Homeland Recap: 5×08 “All About Allison”

 

I will start by saying I did not have high hopes for this episode. I mean, it’s like going into a Gilmore Girls episode that is named “All About Digger.” Or an Affair episode named “All About Noah.” Like, is my entire recap just going to be, “Shut up, Allison”?

And this turned out to be a fairly boring episode, but learning more about Allison was actually useful and enjoyable.

homeland 508 allison

 

Previously on Homeland: Someone put Carrie’s name in Saul’s kill box (dirty!); Allison figured out that Saul was in touch with Carrie; Jonas realized he wasn’t helping anyone by “helping” Carrie; the charming Otto suddenly revealed to Jonas that Carrie was a liability; Carrie searched the home of a former contact named “Acrobat” who was kidnapped while she was in his home; Saul got in trouble and the Israelis broke him out; Quinn magically healed from approximately eighteen different serious injuries with varying levels of sepsis and infiltrated a jihadi cell on its way to Syria; Carrie called Allison to ask her about her time in Baghdad and asked to meet.

A car drives down a dark road, with Quinn sleeping in the back. A title tells us this is Kosovo, 70 miles from the Serbian border. The driver of the van tells Quinn to get in the back: “You’re the enemy, our hosts won’t understand.” Irritated, Quinn goes to the back. They are literally PARKED IN THE DRIVEWAY of this terrorist haven, so I’m thinking they might have wanted to pull this switcheroo earlier on. He stares out of the back of the van, taking mental notes on everything.

Allison’s meeting with Ivan again in some sketchy parking garage. She’s freaking out that Carrie hasn’t called her, but Ivan is calm: “She’ll call… She’s being careful.” Allison is the only person who knows the connection. She wants Ivan to finish Carrie off, but he thinks there have been too many bodies already.

Allison thinks Carrie will see right through her because they were once close, but Carrie and Saul are the same that way: they simply aren’t capable of conceiving a distrust for people they’re close to. [Janes: Unless it’s the good old days, and Carrie is getting close to people solely because she thinks they’re terrorists.] Ivan reassures Allison, telling her to “be concerned and helpful, and lead her nowhere.” Allison breathes in, dubious.

Analysts at the CIA are rewatching the video of Saul’s capture, going over the call he made from his room. Just then, Allison asks Dar what’s new, and he brings her to another, private office. “Where is he?” he demands. Allison plays dumb, but Dar Adal wants to know if she aided and abetted him. Allison gets indignant, and I’m sure this is a very convenient distraction for her; at least she’s only suspected of helping Saul, and not the Russians. She argues that she only brought him back to the hotel because she thought he’d be more comfortable and give her information. “The better to interrogate you with, my dear.” If you know what I’m saying.

Dar Adal brings up the two-minute gap when Saul was running the water last week. “You really wanna know?” Allison says. Ew. But she doesn’t go there, she just says, “He told me he loved me and asked me to help him.” She says it was Dar who drove him to Etai, and claims she wants Saul back with their reputations intact. She tells Dar to call Tel Aviv.

homeland 508 church

Candles are burning in a little chapel where Frumpy-Wig Carrie sits and scratches a note in a pad. Quietly, she sticks the note into a hymnal and leaves.

Etai comes in to see Saul, who’s sitting pretty in the Israeli embassy (presumably). He says that Dar Adal has called their bluff. “So I’m fucked,” Saul says. Etai says they can turn him back over to the CIA, or Saul can get to Israel. But now Saul, who casually dropped the word “defect” last week, says he simply can’t defect. He says he’s just going to get out of Etai’s hair and “give Carrie a few more days to get to the bottom of this.” If there is one bedrock of Saul’s character, it is not patriotism: it is faith in Carrie Mathison. But as he shrugs on his coat and tries to stride out, the person who was with him before Etai got there is blocking his way. He has orders. Saul is trapped.

