'State of Affairs' recap: 'The Faithful'
This was rebuilding episode. Nothing major happened—there were no bombs, or attacks, or significant deaths or things learned. And, sadly, “The Faithful” lacked the humor of last week’s “The War at Home.” All of the action that could have happened in its final scenes managed to get shoved into the preview for next week’s episode, which always feels like a ruse. I know it’s not quite sweeps week yet, but I still don’t think the episode’s most exciting moments should be relegated to the 15-second sneak peek for the next installment. That’s not the same as a cliffhanger.
After President Payton’s decree last week that she wanted the Ar Rissalah 7 to be transferred to a transparent location (i.e. not an undisclosed FBI holding site), the prisoners are being loaded onto a bus. During transport, they begin reciting their creed, again. “We are your brothers, your sisters, you blah blah blah we’re everywhere.” While they’re trancing out during this poetry slam, they’re also each breaking their own thumbs so that they can slip out of their cuffs. Somehow the guard, who is pacing up and down the bus aisle and is only required to keep an eye on seven inmates, manages to not notice all the self-mutilation going on. Cuffs off, they attack the guard and driver, and drive the bus off a cliff.
At Charlie’s morning briefing, she informs President Payton that Nick Vera is in route with Omar Fatah in the Philippines. The plan is that once they have the meeting with Sheikh Hakam, go-to good guy Jack Dawkins will move in to kill Hakam. The bad news, however, is that the heavily armed American that Nick killed has been found by Philippine Marines. He’s a contractor, most likely for the Krieg Group (definitely for the Krieg Group). Payton grills Charlie on whether she’s heard from Nick yet, and whether or not he killed this man. She can read on Charlie’s face that she knows he did it, and POTUS makes it clear that she doesn’t trust anything about Nick. “If we don’t hear from him in 24 hours, we go with a contingency plan,” she tells Charlie. Meaning: an airstrike. Nick better find a phone, stat.
Acting CIA Director Banks—who last week provided so many choice one-liners—makes a brief appearance to let the Bellerophon crew know that one of the AR7 managed to escape the bus wreckage. Poor Dash gets steamrolled by Banks, who doesn’t care at all about who briefs whom. Dash just wants to make a good impression, but if brown-nosing is the way to get through to Navarro, it certainly isn’t with Banks.
Chief of Staff David Patrick makes a barbershop visit to his old frenemy Jules, the television network head. Jules knows about the dead guy in the Philippines. “The CIA outsourcing the hunt for terrorists? Sounds like a ratings sweep to me.” Network honchos are sleazy, but he’s not wrong. Jules is willing to trade his well-sourced scoop though, but only for a live, one-hour, no-holds-barred interview with the president. That night. No biggie. He gets to ask her everything about everything, and she gets to not talk about the Philippines (which really just means keeping the Bellerophon mission under wraps). Sounds like a terrible plan, considering all the other skeletons that are crawling out of her closet. David sees this, and tells Jules to kindly eff off.
Despite David’s warnings, Payton seems to think the interview would be NBD. He tries to make her see the bigger picture—appearing on short notice on one station makes her appear to be scrambling, and she needs to stop looking like she’s playing defense because her critics are already running all over her. He wants her next public address to be a victory lap, like, say of her announcing the deaths of Hakam and Fatah. Sounds like a nice plan, but that’s never going to work out. Payton goes ahead and schedules the interview behind his back.
NEXT: How long will it take for Payton to realize this was a terrible plan?
Charlie and Lucas head to the site of the bus crash. Kenneth Travers is the AR7 prisoner who escaped. He was a foster kid who bounced around homes in Ohio and the D.C. area. One home, though, the Settons, is conveniently nearby, and also the only place where Kenneth got decent grades. Gotta go talk with those parents!
Dash and Maureen are back at mission control, trying to figure out why none of the Ar Rissalah networks have had any chatter that day. Six of their members are dead, and no one is discussing it online? Weird. Turns out the last time they were this silent was right before Stacy Dover bombed the safehouse and killed Senator Green. That means something is on its way—something big.
Kurt is in his office selling the Krieg Group’s equivalent of life insurance to some rich schmuck headed to Aleppo. Always be closing, Kurt! His recruiter of sorts, Melissa Anchez—who, connecting dots here, was the one who got Charlie the encryption program so that she could trace the mysterious texts that were coming from Kurt—comes in to chat. She has very obvious scratches down her arm, courtesy of a trip to Bangkok. Work-related, clearly. She invites him—nay, coerces him with her feminine wiles—into going on a scandalous, drunken, shenanigan-filled lunch with her. Krieg boss Victor Gantry almost certainly put her up to this, and poor Kurt is powerless against women with authority.
