Homeland Recap 5×04: “Why Is This Night Different?”

If Homeland functions as a spy thriller, an in-depth character study, a critique of post-9/11 paranoia and the War on Terror, and occasionally a smushy star-crossed love story, this episode had the high-octane, 24-esque element back in full force (and maybe a tiny bit of the bathetic romance as well).

photo-promotionnelle-de-why-is-this-night

No, I don’t mean these two.

Saul and Allison attend a nice Seder together, which marks the second time this season an episode has begun with a religious ritual. The host, Etai Üter, reflects on the persecution of the Jewish people, both in Egypt and in their own homeland. As Jews in Berlin, it’s especially important for them to remember the relatively recent enslavement and genocide, which occurred only 70 years ago “on the streets where we walk every day.” This phrasing reminds me of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which explores the notion that places are indelibly marked by past atrocities.

“Some things you forget. Other things you never do. But it’s not. Places, places are still there. If a house burns down, it’s gone, but the place–the picture of it–stays, and not just in my rememory, but out there, in the world. What I remember is a picture floating around out there outside my head. I mean, even if I don’t think if, even if I die, the picture of what I did, or knew, or saw is still out there. Right in the place where it happened.”

Saul looks genuinely moved as Üter goes on to pray for the strength to fight their enemies around the world, who still seek to destroy them. In private, those enemies are outright named, as Üter accuses Saul of planning to replace Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad with a popular general. (It’s a little jarring to hear a real-life dictator’s name invoked in a major storyline, but it certainly makes the show more timely.) Saul demurs, but it’s clearly true, and he asks, “What’s the alternative? Leaving Assad in place?” Üter would rather Arabs continue to kill other Arabs than point their weapons at Israel, and scoffs at Saul’s appeal to a long-term plan for peace in the Middle East: “Do you really think any of those murderers want peace?” That just hits you right in the gut, doesn’t it? Homeland has studiously avoided explicit exploration of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict thus far, but if that’s about to change, I’m all for it. It would make me a little nervous, but anchoring this extraordinarily complex issue in Saul’s conflict between his faith and his political convictions could work as a character study as well as a political examination, which would take some of the pressure off. It would also be fascinating, as the writers demonstrate in this next exchange:

“You used to be a good friend to Israel.”

“I’m still a good friend.”

“You used to be a better one.”

Meanwhile, Carrie awakens in a dank, dark room tied to a bed (we’re four episodes in and Carrie has been abducted twice, for anyone who’s keeping score). She’s relieved to find that her abductor is Quinn, and she should be, because otherwise she would already be dead. She starts to panic when he doesn’t untie her and menacingly tells her that she’s on a kill list while brandishing a knife, but then he cuts his own hand and smears his blood all over her face. Considering that the first time we really knew Quinn loved Carrie was when he shot her in the shoulder back in season two, this is a very fitting show of love on his part. [kht: Ah, you’re such a romantic! I didn’t have any notion of anything between them till Season 4.] Quinn drops the bomb that Saul put her name on the kill list, and tells her to “play fucking dead” so he can take a photograph (which just goes to show that this whole proof-of-death thing is a faulty system to begin with).

Sidebar: does anyone else think it’s strange that she seems to take for granted that he never planned to kill her? She’s afraid at first, but after this moment, she never calls him out on kidnapping her and tying her up rather than just telling her they needed to fake her death from the get-go. I suppose you could argue that he needed to make the kidnapping look good just in case anyone was watching, but once they’re inside this room, presumably no one is watching, otherwise they would see Quinn fake the proof of death. So why tie her up? I’m fine with this ambiguity; it would be a little more interesting if Quinn considered killing her and changed his mind, but it strikes me as unrealistic that Carrie would be so trusting. [kht: Plus, SHE just shot HIM, so I’m a little surprised he unties her without making damn sure she’s not going to do that again. Quinn is a softie at heart, but if Carrie needed to kill Quinn she would totally do it.]

Anyway, Quinn tells Carrie she needs to execute her fallback plan, so she can disappear and truly “play fucking dead.” She coyly pretends she doesn’t have one, but Quinn knows her too well for that. Carrie can’t accept that Saul would try to kill her, but Quinn harshly tells her, “Your name was in the box. Probably for something you’re not even aware of. I know that’s hard to hear.” He thinks Saul was probably given a direct order from someone very high up, which certainly makes more sense than Saul randomly wanting to kill her because he’s butthurt about losing his nomination, but still doesn’t really make sense. As Carrie says later in the episode, it would be a decidedly dumb plan to send Quinn to kill someone with whom he had a close personal relationship, and Saul may have turned evil, but he didn’t turn stupid.

Jonas, who is handsome but still rapidly wearing out his welcome, is at the office with Laura, who is so unbearably annoying in this scene, she makes me forget that I’m annoyed with Jonas (is that why she exists? To make all the other new characters look better by comparison?). She thinks Otto should fire Carrie for failing to keep him safe, which is bullshit, because Carrie told Otto not to go to the camp and he clearly assumed the risk. Jonas points this out, and tersely asks if Laura needs something, which gets him back into my good graces a little bit.

