President Payton has a plan to get everyone off of her back, Nick is being hunted in the jungle, and Kurt tries to adjust to life on the outside.

By Erika Berlin
January 27, 2015 at 08:05 AM EST
Brandon Hickman/NBC
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State of Affairs did a really good job of following up last week’s peak episode. While it wasn’t going to match the emotional highs (revealing the mole!) or lows (Green and Navarro in danger!) of “Cry Havoc,” the show managed to take another path entirely: comic relief. Some of the most endearing moments on this show have been when the characters—and particularly Heigl, since humor is arguably her strength—show that they actually have a sense of humor. Thankfully, “The War at Home” brought more than their usual quota of laughs, and owe much of them to one particular guest star…

Following last week’s suicide bombing outside of a CIA safe house, which killed Senator Kyle Green, President Payton is under attack. The media have some pretty choice words concerning their current situation: “She’s using the CIA as her own personal army”; “Seven American citizens are being held without due process—it’s Guantanamo in Washington”; and, most damning of all, “she must be impeached.” POTUS fires back with a rousing speech, extolling on how an attack by Ar Rissalah “does not warrant an assault on our Constitution.” We will hunt you down, she tells any cell members listening—but numerous dissenters in the crowd begin screaming. A glass bottle is thrown on stage, and the president is rushed out of the building.

On the drive back to the White House, Chief of Staff David Patrick scolds Payton a bit. “They think you use the CIA as your personal Royal Guard.” He urges her to assign an independent investigation—let them look into any improprieties, and if the CIA is dirty, “let them burn.” Payton decides this isn’t a terrible idea, but of course, as with any investigation, it needs to be managed. “I owe Senator Burke a big favor.” Ah, yes. The senator who refused to allow Kyle Green to release her full report on Kabul. You do owe him.

Charlie, meanwhile, is off doing dirty CIA work—i.e. questioning the seven Ar Rissalah recruits they nailed at an undisclosed FBI facility. They need information on where the bombs are, but the detainees simply recite the creed that Fatah gave them in his interview that was aired in episode 5: “We are your brothers, your sisters, your fathers, your children…”

It’s been five days, and President Payton needs some results. Charlie has no new news for her. The “Ar Rissalah 7,” as they’re being called, aren’t budging. They aren’t revealing where the bomb-making facilities are, and Charlie’s team is beating their heads against the wall. They’re watching the Ar Rissalah tapes ad nauseam, but not getting anywhere. Flip the script, Charlie suggests! There’s got to be a missing link! They decide that the connection must be in how they first made contact, and Dash, the resident expert at finding intel in the corners of the interwebs, goes in search of it.

Nick and Omar Fatah are now trekking through the jungles of the Philippines when their party is confronted by another group of uniformed men. Once the shooting starts, an unarmed Nick and Fatah rush off with only one of their guides. They’re surrounded again, but unseen snipers take out all four of their attackers, who turn out to be Filipino marines. Shit. This means they’re being doubly trailed, and Fatah and the guide immediately assume it’s the CIA. Nick protests his innocence, but the guide insists Nick kill whoever is following them before he takes them to the camp to meet Sheikh Hakam.

The president has called a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Burke to fill him in on her internal investigation plan. He’s all for it and manages to one-up her. He convinces her to make it a congressional investigation, complete with subpoena power. He assures her he’s not on a witch-hunt, and that if he wanted her head, he would have let that Kabul report out in full. This man’s a great politician. He’s definitely playing some cards very close to his chest—I think he’s going to Frank Underwood someone by the end of the season.

Dash’s search turned up extremetruth.net, a site popular with anti-establishment types. The good news: all seven known Ar Rissalah members were on this site, and it definitely provides the answers. The bad news: the site has been shut down, and the cache of information is held on a private server owned by one Professor Ahmad Ahmadi. Yup, the man who was cleared after Lucas hit him during questioning. Charlie goes to his office and humbles herself before Ahmadi to ask for help—they need his cooperation on this and have already badly burned that bridge. Ahmadi tells her that he came to the States from Beirut in order to feel safe, and to live in a democracy, but that Charlie’s agency has proved it was all a lie. She looks noticeably uncomfortable begging for help, but in the end, Ahmadi relents.

NEXT: What is Kurt up to these days? And which special guest star is our new favorite character? 

When Charlie gets back to the agency, Senator Burke is waiting for her in the conference room. He explains his new task, and Charlie is immediately cold and dismissive. Did Burke just call her a bitch? Oh, no, poorly veiled language. He told her there would be no witch-hunt as long as no one acts like a witch, wink wink. Charlie’s eyes roll so hard, they fall out on the conference table and take a bow. Luckily, Matthew Lillard barges in to save the day. Matthew Lillard! I mean, Acting Director Banks. Navarro is still in the hospital, so Banks and all of his cocky SOB glory come strutting in to shut down this friendly chat. He yells the equivalent of “get off of my lawn” at Burke, who sputters that his investigation was ordered by the president herself. “Bitchin’,” Banks replies. “Have her give me a call.” Charlie can’t even contain her amusement. She’s practically giggling like a schoolgirl while the senator gets his ass handed to him.

Right on cue—since we couldn’t just enjoy a little more of that hilariousness courtesy of Mr. Lillard—Nick calls Charlie from the Philippine underbrush. “Do you have guardian angels on this op?” Translation: Who the hell are these snipers?! Nope, confirms Charlie, I didn’t send anyone. That’s what I thought, Nick replies. I’m off to do things you shouldn’t know about, catch ya later! Sidenote: Where can I get one of these CIA-grade phone batteries? My dumb iPhone dies after a couple of texts and a round of Candy Crush.

