Homeland recap: 'Alt.Truth'
Judging by the long, long stretch of time between Quinn’s fall into the water at the end of the episode and his triumphant rise back to its surface, we’re supposed to watch his miraculous survival with our jaws dropped to the ground and respond with a cheer.
Yet, I sighed at the end of watching this hour. Maybe you feel differently than I do, but this episode of Homeland didn’t earn that twist. It was a mess: Plots ground to a halt, Dar’s villainy reached cartoonish levels of evil, and we said goodbye to a great character who deserved a better exit than she got. I almost wish this were all a dream, a Mr. Robot-type fake-out (hey, the episode title certainly resembles that heady series), but I think what we really have is a show spinning its wheels before its final four installments.
The only saving grace was seeing Carrie work with Saul again. It may have taken some narrative backbends to get her to where she is, but after the storytelling gymnastics that took Franny away from Carrie (along with Quinn, but we’ll get there), Carrie’s finally found by her mentor.
Saul, after all, must find a way to please Javadi, who wants to meet with Keane and receive political asylum for all he’s done for the CIA — including the confirmation Saul needed that Nafisi was indeed putting on a show to create conflict over the nuclear arms deal that’s working just fine. Squirreled away at a shelter, Javadi has grown restless and pushes Saul to move forward with getting in contact with Keane.
Saul finally heads to Carrie’s home, but his timing couldn’t be worse. Inside, he finds Max keeping watch and taking care of a near-catatonic Carrie, whose grief over losing Franny has left her teary and alone inside Franny’s bedroom. Saul gingerly knocks the door and makes his way inside, looking more fatherly than ever with Carrie perched on her daughter’s twin bed. He tries to talk to her, but she’s wrapped up in her own mind. “Unfit mother, unfit mother, unfit mother,” she repeats to herself, crying as Saul watches. “It’s all I can hear in my head.” The tears flow, the crying begins — and though Claire Danes can, by now, pull off Carrie’s cry face in her sleep, this one looks more restrained, which only makes her circumstances even more painful. Carrie can’t fully cry about what’s happened; all she can do is sit and wait in agony, because her daughter’s fate is still up in the air.
Seeing what’s happened, Saul doesn’t ask for help right away. Instead, he drives Carrie to Franny after Carrie explains she just needs to know Franny’s alright. As she watches Franny play outside the foster home she’s been taken to, Carrie tries to leave the car and approach, but Saul stops her just in time. He offers to make his pitch somewhere else, but Carrie asks to stay close to Franny, and so he begins talking about Nafisi — only to see that Carrie’s eyes are latched onto her daughter. “Care to pay attention, please?” Saul asks, annoyed. “I’m not f—ing around.”
Carrie tears her eyes away from Franny and listens as Saul offers her everything he knows. She’s not surprised to hear about Nafisi’s game, but is surprised to hear Saul has evidence of someone inside the CIA working against the deal. It’s treason, she realizes, before asking Saul where he got his evidence. Saul gives up Javadi’s name, and Carrie’s shocked. How did they both wind up in such deep trouble? She fears the police after what happened at her home with Quinn and what happened to Conlin, and Saul can’t trust anyone inside the CIA.
But with everything out in the open, the two can make a move again. Carrie picks up Javadi from the shelter, and the Iranian looks at her gleefully as she drives them to Saul and Keane. “Is Saul so short of resources?” he sneers. “Is there no one else at the agency he trusts, no one who actually works there?” But when Carrie points out that his life in her hands, Javadi admits he’s worried about Saul. As they talk, Javadi brings up Brody: He tells Carrie he can draw her a map to where he moved Brody’s remains — to “the resting place of the martyrs,” he says — and Carrie thanks him.
Carrie drives Javadi all the way to their meeting location. Inside what appears to be a high-tech hangar, Keane waits with Saul and expresses her skepticism over Javadi’s credibility. Saul argues that Javadi can’t be lying anymore, because he has no cards left to play to stay out of danger — even in the U.S.
