Homeland recap: 'Like Bad at Things'
It makes sense that this episode begins with the sound of sirens. Keane has lost control of her chief of staff, her administration, her image. Brett O’Keefe, too, of his domain in Lucasville. By the end of the hour, the high-wire act Saul’s trying to pull off turns into an all-out war. Of course, Carrie’s story remains the only thread grinding all the tension to a halt…but we’ll get to that.
For the most part, this entry’s the strongest of the season 7 quartet so far. Wellington’s Hail Mary — circumventing Keane’s order against the air strike — worked, at least when it comes to repairing Keane’s image. The morning shows have been praising the move, and people love it! This was the day Keane finally became president!
But Keane doesn’t see it that way. And why should she? She’s been undermined and can’t do anything about it, especially after Wellington butters her up with a speech about how much he believes in her and how she just needs a chance to prove herself. It’s all quite baffling, and Carrie rightly points this out when Max arrives, having watched the whole thing on her laptop feed from inside Wellington’s house.
Then again, Carrie’s reading a lot into everything. She barely lets Max get in one word before she starts connecting dots, telling him that Wellington, given how he played Keane, must be capable of taking out someone like McClendon. But Max reminds her that everything she knows has been obtained illegally, via surveillance they, again, illegally installed in Wellington’s home. And with Carrie grounded after her last debacle, what’s she supposed to do?
Brett O’Keefe faces a similar standoff — at least in his mind. He could very easily, very simply stop a disaster from happening between the FBI and his army by giving himself over to the feds, but that is the antithesis of what he — and more importantly, his broadcast persona — stands for. Brett O’Keefe is the Voice of the American People, the men of men, the leader of the fight against Keane. How is he supposed to go away quietly when there’s all this opportunity for something big to damage Keane right at his doorstep?
So here’s what he decides to do: Make a promise he can’t keep. He’s clearly wary about the amount of ammunition that’s been stockpiled around him by his pseudo-army — hey, he’s no good at firearms, remember? — but when he’s confronted about how dangerous the site, the home of a couple named Bo and Mary Elkins, is becoming, he says that he would never let anyone’s kids get hurt. In fact, he says he’ll make sure to hand himself over if things get out of hand; after all, he’s the one the FBI want, not any of these folks around him.
Maybe he believes it, that he’ll be able to prevent bullets from flying. But barely a minute after he says that, the men around him notice a drone flying overhead, piloted by the FBI. One of the men grabs a rifle and shoots it down — and in one move, pisses off the entire FBI operation except for Saul, who’s trying to keep a level head.
That classic Saul Berenson level-headedness gets tested soon enough. Though the Elkins have begun to take their kids away from the main house, JJ — the boy with the Brett tattoo — has run off chasing the family dog Bruno. (Which…feels like it comes out of nowhere? Maybe we’ll find out in two episodes that Costa Ronin’s character baited the dog or something? Because otherwise I have loved Bruno simply because he’s a dog and it feels wrong to be mad at a dog for causing all the subsequent trouble? Anyway.) Bruno winds up running straight at the FBI agents parked at the border, so Bruno gets shot (yikes), and when JJ exclaims over his dead pet, the FBI shoots him too, and when a special agent tries to help fix the situation, he gets taken hostage.
In other words, everything is screwed. But while Saul races to the scene immediately to see what he can do, Brett just stares as Bo and the other men bring a bleeding JJ back inside the house. He’s stunned; he broke his promise. And when he gets on the phone with Saul, he almost sounds apologetic, describing to Saul JJ’s condition. He admits that he’s lost control — that even though Saul needs him to relay the message that there’s a hospital nearby they can take JJ to, he might not be able to convince the men that that’s the right move.
Even Saul’s having trouble working with Agent Maslin, who insists on Brett’s men bringing their hostage back before they provide JJ with any medical attention. Saul, being a rational and decent human being, points out the fact that JJ is a 16-year-old kid, and that they cannot have his blood on their hands. Maslin resists, so Saul’s forced to call Wellington, who — sigh — also resists at first, pointing out that his rocky relationship with Keane right now means that Keane really shouldn’t have to hear another piece of bad news. It’s an absolutely ridiculous argument, and Wellington knows it, and so, finally, Wellington gets Keane to get on the phone with Maslin and help move JJ to a hospital.
