Saul and Carrie's Russian operation doesn't go as planned.
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”…)