Homeland recap: Ka-boom, again
If last week's episode could best be summarized by the single (fake) word ka-boom, this week was expected to be what happens after ka-boom. It's triage at Homeland, and the situation seems to be spiraling out of control. But do you want to know what isn't out of control? My obsession with my own theory that this season's entire raison d'etre is to continually plant seeds of doubt about whether or not Carrie is a double agent. And yes, that's a tease to read until the end of this recap — which, by the way, I'll be writing in chronological order this time around, lightning-fast scene changes be damned, because the whole episode is essentially about one topic only (the aftermath of the helicopter crashes).
Episode 5 opens with Max — cue "I'm holding out for a hero" and light the mantra candles on your Max alter now because he has officially moved up a notch in the Homeland hierarchy. And, the jarring tone of the command outpost scenes have finally paid off, narratively speaking. Piotrowski and his temporary roommates — a group that Vice President Hayes very rudely refers to as "a dozen grunts" — scramble out to the President's helicopter crash sites to act as the first responders before the Quick Reaction Forces can get there. The remaining members of the Executive Branch are watching all of this from the White House, during which point nobody knows whether or not the passengers are dead nor who is responsible. But what we do know is that VP Hayes is highly unqualified for this job and really not good in a crisis. He's panicking all over the Sit Room and it's not a good look.
In Kabul, Saul is also panicking, but more rightly so, about the perpetrators of the attacks: If the Taliban (and Haqqani) planned all of this behind his back then he's good and screwed. As it is, they need to know exactly what happened to that helicopter so they can decide exactly how to respond. In the meantime, the party line is that "weather" is "delaying" the two Presidents, an excuse that neither G'ulom nor Tasneem believe.
We, the viewer, discover along with the first responders that the helicopter crash sites are essentially not survivable (pause for Max to realize that he was supposed to be on that escort helicopter and for me to gloat about correctly predicting that Max's refusal to get on the escort helicopter during last week's episode was a sign) and also that Vice President Hayes thinks that you can talk to a television screen and that soldiers in the Korengal Valley will hear you.
The outpost team checks for signs of life among the Presidents and finds, as we expected, nothing (and Hayes continues not to understand anything that he witnesses). That means that Hayes is now the President, so naturally, he runs away and locks himself in a room, alone. Poor, competent David Wellington tries to explain that since he's the President they have to, like, call people and stuff, but to no avail. There's a moment during Hayes' solitary dismay that I think is meant to cast doubt over his role in this disaster — he is a clear beneficiary of Warner's demise and the look on his face could be interpreted as guilt — but I'm not convinced.
Since Hayes isn't going to do anything, Saul starts rolling calls on his own. First up is General G'ulom, who already knows about the crash but doesn't know that Daoud is dead. Saul asks G'ulom to work with the American ambassador and Scott Ryan (from the CIA) on an announcement, but we all know that G'ulom answers to no one, especially not the Americans and especially not when it involves a plot that he may or may not have orchestrated. (Again, these assassinations could be anyone's doing at this point). G'ulom hangs up on Saul, tosses the last f--- he had to give over the balcony and tells the Americans that he "never really liked" Daoud. Proverbial shots fired. First up on his to-do list is to send his henchmen to find Haqqani, and the second is to tell Tasneem to run because soon he won't be able to guarantee her safety.
Saul sent Carrie over to the hanger at Bagram Airport, where she discovers that the military switched the JSOC helicopters at the last minute and that the mechanic who authorized the swap left immediately and is, for the time being, AWOL. His car is missing and they track him to a residential neighborhood of Kabul where the soldiers come sometimes to, well, "get laid." The mechanic is inside of an apartment with his pregnant girlfriend and no clear motive for having switched the helicopters at the last minute. That means that the whole crash could have been an accident.
Max and the first responders are still collecting evidence at the crash site, and the Taliban — or whoever the forces were that shot the RPG at the helicopter — are closing in. It's so quiet on the hillside you could hear a pin drop, or, rather, a rock slip. Backup is an hour out (...how?), the conifers (conifers!) are too thick for air support, and these weirdos we've come to love are totally screwed.
While all this has been happening, Haqqani has been waiting at a CIA safe house, still thinking he's going to discuss this peace plan with the two Presidents. Saul calls to inform him that the military is searching every car leaving Kabul and that no one will believe Haqqani is innocent in the assassinations (or should we say alleged assassinations). Haissam's mission now is to stay alive long enough to revive the peace process — and it's at this point, as his face falls with the realization that he is totally screwed over, that I first begin to actually feel bad for him.
Should I call an emergency session with my therapist? Should I write an angry letter to Showtime for manipulating me into sympathizing with a terrorist? Should I compose a tweet about how Haqqani, a man, is somehow getting a more sympathetic storyline than Tasneem? Or should I simply congratulate Alex Gansa and his writers for successfully completing this 8-year-long mind f---?
There's no time for existential agonizing in this episode, however, because the Taliban fighters have the outpost soldiers completely cornered at the crash site. They've been about as clear as possible to the command team that they cannot wait for the QRF and stay alive at the same time, but the CIA team is clear on the fact that, if they retreat, the Taliban will have possession of POTUS' body. The solution: Dropping a bomb on the whole site, obliterating any evidence but also the potential for the Taliban to drag Warner's body through the streets of Pakistan.
Unfortunately for the CIA, the military, President Warner, the outpost soldiers, and anyone with even the slightest proclivity for secondhand embarrassment, the order can only come from now-President Hayes. His incompetence with satellite communication can be matched only by his inability to make a decision. The man hems and haws like bullets aren't flying with every second of hesitation. In the end, Wellington simply tells him what to do: Ka-boom, again.
As Carrie and Saul get word that the team at the crash site is going to retreat to allow for the bomb, they make a last-ditch effort to save some evidence. Of course, because this is Carrie, that means someone else puts themselves in danger. She calls Max and talks him into getting the flight recorder out of the helicopter first — a decision that costs several lives at the Taliban fighters move in. Max and Soto make it out, make a run for it, and ka-boom, a third time.
Back in Kabul, G'ulom makes an announcement to the waiting reception (that is televised across the country) that the helicopters have been shot down and blames the entire attack on Haqqani, saying in no uncertain terms that he betrayed the cease-fire and the peace process. He declares martial law, authorizing the military to tear through the streets of Kabul to round up every former Taliban fighter they can find.
Max, Soto and the flight recorder make it back to the site of the first helicopter crash to find the last two soldiers shot dead. Max calls Carrie on his My Best Friend's Wedding phone to beg for a rescue, but Soto is shot dead in the middle of the phone call, Max is forced to surrender, and we are all desperate, wide-eyed Carrie tonight.