Gantry, for his part, is not too happy with Syd for making it out of the Philippines without killing Nick. “Look, Nick felt our trail, killed that other guy, and I escaped. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it,” he essentially tells an unimpressed Gantry. Syd tells him he’s done with whatever nefarious things Gantry has planned. “My loyalties and your agenda are heading different places,” Syd asserts. Nah, says Gantry, as his muscle quietly enters the room. “The only way you can protect Charleston Tucker is to remain operational. End of story.” Ooh, so, what’s he holding over Syd? Also, he is great at not getting his hands dirty.
Charlie and Lucas stop by the Settons to try to find Kenneth. The parents act as you might expect: foster dad is angry that people think that they made him this way or are harboring a terrorist, while foster mom feels for him and wants to help. Welp, good thing Kenneth called to let her know he was hurt and dying! Now Dash can track the phone, find a hunting lodge, and send Charlie and Lucas into the woods alone to find this kid.
President Payton is doing her interview prep, going over the softball talking points (her dead son) with an aide. David comes in and starts with the heavy hitters, which she clearly didn’t think would be on the table. How close are you to killing Hakam? Why are you dodging? Despite repeated breaches in protocol, you keep Charleston Tucker on as your briefer—how come? Can you comment on the allegations that your husband had a two-year affair with the late Senator Kyle Green? Uh, she did not realize all of that was going to be fair game! David is in full whiny outrage mode: “You ignore my counsel, and then you expect me to get you out of a mess that you got yourself into!” “That sounds like a perfect job description for a chief of staff,” Payton shoots back. Ha! Way to Don his Peggy and be all “that’s what the money is for!”
NEXT: Will Kenneth give up any intel? And has Nick found a phone yet?
Charlie and Lucas start wandering through the woods. Lucas is nervous and wishes he were armed, while Charlie is all “no worries, I have a gun. It provides objectivity!” Of course, Kenneth foolishly announces his position and runs at them with a knife, so Charlie uses her objectivity to shoot him in the shoulder. She proceeds to calmly explain the process of dying to him, and steps on his wound until he gives up Professor Ahmadi as the person in possession of all the bomb vests.
Ahmadi isn’t about to be taken into custody, though. He puts a gun in his mouth as Lucas busts into his office. They find the secret room, but he’d already distributed the bomb vests. Kenneth tells Charlie that Hakam is the only one who can give the orders to activate the bombs. He also relays Hakam’s origin story: He was just a boy, but the Soviet invasion of ’79 turned him into soldier! He was 13 when the Soviets killed his father in front of him, so Hakam played along and cooked for them, let them take over his farm, and then he slit their throats in their sleep and burned it all to the ground. This sounds a little Arya Stark to me. Was his scythe named Needle?
Nick, meanwhile, knows he needs to call Charlie, like, yesterday. He sneaks around some tent and ignores all the crates of guns until he finds a phone. Of course a guard, who was supposed to be guarding said crates of guns, attacks Nick. Nick kills him, and Fatah comes in—all like, “Look at this mess, you idiot! Why do I always have to cover for you?” Fatah takes the machete and cuts himself across the torso—like a boss—to make it look like the dead guard attacked him instead. The rest of the men in camp buy it, Fatah rallies those men behind him, and Nick gets to run off and call Charlie.
Once he gets her on the line, Nick gives her the coordinates to their location and tells her Hakam will be meeting them there in an hour. He asks her to reiterate the plan for Fatah—he’s clearly got a little bit of Stockholm Syndrome going on. “Kill Hakam, kill Fatah,” she tells him, on a likely not-that-secure line via a phone he stole from the enemy. This seems like not the best place to be discussing top secret plans. Don’t they use coded language for this reason? The eagle is landing in an hour; you should give the eagle some Flamin’ Hot Cheetos; should I go ahead and share those bomb-ass Cheetos with our tour guide? That sort of thing.
Payton is continuing to nervously prep for her interview when Charlie calls to let her know Bellerophon is a go, one hour out. While the network preps the cameras, Payton skips out. Jules has steam coming out of his ears as they have to say, on air, that the interview is postponed; David is going to hear about this later for sure. POTUS heads to the Situation Room as Nick and Fatah greet Hakam. End scene.
— Charlie always changes clothes between her morning briefing with the president and her daily work. Makes sense—I’d dress up to meet with the president too. But how is it that the Payton is always in the same outfit for a full day? We’ve seen it in other episodes too—but this week in particular, she’s in the same navy powersuit for her 8 a.m. briefing with Charlie as she is for her scheduled 9 p.m. interview on TV. Get Alfre Woodard a clothing allowance, NBC!
— Haha, Lucas eats Fig Newtons. Not sure why that’s funny, but it is. That’s how little humor was in this episode as compared to last week. I found the mere presence of a Fig Newton to be amusing. More Banks, please!
— Speaking of Banks, here was a little foreshadowing courtesy of Charlie and Lucas regarding Banks vs. Navarro.
Lucas: I do dig his absence of tact, but he’s too much of a live wire. We need Ray back.
Charlie: Agreed. We need tacticians.