Damian Lewis as Nicholas “Nick” Brody and Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland, episode eight, “Achilles Heel.” Photograph by Kent Smith, courtesy Showtime
[Spoilers ahead, from the very first sentence.]
I apologize, Brody naysayers. After reading this in the Hollywood Reporter last week, I abandoned cynicism under the foolish assumption that Brody really might be one of the good guys. (Key quote: “In the episode that airs this Sunday, you will understand whether Brody is innocent or guilty,” Homeland co-creator Alex Gansa told THR.) But that assumed innocence lasted all of seven days, during which Brody played the perfect husband, father, and political candidate—before he broke into a Saudi diplomat’s house and tried to choke him to death. As forgiving as we are toward politicians with awkward predilections, this one goes a bit far, I suspect.
So here’s the recap of last night’s episode, followed by some thoughts. But first, a few immediate ones: Who’d a thunk Weinergate would be cropping up on Homeland, albeit very loosely veiled? Who among us (like me) despaired when the action rolled into a mosque, after losing faith in the art of TV writing when The Killing did the same earlier this year? And who knew vicious teenager Dana was so keyed into the intricacies of society, famed Democratic hostesses and all? Perhaps she reads Washington Life.
Last night’s episode opened as Tom Walker, now shown to be very much alive and panhandling, trolls for change among the traffic on North Capitol Street (bonus points for a real Washington location). He’s that guy—the one who makes you roll your windows up and avoid eye contact, as most drivers did. But then a woman gives him a dollar, prompting Walker to smile at her son in the backseat and bless her family. Then a diplomat (we Googled the plates, and he’s from Saudi Arabia) gives him cash with a message written on it: “Wicker Ave. Storage” (we Googled that and got nothing).
Over at the CIA, Estes is interrogating Walker’s young son, only the kid ain’t budging. “I thought you were a spy,” the kid says, unimpressed (possibly he’s been taking lessons in derision from Dana). Helen Walker tells Carrie her son said he’d seen his dad at school, peering at him from behind a fence, but she dismissed the idea. Now that she knows Tom’s alive, she doesn’t know whether to be celebrating or jumping into witness protection. Over in another room, Saul quizzes Brody about Walker, deducing that Brody is convinced his fellow Marine is dead. (To be fair, Brody did think he beat Walker to death with his own bare hands, but he isn’t telling Saul that.) Brody runs into Carrie on his way out, and it turns out he’s still mad about that whole thing where she slept with him and spied on him at the same time. “For someone who lies all the time, you’d think you’d be better at it,” he spits at her. And you know what? We have to concur. For all her intuition and mega commitment to the case, Carrie is turning out to be a pretty lousy spy/judge of character.
Saul’s figured out that Walker, for all his newfound love of Abu Nazir, is still committed to his family—so much so that he calls the house multiple times a day while his wife is out, just to listen to their voices on the answering machine (more Killing parallels!). “Family is his Achilles heel,” Saul says. The CIA crew meet with one of their compadres in the FBI, Special Agent Hall, who immediately comes across as a jerk and keeps bragging about how his team captured Whitey Bulger. “Yeah, after 20 years,” Carrie snipes back.
Brody goes home to Jess, who's angry about him running away for the weekend. “I hung on for six years. Six years after they told me you were dead,” she tells him. “Then I screwed up. But I can’t keep paying for that.” It’s actually a nice turn by Morena Baccarin, who hasn’t been my favorite cast member this season (she looks blank a lot). Brody tells her it isn’t her fault and he doesn’t want his family to fall apart. And things actually start to turn around in the Brody household, with all four playing card games together in veritable domestic bliss. Until the phone rings, and they’re interrupted by snooty Democrat Elizabeth Gaines, who invites Brody and Jess to a party. The couple can’t decide whether to go when Dana jumps in. “Are you guys joking? Elizabeth Gaines, party of the year, and you’re not going?” Party of the year? From a girl who practically sleeps with her bong? Ummmmm, okay.
Mira's packing for her departure for India, and Saul, once again, is begging her not to go. The doorbell rings, and it’s Carrie. You’d think if Saul had learned anything, he’d slam the door in her face. But he lets her in, and she proceeds to ’fess up about her unorthodox relationship with Brody (Saul noticed the tension between them earlier at Langley, you see). “I was chasing the wrong guy,” she tells him. “Chasing’s a good word for it,” he counters. Zing! But oddly, he asks her if she’s okay, then embraces her. “Get some sleep,” he says. Instead, Carrie runs over to the Walker house to help cajole Helen into answering the phone. The first time she does, with the CIA freaking out over the call’s location (Mumbai), it turns out to be a robocall. But the second time, it’s Walker, and he promptly hangs up before they can figure out where he is.
