Hey, did you guys notice that Carrie’s not okay? Did you get that? You got that, right?
Look, I’m not trying to knock the show for exploring its lead’s mental health issues — it’s just, Homeland knows how to explore them organically. But here, three hours into season 7, Carrie’s downward spiral feels like a plot contrivance to keep her sidelined.
We open the episode with Carrie ambushing her poor therapist while nursing a head wound, insisting she needs new medication. Her shrink’s skeptical, but when Carrie returns home to find a panicked Maggie — she never told her sister where she’d gone, and Franny was left all alone — Carrie tells her she’ll be taking drugs that’ll knock her out for a few days to break the manic cycle before she can try new meds. She’s scared, she explains, and more paranoid than ever of Franny seeing her in a locked ward.
It’s all just a way to make sure Carrie’s groggier and more unfocused than ever by the time she springs into ill-advised action. (And to make sure we can at least sort of buy why Carrie would do what she does in the rest of the episode.) Carrie takes her drugs to pass out, but she gets woken up, first by a phone call, then by a frantic pounding on her door. It’s Dante, who, as it turns out, did run the screenshot of the woman Carrie saw in Wellington’s home after all. (Which means Carrie totally didn’t have to go through everything she went through last week, but…whatever.) The woman is named Simone, and she’s been romantically involved with Wellington since meeting him four years ago. She’s back in D.C. — and happened to be near the prison where McClendon died the day before he was incarcerated. How does he know? Because he found a parking ticket placing her just three miles away that day.
Carrie’s skeptical, but she can’t resist a connection like this one. She tries, of course, telling Dante she needs to stay home, even revealing to him her bipolar disorder and what she’s trying to do with her drug protocol. But as much as she doubts herself, describing her illness again as both a gift and a curse, she decides to join Dante on his quest. And so she downs some Adderall to counteract the Seroquel — bad idea, Carrie — looks herself over in the mirror, and joins Dante to stake out Simone’s home.
If only it had ended there. Instead, when Simone leaves her apartment, Carrie decides to ditch Dante and poke around Simone’s home. She enters through a window, finds the parking violation and snaps a picture, copies her hard drive onto a USB, rifles through Simone’s drawers, and then finds photographs of Simone with Wellington. Carrie takes more photographs, grabs her findings, leaves through the window — and then gets stopped by two policemen who have been patrolling the area after receiving a call about a woman breaking into an apartment.
Yup, Carrie got spotted, and now she won’t tell the cops her name, so they drag her to the precinct to be processed. But Carrie, high on drugs and paranoia, tries to spin a tale about having to leave so she can pick up her child, and how she was only in the apartment to feed her friend’s cat, and that she’s in a bad custody battle so please don’t put her into the system, and yada yada yada until, well, they drag her, crying, to record her fingerprints anyway. It’s the law, Carrie. You know that.
Hours later, Carrie’s finally told she can leave. Dante, after failing to reach Carrie again, realized something must have happened and used his connections to track her down and bail her out without having her registered in the system. Good for Carrie, then: Everything bad that happened in this episode has been swept under the rug (presumably), and as Dante drives her home, she asks for him to pull over. Carrie stumbles across the sidewalk, breathes heavily, and tells Dante about how rattled she’s been ever since her fight with child services months earlier (or last season, in our time, anyway).
Dante, for his part, asks if she wants to sit for a minute. Earlier he had told her he understands bipolar disorder — an ex of his had it, though they broke up not because of her illness, but because of his alcoholism. Anyway, it’s sweet of him to help her out, and the episode closes on a beautiful shot of the two “revolutionaries” waiting out Carrie’s panic on a curb, but it feels like the show’s stalling, spinning its wheels as far as Carrie’s story goes. That is, unless all of these moments between Carrie and Dante are setting Dante up as another love interest? Hmm, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.
After all, Saul’s story this episode is far more interesting to talk about. (Next: Lies and compromises…)
Saul and a cavalry of FBI agents in black SUVs arrive at Brett O’Keefe’s hideout. Agent Maslin warns him that his plan is “f—ing nuts,” but at this point, all Saul wants to do is talk, which, you know, isn’t all that nuts.
What’s nuts is how trigger happy everyone is. When Brett finally walks outside to greet Saul, he appears with an army of his own, proudly displaying their rifles and artillery. Agent Maslin does the same, as the FBI draws their weapons just to make a show of force. But Saul keeps calm, telling Brett he’d like to talk it through in full view of their respective teams — an offer that appears to take Brett aback at first.
While Brett considers the offer, Saul reports back to Keane and Wellington, telling them he needs authority over negotiating Brett’s surrender. If they grab him by force, they’ll put everyone around him in harm’s way; after all, the agents who have been tailing Brett are more than ready for a fight.