Turns out he’s wrong. When Javadi finally meets with the president-elect, he tells her a different story from the one he told Saul. He says Nafisi’s payments were real and definitely wound up in the North Korean capital. Saul starts to protest, but Javadi barrels on, saying Iran is not a friend to the U.S., and there is certainly reason enough to think Iran is reneging on the nuclear deal. Saul looks distraught, Carrie looks stunned, and Keane, well… She looks something like this.
Seeing her mentor wounded, Carrie rushes after Keane, trying to convince her Saul would never make a mistake this dire and that the only explanation is Javadi is lying. Keane doesn’t buy it after dealing with Carrie at her lowest last week: “I was wrong to have ever listened to you,” she says before taking off.
Meanwhile, Saul chases Javadi as he rushes outside the building. He pleads for an explanation, but all Javadi says is he doesn’t want “to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder,” before explaining he reached out to Dar because he wants to be on the winning side. As Saul tries to glean more information from him, Javadi pushes him away and down onto the curb. He gets driven off — to where? — and leaves Saul on the ground, with only Carrie to help him back up.
It may look grim for Carrie and Saul, but they have no idea just how grim it’s about to get. Earlier that day, Brett O’Keefe, the host of the show Quinn had listened to and snippets of which we’ve seen and heard in previous episodes, has managed to pay his way into getting some footage of Andrew Keane, the son the PEOTUS lost in Iraq. Even better for him, he’s brought several of Andrew’s most vulnerable, cash-strapped former Army buddies to his show to talk about Keane as a coward and not a hero. One of them, Rudy, arrives late and tries to say he no longer wants to participate, but he already handed over the film. As the men begin to discuss the events around Andrew’s death, Rudy explains that he saw Andrew run past him the night he was shot in the back by a sniper. Brett’s satisfied with the answer, as he had pushed Rudy to “speak out” about Andrew — and he’s more than happy to take a shot at Keane, a leader he believes to be “the most dangerous person to ever set foot in the White House.”
Later, he brings the footage taken from Rudy’s helmet camera to Dar and shows him how Andrew ran past Rudy, yelling at him to move out of the way. But as the video continues to play, it’s clear that once Andrew ran past Rudy, he tried to save a soldier and was shot when he was at his most heroic. And, well, here comes the alt-truth: When Dar asks Brett what he’s trying to do, Brett shows him a newly edited TV spot, one that shows only Andrew frantically dashing past Rudy before a soundbite calling Andrew “the opposite of a hero” plays. He tells Dar he intends to wrap it all up with a slogan like “cowardice — it runs in the family,” which would surely stop Keane from talking about Andrew as a hero.
Dar looks perturbed, but he doesn’t say no. Instead, he turns his eyes back to the screen and asks Brett to play it again after checking that it’s the only copy. Dar hasn’t decided what to do with the footage yet, but he’s already sunk to his lowest of lows to obtain it.
I’ll admit, I wanted Quinn back this season — at the very least, I thought it’d be interesting territory to see how the show tackles the subject of Carrie’s guilt over causing Quinn’s injury, and to see how Carrie plays caretaker after all the times Quinn watched her back.
And during the first half of the season, that was the case: We saw Quinn struggle with his condition, we saw Carrie grapple with watching Quinn struggle, and we saw the two slowly tear down the wall that had built up between them. But then that all got ripped away with the so-called hostage situation, and while that was exciting and put much of the season in perspective, it left Quinn alone again and without a compelling thread to pull, aside from the mystery of the man he had been watching across the street.
Because of that, we saw the story bend backwards over itself to make things work. After being taken away from the mental hospital, Quinn’s now being babysat by Astrid in an isolated house on a lake, where he last received a disenchanting visit from Dar. After Dar revealed Carrie’s involvement in causing his brain injury in the first place, the story practically begged for Quinn to latch onto her betrayal and seek a way back to her — but instead, this episode had him once again pursue the nameless man from across the street.
Sure, maybe it makes sense for Quinn to act this way after last week’s bombshell. Now that he knows Carrie wasn’t 100-percent truthful about his condition, he’s more paranoid than ever, and especially paranoid of the blonde who’s with him now. When Astrid leaves to go for a run before taking him to the supermarket, he rifles through her things, looking for evidence that something’s up, but only stumbles upon new identity documents and a passport for him under a false name. Finally, he finds a gun she’s stashed inside her car, so he empties the bullets and moves on.
