Guys. Remember last week how boring and naturalistic everything was, and how everyone was making Twitter jokes about Dana taking her SATs being the most dramatic story arc on season three of spy thriller Homeland? What would you have said if I’d told you [SPOILERS AHEAD] episode three would be set in a Venezuelan skyscraper-favela run by a militia of gangsters, and that a pedophile doctor would get Brody hooked on heroin? You would have laughed out loud, right? Right?
The only plausible way to explain this trippy mescaline flashback of an episode, “Tower of David,” is that Brody is dead and the deities-that-be can’t decide what to do with him, so he’s stuck in a weird purgatory in South America indefinitely. Only as El Nino (Manny Perez) puts it, “there is no next place.” I mean, presumably Emmy-winning actor Damian Lewis isn’t going to spend the rest of the season shooting up in a filthy cave of a room (who’s paying for the drugs is one of my many, many questions), so hopefully there is a next place. Who knows? It’s entirely possible that episode four, “Game On,” will be set in a parallel universe where Brody’s coaching soccer in a Chinese Olympian factory, or running a karaoke bar in Mykonos with Lord Lucan.
If it isn’t purgatory, or one of Carrie’s lithium dreams, or a screenplay Peter Quinn works on in his spare time when he isn’t assassinating people, then here is what we know (based on my limited grasp of Spanish): Brody has been shot somewhere between Colombia and Venezuela, and is now being traded by men with very large guns somewhere by the beach in Catia La Mar. He has a $10 million bounty on his head, and yet for some reason a mysterious man with a spider neck tattoo who IMDB tells me is El Nino (who is actually a real person) wants to keep him alive. So a doctor who looks like Lisa Bonet and talks like Alan Rickman shoots him up with drugs, gets an eight-year-old to pinch his artery, and sews his wounds closed while wondering out loud why anyone would try to save Brody instead of trading his lifeless body to America for all the money. And he does all this in a room where the lights keep flickering until someone electrocutes himself to get them to stop.
El Nino explains his motivations to the doctor by saying vaguely that someone did him a favor, once. Which is why Brody is now the newest resident in the Tower of David, an actual building in Caracas that you can read about in this New York Times story if you want to. (CliffsNotes version: It was intended to be a rich man’s penis extension until the economy put a stop to construction halfway through and the 45-story tower was abandoned). Now it’s home to thousands of very shady squatters and one Nicholas Brody, who for some reason is being guarded by gang members and cared for by a beautiful girl named Esme (Martina Garcia). When Brody asks El Nino, quite reasonably, why all this is happening, SpiderNeck replies that they both know Carrie Mathison. (I can’t WAIT to see that flashback.)
There are nightmarish moments galore in this episode (particularly if, like me, you vomit at the sight of needles) but the most decidedly creepy is when the doctor, whose name is nowhere to be found on the interwebs, strokes his eight-year-old assistant’s hand gently while expounding on the glories of “the abscess beyond healing” that Brody now lives in. “We’re here because the world outside can be judgmental and cruel,” says Dr Strangelove. “We’re here because this is the place that accepts us. We’re here because we belong here.” This speech makes no sense when you apply it to Brody, whom everyone thinks is a terrorist and who’s never shown any inclination to have sex with anyone other than a mentally ill CIA agent and whose affection for children appears to be perfectly legit.
Lots of other things happen: Brody’s passport and wallet are stolen while he’s being operated on, and when the culprit is found, El Nino’s men kick him off the roof even though Brody begs them not to. Brody teaches Esme English instead of getting her to teach him Spanish, which might be more useful (Americans can be so arrogant). People send other people bananas in a basket pulled with a string, which makes me think the Tower of David is an inverted version of the pit in The Dark Night Rises, and that Brody’s escape is going to rely upon him embracing his fear and doing lots of pullups.
