In the game of spies, you win or you…spy harder. At least it seems that way in this week’s episode of Homeland, which finally brought American and Russian intelligence face-to-face, with each side scrambling to outplay the other.
And it was thrilling. “All In” was an hour of Homeland that felt capital-B BIG, with setpiece after setpiece and tête-à-têtes that, unlike many conversations earlier this season, felt like verbal warfare instead of exposition vomit. It immediately felt fresh, given the overseas setting: We open with Saul’s team arriving in Moscow late at night, while Gromov watches a video feed of their landing, curious to see the faces of those who have been working so hard to take him down.
But while the Russians watch the Americans’ every move, the Americans are doing the same. At their suite, Saul’s team quickly sets up their surveillance tent and their weaponry, gearing up for their mission to extract Simone Martin and bring her home. They have a plan in place that sounds much like their last Simone-related plan: They’ll draw Gromov away from the compound where Simone’s staying, then have Anson take his men to surprise Simone inside.
The only catch? They have to race against the clock. Back in D.C., more trouble’s brewing that could de-authorize the mission or ruin it entirely. Senator Paley has gotten wind of Saul’s visit to Moscow and suspects that it’s not the diplomatic mission it’s purported to be. He visits Dar Adal (welcome back, F. Murray Abraham!) in prison, and he wants to know what Saul’s up to. Paley offers Dar his freedom if he can help him track down Saul and crumble his operation, so he gives Dar the passenger manifest to pore over. With just a glance, Dar figures it out: Saul’s brought Carrie, two lawyers from the Department of Justice, and Carrie’s team from the Middle East — it’s obviously a group of people meant to handle a covert operation, but Dar, of course, has no idea what it could be.
He does end up being helpful to Paley anyway. The former CIA black ops director knows a thing or two about setting up a mission like this, and tells Paley that Saul likely has a task force of Russian experts working behind the scenes. Track them down, and they’ll have the intel Paley needs.
So, Paley sends his chief of staff, Janet, to track one of the team members down, and she scores with Clint, the youngest of Saul’s spy fraternity. She calmly threatens him, warning him that his actions with Saul are illegal, and this mama’s boy is going to go down if he doesn’t give her what she wants. Clint, sadly, caves easily after Janet’s speech. He tells Janet that Saul’s in Russia to retrieve Simone — so yes, Simone Martin is alive.
Which is a huge problem for Useful Idiot Paley. If Simone returns to the U.S. and exposes Russia’s involvement in everything earlier this season, he’ll come out looking like, well, a Useful Idiot who played a large role in taking down the presidency. Janet, though, thinks they have a way out — sure, it involves undermining Saul’s operation against Russia, but the end result here is that the president Paley wants out of the office will have no lifeline left, and plus, Paley will come off looking like he wasn’t pointing fingers in the wrong direction. It’s a net win!
Paley’s not so sure. When Janet drives him to meet with the Russian ambassador — she’d already set up the meeting, sure that Paley would want to spill about Saul ASAP — Paley fails to move out of the car, rendered speechless by the choices in front of him. Instead, Janet hops out and speaks to the ambassador herself. We don’t hear what she says, but, well, do we really need to?
After all, Saul’s mission goes awry very fast. The morning passes smoothly enough: He and Carrie, along with the Moscow CIA station chief, sit across from representatives of Russian intelligence, from both the SVR — Russia’s military intelligence, led here by General Yakushin — and the GRU, led by Mirov, Gromov’s handler. Saul pauses Mirov during his welcome speech to ask for Gromov to appear in the conference as well, and though Mirov tries to play dumb, he eventually relents. See, Mirov’s between a rock and a hard place: The Russians want to know why the Americans are really in town, and he won’t be able to get Saul to speak without Gromov. And on the home front, Yakushin’s none too happy to be dragged into a conference where the Americans are going to complain for hours not about his SVR, but about the GRU and their guy.