Allison is shopping online for purses in the “once a bajillion, now marked down to just half a bajillion”-dollar price range. This made me giggle at first, like, of course someone as sad as Allison would have a sad compulsive shopping habit where stress leads her to buy high-end purses on clearance, thereby still spending loads of money but without even the fuck-the-consequences indulgence of a real shopping binge. But having watched the rest, I see it’s more than that: it’s the fact that she wants, wants, wants, and is never content with what she has; the fact that she, specifically, wants to be rich.

This may be a stretch, but I also see it as a critique of the American ethos. The yearning to be wealthy, to have the power to purchase everything money can buy, makes you vulnerable to blackmail: to corruption. And it is so very American to believe that somehow, you will be the person who buys Hermes bags on the regular, even though you’re just a mid-level professional who’s not very good at her job.

Anyway, Carrie interrupts this pathetic scene with a call. She gives Allison directions to Rhinebeck, the village where the chapel is, and tells her to follow some old protocol. But Allison asks for more details since it’s a five-hour drive, and Carrie, just as much a sucker as Saul in some ways, gives them right up: “It’s Acrobat. He’s alive.” Allison musters a barely credible pretense of shock: “That is beyond crazy. What the hell does it mean?” But Carrie isn’t even worrying about Allison’s weirdness; she’s too busy trying to wrangle Allison into doing what she wants, little knowing that Allison has every interest in keeping her on the hook. That, in the end, is the fatal effect of being so self-absorbed: not that she hurts Jonas, or forgets about Quinn for like three episodes in a row even though he almost died to save her, but that she misses the exact clues she needs because she sees friendship as leverage.

The horns behind Carrie on her solitary drive remind her of a scene in Baghdad, 2005. She has her hair in a half-back do, so you know she’s super innocent and green. Her car pulls up to the American embassy, and she does that thing where she pretends not to be nervous while showing her ID for the first time. She gives her name as Carrie Orcer, for Allison Stevens. And as she waits for Allison, she looks at pictures of the missing POWs on the wall, including, in a freaky touch, Brody. Allison, with an absurd wig of long straight red hair and dorky bangs, comes to greet her.

homeland 508 brody

Carrie’s like, “Can I get a copy of that for my bedroom?”

They are interrupted on their way to a tete-a-tete by a judge, whom Allison introduces as “one of the preeminent jurists in Baghdad.” He tells Carrie that “it’s a terrible struggle, many people dying, so much chaos, but success is possible if we don’t give up.” Allison is like, shut up, because she’s terrible. He’s incredibly endearing, which automatically makes him seem like a possible terrorist, but Homeland doesn’t go for the cheap surprise here.

Allison gets rid of the idealistic judge and brings Carrie to her office, offering her a drink. They share a drink to “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” and we learn that Saul and Allison knew each other already; Carrie has heard good things. Allison tells Carrie it’s a good post, but does she want the truth? Allison goes over the threats: suicide bombers, death squads, the inability to build a functioning society. “What don’t they get in Washington? You can’t shove democracy down people’s throats.” She apologizes, saying she’s been there too long. Oh, she’s such a burnout.

She tells Carrie she recently went to Milan to go shopping, and that her clothes have been ruined by the dust here. Then (this is important, but you needn’t bother paying close attention to it, because not only will it be in this episode twice, it will also appear twice in a single “previously on” segment in a later next episode) she rhapsodizes about a bar she loves in the West Indies, Banana Joe’s.

Otto’s phone rings and he picks it up, telling Carrie he’s been worried about her. The mystery of Otto is one of the more compelling ones to me at this point: why was he saying such rude stuff about her to Jonas, then turning on the charm every time he was on the phone with her? Is he an actual bad guy, or does he just have some side scheme going on that makes him untrustworthy?

Anyway, he asks if she’s found the man she was looking for, and Carrie spills a lot: that she has the man’s laptop, and her problems accessing the laptop. Otto immediately offers to help find Numan. He even vaguely entertains Carrie’s questioning about Jonas, as Carrie tries not to cry. “And you… you be careful,” he says as he hangs up. Damn, that accent is convincing. I see why Carrie doesn’t suspect a thing.

