Homeland Recap: 5×09 “The Litvinov Ruse”

We open with the longest “Previously”s known to man which, as kht rightly complained last week, hammers the “Banana Joe’s” reveal into our heads so hard I now have a concussion. Last week, Allison says Banana Joe’s has the best daiquiris. Carrie sees the bar Banana Joe’s in a picture of Ahmed. She hears Allison say Banana Joe’s has the best daiquiris in voiceover, in case we didn’t just hear it one goddamn minute ago. Okay, okay, Banana Joe’s is important. WE GET IT NOW.

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It doesn’t get all that much better when the actual episode starts, and Etai is dropping a be-wigged Carrie off to see Saul at an art studio. He randomly exposits that she “broke Saul’s heart, you know” (yes, WE KNOW), when she lobbied against him for the directorship. Carrie responds that both of their hearts got broken, and Etai parries that Saul’s heart is older, and therefore weaker. What is this, an off-off-Broadway Victorian play?

Carrie goes in to see Saul, as he watches her wistfully from the third-story window. What is up with the melodrama, Homeland? You do remember they’ve never actually slept together, right? [kht: Although Carrie did awkwardly try once. Let’s all think back to Season One with a shudder…] They awkwardly greet each other, again very much like old lovers, but my annoyance dissipates when Carrie says, “Saul,” her face falling apart, and Saul tells her to come in for a hug. Aw. These two are such good actors.

Cut to Carrie explaining the Banana Joe’s connection AGAIN (I will kill you). Saul wants to believe that the evidence is tenuous, understandably, but Carrie points out that no one but Allison would have had access to the kill box, and that he can’t just ignore the evidence, if only because Allison’s betrayal would mean that the Russians have been inside their operation for over a decade. (And if all else fails, she can always just pull the Brody card. “Remember what happened the last time I thought a hot redhead was actually a soulless ginger terrorist and you didn’t listen to me?”)

Quinn is right where we left him, tied and bloodied in the back of a truck. He’s thrown into a dark, dank room, and Bibi’s cousin, Qasim, tries to offer him some water. Quinn won’t take it, likely because he’s worried it’s poisoned [kht: I thought it was so he could maintain his bad-ass superman image in front of Qasim, who totally buys it], but still takes advantage of Qasim’s relative kindness by telling him that the explosives in the back of the van could kill thousands of people in a horrifically graphic way. At first, Qasim seems unimpressed, but that quickly changes once he looks up the blurry YouTube videos of hapless victims throwing up, evacuating their bowels, and suffocating to death.

He meets with the doctor who designed the explosives, and finds a creepy transparent chamber surrounded by cameras. The doctor tells him they were going to capture a soldier “or a Jew” to test the gas on (which is almost as horrifying as the gas’s effects), but luckily, Quinn just fell into their laps. Qasim is not amused, nice guy that he is.

Saul and Carrie meet with the BND, Saul telling them that the case against Allison is “compelling on a number of fronts.” They plan to put a full surveillance plan in place in order to catch Allison admitting to treason on tape. Astrid points out that they need to plant a recording device “on her person,” and Saul immediately says, “I can do that part.” (If you know what I mean.) He says he “owes her a visit anyway,” but Carrie is clearly suspicious as to how he would have access. [kht: IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.]

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As she should be. Nice to see Saul seducing a potential asset for a change.

Saul bursts into Allison’s apartment, pretending to be too paranoid to contact her on the phone. She tells him that everyone is furious with him, including her, and asks if he’s been in touch with Carrie. He lies that he hasn’t, somewhat unconvincingly, but she seems to believe it. He spins an even bigger web of lies, telling her that Israel has offered him asylum. She’s dubious about that one, since as far as she knew, Israel wanted nothing to do with him. But Saul says with conviction that he’s leaving for Tel Aviv in the morning, and touches her hand as he says, “I wanted to see you before I left.” Smooth. Allison says this makes him look really guilty, but then brushes off the idea of him being a double agent for over a decade as “ridiculous.” Ha. Saul wants her to focus on sexytime, so he lays it on terribly thick, telling her they’ll probably never see each other again, and he was “asleep for ten years” but she “woke him up.” It’s sappy and cliched, and sounds like he’s manipulating her, but it has enough of a ring of truth to be sad. She looks quite unmoved, but apparently it works, because he gets the chance to sneak downstairs and put bugs in her purse and on her phone while she’s asleep.