Laura wants to contact Jonas’s famous genius hacker client to help Laura find her own hacker friend. Jonas protests that this woman is still under house arrest and the government is already after her. Laura gets sanctimonious as all hell (heaven?) and says, “The government is after all of us!” UGH. I mean, I agree with her that governments are terrible and invade our privacy, but my God, shut up, Laura. [kht: Every time she talks I find myself feeling weirdly affectionate towards the Patriot Act.] Otto comes in and, clueless as ever, doesn’t see what Jonas’s problem could possibly be with helping Laura find the rest of the documents. He tells Jonas to help, and Laura says, “The sooner the better.” SHUT UP, LAURA.

Jonas tells Otto in private that he still can’t find Carrie, and that calling the police would only put her in more danger. She needs to figure this out on her own. He reminds me why he’s a one-off love interest when he asks, “Who lives like this?” Otto states the obvious: “She does.” When your girlfriend’s borderline creepy boss gets her better than you do, you’re probably doing something wrong.

Back at Fake Assassination Central, Claire Danes makes a bid for another Emmy nomination with a devastating performance in Carrie’s video letter to Franny. She’s still in denial about what dire straits she’s in, so she tries to tell Franny that she’s doing everything she can to get back to her. Quinn gives her some tough love, and tells her that if the video falls into the wrong hands, and her would-be assassins find out she’s alive, Franny will suffer for it. “If you want Franny to be safe, you have to be dead.” [kht: But then… HOW WOULD SHE HAVE MADE THE VIDEO? In what way does making a video where you speak in the past tense make you dead?] [Janes: HA. I thought Quinn was saying that the video could plausibly be a goodbye that Quinn let her record right before he executed her, as a courtesy to an old friend, but yeah, that’s a pretty big fucking stretch.] And then the kicker: when Carrie asks how he felt when he had to leave his kid, he says, “Not everyone is fit to be a parent.” Danes’s face impressively crumples as Carrie realizes the painful truth in this, but Rupert Friend’s performance is equally commendable, perfectly conveying a man who is too enervated by sadness for any kind of diplomacy.

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In the final video, Carrie tells Franny that she believed in the work she did, but she gave it up because she wanted a better life with her daughter. And she had it—for a while. I still say that Carrie wanted to want a better life, which is substantively different from actually wanting it, but that’s genuine in its own way, and it shows in Carrie’s outpouring of emotion for her daughter. It’s especially tragic when she says she would never abandon Franny because she “knows what that feels like.” I’m sure she means it, but on the other hand, her mother’s abandonment may be one reason she isn’t naturally comfortable with parenthood.

Laura meets with a formidable opponent: the genius hacker Sabine. She’s not supposed to be talking to journalists, but she agrees to help Laura because she feels a kinship with her; she exposed the CIA and the German government after all. Characters keep explicitly stating that Laura’s work as a journalist is amazing, which I suppose is intended to turn her into the kind of antihero who’s abrasive for the sake of her genius, like Carrie in season one, but the characterization isn’t quite working. Which is a shame, because we need more female characters like that.

Sabine agrees to reach out to Laura’s hacker friend, who goes by GABECHUOD (“Douchebag” backwards), because of course he does. She doesn’t know him but she knows of him: “He’s famous, dude hacked the CIA.” It’s still ridiculous that that happened, but at least Homeland is acknowledging that it would be a big fucking deal. Sabine is afraid she could go to prison for this, and Laura (naively, probably) says she can protect her by “making their lives a living hell.” I like that she knows where her strengths lie, but this is arrogance to the point of stupidity. (Or she doesn’t believe anything she’s saying, and is just trying to manage her assets, which might be more likely.) Laura says she’s facing arrest as well, that she’s a person of interest, do they know what that means? “It means you’re not scared,” Sabine says, to which Laura replies that she tries not to be. Just make her less self-righteous, Homeland writers, and then I’ll be ready to accept her courageousness and your obvious parallels to Laura Poitras.

Back to our big shipper reunion, Carrie and Quinn finally get down to the personal stuff. He observes that she moved all the way to Berlin to start a new life, she found a new boyfriend, a domestic routine with her daughter, and yet she still had a fallback plan. She must have suspected that her new life wouldn’t work out. She simply says she “found a good life here” and was happy, but doesn’t address Quinn’s logic. It technically remains to be seen whether Carrie has truly turned a corner and found a way to desire happiness, and Quinn could easily be projecting his own psychological brokenness onto her. But the easy, accepting dynamic between Carrie and Quinn throughout this episode, which stands in direct opposition to Jonas’s bewilderment at Carrie’s complexities, seems to indicate that Quinn understands her quite well.

Then Carrie lays it all out there and says, “Everywhere I went for the last two years, I looked for you. I never stopped thinking about you.” Seeing those words written down, they sound so cloying, but Claire Danes’s delivery makes it ambiguously platonic, which cuts down on the cheese factor. Quinn is stricken, but gruffly replies that it doesn’t matter now. Carrie puts on a wig, which is exciting on its own, since all of the best spy action happens when there are wigs involved (just look at Alias, am I right?). Quinn looks at her and sadly says she looks “like someone else,” officially establishing that he is Carrie’s Jess:

Because Jonas is such a Dean!