The passionate judge is now meeting with Allison and Carrie, as Allison makes vague promises about his information going “up the chain.” He brags about the Hammarabi code, the first code written down. Carrie asks him for his urgent information, and he gives the name of a man who has too much money for his situation, Ahmed Nazar, whom he suspects of selling names to an insurgent group. Allison tries to brush him off. “Yes, yes… and all the while, my country is circling the drain!” he declares. Carrie, young and innocent and touched, promises to follow up personally. Allison is like, nyah, nyah, the man he just named is an asset.

Allison fills Carrie in: “Code name is Acrobat, and his intel, more often than not, ends up in the President’s daily brief.” Carrie wants to sit down with him, but Allison warns her the handover won’t be easy.  Acrobat’s difficult, and has a thing for Allison.

Carrie’s face is very, “Little do you know how willing I am to seduce anyone to get my way.” But all she says is, “I’ve been there.”

As Quinn waits alone in the back of a truck, one of the cell members brings him food, saying, “The prophet says a plate for one is enough for two.” Quinn rather convincingly scarfs down food while playing the tough guy, asking why they’re stopped here. The food-bringer, whose name, according to IMDB, is Qasim, says it’s to pick up supplies. Quinn, still chewing, says they can’t cross the border with weapons, and  scares poor Qasim (who’s got the receding hairline of a TV nerd) by asking him if he’s ever been to jail.

Etai and Saul are playing chess when a businesslike woman comes in and demands to speak to Saul alone, on the Director’s orders. Etai has to leave. She asks Saul if he wants to defect or help them. “Fine. Then I will take you back to Dar Adal now, before you cause an international incident.” Saul plays for time, saying that his agency is working to prove that Israel murdered Youssef. She says they have nothing to do with it, and Saul says it was the Russians, and he’s working on proof, with an officer in the field. The Israeli is surprisingly easy to convince, giving Saul till tomorrow morning to find proof. “This officer you spoke of, do you trust him?”

“With my life,” says Saul. See? She’s the only founding principle.

homeland 508 numan hacks

Replace these stickers with anti-Bush stickers and his laptop looks basically like mine when I was twelve.

Numan, by videochat, is talking to Carrie through hacking Ahmed’s laptop. He is going to try to get into Ahmed’s computer by penetrating a program. Carrie tries to force him to give her a time frame. “Thirty seconds,” he says and pauses a long time, just to fuck with her. “Or thirty minutes, or thirty days.” Hah.

Carrie gets up, already bored, and starts reminiscing about Allison again. A young, smiling Carrie greets Ahmed Nazari at Allison’s behest. She sucks up to him, complimenting him about the “important work” he does. He says he won’t work with anyone else, so she suggests they sit down to tea. “You think I’m a child? You can tempt me with cake?” he says, correctly identifying her condescension. Allison pleads with him, so he sits, but Carrie’s off-balance now. He’s sitting back, she’s sitting forward, and she compliments him again. He says that his life is at risk, and asks why Allison can’t stay. “This is a contract. I take the risk, so I set the terms. I work with you, not her. Those are the terms.”

So Carrie makes a typically easy descent into vaguely icky territory: she asks if there’s an aspect of the contract they can renegotiate, aka, can they pay him more money. But Ahmed isn’t having it. He won’t bring information unless Allison stays. Carrie is still pleading with him when the door slams behind him. Allison confidently says that it’s a negotiation and she’ll give him another week.

Quinn’s sitting, bored, in the van. He sees a bearded, cap-wearing man lead two other men into a car and drive off. Lickety-split Quinn dashes through the compound to the main building. He stares in through a window to see a hijab-wearing woman tending the kitchen, then edges his way around the house. Tense, isolated chords play throughout the scene. A soccer game is playing on a television in another room, and Qasim quietly hangs out with another young man. Quinn dashes into an upstairs room and sits down to explore inside a magical cardboard box full of terrorist accoutrements.

