Carrie questions Dante, only to take things too far
708-Lies, Amplifiers, Fucking Twitter
Credit: Antony Platt/SHOWTIME
Episode 601
S7 E8
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Quick: If you were to choose from the likes of, say, Lucille Bluth, Betty Draper, Cersei Lannister, Norma Bates, and Carrie Mathison, who would win Worst TV Mom? Okay, so maybe the winner wouldn’t be Carrie, but she’s definitely in the running.

After all, she goes about the next day as if nothing wrong happened, as if her daughter didn’t just get yanked out of bed by a strange man with a gun and thrust into the arms of her naked, screaming mother while another man — the one who made pancakes! — got dragged out of his apartment in his birthday suit. Yes, Franny, that was really, really scary and all, but you’re just gonna go to school like nothing’s wrong and you’re not sleep-deprived, and you won’t say a single word to anyone, okay? Or else Mommy’s going to get in huge trouble, as if Mommy isn’t already.

So yeah, Carrie Mathison, Mother of the Year.

In her defense, she’s obsessed — with the case she’s found herself in the middle of, with Dante, with all of it. She calls Saul immediately after dropping off Franny, asking to speak with him face-to-face. Saul relents and allows Carrie to come to the secure site where he and his task force are holding Dante, and when Carrie arrives, she immediately asks to be the one to interrogate him. Saul looks at her warily, telling her they’ve only got one shot at him, and even though she’s helped greatly with this investigation, she’s been “running around like a deranged vigilante,” which is why he can’t trust her like he once did.

Carrie doesn’t back down; instead, she doubles down, explaining to him how much being away from the job is “killing” her, and how she’s the only one who can crack Dante, having shared a history with him (among other things). Saul caves eventually, and Carrie goes to see Dante, who just laughs when she walks through the door. He wonders if Saul and his team know that she, as he puts it, is a “lunatic” who self-medicates — apparently not, as Saul closes his eyes in worry — then taunts her for being a “regular sh—fest” with a “f—ed up brain.” He’s full of colorful language, but when she accuses him of traveling with Simone in Eastern Europe, he goes silent.

As she leaves, he asks to be taken to the restroom, and Carrie allows it, instructing the guards to take him through the front, straight through the task force’s office, where Dante can see all the evidence they’ve gathered on him — and on her. It’s enough for him to start talking again, though, as he tells Carrie he’s concerned about the quality of the task force’s work. After putting up all these maps and connections, can’t they see that his trips abroad were just coincidence?

No, Carrie says. It’s all too much for coincidence: the fact that he ran into her in a coffee shop just hours after Keane locked up 200 people, including Saul; the fact that he exploited their friendship and grew close enough to handle the op; and the fact that he turned her into an active measure. She tells him she knows all his grievances against the country he loves, but just as she’s getting close to making him break, Saul notices Carrie’s phone buzzing repeatedly with texts and calls from her sister, Maggie.

He doesn’t stop her interrogation, however. Saul watches closely as Carrie deploys all of her questioning weaponry: She relates to him, saying she understands what it’s like to be on the outside looking in. She tells him that both of them have been treated unfairly, have been used. And she wraps it up by saying that everything that’s happened can be undone — so please, Dante, just tell the truth.

But he doesn’t — at least, Carrie doesn’t think so. He tells her that their run-in in the coffee shop was just that, a run-in, and that he was beyond happy to see her again and to reconnect with her. And now, after all that, he wants a lawyer. Carrie’s face falls, and she leaves the room — only to have Saul tell her Maggie’s been looking for her, and there’s nothing else she can do for the time being.

Outside, she pops some pills, and then drives home and once again, must face Maggie. (Kudos to guest star Amy Hargreaves, who can play gravely serious while still coming off warm and loving toward Carrie in enough different ways to make us not tire of her character. It also helps that everything she says makes total sense…) Maggie had picked up Franny from school after Franny’s teachers called to say she had been crying all day, and Franny spilled the beans on what happened after Maggie assured her Carrie wouldn’t get in trouble. Armed with the knowledge of what happened the night before, Maggie gives Carrie an ultimatum: Either check herself into a mental hospital that night and continue to see Franny every day and have custody of her, or Maggie will file for custody because Franny feels safe and loved in her aunt’s home. Carrie hesitates — something Maggie can’t understand, because how could a mother even wonder whether to keep her daughter? — and tries her best to tell Maggie that what she’s working on is more important than Franny. The fate of the country, again, rests in her hands, as the world’s falling apart because of everything listed in the episode title. When Maggie just sighs, Carrie simply walks away, refusing to make a choice. She screams in her car, alone, and then collects herself as she drives away. (Next: Sneaky Paley…)

Over at the White House, Keane has also been backed into a corner. Senator Paley and his committee have offered her an ultimatum of sorts, telling her that if she resigns now, she’ll avoid the hit on her reputation and the media storm to come, because he’ll make sure Simone doesn’t testify. Keane wonders if he — or any of his committee members, people she’s worked alongside for years — actually believes she could be capable of working with her chief of staff to mastermind a murder of a general. They respond that crazier things have happened to the country.

