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WashingTelevision: Homeland Recap, Episode 11, “The Vest”

Bombmakers in Gettysburg, color-coded walls of terror, and a lettuce featured prominently in last night’s episode.

Morgan Saylor as Dana Brody, Morena Baccarin as Jessica Brody, and Jackson Pace as Chris Brody in Homeland, episode 11, “The Vest.” Photograph by Kent Smith, courtesy Showtime

Who’d have thought it would come to this? That after 11 episodes, countless plot twists, two dead CIA informants, and endless discussions about the contents of Carrie’s fridge, the hub of global terror right now would appear to be . . . Gettysburg? Who knew Civil War towns could be so dangerous? No offense, Homeland writers, because this was absolutely a stellar episode in terms of structure, but the idea that Brody could go on a pilgrimage to a battlefield with his family AND pick up his brand new bomb vest (offset by his fetching Yankee soldier cap, no less!) at the same time was too cute by half.

What was really interesting about this episode (to me, at least) were the following two points: (1) Dana, who has been the most transparent and stereotypical character so far, is now the most intuitive. Consider her suspicious attitude toward her dad in contrast to Jessica, who thinks things are the best they’ve ever been in the Brody household. Dana, who seems to have a Carrie-esque “laser focus” for trouble, knows Brody is up to something, and the video she captured of him without him knowing (again, Carrie-esque) confirms how bizarrely he’s acting.

And (2): Brody has been several steps ahead of Carrie ever since her cameras were removed from his house. Whether it was out of manipulation or luck, he’s managed to get her to feed him information and reveal her suspicions without giving away anything himself (other than that he’s a Muslim who loves Abu Nazir, which you’d think would set off some pretty sharp warning bells, but never mind). Brody’s an expert liar and a master manipulator, which means even poor Carrie, a sharply skilled veteran of gathering intelligence, seems to have no clue that he might be part of Nazir’s master plan. And the minute he senses she’s figuring it out, he calls up old Estes and gets her fired. I can forgive you many things, Brody, but not that. Not when Carrie’s screaming and yelling and clawing at her rainbow wall of terror, and the thuggish CIA goons from last week’s episode are pulling her away. For destroying the last threads of Carrie’s dignity in a week when she could really use it, Brody, you are dead to me.

Last night’s episode could have been subtitled, “How to Make a Terrorist Quilt,” because the care, attention, and meticulousness with which our unknown Gettysburg bombmaker/tailor constructed his bomb vest was nothing short of fascinating. The sewing machine! The glue! The ball bearings! The scene was almost excruciatingly slow, but it also showed how a seemingly dreary moment can become as gripping as any action-strewn sequence in Fake Farragut Square.

Over at Langley, Estes and Saul are trying to figure out who is leaking information, which is complicated by the fact that the President is getting frustrated at not being able to use his helicopter (#firstworldproblems) and looking like “an impotent asshole,” according to Estes. Saul, ever the orator, counters that “he’ll look even worse when his helicopter gets blown out of the sky.” Despite spending all their time arguing, the two have discovered that there are 16 different agencies that know about their activity, which doesn’t leave them with many leads on who the leak is (it’s Galvez! I think). So Saul puts on a natty flat cap and goes to the hospital to pick up Carrie. Only she isn’t Carrie, she’s a whirling, swirling mass of mania who would give her “fucking kingdom for a green pen.” Saul seems utterly incapable of dealing with the situation, so while Carrie goes on and on about “methods, patterns, priorities . . . a bigger, pernicious plot,” he just gapes at her, mouth open.

Carrie, it’s fair to assume, hasn’t been taking her pills in the hospital. So now she’s having a manic episode, which means she’s two sandwiches short of a picnic (luckily, her dad’s a pro at making them!). She’s desperate to get back to Langley and start drawing things with green pens, but Saul deduces from her frankly psychotic behavior that she’s not very well, so that might not be a good idea. “Who can we call?” the doctor asks her. Carrie, all blinky, wide-eyed, and frantic, reluctantly tells them to call her sister.

Nice use of a steering-wheel cam in the next scene, producers. It left us feeling almost as disoriented as Carrie. Brody, Jess, Dana, and Chris are on their way to Gettysburg to have one last weekend as a family before his campaign/reign of terror/party in heaven with 72 virgins makes life a little complicated. Jess makes a joke about “three score miles” and everyone laughs, even though it isn’t remotely funny. And Dana comments on how Brody’s scars are all faded, which shuts everyone up. The family arrives at Gettysburg, where Brody gives them a history lesson about Joshua Chamberlain, the schoolteacher who made an utterly mad decision at Little Round Top and promptly made the history books. “He was willing to do what was necessary for a cause he believed in,” says Brody.

Saul is with Carrie at home, waiting for Maggie to arrive and listening to his protégé go on and on about things that sound completely bonkers: “Is it a whisper? A crash? A deep internal pain?” Maggie arrives and tells Saul that Carrie is bipolar, and nobody at work can know, and she’ll need constant monitoring for a week until her meds kick in— not exactly what Saul wants to hear in the middle of a Code Red terror alert. Meanwhile, Estes is visiting the Vice President in his bunker, and Walden’s pissed at being confined when he could be out campaigning. Estes begins to tell him something about a Saudi shipment of C4, but Walden isn’t having any of it: “Why do you do this—tell me things I don’t want to hear? Find Walker. And fire someone. I don’t care who.”