Allison enters the chapel where Carrie left her note, and somehow doesn’t burst into flames on the spot. Staring forward, she grabs the hymnal and finds Carrie’s note, then slips it into her purse. The camera lingers on her face for a really long time. This means that we are about to have a flashback.

Young-Allison is trying to convince Ahmed to work with Carrie, saying which agent works with him doesn’t matter. “It matters to me,” he says, grabbing her hand. It is a mark of Allison’s essential lack of boundaries that she seems more nervous than grossed out, I think. She tells him that it’s just a professional relationship, and offers more money—but he doesn’t need it. He whips out a trunk full of cash. “Jesus,” says Allison. He explains that the ministry has cash in the basement, “just sitting there on wooden pallets like fish in the market.” He takes a little at a time, and now he has approximately one kajillion dollars. She says she’s going to have to report it, but he tells her he’s in love with her and the money is for both of them. She says she can’t have anything to do with it because she’s an intelligence officer. And he says he has five more. This, apparently, is a horse of a different color. Think of how many purses you could buy with three kajillion dollars!

homeland 508 money

Well, he certainly knows the way to Allison’s heart.

Carrie asks Allison how it went with Acrobat. Allison says it’s fine. Carrie asks how she did it—“more money?” “Yes,” says Allison drily. Heh. Carrie wants to be briefed, but Allison tells her he’s going to visit his sister for a couple of weeks. Carrie, unconcerned, leaves Allison to down more alcohol.

Allison looks up at Ivan, who has joined her at the church. She tells him she’s supposed to meet Carrie at a cafe. Ivan promises the team will be there. “You said no more bodies,” she says. But he says it’s a backup, in case Carrie has made the connection to Ahmed. “You never tell me the whole truth,” says Allison, who has pretty high expectations of Ivan, considering he is a Russian spy who recruited her as a double agent. Anyway, they agree that Allison will light a cigarette if she needs them to off Carrie.

Alone again, she looks back at when she made the plan to run away with Ahmed. He meets her at her office and almost kisses her, but she says, not now. She gives him a ticket to Geneva—he’ll fly out first, make a deposit into a bank in Geneva, and then she’ll meet him in the West Indies. He looks upset, and she starts to figure out that something’s up just as Ivan comes in. She swears in some other language, which really confused me because it sounded Russian, and for awhile I had thought Allison was a Russian-born spy, à la The Americans. (Aux Americans? French grammar joke!) But Variety helpfully translated as “You asshole,” in Hebrew.

Ivan calmly tells Ahmed to go. “This proves nothing,” she screams in a strained voice. He says she’s caught red-handed, and her career is over, probably her freedom too. “I’ll take my chances,” she says, but there’s a weakness in her voice. He tells her to listen to his plan first. “Is this the part where you tell me I’ll never have to compromise the security of the United States?” she says. He says they can help each other—he’ll give her intelligence that helps her rise to the top of the CIA, and she’ll give him information in return. “I know you, Allison Carr,” he says in a purring voice, “I know your ambitions, how hard you worked to get where you are.” He promises her that half the eight million dollars will still be hers.

homeland 508 recruited

Allison wrestles with her puny conscience.

A character note I enjoy about this episode: Literally every time Allison says she’s above something, it sounds weak, and dubious. She protests too much, and for the wrong reasons, and you can easily see why Ivan targeted her.

Present-day, Allison takes her seat at a sidewalk cafe and pulls out her cigarettes to the tune of some very dramatic music. Carrie, in her wig, is looking over at her.

Flashback: an attack in Baghdad. Young Carrie comes in to tell Young Allison that it’s fucked up, and she heard that Acrobat was in the attacked courthouse. Allison doesn’t even pretend to be upset as she says, “His name was on the list of fatalities.”  Present-day Carrie squints as she remembers this, but still doesn’t seem very suspicious.

