This season could use a lot more Mandy Patinkin. Out of everyone, Saul’s the only one making level-headed, rational, believable choices.
Yes, Homeland‘s always required some suspension of disbelief, but this episode pushed it to the extreme. David Wellington, a high-level White House official who’s been concerned-to-the-point-of-obsessive over the reputation of Keane’s administration, gets duped easily into causing a commotion in public — really? Keane didn’t know of her own chief of staff’s girlfriend after confronting him just a few episodes ago about launching an airstrike without her permission — really? Krupin, an old-fashioned veteran spy, leaves his comfortable life of presumed defection to talk to Gromov on his own with zero protection — reaaaaally? And Dante, who’s supposed to be this double-crossing mastermind, falls for Carrie’s tricks, while Carrie accepts the idea of him as the enemy instantaneously — seriously?
I guess you could give an explanation for each of these circumstances if you do some mental gymnastics. Maybe Wellington has been blinded by love of Simone. Maybe Keane was too focused on Lucasville to worry about Wellington. Maybe Krupin had more faith in his countrymen than he should have. And maybe Dante really is innocent, which means Carrie is once again on a wild goose chase taking her away from the main plot.
Or maybe I’m like Carrie, unwilling to accept the story unfolding before my eyes. Carrie’s become more intense than ever now that she knows something’s up with Simone, and yet she can’t make a single move without implicating herself and Max for putting up cameras inside Wellington’s home. And so, the only thing she can do is, well, ignore her duties as a mother in favor of staring at the feeds and wondering who Simone really is. She’s also eager to call Dante about what’s going on, but Max holds her off, reminding her that telling an FBI agent about their illegal surveillance really isn’t the smartest move. (Max, you may join Saul in the Rational Corner.)
But Carrie just can’t help herself. When Simone receives a subpoena for Senator Paley’s committee, she puts on a show for Wellington about how worried she is about it, and Carrie realizes that perhaps Simone wasn’t reporting to Wellington after all, but to someone else — which means Wellington’s an innocent victim. Well, not completely innocent. Is Wellington — a man who undermined the president and tries to stop Paley from questioning Simone out of blind faith in his girlfriend — really someone you’d want sitting so close to the top?
Either way, at least Wellington’s smart enough to realize that Paley wouldn’t be going after Simone if he didn’t have something concrete backing his suspicions. And so at home — with Carrie watching — he asks Simone about her contacts and whether she’s been peddling her proximity to him as a way to get ahead. Simone immediately plays defense, and Wellington believes her, but Carrie can’t stop pacing around in her bedroom. She decides to call Janet from Paley’s office and asks to be allowed into Simone’s session.
The next day, Carrie sits in the back and spots Dante, who says he was allowed in immediately because he’s now Paley’s “best friend” for bringing in the evidence that would implicate Simone. Janet and Paley question Simone, but Simone stays silent, letting her lawyer speak for her. When asked to explain her road trip and cash pick-ups, she finally speaks — but says what she really wants is immunity in exchange for her intel. She tells them of a mission to drop off all the money she picked up behind a boulder off an exit into Hazelton, and that if they want to know the name of the senior White House official who directed her to do this, they’ll have to grant her immunity.
Paley, of course, already thinks that anonymous official must be Wellington, but Simone doesn’t budge. (She does, however, let slip that her contact is a man.) Instead, Carrie in the audience grows frustrated at how this win seems far too easy considering everything she knows, so she grabs Dante and leaves the room to talk it over with him. She tells him she knows Simone is lying but can’t say why — she just has a bad feeling about it all. Dante, though, just scoffs at her trying to backtrack everything they’ve done because of a “bad feeling,” and then patronizes her, instructing her to see a doctor and to eat and sleep, because those black market meds have probably addled her brain. Carrie backs down after that — but only so much.
With no one left to turn to, Carrie (finally!) calls Saul. She catches him up on everything that’s happened so far, and Saul immediately notices the patterns. He asks her to retrace her steps and suggests the possibility that all of her actions and suspicions have been set up from the very beginning, maybe by someone she thought was an ally. And in that moment, Carrie realizes how Dante may be the culprit, having brought the parking ticket that sent her down this path, and how he’s the one who knew how much she wanted to pin something on this administration. She was in a vulnerable place — and now she’s more vulnerable than ever.
