If you can win a battle but lose the war, then the opposite must be true. President Keane’s depending on it.
And she may very well succeed. This week, everyone (yes, everyone including Carrie) takes a massive step forward. After the massacre in Lucasville, Saul now cares only about finding out who took the photo of JJ in the hospital and spread the fake news. His first suspect is Brett, who’s now stashed away inside a federal building in Richmond to await his fate, but Brett denies any involvement with the story. Sure, he fanned the flames and took advantage of the chaos once it blew up, but as he tells Saul, “I had talked to that family. I spent time.” Yes, even Brett O’Keefe has a heart.
So then…who sent
Oleg The Americans‘ Costa Ronin to take the photo? Saul has an idea and pitches it while Keane’s national security advisers brief her on the situation. He thinks the story probably originated overseas — “usual suspects,” he remarks, and everyone knows who he’s talking about — because information warfare like this has been happening in Eastern Europe. Could someone thousands of miles away have pulled the strings to sell a lie?
Keane and Wellington don’t want to go there just yet. Because even if someone did manipulate the news, the bottom line remains the fact that the FBI shot a teenager first, and they have to take care to control the situation moving forward. That begins with a memorial service planned that night in Richmond and the rally that’s supposed to follow. Keane wants to keep the crowd in line, and make sure no further violence occurs. As Wellington tells Saul, they need to handle one crisis at a time.
But Saul doesn’t have to — not in his mind, anyway. When he returns to his office, he asks for a plane so he can jet off to Hoback, Wyoming, to meet with Ivan Krupin. Remember him? He was the Russian intelligence agent who worked with Allison Carr in season 5, but turned her in in exchange for his safety (as in, witness protection) in the U.S. As it turns out, that’s meant a comfortable home in Wyoming nested in the woods, with a girlfriend named Kira Korrigan to boot.
Saul and Krupin take a walk, but Krupin doesn’t tell Saul what he wants to hear. Though he acknowledges that a similar situation happened in Ukraine to spark the separatists’ anger — it resulted in an invasion, Saul notes — Krupin says Russia wouldn’t want to carry out something so similar so soon after “we got caught with our hands in your elections.” (Homeland bingo players, please cross “Plotline Blatantly Tied to Current Events” off your board.)
Not one to accept defeat so easily, Saul then asks about a man named Gromov (if anyone caught the right spelling in closed captioning, please let me know?), a “creative thinker” who came up with the Ukrainian ordeal. Saul wonders if perhaps the Kremlin reached out to him and has covered him up somewhere to influence world events like Brexit and, now, the U.S. presidency. But Krupin just scoffs: It’s just one guy. Could one man really destroy entire countries?
The answer is yes, Krupin, have you never read a history textbook, but anyway, he moves on to tell Saul a neat little parable that pretty much defines the paranoia of the season so far: He points to the river they’re walking by and explains that it’s called Snake River because of a miscommunication. When Native Americans tried to introduce American explorers to the river, they used a gesture that meant “fish,” but which the foreigners misinterpreted as “snakes.” And so, Krupin concludes, “Sometimes a domestic crisis is just a domestic crisis.” Perhaps, but when Saul drives away, he asks for a team to monitor Krupin’s (and Kira’s) actions 24/7.
At least Keane doesn’t reach a dead end while dealing with her crisis. When Wellington briefs Keane on their new plan to keep Richmond calm, she requests that the memorial not only honor the 14 Lucasville residents who died, but the additional five FBI agents who perished as well. Wellington bristles at the idea — the memorial was organized by families in Lucasville, and they won’t take kindly to letting the FBI in on their event — but Keane has a plan.
She visits Jackie Goodman, the wife of the special agent who was taken hostage and shot in the head by JJ’s father. Inside the Goodmans’ home, she promises Jackie she’ll present her with a Medal of Valor in her husband’s honor, but first, she needs Jackie — a former FBI agent herself, and a black woman — to take a risk. “I would like you to attend a memorial service tonight,” Keane says tentatively to Jackie, who’s immediately worried about the prospect of heading into the heart of the South to be the face of the perceived enemy. But Keane tells her that she could be the face of restraint, that though she never thought she’d have to ask a woman to contain her rage to make peace, this is the only way to heal. (Next: There’s something about Mary Elkins…)
Anxious, Keane and Wellington watch the broadcast of the memorial. It doesn’t look good for Keane: The anchor onscreen reports of “palpable tension” at the gathering, and there’s no sign of Jackie, who’s also stopped answering her phone. But just when it seems like Keane will have to brace herself for things to escalate beyond her control, Jackie arrives at the back of the church, along with several other wives of fallen FBI agents.
Attendees sitting in the pews begin shaking their heads and shouting at the women to leave, but then JJ’s mother, Mary Elkins, gets up from the front row and approaches the women. She asks Jackie if she’s Mrs. Goodman, Jackie responds in the affirmative, and Mary invites her and the other wives to sit next to her. Keane breathes a sigh of relief as Mary holds Jackie’s hand, and the memorial proceeds in peace.
Still, there’s more work to be done. Keane tells Wellington to quietly set up a meeting with Mary in a few weeks, and then decides to deliver a speech to the nation. She tells America that she was “moved beyond words” to see the women mourning together. “We cannot allow what divides us as individuals to continue to undermine what unites us as people,” she continues, “what brings us together as Americans.”