So, Gromov says yes, leaving Simone to swim her day away at the mansion they’ve used as a hideout. Carrie immediately alerts her team, and they prepare to grab Simone. But when Gromov arrives at the meeting, Carrie barely gets a chance to chide Gromov for messing around with her country and using her to do it before a message gets related to Mirov, who abruptly ends the meeting.
Carrie, thrown by this turn of events, rushes back upstairs to check on her team. The operation’s going smoothly so far, Bennett tells her, and it does, all the way until Anson and the men finally spot Simone sitting at the end of a hallway with a book in her lap. When they almost get close enough to grab her, guards begin shooting at the team, and they’re forced to retreat outside. “It’s a f—ing ambush,” Carrie groans, as Anson and the men scramble to leave and drive off the compound. Both sides have lost a member of their team, and when Carrie makes eye contact with Gromov outside the conference room, neither of them look pleased.
But if their day’s not going well, at least neither of them are Keane, who’s just been told by Wellington that the Supreme Court voted against her firing her Cabinet members, which means the 25th amendment can be invoked, now that it has all the signatures it needs. Wellington tries to soften the blow by saying that they do still have to go through more steps before she’s fully impeached and they still have Saul’s operation in the works, but Keane’s convinced everyone is now against her. To make matters worse, VP Warner arrives just then to chat. He’s not there to rub her loss in her face, but Keane is on the defensive anyway. She accuses him of abusing the Constitution — she’s clearly in possession of her faculties, she says — but Warner doesn’t take the bait. He simply replies that he’s there to relieve her of her command, and hearing that, Keane stops speaking. She just looks away and walks out of the Oval Office, head held defiantly high. (Next: “We can’t just leave”…)
With Keane out of the office and the element of surprise out of the window, Saul’s mission is now on the rocks. When the team regroups inside the suite, he tells them that it’s time for them to go, because Simone could now be anywhere on the planet, and if they overstay their welcome without Keane’s authorization, they could be held accountable for the deaths at the compound.
Carrie, though, isn’t ready to go. Saul points out that she doesn’t even have a plan, so she works to make one. She calls up Saul’s task force for help, and wonders if there’s any tension between the SVR and GRU they could exploit, because her impression was that the Russian intelligence groups are amid their own cold war of sorts. It seems a stretch, but Sandy says it could work — General Yakushin is, it turns out, quite vulnerable. He’s loyal to his money, which he keeps in the U.S. All they have to do is make his hundreds of millions disappear.
That night, Carrie pitches the idea to Saul, who’s reluctant to move forward with such a precarious, haphazardly constructed plan. How could they possibly exfiltrate Simone now, with everyone watching? Carrie says not to worry: She came here, laser-focused to accomplish a mission, and she’s going to accomplish it. In other words, she’s all in.
We don’t hear Saul’s response to Carrie’s plea, but we know what he says: The next day, he meets with Yakushin, who’s furious to have woken up to his bank accounts emptied. Saul relays the offer Carrie had come up with: If Yakushin can get the Americans Simone, he’ll make sure the money goes back where it belongs. “I did not start this,” Yakushin whines, but Saul won’t hear it. “Your countrymen did,” he retaliates. Both sides have wronged each other, but now’s not the time to play the blame game, Saul says. Now’s the time to act.
And act Yakushin does. He angrily leaves the restaurant, and when Saul leaves immediately afterward, he sees Yakushin shouting at Mirov, who tells him he’s never heard of Simone. Saul watches as Yakushin, now even more furious at his own countryman’s lack of cooperation, gets in his car and drives straight to his home base, the SVR headquarters. There, he shouts at two men who run inside the building, and then return with a group of 30 armed men who pile into SUVs and drive away. Max tracks them and discovers that the men are headed for the GRU building, where Simone is probably being held in a secure suite.