Kurt, meanwhile, is in a boring office at a boring desk job. He’s reading up on Navarro’s condition and considering calling Maureen, but his new boss, Victor Gantry, comes in. He says he was with the CIA for 20 years, and what he learned was that “for what we do and what we lose, we are not adequately compensated.” (That’s what you learned?!) Gantry then goes on to make fun of Kurt’s ridiculous pickup truck, which, yeah, doesn’t exactly fit his job description. Gantry throws him a black card and the number of an imported sportscar showroom. Kurt goes out and gets himself some fancy, bulletproof Bond shit. Newbie-villain is looking good on him!

President Payton calls in Deputy Director Banks—sorry, Acting Director Banks. Way to know your worth, Lillard! What’s his gripe? “I’ve got subpoena requests up my ass, and that is not a cozy feeling, ma’am.” I’m sure it’s not! He also seems to harbor a bit of resentment toward Navarro. He tells POTUS the investigation feels like a ploy to nab Navarro, but that he doesn’t care. “He was appointed; I worked to get where I am.” No worries, Payton tells him. Just cooperate within reason. They share a knowing glance. Within reason. Of course.

Back on the 7th floor:

Maureen: “What happened upstairs?”

Charlie: “Interview with Senator Burke.”

Lucas: “Oof. Hate that guy.”

Charlie: “Deputy Banks intervened.”

Lucas: “LOVE that guy!”

Me too, Lucas! Oh Lucas, it’s nice to see you’re off the sauce and are getting some of your color commentary back.

The president and her motorcade approach Senator Green’s home, where her daughter greets her warmly. “Your mother and I had our differences,” Payton tells the daughter, “but we were friends long before we were politicians.” Kyle’s husband shows up and tells her off though. “You’re not welcome at my house, and you sure as hell aren’t welcome at my wife’s wake!” The daughter convinces him to let Payton stay, but he tells her there are no pictures allowed. “We don’t exploit dead family members here.” Payton stabs him with her eye daggers.

That night, Nick is out hunting the snipers on his trail, who pop up wearing ghillie suits. Nick kills one, while the other pins him against a tree, growls “you were told to stay away,” and runs off. Bewildered, Nick rushes over to the man he killed. American. No wonder that voice sounded familiar; it was, drumroll please… The man running off in the Wookiee costume is SYD! So Syd will travel to do his mysterious dirty work now! Interesting.

NEXT: What’s the real reason President Payton and Senator Green had their falling out?

That evening, President Payton sits at home looking at old family albums as her husband, Marshall, comes in. She found out he went to Kyle’s viewing the day before, and is livid. Calm down, he tells her. “You’re upset that you didn’t work things out with Kyle, and you’re taking it out on me.” What exactly was the root cause of their falling out, though? All of these weeks of animosity between POTUS and the senator, and yet no specified root case. “There wouldn’t be anything to work out if you hadn’t slept with her in the first place!” she shoots back. BOOM. There we go. “The War at Home,” indeed.

Kurt takes his new Batmobile out for a spin (and does a terrible job of driving in his lane, by the way). He suddenly pulls over off of a winding backroad and takes a long look at the car. Then he pulls out his gun and starts testing its bulletproof capabilities. Except, no. That would have been awesome though. Instead, he realizes that this is just a souped-up Trojan Horse, and he starts searching for the tracking device. Looks like it is where any good tracking device would be—right in the wheel well. That was obvious.

Dash’s search of Ahmadi’s site turned up a lead on an address, and Charlie and the bomb squad head to the scene. They send the robot in, which finds seven backpacks set against the wall. The robot’s fine-motor skills won’t allow it to open the packs though, so they have to send in a bomb technician. He diffuses the first bomb, but the second bag explodes on opening. The entire building goes up in flames.

Charlie goes to the Oval to give POTUS the update: The site of the bombs was found and destroyed. She gave credit to Professor Ahmadi for his allowing them access to his private servers, even after the way the CIA/Lucas treated him. “That is a patriot in its truest sense,” Payton says, “to see the dark side of democracy and you still believe.” She orders the release of the Ar Rissalah 7 to a transparent federal facility, one that will give them access to lawyers and medical attention. And, as for that Burke investigation, when Charlie voices her concern that she feels he’s after the relationship between POTUS and herself, Payton brushes it aside. “I know.” She’s thought this out though: While Burke makes a bunch of noise with his investigation, she and Charlie will quietly take out Hakam and Fatah. Burke won’t find out about Bellerophon, so they can go along with their plans for revenge/world peace (?).

Obviously that’s not going to go quite so smoothly. Senator Burke might not know about Bellerophon, but Kurt does, and apparently Gantry knows enough to grill him for information about it by name. Why didn’t the CIA retain Kurt somehow again? Stick him in a box, à la Huck? That seems like information they shouldn’t have let walk out the door. Also, where did Gantry get his intel?

We close with Professor Ahmadi. President Payton has sent him a handwritten thank you note, which—amateur handwriting analysis wannabe here!—doesn’t look at all like the same handwriting she used at the beginning of the episode while free-handing her speech. He reads it, smiles, and grabs the key to a secret room, which is hiding several detonation vests. Shit. He’s a bad guy after all.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

— “I would have come to you, but…” “Well, you’re not cleared to come to my office.” Ha! Good one, Charlie. Way to make sure Burke knows who has the real authority.

— When Marshall talks about that photo, again, he continues to guilt-trip President Payton about it. “She gave me information about our son as a friend—information you wouldn’t give me as my wife.” Not cool to continually throw that in her face, dude. Again, Senator Green committed a felony by handing out that picture, and, again, the president has much higher security clearance than is afforded the First Gentleman, regardless of how much he’s grieving his son.

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Katherine Heigl makes a return to prime time in this NBC political/espionage thriller.
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