It’s a good speech, short and sweet and perhaps just enough to put out some of the flames Brett O’Keefe fanned. But something worse is brewing around D.C. — and that takes us to Carrie this week. Yes, her story still feels like the B plot of the episode, but we’re finally getting close to connecting her thread to everyone else’s.
Plus, it’s just nice to see Carrie back in control, even for just one night. Having decided to move forward with a risky mission to connect Simone to Wellington and the death of McClendon, Carrie begins by putting together a team. She reaches out to former allies in the spy game, including a man named Anson (James D’Arcy, sporting an American accent and tons of arrogance), a former special ops agent who once had an affair with Carrie, and who now, in unemployment and divorce, is living alone in a ramshackle trailer park.
But hey, at least he can still function in Carrie’s operation, and after gathering six men (including him and Dante) to help her out, Carrie explains the situation. They have to go to Simone directly and shake her down, and the team decides that, given Simone’s stacked schedule the rest of the week, they should simply go to her office that night and corner her after her late meeting. Dante says it’s far too fast — they need more time to figure out such a big operation — but Carrie says they’ll be fine. All they need to do is clear out the building of other employees and not get too violent, a reminder she pointedly says to Anson.
As with most missions for Carrie, things start out smoothly enough. Dante and Carrie keep track of each of the employees leaving the building by staking it out from across the street, and even have some time to reminisce about the old days, with Dante admitting he misses ops like this, when it felt like “real work.” Dante also has to keep track of Carrie’s meds, and Carrie’s impressed by how well he’s been at observing her intake.
A few hours later, Simone finally exits the building, and the mission’s in motion. Anson and another agent had disabled her ignition, so she’s forced to call roadside assistance — though in this case, her call simply gets redirected to Max, who plays the part brilliantly, advising her to stay put. So she does — though of course it takes the team a little longer to make sure everyone’s gone and for them to cut the power to the building. Once they do, Anson and two more men rush in to interrogate Simone, with Anson knocking the wind out of her.
Simone, tied up and distraught, admits to being paid to carry out McClendon’s murder. While another man slips a bug into her bag, Anson tells Simone that she has to get him another hundred grand by Thursday morning. He explains that he’s been watching and will continue watching, and she seems convinced after he reveals details of her home that Carrie must have told him thanks to her earlier break-in. After the bug goes live in the bag, the men cut Simone free and leave.
After all, they don’t really need the money; all they needed was to intimidate her enough so she would go scurrying to whomever she works for, and to have enough time to plant a bug on her so they can listen in. Unfortunately for Carrie, though, that bug stops functioning immediately. When Simone stumbles outside to head to a bar around the corner and collect herself, Carrie has another one of her men to track her down, but that plan is thwarted as soon as Simone heads inside the bar bathroom. “This is why we needed a woman on the team,” Carrie exasperatedly tells Anson, before heading inside the bar herself to plant a new bug.
She does it quickly and efficiently, acting drunk in the bathroom and spilling the contents of her purse all over the floor. Simone doesn’t notice, and finally, outside the bathroom, makes a call to her contact: Wellington, whom she asks to see as soon as possible. That means roughly 45 minutes, as Wellington has to wait for Keane to wrap up her speech.
Pleased, Carrie and Dante praise each other for their good work. They tail Simone as she takes an Uber to Wellington’s, but when she steps up to go inside, they realize they can’t hear her conversation. As it turns out, Simone’s left her bag inside the Uber, which means they no longer have ears on anything, and what’s worse, there’s no way they can get her her bag back without raising flags. Dante stops Carrie from making a brash call to chase down the Uber and somehow get the bag inside, reminding her that she had told him to pull her back if she wasn’t thinking clearly.
Carrie’s convinced, in the end, and orders her team to fall back. The mission’s over, and though they failed, Dante tells her not to beat herself up. He drops her off at her home, but Carrie’s rattled. How could two bugs crap out on one mission? That never happens to her, she says, but Dante explains that they might be able to bring Simone in front of Senator Paley. After all, they know she was in Hazelton, they know of her connection to Wellington…maybe it’ll be enough.
Maybe, but when Carrie heads up her driveway, she heads inside Max’s van instead of inside her house. Max, being Max, had understood that he should wait for Carrie so they can go over the video surveillance they planted inside Wellington’s home, but sadly for Carrie, Max only has bad news to report. After everything they had done to Simone, she doesn’t end up telling Wellington anything at all — not the money she has to get to Anson, not the interrogation, not the bruise she now has on her abdomen. None of it is shared, and the conversation they’ve recorded means nothing at all. Instead, Simone and Wellington have sex, and, well, “It goes on like this for a while,” Max reports. To which Carrie responds: “What the f—?!”
What the f— indeed. Who’s Simone really working for? And could Saul’s suspicions about Krupin be correct after all? “Active Measures” activated several new mysteries to pursue, and this latest twist leaves me intrigued to see more — of what exactly is going on and of Carrie’s team. I wish we spent a little more time meeting the rest of her allies (Anson wasn’t exactly the most pleasant of the bunch), but this was a taut one-episode mission that got us closer to where we need to be for the rest of the season. Now turn off the feed, Max; we don’t need to see that much of the chief of staff.