The FBI sends in an ambulance with two paramedics, Brett’s men search them, and they’re allowed to help JJ. One of the paramedics, though, has a surveillance device she plants on the radiator next to the special agent taken hostage before she leaves. With JJ on the way to the hospital, Brett goes back down to the basement to broadcast a new message, using the literal blood on his hands to demonstrate how Keane’s work has led to violence. It’s the message he wanted to send all along, but before he can continue talking, JJ’s mother tells him to “just stop.” Looking a little pained at her comment — or maybe I’m projecting? — Brett does. (Next: Uphill battles…)
At this point, Saul can guess what happens next, and he tries his best to convince Brett that none of this will end well — and definitely not for his side. Again, he tells Brett to give himself up, to be the adult in the room, to be the decent guy. And yet! Brett is convinced there’s a way to leverage this for himself.
Of course, even more s— is headed is way. JJ’s taken to the hospital, but waiting outside is an unnamed man played by The Americans alum Costa Ronin (hi Oleg!), who sneaks into the hospital, slickly sidles through doors, disguises himself as a doctor, and plants himself close enough to JJ’s operating table to snap several photos, one of which makes it look like none of the many doctors and nurses are in JJ’s room. Seeing this, he smiles and emails the incriminating — but false! — photo under the subject “FBI Lets Boy Bleed to Death.”
And at the worst moment, that photo shows up on national news. (Again, this makes very little sense. Did none of the reporters at this network call the hospital and check? How can you report that JJ is dead when all you have is a photo of him bleeding? It’s irresponsible! Maybe this season of Homeland is secretly trying to tell a story about the proliferation of fake news, but even then, this really isn’t how it works. No major national news network would do something like this, especially when the item could be so easily debunked by the people at the hospital.) Saul has arranged for the women and children to be taken off of Brett’s compound, but just as they’re being transferred, both sides see the news item about JJ’s passing.
Saul immediately questions the report, and Maslin exclaims that he had just spoken with the doctor who assured him JJ was recovering, so Saul races to call Brett and insist that he tell JJ’s father Bo the truth and calm the men down before things go awry. But of course, Brett freezes, and soon enough, Bo’s drawn a gun and shot their hostage, the special agent who had tried to help JJ, dead.
Agent Maslin, hearing this over the device, tells his units to go forward — and shoves Saul aside when Saul protests. Saul calls Keane to brief her but admits that it’s too late for her to do anything about what’s going on. War has begun, shots have been fired, and Brett, being Brett, runs away and takes cover in the basement. There, he broadcasts one final message to pin it all on Keane — and then uses an American flag that was hanging on the wall to cover his face as agents use tear gas to drive him out. Two agents take him away, and finally, he opens his eyes to see the casualties, the bodies (including Bo’s and Andy’s) sprawled on the ground in front of the house. Does he feel guilty?
There’s no way of knowing when this episode ends: Saul approaches Brett, and Brett, eyes red, just looks at him. He looks triumphant, but maybe it’s something else. Saul’s emotions are easier to read; all he can do is look down with regret… as a mournful cover of “God Bless America” begins to play over the credits.
It’s a gut-punch of an episode ending — and it’s too bad everything Carrie does distracts from it. But here, I’ll sum up: Basically, all Carrie does is follow the money. She drives to Hazleton, where Simone received her parking ticket. (Parking: the key to unraveling every government conspiracy!) She then deduces that Simone parked where she parked so she could go to a cash advance store, spins a story about Simone being her bipolar sister (nice one, Carrie), and finds out that Simone received just under $10,000 dollars, enough to let her fly under the radar. Max, going through Simone’s hard drive that Carrie copied last episode, figures out from her EZ Pass history that she always pulled off at stops near cash advance stores — which corroborates with Carrie’s theory that Simone was picking up payments to carry out the hit on McClendon.
Carrie’s so invested in figuring this out she nearly fails to make it home on time to greet Maggie and Franny. And Maggie, noticing this, forces Carrie to take her Seroquel. Carrie, now no longer desperate to deal with her illness, takes one because Maggie’s watching, but the next day, a zombie-like Carrie gets driven by Dante to a man named Josh, who supplies her with a whole batch of other drugs to combat everything. So yes, reckless Carrie’s back — but it’s for the good of the country, and Dante says he’s happy to join her in her quest to investigate Wellington, which could cost him his job. The fact that Dante has changed his mind just four episodes in worries me; why is he so invested now? Sure, the proof she’s gathered so far does seem solid, but is immediately diving into an illegal plan the smartest move? Could he be interested in… something else?
Whatever the case may be, it’s a story that still feels built on too shaky a foundation and has only continued to minimize Carrie’s role. I suspect that’ll change soon; now that Saul has brought in Brett O’Keefe, Keane will want to bury Brett, and Wellington will need to make more moves to push forward whatever agenda he has on his mind. Maybe that’ll bring everyone together. For now, though, all Carrie has is another plan — and a new man with whom to carry it out.