a sense of dread overwhelming every corner. Conlin breaks away from the group and walks into a room that’s filled with desks and chairs, and he’s stunned, unsure of what he’s seeing. The woman who led the group walks in on him and immediately knows he’s up to no good. He shows her his FBI badge, but she has the guards escort him out, because if he had any authority, he wouldn’t have lied his way in. As he leaves, he calls Carrie and tells her to meet him in person ASAP — he’s seen something strange. By then, the Jeep is gone, but the trouble’s just begun.
Before the call, Carrie had been inside Bellevue, visiting Quinn. The visit’s a disaster: Quinn’s face has been beaten to a pulp, he’s been placed in a straitjacket, and worst of all, he’s back to hating having Carrie around. As she crouches next to him on the floor to tell him about how far she’s gotten with his photos, he tries to crawl away. “You said, ‘Protect Franny,’ and I did,” he wheezes. “Then you took me down… when my back was turned.” Carrie argues that she was trying to save his life, but he doesn’t believe her or her story that she’s only shown the photos to an FBI agent she trusts. Paranoid and convinced she’s now also a part of the conspiracy, Quinn shouts for the guards to help take him away. Oh, Quinn.
Shaken, Carrie heads to Conlin’s to find out what he discovered — but when she arrives on his doorstep, there’s no answer. She sneaks her way in through the back and just misses seeing another man inside. Upstairs, she finds Conlin dead in his bathroom with a gun still in his hand.
NEXT: Run, Carrie, Run
Carrie finally hears the killer — the same man who’s been watching her — when he closes the back door. She hides from him as he prowls the rooms upstairs, then grabs Conlin’s gun and makes her way slowly, unsteadily, back downstairs and out of the house. The man is right behind her, though, and she dashes to her car to leave just in time, before heading straight to Franny’s school to make sure she’s okay. Franny is just fine — she even tells Carrie she’s hugging her too tight — but Carrie’s worried, and that night, she has Max sleep over before installing security around the place in the morning.
But if Carrie’s had a rough day, Saul is certainly about to have one. At the CIA, Saul requests files on Tova’s movements for the past two weeks, but they haven’t been delivered because Mercedes, who handles the requests, has been too tied up with the bombing and the file “slipped her mind.” He knows something is up and leaves a signal for her new assistant, Nate, to follow him outside. The young man is an admirer of Saul’s: At the Farm, he had been a huge fan of his lecture on agent handling (of course Saul would be a good lecturer on that), and when he goes to speak with Saul, he confirms that his boss was lying. “She’s off the leash,” he says, referring to Tova. The Mossad agent Saul is suspicious of has been deemed someone the CIA cannot tail, but Nate knows nothing more than that.
Saul turns to his other contacts. He meets with Viktor, an SVR agent, at Coney Island, who finds it amusing that the CIA cannot provide information on the Israelis. “What’s wrong with your own surveillance?” he says. “You cover the Israelis like paint.” Viktor proceeds to continue with his metaphors, telling Saul a short story about a squirrel in a carnival that would break its own paws if it stopped running — but Saul doesn’t try to humor Viktor, telling him instead to just give him the information, no questions asked.
Viktor does his job, returning with the intel that Tova has been taking multiple trips between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv but, in the past few weeks, also made it out to one more location. He warns Saul that it’s not always a good thing to “win” before passing him the photos of Tova meeting with Dar in New York. Saul is dumbfounded by the images, but Viktor tells him that he can’t keep them — these photos show that there’s something bad going on. After all, the president-elect is in hiding, the bombing in midtown just happened, and here’s Saul’s better half colluding with a Mossad agent who’s not allowed to be investigated by the CIA. It looks like Saul’s on the outside looking in — but why?
The same question applies to Keane. Back in New York, she gets a heated homecoming, as journalists hound her with questions about whether she’ll do as her predecessor suggests and enforce the Patriot Act. She replies that she thinks a new strategy is the way to go, holding her ground but repainting that target on her back. She goes on to talk about her conversation with Marjorie and about how it’s important for them to remember the ones they lost in the war, like their sons, and to face down fear abroad and at home. “New Yorkers don’t scare easily,” she says. “That’s who we are. That’s who John and Andrew were.”
As scared as she is, Carrie isn’t running away — she has to solve the mystery behind the bombing and figure out a way to save Quinn. But maybe she’s not the blonde in his life who’ll make that happen: In the middle of the night, Quinn wakes to the sound of a gurney being rolled into his room. Two men remove him from his bed and wheel him outside to a waiting van. Inside, a woman peers over Quinn’s face. It’s Astrid. (Yay Astrid!) “Hello, Peter,” she says, smiling.
Sometimes, Homeland goes big to underline the dangers of playing the spy game. Other times, Homeland dilutes its thesis down to glances and pauses in conversations. This episode swung both ways — and mostly succeeded in balancing the two. Conlin’s death was telegraphed from the moment he told Carrie he’d go “check it out” on his own, and every befuddled look that crossed his face in the scenes that followed ensured he’d be on his way to the grave soon. (His death also pushes Carrie to finally fear what’s been going on with Sekou — and to start coming up with a game plan.) On the other hand, Saul’s scenes were punctuated with sighs and frowns, misunderstanding etched in his movements, not his words, and I can’t wait to see what he does to Dar. Will he confront his fellow spy? Will he try to go at it on his own? It’s impossible to tell.
Other moments didn’t land: Yet again, Keane is the biggest question mark. Her isolation and road trip with Marjorie dragged the episode down and forced Elizabeth Marvel to deliver dialogue that spelled out every beat of what was happening. What was the point of removing her from New York if the story led nowhere? Was it simply to make sure she would want to bring up her son again? In the end, it doesn’t seem to have changed her mind about the way America should confront terrorism. Still, maybe it’s all setting up for the day she does scare — and I’m interested to see what that’ll take.