Because Jonas is such a Dean!

Carrie is supposed to take her wig and disappear into the night, but she refuses to accept that the “person she trusted most in the world” tried to kill her, especially since Quinn doesn’t know for a fact that Saul gave the order. Someone might be infiltrating his and Saul’s operation, but more importantly, she doesn’t want to live her life on the run and give up her daughter, as we’ve been hearing in the very spoiler-y credits for several episodes now.

In Switzerland, Allison meets with the general Yousseff, and seems to get a little pang when she sees him caring for his sick daughter, who is getting a kidney transplant. She pretends to be a hospital administrator, but he sees right through her fake Swiss accent, and she reveals that everyone in the facility is CIA. He has no rights in Switzerland, and can stand trial for war crimes. Under duress, he meets with Saul, who tells him that the Islamic state is preparing a major offensive against Assad, they will win, and everyone perceived to be sympathetic to Assad will be slaughtered, including his family. Saul plays on the general’s every weakness, down to his smoking habit, to force him to cooperate with a plan to replace Assad. (Because Americans putting Middle Eastern leaders in power is always such a great idea.) In this scene, he’s every bit the changed man who is “used to getting his way.” He reveals to Yousseff that Assad has committed horrific war crimes, that Saul has seen the bodies, and that he’s blaming it on his commanders. Saul accuses Assad of being “willing to say anything, to do anything, to keep his grip on power,” but with his “lead your people into the light” rhetoric, he leaves the audience wondering if that description applies to him as well.

Back at Maverick Mansion, Sabine finds GABECHUOD in no time, and he quickly realizes that his sketchy friend stole the documents to sell them. Also sketchy: the friend is dating one of the sex workers the two of them seem to be trafficking, which seems healthy. She calls him, and Numan quickly transitions from anger to fear when his friend says he sold the documents to the Russians, who sent a car for him. Yes, let’s get into the ominous black car so I can reveal that I have access to documents that take down multiple governments, because that’s smart. Numan feels the same way, and tries to tell him to get out of the car, but no dice.

We immediately know that this hapless idiot is a goner, but the next few scenes are pretty tense anyway. He meets with a deceptively friendly Russian man who’s all smiles as he makes certain there are no other copies, but still won’t let Korzenik leave, and makes him eat like it’s his execution meal. Shit hits the fan when Korzenik’s badly beaten girlfriend is held at gunpoint, as a Russian digs out another copy of the files. Korzenik has been tortured, and once he confirms that there was only one copy, he’s promptly garroted. RIP dumb hacker, we hardly knew ye. Numan finds his friend’s apartment door broken, and we already know what he’s going to find, but it’s still upsetting to see the poor girlfriend executed point-blank.

Carrie and her wig insist on going with Quinn to the drop, which seems a little stupid, considering that he’s literally dropping off proof that she’s dead and she’s less than a hundred feet away. But ultimately, Quinn needs her help anyway, as the infiltrator who wanted Carrie dead tries to eliminate any loose ends. Carrie saves Quinn’s life, although he still gets shot in the side (where’s his kevlar?). Carrie is still a spy at heart, and has the presence of mind to take a picture of the now-dead hitman and lift his phone.

Once they’re clear, Carrie and Quinn have a sweet, intimate scene in which she treats his bullet wound. At first, I wonder if I’m just being a gutterhead when I think Quinn’s pained noises and Carrie’s adrenaline-induced heavy breathing are deliberately evoking sex sounds, but then Carrie puts her arms around him to put on his bandages, and he adorably cuddles into her shoulder, and I decide I’m not imagining it. It’s blatant pandering to Carrie and Quinn shippers, but I’m one of them, so I don’t really care.

And finally, this episode establishes itself as the annual Homeland episode that kicks the spy thriller plot into high gear. Yousseff is boarding a plane to return to Syria, and Saul extends a small kindness by asking Allison to give the general some cigarettes (aw, the Saul we know is still in there somewhere!). Allison, by contrast, coldly tells Yousseff that she “admires his concern for his family” when he asks if they can stay behind, where it’s safe, but that it would raise too many red flags. We soon learn that Allison’s malice goes way beyond callousness, as Carrie calls the last number in the hitman’s phone, and Allison answers! In Russian! Then, the airplane carrying Yousseff and his family spectacularly explodes in the sky above them, and Saul is understandably shocked, while Allison just looks grim.

If you could start trying to kill Laura instead of Carrie and Quinn, that would be really helpful.

If you could start trying to kill Laura instead of Carrie and Quinn, that would be really helpful.

So many questions! Did Carrie recognize Allison’s voice? It looked like she did, but will she be unsure? How long has Allison been working for the Russians? Is she actually a Russian spy passing for a German all this time, even though she couldn’t pull off a convincing Swiss accent? Is she sleeping with Saul solely to get information? Was she complicit in the CIA hack (which would actually make it much more realistic)? Why exactly does she want Carrie dead? Do the Homeland writers think that every terrorist who’s not Middle Eastern is a ginger?

See you next week!

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