Allison takes a glass of water, her hands shaking. Carrie joins her and announces that she’s in hiding, and that the bomb in Lebanon was for her. “Jesus, Carrie!” Allison says, and pretends to be shocked when Carrie says the SVR is after her. She probes for information about the connection to Acrobat. Carrie spills everything, saying, “It all started with the cyber-penetration last month.” Cyber-penetration? What an unpleasant visual. Anyway, Carrie asks if Acrobat was possibly playing both sides. “We were seriously sweetening his pie. He’d be risking a lot,” Allison says. Again, what a weird metaphor. [Janes: As Lorelai Gilmore would say, “That certainly calls for a ‘DIRTY’!”]

Carrie asks Allison to look back at her records for clues, and Allison hesitates, saying they’re classified. This sparks a classic episode of the Carrie Cry-Face Show, and she pleads that “They’re trying to kill me.” I actually don’t find this believable. I believe Carrie crying over a lot of things, but over a few randos from Russia trying to kill her? Sorry, no. She’s got a lot going on right now, of course, but I just don’t see Carrie as someone who falls apart when she announces her life is in danger: that’s more of a point of pride with her than anything else.

homeland 508 cigarettes

All the snipers tense as Allison places one hand on the cigarettes.

Allison says she’ll help on one condition: that the leaked documents never see the light of day. She grabs her cigarette case and asks if Carrie is talking to anyone else. Carrie says no, she has no one else to help; Allison bullies her into nearly apologizing when she says austerely, “And I told you I would [help].” She puts the cigarette case back in. Carrie’s safe. But Allison says, “Watch your back,” as she walks away.

Quinn, sleeping in the back of the truck, wakes up at the sound of another truck arriving. “What the fuck,” he says to himself, and gets out. The boss tells him they’re changing trucks because they’ve picked up more supplies. “You cannot take weapons into Syria,” Quinn says, playing his Syria-expert card. So another guy bashes him on the head. Well, that’s one way to settle an argument, I guess.

Qasim protests that they need Quinn to get to Syria, but the boss says that they were never going to Syria. They’re going to Berlin.

Saul wakes up on the couch in the Israeli embassy. Etai warns him that Dar Adal’s on his way to get Saul, and they have to go to get away. Saul pants, sounding more like a fragile old man than he ever does, as he tries to wake up and get ready in five seconds flat.

homeland 508 sodas

Don’t those things behind Qasim look like bottles of soda? (I would be the worst terrorist. Putting bombs together would just make me crave Diet Coke.)

In the back of the truck, Qasim prays quietly as the camera zooms in on the fabled “supplies,” which look to me like a cardboard box full of liter bottles of Coke, but what do I know? When Quinn opens his eyes though, he zeroes in on a large barrel with a hazard sign on it.

Carrie is lying in bed staring at a photo of Frannie when Numan comes back on and says he’s inside the computer. “We have to search it,” Carrie says. “For what?” Numan says. “Could be anything,” Carrie says. Numan does not think this is a fair request, but as Carrie admits she has no idea what she’s looking for, the screensaver comes on to save the day. It’s a picture of Ahmed at a sunny, tropical bar. She has Numan google Banana Joe’s for her. Just in case we didn’t figure this out five seconds before Carrie, the show flashes back to Allison nattering on about Banana Joe’s.

Now, there is a fine line between too much exposition, where it feels obvious, and too little, where you leave people wondering what the main character has figured out. But this isn’t exactly straddling that line. It’s crossed that line and is sailing off into the sunset with a ship full of anvils.

Numan shows her the picture. It’s the same place that Ahmed is standing at in the screensaver. “Oh my God. Allison,” Carrie says. Uh-oh, she’s about to cry again. (And this would be a much more in-character time to cry: she hates to have her trust broken.)

The credits interrupt before the crying becomes full-fledged. Maybe next week will pick up with the Crying Face. We’ll see!

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