It finally happened. Carrie, after struggling for so long, has come to understand what everyone else already knew: Her true love is this country, and as much as she loves her daughter, she’ll always end up putting her work first.
Hey, the show’s not called Franny.
The strength of this hour, unlike much of this season’s wobbly first half, came from Carrie’s story. After her meltdown, Carrie’s been checked into a mental hospital, where Anson accompanies her to her therapist, who oversees her final electroconvulsive therapy session. Carrie’s so used to having to go through the operation, which involves having a seizure induced, that she appears calm, almost bored by the procedure. The camera, though, tells a different story: The final shot lingers on Carrie’s body as she shakes and trembles over and over. It’s grueling to watch.
When Carrie recovers, Anson’s there to bring her orange juice and her custody lawyer, Ronda. Maggie has officially filed for custody of Franny, and with the hearing set for the next day, has laid out an offer for Carrie that involves allowing Carrie to visit her daughter every third weekend, and then every other weekend after a probationary period. If she agrees to the terms, they’ll skip the hearing and ensure that Carrie will retain visitation rights. If she doesn’t, the hearing could result in Carrie never seeing Franny again.
Carrie doesn’t like the idea of skipping the hearing, though — she wants a chance to argue her side, even if it means a longer, lengthier, and uglier legal battle. “If they want Franny, I’m not going to just hand her over,” she says. But even Ronda’s not so sure about Carrie’s chances of actually winning her argument, warning her that she needs to seriously consider Maggie’s offer.
And so she does, while on a walk with Anson. He wonders if there’s a way they could strengthen their case, not by proving Carrie’s fit to be a mother, but by proving that Maggie’s not. At that, Carrie pauses — because even in her mind, Maggie’s the perfect super-mom, and her brother-in-law, Bill, is a saint. What could possibly be used against Maggie? And how low could Carrie really go? Perhaps lower than she thinks: She tells Anson that Maggie did used to be her unofficial doctor and would prescribe her drugs and run her blood tests under an alias to keep her from being flagged by the CIA. That’d revoke Maggie’s medical license, Anson points out, and would certainly help Carrie’s case.
But Carrie’s not ready to throw her own sister under the bus. To prepare for the case, she opens up a document in which she’s typed up all the things she’s been doing to be better. “Clarity,” she’s written. “Thoughts not racing.” She also types that she has to emphasize how she now has perspective, that she knows she screwed up. Still, does that mean she won’t screw up again — or know how to prevent another meltdown?
Just then, Saul enters her room to check in on how she’s doing. He’s in full papa bear mode, sweetly wondering what exactly happened to Carrie and worrying about whether it was his fault she went into a psychotic break. Carrie immediately dismisses the idea and tells him there’s nothing he can do for her custody battle and everything she’s going through.
Instead, maybe there’s something she can do. Carrie knows Saul’s not there to simply check on her well-being: He has an update on what they’d been working on. Saul reports that Gromov’s gone, probably back in Russia now that it’s been over a week since Dante’s death, and that he needs a team in Eastern Europe to track him and Simone Martin down. Earlier, he’d thought Simone dead; after speaking with Sandy, who has evidence that Gromov and Simone knew each other in Paris, he’s convinced that the pair are lovers dedicated to the same cause. (Does it sound cliche? Yes. Do we know it’s true? Also, yes.) And so, Saul would prefer having Carrie lead the mission — Anson and Bennett are great guys who have carried out ops for her, but neither of them have ever worked the region, and he really needs evidence of Russian interference ASAP — but Carrie turns him down. If she’s going to convince the courtroom and Maggie that she’s leaving this life of danger behind in favor of Franny, she’ll have to properly leave it.
Still, she does carry out one more mini-op, by having Anson break into Maggie’s office and steal the files that have been kept under an alias. At first, he can’t find them, but Carrie realizes that everything must be in Maggie’s home office instead. Anson asks if he should go there, and Carrie hesitates but eventually gives him the green light.
Meanwhile, at Vice President Warner’s residence, an even more awkward conversation is taking place. Wellington has decided to pay the VP a visit after months of helping Keane avoid him, because, as it turns out, Keane’s cabinet members are toying with the idea of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would declare the president unfit for office and begin the process of impeaching her. Senator Paley, after Dante’s death, has flip-flopped again, and gone all in on taking Keane out. Only thing is, the amendment can’t be ratified without the VP’s signature.
