Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison Homeland, episode ten, "Representative Brody." Photograph by Kent Smith, courtesy of Showtime
If last week’s episode was a necessary but tedious hour of exposition, this week’s was a most-welcome return to the drawn-out scenes and adrenaline-surging tension Homeland’s offered in some of its best episodes (the scene in the park, like the mosque scene from episode eight, had the kind of rapid-fire development where your gut tells you something terrible is about to happen, but everything happens so fast you barely have time to process it). It’s a sterling episode, with one glaring exception: FARRAGUT SQUARE IS NOT A PARK WITH A LAKE AND A CHARMING BRIDGE, PRODUCERS. It isn’t. It’s a lonely patch of unkempt grass populated by food trucks, homeless people, and the occasional fleet of wayward ducks lost on their way to the Potomac. I wish there were a lovely quaint pedestrian fountain, and the gush of running water, and a surrounding skyscraper or two, because I would totally eat lunch there every day—but there isn’t (in fact, there aren’t any skyscrapers in DC at all). If you’re going to use such a prominent District setting in such an important scene, maybe go on location for a day instead of filming in a Charlotte park for cheap. Just saying.
Previous Homeland Recaps:
While we’re on the subject of Charlotte, many thanks to the reader who commented in last week’s recap that “Healthy Home Market” is actually a real Charlotte store and not a thinly veiled Whole Foods as I had originally guessed. Pity poor Charlotte. All these great tax incentives and picturesque locations make it the ideal place to shoot a television series, but for some reason, nobody wants to film a show actually set in Charlotte, which leads to all kinds of unnecessary lies and subterfuge. Sigh. Here’s today’s recap, followed by a few thoughts.
Last night’s episode opened with Carrie and Saul tracking our mysterious Saudi Arabian diplomat, whose name is now revealed to be Al Sahrani. “We turned him upside down and we shook real hard,” says Saul. And guess what they found? Al Sahrani is in debt to the tune of $750,000; he’s also gay, and frequents a bathhouse in Dupont Circle (are there actually bathhouses left in Dupont, readers?), where spycams caught him canoodling with various different men. Carrie heads to the bank that holds most of Al Sahrani’s debt, and a spy-smitten executive agrees to let her take part in some extremely unorthodox “customer relations” business in the building. As long as there are no Crayolas involved.
Brody’s hanging out at home, as usual, reading in the paper about VP William Walden declaring that the war on terror is far from over. He hears a knock at the door and does what anyone would do—he stretches in preparation for a fight, rather than, you know, just answering it. A few absurd sunglasses-sporting Secret Service agents bust in and sweep the place for bombs (little do you know, agents!), and then in comes Walden himself, to Brody’s confusion. Walden chitchats about Walker, and then gets to the point: He wants Brody to run for disgraced Virginia representative Richard Johnson’s vacated seat. “I would consider it an honor to work with someone like you—someone who’s lived and fought among the enemy, and who understands them,” says Walden. Famous last words.
Carrie and Saul are dealing with yet another douchey federal employee (I’m sensing a pattern here). This time, said agent is from the State Department, and he’s upset that the CIA is even thinking about violating Al Sahrani’s diplomatic immunity. But Saul has taken a page from Carrie’s book and is being all rebellious and whatnot. “[Abu Nazir] and Tom Walker are planning an attack on the United States,” Saul says. “Fuck the charter.” Despite Statey’s whiny plea that he’s “going to the Secretary on this one,” Estes approves the shakedown of Al Sahrani and puts Carrie in charge, ’cause she’s a woman and men don’t like that. Especially if they’re gay men from Saudi Arabia, it seems. Carrie reminds Saul of a pearl of wisdom he once shared: that they’re trying to find out what makes them human, not what makes them terrorists. “Sounds like good advice,” he quips.
Jess comes home to Brody, who tells her the Vice President came by for a quick visit, prompting my favorite Jess line of the season: “Here? It’s a mess!” She’s less enthused by the news that Brody is considering running for office, which she seems to guess will massively disrupt their lives, not to mention release a few skeletons from the closet. She reminds Brody about her and Mike, and him and that CIA girl (she knows! I don’t know why this is a big deal, but it is!). “Don’t be naive,” Jess tells him. “It’ll all come out. Every gory detail.” But what Brody can’t tell her is that he really, really wants to do it, because his terrorist buddy and spiritual mentor, Abu Nazir, wants him to so he can possibly kill a few thousand people. Instead, he goes to Mike and asks him to intervene, employing emotional blackmail, charm, and that most underused form of coercion, gratitude. It’s vintage Brody, and it shows us exactly how good a liar and a manipulator he can be.
Carrie’s with Virgil, prepping the necessary details for her big meeting with Sahrani. She learns about his wives, his children, and presumably, his sexual peccadilloes and Christmas wish list (just kidding). The pair are interrupted, and guess what? It’s Brody, calling to see if they can meet. Virgil seems cheered by the news the Carrie has a social life, but God forbid Carrie would ever go out on a school night. She tells Brody to come over the following night instead, and promises to text him her address. Then it’s back to work. There are two kinds of interrogees, Virgil tells her. “There are the guys who beg for mercy, and there are the guys who get all heroic and are willing to roll over and die for the cause.” Only time will tell which one Al Sahrani is.