Chris is staring out the window looking for the limo Elizabeth Gaines has promised to send, and Dana comes in to make fun of him. Instead, the two bond over how their parents aren’t fighting anymore. Then Jess and Brody come out, all spankingly dressed and formal, and Dana says one of her better lines: “I swear to God, I must be adopted.” Brody and Jess head over to the party, where Saul and Mira are also chewing the fat with Gaines. “Do us a favor. Stay put this year?” Elizabeth tells Mira, who promptly leaves (she’s very touchy, this woman). When Brody and his wife enter the room, Saul deduces that Elizabeth has a plan. “I have a plan for everyone. You know that,” she tells him (master manipulator alert).
Later at the party, Brody is tipsily regaling crowds with tales of his war bravery (they tried to capture the gold statue of Saddam, but it had already been replaced with a Mr. Potato Head), and Jess is slightly alarmed at all the lovebombing going on (the wife of the head of the DNC practically jumped her). “You were asking what Brody’s being groomed for?” Elizabeth tells Saul. She leads him into the study, where a news broadcast announces that the representative from Virginia’s eighth district has been caught sexting congressional interns (bonus point for the photos, Weineresque in their cringeworthiness). Said rep, Richard Johnson, claims it’s a setup and he won’t resign. (In case you missed the Weiner/Dick parallels, Jess makes sure to emphasize the irony of a sexting politician whose name is a slang term for “penis” several times in the car on the way home.) But we all know Gaines has other plans. “I have an idea who might replace him,” she tells Saul.
Carrie’s over at the Walker house, and for once, she’s actually sleeping. In the middle of the night, the phone rings, and Helen answers it, but she sneaks outside so nobody can hear her. Nobody apart from Galvez, that is, who’s monitoring the CIA wiretap. He alerts Saul, who’s sitting on the floor watching his wife sleep, Brody-style, and Carrie, who rushes around the house, only she can’t find Helen. “I need you to know that I never gave up on you; I never lost hope,” Helen tells the mystery caller. Just as the tap traces Walker to Mount Olivet Road in Northeast DC (yes, it’s a real address), Helen suddenly alerts her errant ex-husband, telling him they’re tracing the call and he has to run. Walker does, but he’s chased by an FBI agent, whom Walker beats and steals his gun. Carrie and Galvez try to control the chase via phone, but they can’t, and guess what? Walker leads the agents into Mount Olivet Mosque (not a real place), and they shoot and kill two innocent Muslims who were there for early morning prayers. And Walker rushes over to “Wicker Storage” where he picks up what was left for him—his brand new sniper rifle.
“This is a nightmare,” Estes says, which is kind of an understatement. The Muslim community is furious. Special Agent Hall wants to release Walker’s information to the public, announcing him as a potential terrorist threat. Estes, who is morphing more and more into Cedric Daniels every time I see him, agrees that they should, which, of course, prompts thousands of sightings, not a single one of them credible. Carrie runs over to Brody’s house at dawn, which is obviously a terrible decision. She tells him Walker is alive, and she couldn’t tell him before because it was classified, but now that they’re going public with the hunt, she thought he should know. “I did not betray you to anyone. Don’t hate me,” she tells him. “I don’t hate you,” he replies, sneeringly. “You just did your job.” This lovers’ tiff is interrupted by Jess, who comes out in a blue bathrobe. Awkward.
After the botched night raid, Saul hurries home to Mira, whom he’d promised to take to the airport. But he’s too late—she’s getting in a cab. “It hit me that there hasn’t been one day since I’ve been home that you were there in the night and there in the morning,” she tells him. His reply is sad: “It’s my weakness. My Achilles heel. Every time they call me, I go.” Later, at the CIA, Saul and Carrie are sitting in his office, both exhausted, both heartbroken. “I had an epiphany today,” Carrie tells him. “I’m going to be alone my whole life, aren’t I?” Saul is silent.
The mysterious Saudi with the diplomat plates arrives home and fiddles with his burglar alarm for a bit before deducing that someone’s in the house. He creeps into the den, where the TV is blaring Walker news, and sees boots on the couch. And guess what? It’s . . . not Walker. It’s Brody, who’s furious. “You people told me he was dead!” Brody shouts, before getting the Saudi into a chokehold. “I’m through talking to Nazir,” Brody says. “Tell him it’s over.”
So. Here is what we know. Brody’s marriage is not over. Brody is still possibly a very bad man who may or may not have been working with Abu Nazir on his own secret plot to destroy America. Brody is also being groomed to run for public office by some Democrat lady who has no idea what she’s in for (think sexting is a scandal, Elizabeth? Just wait till your honorable representative blows up Congress). Carrie and Saul are sad. And Tom Walker is on the run from the feds with a sniper rifle, which is probably not a good thing.
What were your thoughts on last night’s episode? Let us know in the comments.