When they arrive, Yakushin’s SVR men begin firing warning shots in the air and pulling people out of the building to search for Simone. At the hotel, Carrie chooses to stay upstairs while the delegations regroup, and with Yakushin out hunting for Simone and Gromov abandoning the niceties, the meeting’s attendance has dwindled. “Maybe they have the right idea, to stay away,” Mirov remarks to Saul. “The National Security Advisor serves at the pleasure of the president, right?” And now, with Keane no longer POTUS, Saul really shouldn’t be there.
But it’s too late for the Russians to focus on throwing Saul and his team out. The violence has escalated over at the GRU building, and Gromov calls Mirov to report the chaos. He’s figured out that the Americans have to be behind Yakushin’s betrayal, and says that he’ll protect Simone no matter what.
As it turns out, Yakushin’s assumption that Simone was being held at the GRU was right: Simone is hiding in a secure suite in the building, and Gromov is, for the umpteenth time, assuring her that he’ll make sure no one gets to her. He gives her a kiss, then tells her to stay where she is and to only let him inside when he returns.
Just then, Carrie and her team arrive, put on black ski masks of their own, and hop out of their truck to join the chaos and track down Simone. Max, seeing the footage, turns to tell a guilty-looking Clint to use what’s left of Gromov’s network to blast out what they’re seeing. That way, it can make it look like all of Russia’s melting down. Clint, after hesitating a beat, does what he’s told. The news reaches the States, and soon enough, Paley’s rushing to make Warner aware of the news. The two men gape at the news reports and footage of Moscow in turmoil, but when Paley tells Warner he has to stop it all by relieving Saul of his duties, Warner just sighs. It’s too much, especially for a brand new president.
Back at the GRU building, Carrie and Anson barely make it inside before Anson’s forced to play the part of one of the SVR foot soldiers and turn around. On her own, Carrie tries to access the secure suite with a stolen pass, but finds it blocked. Max manages to come up with an alternate, albeit incredibly dangerous route: He tells her to enter the suite through the balcony, which means she’ll have to Jason Bourne her way from one end of the building to the other by sliding slowly across the outside wall. Carrie, breathing heavily and with tears welling up in her eyes as the air cuts against her face, manages to make it. Hey, she did say she was all-in.
Still, Carrie has no time to lose; the SVR agents have been scouring every room for Simone, dragging everyone outside so they can be sure they find her. They’re a few minutes away from reaching the top, Max warns, as Carrie smashes a window and climbs into the suite. She draws her gun and tiptoes around the corner — only to have Simone stop her in her tracks and have her own gun pointed at Carrie.
Simone says Gromov would never give her up, but Carrie just scoffs at Simone’s naiveté. The two may be in love, but there’s no way Simone is safer with the Russians: Carrie points out that right now, while Simone’s hiding, Mirov and Gromov are probably having the conversation about why they’re not just taking her out of the equation. Gromov is probably defending her loyalty, but in the “big picture,” Carrie says, Simone is expendable to her country. She’s too much of a liability.
But even then, Simone doesn’t bend. She knows Gromov loves her and wouldn’t hurt her, and yet again, Carrie knows the right thing to say. She reminds Simone that Gromov has had no problem killing his own people, including Krupin, Clayton, and Dante Allen, because when people become a problem, he kills them. So, she says, he’ll probably come into the suite telling her everything’s okay, and then…you can imagine the rest.
And so, when Gromov returns to the suite, he finds it empty after forcing himself in by shooting at the door. (So much for a “secure” suite.) He races to gather the guards, then heads to the window to try and spot Simone. From above, he sees a brunette with a red scarf hopping into a grey Mercedes, and directs the guards to follow it. But the brunette isn’t Simone; it’s Carrie in her handy wig, being driven away by Anson. Simone is instead in a different car, with a blonde wig on, finally safe in the Americans’ hands. For now. Congratulations, Yakushin: You’ve just won her money back. As for everyone else, well… Saul, Carrie, and co. still have to make it back to the U.S. and get Simone to tell her story. And without Keane’s help, that mission, on home turf, probably won’t be easy.