And so, Wellington’s there to ensure the VP’s support. “It must gall her that the survival of her presidency would come down to me,” Warner gleefully remarks. And though he’s a little more than amused by this turn of events, he assures Wellington that Keane shouldn’t worry. He took an oath to support the office of the president, and he’s going to keep it.
Relieved, Wellington relays the news to Keane, and that night, Keane gathers her cabinet and doubles down on her rhetoric for them to stand together. She tells them that Paley must now be considered a participant in the Russian conspiracy, and that even though the entire thing sounds crazy, it’s important that they focus on what they set out to do when her term began. She also assures them that she and the VP stand together — so if there’s anyone signing that document, they should know it won’t succeed. If only it were that easy. (Next: Time’s running out…)
Hours after he assured Wellington he remains loyal to Keane, the VP gets ambushed by Paley, who wants a chance to argue his side. Paley points out that there’s been a pattern with Keane’s stories: Every time they’ve had someone in federal custody, that someone — be they McClendon, Simone Martin, or Dante — dies. In other words, Keane is covering up crimes, and it’s up to them to take her down. And with eight secretaries ready to sign the document if the VP does, too, it all comes down to him.
While the VP mulls over his decision, Keane sits in the Oval Office, seemingly pleased with the way she handled things that day. Saul’s called to report a lead with the station chief in Moscow, and they seem to be closer to finally cracking down on the Russian case — until Wellington arrives to tell her that, thanks to a bartender he keeps on retainer to spy for him, he knows the VP is currently speaking with Paley. At first, she’s not thrown by this development; though she’s not thrilled to learn that Paley’s ambushed her ally, she doesn’t think Warner will bend. But then, Wellington reveals that they’ve been speaking for over an hour now, and Keane begins to grow paranoid. She calls the VP and leaves a message for him to call her back as soon as possible.
The next day, Keane looks a lot less assured than she had been the night before. DC’s just waking up, but it looks like Keane’s stayed up all night stressing over the VP’s actions. She’s summoned the White House counsel in to help her with a Hail Mary: She’s going to have her fire members of the Cabinet she thinks has signed the 25th so far — that way, she makes sure that the document can’t doesn’t move forward no matter what, simply by dismissing the names on it.
It would be a terrible move for a president to make, and Wellington rightly points it out. By firing her Cabinet members, she’ll be positioning herself a tyrant — and then she’ll have no one on her side. Except the Russians, because by defying the Constitution this way, she’s playing right into their hands.
But Keane doesn’t bend. (Of course, that makes her easier to break.) She’s too vulnerable in her mind, because after a night of waiting, the VP hasn’t called her back, and she’s sure that he’s turned against her. Even if impeachment depends on even more rounds of assessing whether she’s fit to lead the country, she tells Wellington that she’ll never be let back into the Oval if she’s taken out of there in the first place. And so, even as Wellington begs her to reconsider, she simply clenches her jaw and decides to deliver the dismissals to the Cabinet members she’s decided have been against her since the very beginning.
Carrie, at the same time, is about to have her own fitness interrogated. Anson gives her the files he picked up — apparently it took him an easy five minutes to break in and out, heh — and wishes her luck. She spies her sister across the lobby, and they share a tense look before the hearing begins. The first witness up is Josie, her niece, who testifies that Carrie wasn’t usually around, but that she was out saving the democracy, “which is a pretty good thing, if you ask me.” She also explains that Franny has gotten really quiet recently, and that at night, she usually cries herself to sleep, even when she joins Josie in bed because she’s scared. Hearing that, Carrie’s face falls.
Next up is the social worker from last season, who explains that Carrie tried to do the right thing by taking Quinn in, but it led to Franny being held at gunpoint. Though she believes that children should remain with their parents, the exception to that is when the child suffers repeated trauma under their primary caregiver — and Carrie’s face falls even more. Franny’s teacher echoes the earlier testimonies, explaining that Franny “literally started trembling” when she was asked to recount what happened at Dante’s.
And then Maggie takes the stand. She sums up what’s happened in the months since Carrie moved in: Things started off well and everyone was happy until “Carrie became obsessed with something” — which is what always happens, she says. Carrie appears hurt and just grits her jaw.