After their conversation with Saul, Wellington and Keane discuss whether it’s a good idea to place so much pressure on Brett. Wellington thinks they should simply drop all charges and avoid a violent clash; Keane disagrees, saying she needs Brett in custody because “he’s a menace.” She’s just as stubborn inside the Situation Room: When a general (played by Fredric Lehne, a.k.a. the marshal who arrests Kate from Lost, among other character roles across a million of your favorite shows) presses her about leading a strike against the Syrian army, in which they’ll take out a shipment of weapons from Iran to Syria, she chides him for trying to make her agree to the same strike he asked her about last week. “What makes you think I’ve changed my position?” she asks, before he concedes. She then threatens the room, telling them she won’t back down from reining in America’s military might, a goal she had implemented from the first day of her candidacy.
Brett, meanwhile, seems a little more flexible, influenced by the thinking of those around him. As he thinks over Saul’s proposal with JJ’s father, he assesses what it means to have Saul as the man in charge of bringing him in. He correctly deduces that he’s high on the list of Keane’s priorities, and that Saul could have had him taken by force, but he didn’t. He voices his worry over how long this “gentlemanly standoff” can last, considering how they’re outnumbered, but JJ’s dad points out that they don’t have to be.
At that, Brett walks out of the house and tells Saul he’ll give him 10 minutes to chat — an intense and heated 10 minutes, it turns out. Brett opens their negotiation by scoffing at the notion that he’s important at all, compared to the other national security issues Saul should be focusing on, like ISIS and the Middle East. He talks about how he’s filling void left by the media, but Saul points out that all he’s really doing is just fueling the flames and dividing the country with his poison. Brett argues that he’s serving his audience, but Saul sees through him, telling him that they could very easily jam his communications and stop his feed, but he’d rather hear what it would take for Brett to leave his compound. (It’s a fascinating debate, but it only scratches the surface of what drives Brett and what keeps Saul loyal to Keane. Here, Homeland dramatizes our national discourse, but only to an extent. Because then again, Homeland doesn’t — and can’t — offer any answers.)
Brett’s terms are fairly straightforward: He wants amnesty for everyone who’s helped him avoid the feds, including Sharon, his assistant girlfriend. But more importantly, he wants a televised trial, a.k.a. an opportunity for him to espouse his opinions to the nation for as long as he needs in court. Saul explains to Keane that it could take years before the trials begin, but Keane bristles at the idea.
And from inside the house, Brett simply watches as Saul talks to Keane over the phone. Sharon tells Brett he’s doing the right thing and gets ready to leave, but then Brett grows serious, saying Saul has no idea what’s about to hit him. He tells Sharon to take her bags back upstairs…
…but she ends up running to the feds, telling them that Brett’s lied and that there’s something going on in the compound. They all draw their guns, just as Brett’s reinforcements arrive. Saul’s trapped in the middle, and the titular standoff begins as both sides raise their weapons, ready to shoot each other, while one of Brett’s men grabs Saul.
Agent Maslin says they’ll shoot everyone in their way to get Saul back, and at the last second, the man holding Saul lets him go. And though he triumphed this time, Brett almost looks a little worried by what just happened: After everything, he’s now basically declared war on the feds, and there’s no way he’s getting another offer to help him leave peacefully again. Saul, too, looks dismayed as he watches the men who threatened him embrace as they return inside the house. That night, he watches as the area turns into a tiny war zone.
Because now, as Keane and Wellington learn, the standoff has attracted the attention of the media, and Brett’s plan to go out with a bang instead of a whimper has worked. Brett O’Keefe’s stand against the big bad feds will be splashed across front pages everywhere, and knowing this, Wellington tries to persuade Keane that they need a different story to top it. And what better story would there be than an American offensive against a convoy in Syria?
Yeah, the logic’s shaky, but Wellington’s convinced it would work. So even though Keane says she’s against the strike and will not agree to it, Wellington takes matters into his own hands. Hours later, after Keane’s gone off to bed, he calls the general and says Keane has approved of the Syrian mission. He spins a story about Keane wanting him to pass along the message as soon as possible, rejecting the formalities that require her to state her approval directly, and warns the general that she could change her mind in the morning. The general acquiesces, Wellington gives the confirmation code, and America has now launched a strike against Syria — without the knowledge of the president.
It’s a twist that will likely have massive repercussions, but it’s just so…unbelievable. Is the entire White House so incompetent something like this could happen? Shouldn’t a decision like this require more phone calls, more approvals, more hoops to jump through? And what does Wellington really want with this strike? To usurp Keane? (It can’t be to drive better headlines.) Homeland is moving too quickly and brazenly with its plot points involving (a thus far one-note) Keane, but too slowly with those involving Carrie. I’m hoping next week changes that.