It’s familial concern day, because while Brody is making Dana promise to take care of her mom when he’s not around, triggering Dana’s finely tuned sense of suspicion, Maggie is adding herself to the long list of people concerned about the state of Carrie’s fridge. While she’s going on about food groups and vegetables, Carrie is plainly unreceptive (or “resting her mind,” she says, in what is now going to be my default napping excuse). At a stoplight, Carrie suddenly jumps out of the car and runs across the street in traffic to . . . a vegetable patch, where she stares, mesmerized, at some things growing in the ground. “This is how everything works!” she tells her exasperated sister. “You wait, you lay low, and then you come to life.”

Over in Gettysburg, the family heads to the Heritage Diner for lunch, and Brody tells them he has to go buy a toothbrush. Instead, he ducks out and runs to a nearby tailor, where he encounters the bombmaker we saw at the beginning of the show. The smoking bombmaker man gives Brody a fitting for his suicide vest, as well as some sage advice: “Some people get nervous. You don’t want your hand on the switch until the very end.” Brody, however, is more concerned about vanity—he’s heard that the blast goes upward, meaning his head will be cleanly severed (does he want Jessica to have something to remember him by?). He takes the vest and is loading it into his car when he’s interrupted by Dana, who obviously wants to know what it is. But he fobs her off by telling her it’s a gift for her mom, and goes into the diner, where he’s accosted by Americans grateful for his service.

Maggie loads a head of lettuce into Carrie’s fridge, where we all know it will wither and die. Saul arrives to take the night watch and looks around at the mess—apparently Carrie had a paper party with a sheaf of classified documents, so the apartment looks like a giant hamster cage. Saul goes up to see her, where he apologizes for not seeing before how “damaged” she was. “There’s no time, Saul,” Carrie replies. “It’s already purple.” Saul, instead of dismissing her nonsense as the ramblings of a delusional, paranoid lunatic, goes downstairs and starts leafing through her papers. Then he starts rapidly pinning them on the corkboard in order of color and scribbling dates on different pieces of paper. Who’s manic now?

At some Gettysburg motel (which is probably actually in Charlotte), Brody gives his son a pep talk, only Chris really isn’t interested because his ice is starting to melt. So Brody goes to talk with his wife, who’s super excited and happy that things are going so well, and everyone’s proud of him. “You’re this promise. That things can be better,” she tells Brody, who grimaces. “Brody, I’m . . . happy.” He attempts to make out with her, to which she lamely protests that the kids are next door. Where are they usually, Jessica? Sleeping in the garage on Brody’s prayer mat?

Carrie wakes up and goes downstairs, only to find that Saul’s made sense of all her scribbles and color-coded pieces of paper. “It’s a timeline,” he says. The pair discuss the chart, which shows clearly that Abu Nazir was quiet for a while— his “fallow yellow” period. “Tragedy,” Carrie says. “He was mourning during the yellow. Green was his revenge.” She tells Saul about her illness, which started when she wrote a 45-page paper claiming she’d reinvented music for a professor whose class she didn’t take. “The professor escorted me to mental health,” she says. She also urges Saul to get Galvez on the case, which makes me believe even more that he could be the leak. Her sister and father arrive, and her dad goes off to make sandwiches, which is apparently the only thing he does on this show. But Carrie’s intrigued by the color chart, so she calls the one person she thinks has insight into Abu Nazir: Brody. He seems alarmed by her call, and tells her he’s coming to see her. “Stay there,” he says.

Dana’s snooping about in the back of the car, poised to open her dad’s package, when Brody comes out and disturbs her, slapping her hands away. Later, in her room, she Googles Joshua Chamberlain and tells her friend how worried she is about her dad. In some footage she filmed of Gettysburg, she unknowingly captured him standing still for hours, just watching, motionless, as crowds of people and cars go past him. “He just stands there,” she says.

If you were thinking at this point that Brody’s going to kill Carrie, you’re not alone. Once again, Carrie’s fussing with her makeup and dress (flashback to the pilot!), trying to get ready for her visit from the flame-haired POW. The doorbell rings, and she rushes to answer it, but it isn’t Brody. It’s Estes. Brody has told him everything—the fling, the illegal surveillance, the Yorkshire Gold—and he’s coming to make Carrie the fall guy for the CIA’s apparent impotence. “Your office at Langley has been cleared. These men are here to do the same,” he tells a distraught Carrie. Estes isn’t thrilled by the sight of all the classified documents pinned to her wall, so he orders the goons to dismantle them, as a horrified Carrie screams and begs them to stop. “We are about to solve this fucking thing,” she yells.

So, after a disappointingly revealing teaser for the finale, we can guess now that Tom Walker is a distraction who’ll shoot at the VP as he’s announcing his campaign for president. Everyone, including Brody, will get ushered into the VP’s bunker, where Brody may or may not blow them all up. Can Carrie stop him in time? Can Dana? Will Carrie get her job back? Can there be a season two of Homeland if Carrie’s stuck working for municipal government in DC? Is Claire Danes an Emmy shoo-in for all this awesome insanity acting? What are your thoughts on last night’s episode? Let us know in the comments.

And, Homeland fans, we are having a viewing party for the finale this Sunday, December 18, so if you’re in DC, keep an eye out for details. We will be there with pen and paper, ready to relentlessly skewer any sign of weakness in Brody (catcalls are encouraged). So come celebrate the end of an epic season with us.