But it’s the next portion of Maggie’s testimony that finally breaks Carrie. Maggie has prepared a statement for Carrie, but instead of reading it to the people in the courtroom, she looks straight at Carrie and decides to speak candidly to her sister. “The last thing I want to do is take Franny away from you,” Maggie admits — to which Carrie responds, “Then don’t.” Both are on the brink of tears, but Maggie continues to say her piece in a deeply affecting speech that actress Amy Hargreaves delivers perfectly. I genuinely love the writing of this scene — the anecdotes about what Carrie was like since she was a child are so moving, because that feeling of jealousy a young Maggie must have felt feels raw and true. It’s a powerful testimony: “I am not extraordinary like you, Carrie,” Maggie says. “But as it turns out, safe has its advantages, too. A family, a stable home life, these are the things I can offer Franny. Things that you can’t. It’s a chance to be normal.”
And then Carrie tries one last time to voice her side: “Maggie, that’s what I’ve decided, too,” she pleads. “I’m giving up all of it. I’m seeing that clearly now.”
That’s when Maggie finally says what Carrie needs to hear — that she doesn’t believe Carrie can keep that up. In six weeks, the therapy will wear off, Saul will come back with a new mission, and “the whole crazy orchestra will start playing again,” she concludes. “I’m sorry, I really am.” And at that, Carrie has no response, because what Maggie says is true. Carrie lives a cyclical life, a difficult life, and in order to keep from harming her daughter further, she has accept losing her.
It won’t be a permanent loss, at least. Carrie concedes, and during the break for the hearing, she approaches Maggie and asks if the visitation agreement is still on the table. She bargains for a visit every other weekend, and Maggie, relieved, says that they can make it work. They sign the papers, she never opens the package Anson delivered, and that’s that.
If only Keane could have some clarity, too. The press has already picked up on her purge of the administration, and the VP’s finally come knocking on her door after avoiding her calls. Keane sounds vengeful as she tells Wellington to let him in, even though he’s too late to change anything.
When he walks in, she immediately accuses him of letting Paley turn him, but Warner surprises her by saying he didn’t end up signing the document. His silence was because he needed time to think over the second thoughts he had after speaking with Paley, and that if he had spoken to her, he would just have ended up more confused. And so, he says, he can assure her that he won’t sign the document, but only if she walks back her Cabinet firings.
It should be an easy choice for the president to make, but Keane is now too paranoid to see clearly. Instead, she wants to ensure the VP’s loyalty, and asks him what he can do to assure her that he won’t ever sign the document. When his answer — “I guess you’ll just have to trust me” — doesn’t satisfy her, she decides to move forward with the firings anyway. After all, if those members of the Cabinet are gone, it doesn’t matter if the VP signs the doc. Warner points out that her firings could be deemed unconstitutional, but Keane doesn’t care; all she cares about now is keeping her office and having assurance that the office won’t be taken away from her. She’s lost sight of the bigger picture — and Warner, of all people, tells her that. “It doesn’t have to be such a snake pit, Elizabeth,” he says. “The world. It really doesn’t.”
Maybe not, but by the time Carrie’s wrapped up her hearing and gone to Dante’s funeral service a few hours later, Keane’s presidency is already in deep trouble. Saul tells Carrie that the document has gone through with Warner’s signature, and it’s time for them to grab Simone and carry out their mission. She fills him in on the custody battle, then asks if she can join. He smiles as he accepts, then goes to speak with Dante’s parents before returning home to pack her bags.
There, she observes Maggie with Franny and seems at peace with leaving Franny behind. She speaks with her daughter, explaining that she has to go away for a while to Europe (remember Europe, Franny? No?). Carrie’s caught off guard when Franny wonders if she’ll come back. “Of course I’m coming back,” she tells Franny, and then the two hug. Carrie starts to cry but keeps Franny from seeing, and Franny, seemingly indifferent to the whole thing, runs off to play with Josie. And Carrie’s goodbye with Maggie is just as hard: Maggie assures her sister that Franny will be fine, and the two hug, finally reconciling after everything that’s happened.
Carrie then leaves the house, strides toward a waiting car, and greets Saul inside. They drive away, and the camera lingers on her face. She no longer looks worried, shaken, or scared; as she just reassured Saul, she’s ready to fight for democracy once more — even if the democracy she’s fighting for appears to be rotting from within.