Oh, Quinn. Everything he does from this scene onward spells doom: He heads to the supermarket with Astrid, and when she collides her cart with a man, he notices it’s the same mystery man in New York. He keeps an eye out for him and spots his red truck; on the way home, he ignores Astrid and sees the truck parked at a hotel, with the man heading into a room toward the left.
Quinn grows obsessed with what he’s seen. Back in the house, Astrid notices Quinn’s strange attitude, and it grows too quiet between them. The temperature drops as Quinn starts asking her questions about whose house this belongs to, and who she’s been in contact with other than Dar. She says she has no idea which of Dar’s friends own the house, and she doesn’t know why he’d think she’s in touch with anyone else. In fact, she insists she came because Dar asked her to and more importantly, because she’s his friend.
Quinn scoffs at this earnest sentiment. “We f—ed each other because we were lonely,” he says, glaring at her. “That doesn’t make us friends.” Pained, Astrid tries to walk away, but Quinn continues to push her. He asks her if Astrid is even her real name (it is), wonders who else Dar sent (no one that she knows), and who she was talking to in the baseball hat at the supermarket (she wasn’t talking to anyone). When Astrid says he’s not making sense, Quinn crosses the line and punches her in the stomach to get away. He drives to the motel and waits for the man to return, leaving Astrid behind to lick her wounds.
The red truck finally heads back to the motel at night — but the man who heads inside isn’t the mystery man Quinn was looking for. Realizing his mistake, he frantically drives back to Astrid and tries to apologize about how his paranoia got the better of him, but it’s too late. She’s ready to leave, but Quinn pleads with her to stay, telling her she can hurt him if she wants and that he’ll listen to her from now on. “I need you,” he says. “I can’t do this by myself.” She’s not having any of it: “You should have thought of that before,” she replies.
And yet, Astrid still doesn’t walk out to her car. Instead, she asks if he’ll try to make a life for himself out here (he will) and whether he can accept that he’s different than he was (he’ll try). The tension finally breaks when she smiles at him asking again for her to stay, and she tells him it’s time to say something nice. “You’re my friend,” he says in response. “You came to take care of me, I see that now.” “Friend,” she scoffs. “Friend? Peter. Don’t you know anything?”
Before he can form any words — his thoughts keep disappearing, as he had told her earlier that day as they walked together in the woods — a shot rings out and Quinn falls to the ground. A bullet fired from the mystery man’s rifle grazed him. Astrid tries to make him leave with her, but he can’t get up fast enough. Instead, she decides to head to the car where she knows she has a gun.
Quinn painfully, agonizingly fails to warn her that he removed her bullets in time. And when Astrid darts outdoors, she realizes too late that she can’t fire back at the gunman. Without any defenses, she wounds up hit — and just as Quinn heads outside to try to reach her, the gunman walks up to Astrid, stares down at her, and delivers the kill shot.
He turns and heads straight for Quinn, who cries out and somehow magically makes it close enough to the water to fall in when he gets hit again. The shooter continues firing into the water afterward and waits several terrible moments to check that no one surfaces. Satisfied that Quinn won’t be rising out of the depths of the lake, he walks away.
But Peter Quinn is no mere human, and at the last moment, he emerges from the surface of the water, more determined than ever to hunt the man down and solve the mystery once and for all.
Again, it’s a heroic moment for the damaged character, but one that came at a cost. Not only did Astrid die attempting to save Quinn, but her death also robs Homeland of continuing to explore Quinn’s recovery and return to, as Astrid puts it, making a life. In fact, it moves Quinn back to action-hero mode, a mode that doesn’t match the character’s arc or tone so far this season.
Javadi’s story poses a similar problem. Though I can buy his betrayal of Saul, I can’t believe it’s a smart narrative move to take Carrie and Saul a step forward only to push them two steps back again, without any way out other than having Carrie potentially grovel to Keane for more help. (Max, bless him, can only do so much.) We have four episodes left to the season, so all of this begs the question of whether the specifics of Dar’s plan are even worth figuring out. What else does he want, or has his goal this whole time really been to ruin the lives of everyone around him? When are we going to get more of the picture? Is any of this going somewhere?