But Saul advises her to take a breath. After all, the whole Dante question is only a theory; there could be other explanations, other reasons why things have spun out of control. Seeing how distraught she is, Saul tells her of what he’s working on — more on that in a bit — and suggests that everything could be a part of that. The main problem for now is that Carrie has gotten too close and is doing something completely against the law. The best thing she can do, he says, is to lay low and keep her head down until she hears from him again. She agrees…sort of. (NEXT: Unhappy hour…)
Saul, keen on figuring out whether Gromov really did pull the fake news strings in Lucasville, seeks out help from an old friend named Sandy, a Russia expert who was forced out of the CIA during the Allison Carr ordeal. She’s reluctant to join Saul’s quest — meeting a young information scientist named Clint whom Saul recruited onto his team doesn’t help — but she understands what’s at stake. Besides, Saul’s being careful, keeping his suspicions to only himself and his two partners.
Krupin, on the other hand, goes too far. Thrown by Saul’s visit, he reaches out to his former colleagues, one of whom advises him to stay away — he’ll be reactivated in a year, and this risk could destroy the entire network, she warns — but Krupin isn’t one to back down. Later that day, Gromov (who is indeed the man who snuck inside the hospital and took a picture of JJ) grants Krupin a meeting, and it doesn’t go well. He’s not concerned that the Americans know he’s in the States, nor is he all that afraid of Krupin, who says he’ll contact the Embassy and even Moscow if he needs to, to make sure Gromov doesn’t go too far and blow their operation. In fact, Gromov doesn’t care about the rules of the spy game at all; the old ways got his family killed, and the new Cold War is fought on a different front.
An online front, that is, with Wellington being the next casualty. He’s blindsided by the news of Simone being granted immunity — he thought she had nothing worth telling Paley, because she’s his girlfriend and wouldn’t keep secrets, obviously — and Keane is none too happy to see him struggling to answer a reporter’s question when the headlines start rolling in. That night, he tracks down Simone at a restaurant and tries to figure out what happened, but Simone takes him aside and causes a scene away from her lawyer, making it seem like Wellington was trying to threaten her and hurt her. Wellington just looks baffled, and he’s too slow to pick up on the fact that the entire “altercation” was captured on camera by a woman at the bar.
That encounter, though, spreads like a virus, as Saul learns roughly an hour later. By then, the video has made rounds online and become national news. Clint shows him exactly what happened: One person tweeted the video, and automated accounts picked it up across the nation, helping to spread the content that was then picked up by accounts run by real humans. These automated accounts work together to allow for a “species jump” from something on a tiny corner of the internet to a full-blown meme-turned-scandal. The curious thing is that those automated accounts have a lot of the same addresses as the ones that amplified the photo in Lucasville — which means yes, both incidents can be traced to the same network, presumably Gromov’s.
Not that Saul has any evidence just yet. Right after Clint’s tutorial, he gets a distress call from a “John Bishop” — an alias Krupin had used in the past that according to Sandy is a reference to the Orthodox cross he wears around his neck. But when Saul goes to meet Krupin that night, his old friend is nowhere to be found. All Saul finds is Krupin’s necklace, now dangling ominously off a pole in the river, with only Krupin’s still-smoking cigarette
buds butts left on the pier.
Because Krupin, after arriving at their meeting location, has been dragged away by his own countrymen, a group led by Gromov. Gromov has tied him up and placed him in a body bag, and after tossing Krupin’s warning words back at him, places weights on the bag, zips it up, and tosses him into the water to drown. It’s a cruel move on Gromov’s part — and a flawed one. Why couldn’t Gromov simply convince Krupin another way not to divulge anything to Saul? By eliminating Krupin entirely, Gromov has essentially placed a larger target on his back; the death of a Russian defector will certainly raise flags, and make Saul take his theory of Russian tampering even more seriously.
And Saul may soon have Carrie on his team. Though his former mentee had agreed to take things easy, she’s come up with a plan. She gathers Anson and her team for a new mission so she can figure out whether Dante really is working against her, by asking them all out to drinks as a way to “celebrate” their successful mission against Simone. At the bar, she doesn’t drink and acts naturally around Dante, expertly apologizing to him and then flirting with him so he’ll go home with her. But when they do head to his apartment — I’m assuming that’s his apartment? — that night, he ends up feeling faint and collapses on the couch shortly after they start making out.
Someone drugged him just enough at the bar for him to make it home and pass out. And Carrie, acting quickly, has the rest of her team come in and sweep Dante’s place. She sits and watches him warily while Max looks on — and the episode ends there.
So, is Dante a double agent? At this point, that feels like too easy an answer, and it doesn’t totally work with what we know about him so far. If he had meant to play Carrie from the beginning, why did he refuse her request to run Simone’s photo and ID the first time? Why didn’t he play ball with Senator Paley the first time they met? And is it that much of a stretch for two former colleagues to run into each other in D.C.? If anything, I’d say Carrie should remain worried about the man who tried to bribe her for her hard drive. He may have gotten a severe beating and returned her stuff, but who’s to say he doesn’t still have copies of all her incriminating files? After everything she’s done, maybe what Carrie really needs is a little jail time.