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WashingTelevision: Homeland Recap, “Clean Skin”

In the third episode of Showtime’s newest drama, Brody plays peacemaker, Lynne gets a gift, and Carrie gets a helping hand from Saul.

Morena Baccarin as Jessica Brody and Diego Klattenhoff Mike Faber in Homeland, episode three, “Clean Skin.” Photograph by Kent Smith, courtesy SHOWTIME

[Alert: Spoilers ahead, from the first sentence onward]

Judging by the laws of television, Lynne Reed’s character wasn’t destined to be with us for long. From the minute Carrie (Claire Danes) assured Lynne (with breathtaking mendacity, one might add) that a surveillance team was watching her 24/7, despite the fact that said team had been denied to a girl described as just “an escort recruited in Bahrain,” it was obvious that Lynne’s chances of lasting the season were slimmer than a rookie model during fashion week.

Given that Lynne (Brianna Brown) was not only one of Carrie’s most trusted sources, but also the conduit for most of the gratuitous sex/nudity scenes in Homeland, it’s hard to see how the show will progress without her character (luckily Jessica Brody seems willing enough to drop her clothes at a moment’s notice). “Clean Skin” opened last night as Lynne was “entertaining” Prince Farid Bin Abbud in royal fashion in a DC hotel room. After Farid left the room for a minute, Lynne took the chance to upload the contents of his BlackBerry to the chip Carrie gave her, prompting a momentously suspense-filled wait for the world’s slowest spy device to work. We, like Lynne, thought for sure that she’d been discovered, but it turned out Prince Farid only looked thoughtful because he was about to give Lynne a whopping great diamond necklace. Cue sighs of relief all round.

What was particularly interesting about this week’s episode was the lack of attention given to Brody’s secret life. Anyone who’d skipped the first two episodes completely might think Nick Brody (Damian Lewis) was just a kind, slightly scarred soldier returning home to a typically dysfunctional family. This week the Brodys are preparing for a TV interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, prepped by an abrasive producer (Gaby Hoffmann) who looks a lot like Rachel Maddow, only with frumpier hair and less charm. Brody objects to the camera crew moving his furniture around (Carrie breathes a sigh of relief when he intercedes to stop a couch being moved, since the couch was hiding some of her surveillance equipment). “I kept everything exactly the same the whole time he was gone,” Jessica tells Mike, whose main role this week seems to be to look pissed off every time Jessica and Brody look happy together.

And teenaged rebel Dana (Morgan Saylor), who’s seen smoking weed on a riverbank with some of her unwholesome and unsupportive friends? She objects to everything—most notably the “bulls^&t perfect family” image being projected for the cameras. Dana’s also—like any self-respecting teenager—angry at her mother, which means she compensates by making nice with Dad. She accepts his offer of breakfast to her mom’s chagrin, and watches YouTube videos in her room with him late at night (it’s safe to assume, since the pair are heard laughing, that Nick isn’t trying to indoctrinate his daughter with the collected works of Anwar Al-Awlaki just yet). Dana’s friends encourage her to do something drastic on-camera, something like “tell the truth,” which she mulls over thoughtfully. And while driving with her mom to pick up tacos, we discover what that truth is: Dana knows that Jessica and Mike have been having an affair, and she’s furious about it.

At the CIA, Carrie’s addressing the significance of Prince Farid’s visit to the US, which she suspects is to deliver funds for an imminent terrorist attack. Saul (Mandy Patinkin) isn’t so sure. The prince, he tells the room, comes to America at the same time every year “to top off his harem, not to fund terrorism.” To which we have to add, he comes to DC to top off his harem? DC? Not New York, or LA, or one of the myriad cities with a plethora of underemployed women with fake boobs and a penchant for diamonds? #Showtimefail. Carrie thinks Saul’s giving her a hard time, and she asks him later if he’s ever going to forgive her for the illegal Brody surveillance screwup. “You destroyed [my trust] when you lied to me and treated me like every other schmuck in this building,” Saul replies.

Carrie meets with Lynne in a posh swimming pool locker room, where she picks up the chip from Farid’s phone. “What are you looking for?” Lynne asks, presumably torn between loyalty to her country and loyalty to her boss/boyfriend/giver of diamonds. “I’ve been right beside him for a year, and all I’ve seen is a nice guy with a few sexual quirks.” There’s a nice moment where we see the similarities between the two women: both unconventional professionals, both married to their job, both women in a man’s world. Carrie gives the chip to a cryptologist, who unfortunately fails to find anything of significance, leaving Carrie understandably frustrated. She returns home to join Virgil (David Marciano) on Brody surveillance watch, which again entails watching Brody have an extremely unconventional sexual encounter with his wife.