The next day, it’s go time, so Carrie, Saul, and a number of hired thugs have assembled in an empty floor of the bank’s building, waiting for Al Sahrani, who thinks he’s coming to talk about his loan restructuring. Says Saul: “Carrie. Eviscerate the motherfucker.” Only you don’t get to be a Saudi diplomat by being an idiot, it seems, and their target is perturbed by the empty floor and the goons in ill-fitting suits. “You can’t hold me. I have diplomatic protection,” he tells them. So they play their big hand and reveal the pictures of him in the bathhouse, as well as that they know about his financial situation: He’s mired in debt and has no savings, or stocks, or real estate holdings, but he occasionally goes to Geneva and deposits large amounts into a Swiss bank account, which leads them to believe he’s on Abu Nazir’s payroll. “You don’t believe in radical Islam,” Saul says. “You love the West. Do you really want me to share these photos?”
Al Sahrani does, it seems. “Go ahead,” he says. “I suck cock, and I love it. Yummy yummy yummy yummy yummy.” (I’m beginning to like this guy, if only for the yummy noises.) He moves to leave, but Carrie’s Spidey-sense is back, and she plays one last trump card: Al Sahrani’s daughter, Janine, a Yale undergrad who spends hours with her father looking at his “beloved impressionists at the Phillips Gallery.” Janine, Carrie warns him, will be deported unless he helps. She’ll be kept out of England, and France, and Australia, and forced to live in Saudi Arabia where she’ll “get fat and wear a burqa for the rest of her miserable life.” Tears rolling down his face, Al Sahrani gives in, and he tells them about Walker. They have a “tradecraft” for setting a meeting, in which he places a child’s drawing of a heart in his window. He and Walker will then meet in Farragut Square by the fountain the next day. Saul’s pleased, and tells him to go about his business, live his life: “You work for us now. Welcome to the CIA.”
Jess gets a visit from Mike, which she sees right through. “A little incestuous, isn’t it?” she says of his coming to her on Brody’s behalf. But Mike pleads his case. “He’s a lost man wandering around in the fog,” he says (totally something a Marine would say). “This thing really means a lot to him. He’ll be a better man.” Carrie, meanwhile, is prepping for her visit from Brody, which means jazz, wine, and lipstick—the three least subtle seduction signals ever to grace the small screen. But, hey, she loves jazz! She even has a print of Satchmo on her wall! It’s not like it’s just good mood music or anything. Which is a relief, because Brody arrives and is icy cold, beyond the fact that he wants her to pledge never to reveal their relationship to anyone, mostly for Jessica’s sake (sure). “She deserves better, and she’s going to get it,” he says. Carrie looks like a puppy that’s been kicked. But she smiles and promises not to say a word, and ushers him out. Then she pours the wine down the sink, throws the bottle in the trash, and cries. Which is utterly unrealistic; any girl worth her salt would finish her glass, finish his, finish the bottle, text him something incoherent, and then cry.
Saul, in the meantime, is living in his office, eating peanut butter with a ruler and gazing sadly at a picture of Mira. But there’s work to be done! The next day, 15 CIA agents assemble around the fountain in “Farragut Square” to wait for Walker. (Seeing as how they’re spies, you’d hope they could have found the real Farragut Square, but never mind.) Tension is running high, so when a black man enters the square, everyone’s on tenterhooks to see if it’s Walker . . . but in a nice reflection of racial stereotyping, nobody can tell whether it actually is him or not. The suspect approaches Al Sahrani, carrying a briefcase in his right hand (Walker is left-handed), which tells Carrie that something is up. She runs toward the pair, but not before the real Walker, waiting by a nearby window, detonates a bomb in the fake Walker’s briefcase. There’s carnage everywhere: blown-off limbs, blood, gore, and a not-moving Carrie, whom Virgil rushes toward.
Jess is watching the news about the suicide bomb in Farragut Square, and she’s spooked, but Brody assures her it’s just probably some lunatic working alone. She tells him she’s okay with him running for office, and he seems thrilled. “Just promise we won’t lose you again,” she says. Across town, Saul’s keeping a vigil by Carrie’s bedside, and when she wakes up, he tells her she’s all right—she just has a really bad concussion. Some good drugs and a week’s rest, and she’ll be fine. He tells her about the explosion, and it turns out the fake Walker was a homeless guy Walker paid to take a briefcase to the park (what an absolute a-hole Walker is, by the way). “How did Walker know? Who told him?” Carrie asks. “Same person who slipped Hamid the razor blade,” Saul says. “Same person who warned Aileen and Faisal we were on to them. You were right. Abu Nazir has someone inside the US government.” Carrie asks him to turn up the TV, where Vice President Walden is announcing his newest Manchurian candidate: Sergeant Brody. “A service to your country is the highest ceiling. Sacred and profound,” Brody is saying. Carrie’s lip trembles.
So: epic episode, lovely pacing, great characterization, but a few minor quibbles. First: They know Tom Walker’s bad, right? They know he was in Iraq with Brody. So why, instead of looking more closely at Brody to see what kind of terrorist-training hellhole he was in for eight long years, are they asking the guy to run for public office, where he’ll have access to some of the most important people in the country? We’ve heard of insufficient vetting in the past, but this is frigging ridiculous.
And we get it. Carrie likes jazz. She’s kerrrazy, and she just loves jazz. Okay? Done. If I hear one more Miles Davis clip on this show, I’m going to scat my way over to the remote control and change the channel. Although, the clips from next week’s episode suggest Carrie’s going to lose her sanity sooner rather than later. After all, why lead with a plot point that your lead character is suffering from delusions and possible schizophrenia unless you’re going to make it really matter in a future episode? There’s one school of thought (a.k.a. my husband’s) that says Carrie has a split personality and is really the one doing all the bad work for Abu Nazir, à la Twin Peaks. But I don’t think I buy that one just yet. For one thing, she seems to work all the time, which doesn’t leave much space for a secret terrorist identity.
What are your thoughts on last night’s episode? Let us know in the comments.