Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland, episode nine, "Crossfire." Photograph by Kent Smith, courtesy Showtime.
Well. Sergeant Brody, we hardly knew ye. But if we took away anything from last night’s show, it’s the odd revelation that Brody the terrorist is far less compelling a character than Brody the war vet/scarred POW/family man/adulterous drinker. This was a particularly jumpy episode, switching back and forth so many times between the present, the past, and the present again that it was hard not to get cross-eyed. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that every series at some point airs an exposition episode, which usually brings with it more than a modicum of tedium. So hopefully this was just a one-off and Homeland will return to business as usual next week. But one question: Now that we know for sure that Brody’s a Nazir ally, isn’t it that much harder to sympathize with him? Nice work on the mosque shooting/compound exploding parallels, though. It’s becoming more and more obvious that the truth these days is whatever government officials decide to say it is.
Anyone else get flashbacks to Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker when Brody was trawling through “Healthy Home Market,” an inexplicably disguised Whole Foods, looking for VitaminWater? “What is that, some kind of medicine?” he asks Jess over the phone. Poor Brody—although, after eight years in an Iraqi cell, you have to imagine he’d be confused about more than just VitaminWater: “Hey Jess, that black, shiny box you carry around all the time and occasionally talk to—what’s that? Why are your jeans so tight? And why is the car talking to me?” But, we digress. While Brody’s out doing the shopping, he tries to call Jess to query this newfangled flavored water craze the kids are all talking about, but she doesn’t pick up—she’s busy vacuuming, and Dana’s listening to headphones (this is presumably an allegory for the communications difficulties of our modern era). So Brody just continues shopping—until he gets jumped by two men while getting into his car, who beat him, stick a syringe in his neck, and drive off with him. Just out of interest, how many times has Brody had his face messed up this series? Three? Five?
Carrie, meanwhile, is trying to deal with the ramifications of the FBI playing real-life Halo in a downtown DC mosque. Sporting a headscarf, she pleads with douchey Special Agent Walker to take off his shoes, which he grudgingly does. But he ain’t budging when it comes to fessing up to his men shooting two unarmed worshippers without provocation. The imam is furious about the FBI’s official story, which is that shots were fired before his agents pulled their weapons (we know this to be categorically untrue from the last episode). “Two families will get no justice unless the FBI tells the truth,” he says to Carrie. But the imam also denies knowing Tom Walker, and Carrie’s Spidey-sense (and the FBI’s investigation that indicated Walker was familiar with the mosque’s layout) tells her this isn’t quite accurate.
Walker has apparently taken it upon himself to get back to nature, so he’s out somewhere strolling through an idyllic wooded landscape. Idyllic, that is, until he takes out his superpro sniper rifle and starts aiming at a target. He’s interrupted by an innocent-looking hunter, whom Walker, spooked, points his gun at. But the guy’s just asking friendly questions (“What you hunting?” “Office supplies”), and so Walker shows him his amazing sniper skills and hits the bull’s-eye dead-on. This, plus the fact that he’s carrying a top-of-the-line rifle, unnerves the poor hunter, who rushes to his car and pulls out the newspaper with Walker’s picture on the front. Only before he can even reach for his phone, Walker takes him down with his brand new weapon and drives off in the dead hunter’s blood-spattered truck.
Brody, who’s still very much kidnapped and unconscious, is having flashbacks to three years ago when Abu Nazir rescued him from his horrible three-foot-wide cell in northeastern Iraq. We know it’s three years ago because of Brody’s strong resemblance to Worzel Gummidge. (Just kidding—a banner tells us, which obviously means this is a serious flashback and not just a frivolous torture-y one.) Nazir welcomes Brody to his luxurious new quarters and draws him a bath, before cutting his hair and getting rid of that awful beard. Brody is oddly pliant, much like the first time we saw this happen, in the pilot, when the Marines were in charge of the clippers. “This is Issa, my son,” Nazir tells Brody, introducing him to a frankly adorable child. “I want him to learn English. Fluently. You will live here with him as long as it takes.”
Carrie joins Hall in a crappy diner, where she tries to persuade him to come clean about his officers getting shot at. “Have you ever been in a firefight?” Hall asks her. “Yes,” she snaps back. BLAM. He looks disappointed for a second. “Well, then you know that shit happens,” he tells her. But if she thinks for one minute that the CIA is going to come in and throw any of his men under the bus, she’s “fucking high.” Luckily, Carrie, being Carrie, has secretly taped the entire conversation and plays it for Estes, who’s both awed and horrified by her nerve. “There’s no bridge you won’t burn, no earth you won’t scorch,” he marvels. “But you will not do anything to sabotage the FBI. That is a direct order.”