Instead, it actually involves relying on Esme, who helps him escape to the nearby mosque. Brody refuses to take Esme with him, ungraciously, but the imam welcomes him inside and Brody smiles, kind of like the time Carrie smiled in the first episode of season two (you remember, the one that was called “The Smile”). Only a troupe of police bust in on him while he’s showering and beat him up and the imam condemns him as a terrorist, not a Muslim. Then El Nino arrives with his armed guards and kills everyone except Brody, whom he locks in a dark room. Little Nino (this show is confusing) brings him a needle and a tourniquet, which Brody has previously refused three times because he remembers the ads from the ’80s where your brain gets fried like an egg. Doctor Strangelove tells Brody that everywhere Brody goes, people die, and that he is the human equivalent of a cockroach and belongs in this sunny place for shady people. Somewhat depressed by this analogy, Brody picks up the needle.
Because this is Homeland and Homeland is in no way subtle about its parallels, the second half of the otherwise all-Brody episode is interspersed with scenes showing Carrie in the mental hospital building houses out of popsicle sticks while a nurse tells her how “darling” and “detailed” her balcony is. While Brody’s shooting himself with drugs, Carrie’s asking a nurse for her meds and then sitting in her room, staring into space. While Brody’s attempting to escape, Carrie’s frantically trying to make contact with the outside world, namely Saul, whom she believes is her only way out. It’s agonizing watching her try to game the system and dribble platitudes about how much better she feels now she’s back on lithium, while her doctor (Gary Wilmes), who’s only slightly less creepy than Brody’s but has much nicer hair, tells her she isn’t well enough to have visiting privileges yet. On the plus side, at least she’s regained her ability to speak.
Carrie’s version of Esme is a nurse, played by Marcia DeBonis, who inexplicably tries to help her and smuggles her outside to meet with a visitor (exactly why she feels compelled to do this and put her job at risk isn’t really explained). The visitor is Paul Franklin, a lawyer who’s been sent by his partner to meet with Carrie and who assures her he’s on her side and can get her out. Carrie, no stranger to the art of breaking potential assets, is immediately suspicious and tells him she isn’t going to help the Syrians or the Israelis or whichever rival spy faction he’s working for. She’d rather die where she is right now. So if it’s a test and he’s been sent by Saul, awesome. If not, well, that popsicle credenza isn’t going to build itself.
What just happened?
Seriously. As Don Draper likes to say, “What?”
Who was carrying Brody across the border? Who ambushed them? Why am I even attempting to understand this fetid belch of fiction from a TV writer’s imagination after a night out with Charlie Sheen?
How did Brody get from Canada to South America? How does he not know any Spanish words? How has he been surviving?
Brody has shaved off his gorgeous red hair to look less recognizable (he’s been taking disguising-yourself tips from Abu Nazir, clearly). And yet he hasn’t shaved his face, which continues to sprout stubble that’s as gloriously orange as any sunset.
The heroin storyline made this feel a little like a Very Special Episode, only it was a little kid forcing drugs on an adult instead of the other way round, and instead of a happy ending there was a black pit of despair. It also felt like “The Fix,” the episode of Starsky and Hutch in which mobsters got Hutch addicted to heroin to try and get him to tell a drug kingpin where his girlfriend is (that episode was so controversial that it wasn’t aired in my native Britain until 1999). The drug aspect of this episode feels almost laughably clumsy. Why does El Nino want Brody to be a junkie since he’s gone to so much trouble to save him? Is he hoping to pry secrets out of him that he can sell to Iranian terrorist Majid Javadi’s Caracas connection? Because that guy’s dead, along with any hope I may have secretly harbored of this show ever being good again. “Heroisch.” It means heroic. Everyone in this show should just take their drugs and give up, and I’ll nurture my dual addictions of Cabernet and Buffy reruns on Sunday nights instead.
But on the plus side, no Dana! And no Leo. That kid is about as charismatic as an ironing board.
If you care to know what Brody’s been doing since the last time we saw him, Variety reports that Damian Lewis has recorded a 30-minute “story extension” in character, and you can download it at Audible.com as of right now. Maybe that will fill in some gaps?
What did you think of tonight’s episode of Homeland? I’m sure you have lots of things to say. Let us know in the comments.