Keane, in spite of herself, is shocked by this turn of events. She mulls over the idea of resigning with Wellington, who offers again to resign — but it’s a dead end for both of them. Left with no other option, he proposes putting pressure on the Russians, to get them worried enough that they’ll pull the operation. Keane says yes, so Wellington meets with a Russian ambassador and tells him everything: that he knows Simone is a Russian operative and that if Simone lies at the testimony, Keane will consider it a “hostile act” from Russia.

The ambassador acts baffled over Wellington’s story, but soon enough, he’s meeting with Yevgeny Gromov, telling him that though Moscow is thrilled at how much he’s done, it’s time for him to go home. He tells him the damage is done, and it’s time to make sure Simone does not testify. Gromov protests, saying he has no idea where Simone is, but the ambassador just smiles. “You’re a genius, everyone tells me so,” he says. “You’ll figure it out.”

And he does: Gromov tracks down the lawyer representing Simone and threatens her, having found out she’s put her mother on Medicaid despite their millions in assets. He learns that Simone’s being comfortably held in a remote cabin, where she’s been surrounded by armed guards. There, she’s been visited by Senator Paley, who says he’s “just checking in,” but tells her that he thinks her testimony is “horsesh—.” He puts pressure on her, casting doubt on her story that David Wellington simply asked her to carry out an operation involving $50,000, so she did it. Simone starts crying, explaining that Wellington told him it was for a friend in trouble, not for a hit on a general. And as she continues to sob, Paley finally looks satisfied. “Good,” he says. “My apologies if I’ve upset you but I had to be sure that you’re for real.” In other words, he had to be sure she could sell her story. Crying on cue helps.

Speaking of which, I’m surprised Carrie hasn’t cried yet this episode, given all this pressure. She might cry soon enough, as everything begins to unravel. At first, she seems to have the upper hand: When she returns to Dante’s interrogation, she tells Saul she has a plan, even though he advises her to go home and figure things out with Maggie.

Dante had asked for a lawyer, so Carrie’s figured out a way to get to him without him knowing it. They bring a lawyer in, a man who tells Dante he’s an associate of a lawyer he trusts, and has Dante sign some paperwork. All seems well — until Dante begins to collapse of a heart attack. He’d been poisoned through the skin, it seems, by a substance that had covered the pen the lawyer gave him. And as he thinks he’s dying of a poison administered by the Russians, he finally tells Carrie the truth, saying the Russians were behind McClendon’s murder and that Simone is involved. It’s enough to get them a warrant to arrest Simone once and for all.

Too bad it took so long. By the time Saul calls Keane to report the good news, Gromov and his men have already arrived at Simone’s safe house. Keane and Wellington congratulate Saul after breathing a sigh of relief, but when they tell him they tried to carry out their own tacts — of threatening Russia — Saul grows concerned. He chides Wellington for using Simone’s name, as it only put a target on her back. And indeed, the target got placed, though Gromov isn’t there to wipe Simone off the face of the earth. Instead, his men smuggle her out of hiding place and bring her to Gromov, and the two embrace and kiss.

Saul then walks into an empty house, looks around, and understands that after all that work, they’ve still lost. He calls Carrie hoping that their one piece of evidence is okay, but all Carrie can offer is yet another blow to their mission: Dante’s heart stopped after being poisoned, and now they’re at the hospital, trying to resuscitate him. Carrie hangs up the phone, is asked to step outside, and slowly, as if in a daze, walks away.

The good news is, Keane’s presidency will at least last a little longer. Though even that could be bad news. This episode didn’t veer into the ludicrous territory of its predecessor, but I do wish it was more nuanced. Did we really need to see that the Russian ambassador indeed knew Gromov and the whole operation or know by the end that Dante was definitively a bad guy? I would have liked just a little more suspense over which characters we could trust. Still, I can’t complain too much about an installment that may have finally brought Carrie to her senses. Here’s hoping Franny gets to stay where she belongs.

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Episode 601
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