Carrie, however, knows the imam knows something about Walker, and she’s determined to find out what it is. So she pays him and his wife a visit in their trendy Northeast DC loft, and politely tells them what will happen if another terrorist attack happens and people find out he knew something about it and didn’t tell. It’s vintage emotional blackmail Carrie, but she still strikes out. “Actions speak louder than words,” the imam tells her. “Yet so far, you’ve done nothing but talk.” Still, Carrie leaves her card behind in case they remember anything (most efficient cop trick ever, if Law & Order: SVU is anything to go by). And judging by the meaningful looks between the imam and his wife, it won’t be long before someone in the apartment calls her.
Flashback Brody, meanwhile, is trying to make friends with young Issa, so he slowly gains his trust through the international language of soccer (and also takes the blame for the kid when his football crashes through a table). The two are now besties! Brody teaches Issa the words to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and Issa draws Brody a picture of himself and his flame-haired friend, a soccer ball between them. The pair pray together, they read together, they hug, and Issa quickly picks up English (inquiring minds might want to know what nefarious scheme Nazir wants his son to learn fluent English for, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now).
In the present, Carrie’s on the phone with Saul, who for some reason is lying on the floor listening to what looks like an iPod. Is he playing meditation podcasts? The Slate Gabfest? U2? We never find out, because Carrie gets a call on the other line, and what do you know? It’s Zahaira, the imam’s wife, who wants to meet her in 15 minutes. Bingo. The pair meet up in what looks like a Goodwill, and Zahaira tells Carrie that Walker has been coming to the mosque, maybe seven or eight times, and that he always meets with a man who doesn’t pray—a man with diplomat license plates. Turns out Zahaira, like us, Googled the plates and found out they were from the embassy of Saudi Arabia.
Brody, back in the present, wakes up in a modest bedroom, not all that dissimilar from his cell back in the Nazir compound. Opposite the bed is a computer monitor with a Webcam, and, sure enough, it isn’t long before Abu Nazir appears. It appears that Nazir telling Brody that Walker was dead was all part of a grand plan for him to trust in Allah’s forgiveness, and now that Brody knows it was all phony, he’s pissed. But Nazir isn’t letting him off the hook that easily, and reminds him of another event that prompted Brody to pursue revenge against America. In a flashback, we see Brody sending Issa off to school one day, only to be floored by a massive explosion in the compound. He searches desperately for the boy, and inevitably finds his lifeless body, prompting despair and a dramatic, Brando-esque cry of “ISsAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.”
“I pray every day that you never lose sight of what you committed to do in Issa’s name,” Nazir tells Brody. As an extra reminder, the Saudi diplomat shows Brody the TV broadcast he watched from Iraq, where Vice President William Walden declares that a predator drone has hit a compound where Abu Nazir is believed to be hiding. Any images of dead children from the compound, Walden says, are believed to be false—merely propaganda spread by the other side. But Brody knows better, of course, and it’s presumably his disgust at the lies spread by his country that spurs him toward his grand plan as a terrorist. And in case you were wondering where Walker fits in, he’s “helping,” as Nazir tells Brody. “That is all you need to know.”
Now for a pep talk from the diplomat. “As [Walden] prepares to become president, he’s going to try to use you. To be seen with you,” the Saudi tells Brody. “Let him. He’s also going to ask you to run for office. Do it.” Which begs the question—how on earth do Nazir and his manifold assistants know this? Do they have bugs in Elizabeth Gaines’s fancy house? Or are their people really everywhere? Regardless, Brody gets in his car and drives home, just missing Carrie and Saul, who are on their way to sniff out the Saudi Arabian embassy or something. And Jess buys Brody’s ridiculous “I was mugged” story, even though the pills he has blatantly don’t have his name on them—and where was he all day, and he’ll have to get all his cards replaced now, and why didn’t he call the police, etc., etc. But guess what? There’s a message for him on the answering machine. From the Vice President’s office. And if Abu Nazir’s info is reliable, Brody’s about to get an unexpected job offer. (Never mind the PTSD, or the cameraman throttling, or the backyard deer shooting. They love all that stuff in Washington.)
What were your thoughts on last night’s episode? Let us know in the comments.