In his first of two interviews Brody does with O’Donnell during “Clean Skin,” the MSNBC host asks him about the two-page report on his “scars and identifying marks.” “You were beaten,” O’Donnell says. “Tortured. To what end?” We see flashbacks of Brody in incarceration, being kicked and punched, before Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) arrives with a bowl of grapes and figs to feed the starving captive. In the present, Brody pauses. “They want you to lose faith,” he says. “In your country, which they say is the devil. In your fellow Marines, who aren’t coming for you. In your wife, who they say has her arms wrapped around someone else.” But you survive, he says, by having faith. “Semper fi,” O’Donnell responds. Yes, this Latin expression has cropped up before, and is almost certainly going to appear again in the future.

Lynne, meanwhile, is going out to a club with the newest member of Farid’s harem, who almost immediately makes the faux pas of coveting Lynne’s necklace and getting sloppy drunk on champagne (we told you looking for professional whores in DC was a bad idea). “I’m not so sure about that one,” Lynne tells Farid’s main assistant, the omnipresent, oh-so-creepy Latif Bin Walid (Alok Tewari). Bin Walid tells Lynne that the prince has requested she “visit” a new business acquaintance of his to sweeten an upcoming deal. Alarm bells ringing, Lynne calls Carrie, who assures her she’s being monitored, before rushing into a van with Virgil and trying to trace her source’s whereabouts. Only it’s too late for Lynne, who’s shot twice by a friendly seeming driver who tells her he’s merely taking her to the Hay-Adams. Lynne also has her fancy necklace purloined. Carrie and Virgil find the body, but Virgil’s professional instincts compel him to drive away before they’re seen. “Carrie, there is nothing to be done here. They made her,” he says. Carrie cries in response.

Jessica Brody is preparing for the big TV interview (the second with O’Donnell that includes the whole family), only to find both her husband and daughter are AWOL. Turns out Nick Brody took his daughter for a walk, where he tells her to go easy on her mom. “She’s struggling, too. You should cut her some slack. We all should.” His pep talk works, because rather than go postal on live television, Dana makes nice and plays the model daughter during the interview. Jessica looks relieved and puts her hand on Nick’s thigh, prompting another uncomfortable look from Mike. Despite the fact that this week has helped solidify Nick’s image as the perfect father (if not husband), it’s hard not to suspect that there’s more
drama ahead with Mike, who’s about as welcome in the Brody home these days as a skunk at a garden party.

Carrie and the CIA bosses have a crisis meeting about Lynne, wherein we discover that DC police questioned Prince Farid and let him go (unless he had expired license plates, it was pretty much inevitable that MPD would fail with a case of this significance). Carrie watches the interview video of Farid, who seems to be inconsolable about the death of a girl he describes as “a beautiful soul.” Is it possible, Carrie wonders, that Farid is innocent? Saul tells her to look for a money transfer elsewhere, which in the Nomadic culture, frequently involves jewelry. Turns out that Bin Walid happened to hawk Lynne’s necklace, resulting in a cash transfer of $400,000. And the money? It’s not explicitly spelled out, but in the following scene, a nice young couple (Arabic man, white woman) are seen buying a house near the airport, with cash. The realtor apologizes for the sound of airplanes, but the couple doesn’t seem to mind. “For us, it’s perfect,” the wife replies. Is it possible they’re avid planespotters? Not really.

From which we can deduce the following: (a) Bin Walid is going to feature prominently in future episodes, (b) Carrie is probably going to suspect this and tell her bosses, who will reject the idea and try and hamper her investigation, and (c) the terrorist attack being planned, with or without Brody, is going to feature airplanes in some way—unoriginal, but there you go. “Clean Skin” was interesting mostly in the way it ignored Carrie’s dysfunctional life (barring her inability to shop for groceries) and made us sympathize with Brody, neglecting all mention of his Islamic faith and making him seem like a pretty stand-up guy. So how exactly will the kindly, paternalistic, understanding soldier become involved in a plot to kill hundreds of thousands of people? We’re not sure, but hopefully with another three weeks left on her FISA warrant, Carrie will be able to figure it out before a nice blonde woman and her husband blow up Dulles.