Once the bugs are in place, the BND dangles the bait by telling Allison and Dar Adal that a high-ranking Russian officer wants to defect to the United States through Germany, which is “unorthodox but not unheard of,” apparently. I have my doubts about that happening in real life, but what do I know? The imaginary officer, aka Calico, has information about the Russian spy working in Germany, Turkey, and Britain, aka Allison. Allison maintains a fairly game poker face at first, but then very obviously allows herself to become rattled, to the point that she doesn’t hear Dar ask her if the deal sounds amenable to her. She agrees tersely and then immediately excuses herself, because THAT’S NOT SUSPICIOUS AT ALL.

She goes into a room by herself, breathes heavily, and starts texting someone, with the texts coming up on Carrie and Saul’s computer screens. “Change of plan. I don’t feel like going out tonight.” There are a few back-and-forths about what kind of food they should get, and I begin to become impressed by the elaborateness of the Russians’ code, but then the recipient makes a sexual innuendo and I (and Carrie and Saul) begin to suspect that she’s just texting her boyfriend about food. (So wait, after all that, she really didn’t report this to the Russians right away? She acted that suspiciously just to freak out privately? She might have to take Carrie’s award for Worst. Spy. Ever.) Carrie, Saul, and co. are still holding out hope that she’s using code, until she responds to the sexual innuendo with a devil emoji (hee! But, poor Saul). This is a pretty funny scene, but it would be even funnier if the Russians used emojis in their codes. It would be like the spy version of the hilarious emoji fight in New Girl:

DOUBLE SYRINGE! Double syringe.

Meanwhile, Qasim brings Quinn food and water, and Quinn confronts him about the “hard-to-watch” videos, appealing to his humanity. “They’re innocents,” Quinn says of the people who were killed by the weapon, and Qasim looks chastened, but insists that no one is innocent so long as America keeps sending soldiers. He says they may not even have to use the weapon if the U.N. gives them what they want, and then proceeds to tell Quinn exactly what that is. This seems unlikely, but I want to know, so we’ll roll with it. They want Assad out of Syria, and official recognition of the Islamic State. Quinn insists that will never happen, but Qasim thinks they will if they provide proof of the weapon. “A demonstration.” Jesus, that’s cruel. It dawns on poor Quinn that he’s their guinea pig, and he impressively keeps his shit together enough to tell Qasim that their demands will never be met, demonstration or no, and the blood of women and children will be on his hands. Qasim mumbles an “Allah’s will” type of platitude that he doesn’t even seem to believe, and Quinn turns it around on him, saying that maybe it’s Allah’s will that Qasim stop this. If only it were that easy in real life.

Six hours after the Germans lay out the bait, Allison still hasn’t taken it, and Saul begins to hope that she’s not what they think she is. They spy on her dinner date with a civilian, who nevertheless is involved with the Russian gas and oil sector, and awkwardly watch as Allison and her date begin to bone on the kitchen island. Carrie is frustrated that she’s still acting like it’s “another day at the fucking office,” and Astrid says, “literally,” which I guess is an insensitive reference to her relationship with Saul? Poor Saul can’t watch anymore, and goes out into the hall. Carrie somehow still hasn’t put two and two together and Astrid has to tell her that Allison and Saul are involved. Carrie follows Saul into the hallway, and he sadly says that he “doesn’t know a fucking thing about her.”

In true Carrie fashion, she doesn’t offer him comfort, but gently accuses him of tipping Allison off. He doesn’t get nearly as mad as I expect, and Carrie softens it even more by reminding him (and us) that she’s “been there,” and that it’s hard not to feel “conflicted” (is that what the kids are calling it these days?). He insists he didn’t, and we know he’s telling the truth, both because we didn’t see it and it’s just not a part of his character. Carrie seems to accept this, especially when Saul suggests they “up the ante” in order to make Allison take the bait. He’s dealing with this as well as can be expected, but it’s still probably the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen him, and the closest Carrie and Saul have ever come to reversing their mentor-mentee dynamic. [kht: Love it! Mentor Carrie is sharing her expertise in dealing with the fallout of having slept with skeezy traitors with her mentee, Saul.]

In order to raise the stakes, Astrid meets with Allison and tells her that Calico refuses to meet in Berlin because he believes the station has been penetrated. Allison literally says, “Wait, does he mean me?” and then quickly corrects herself to mean “my station.” Um, if the BND wasn’t convinced that Allison was the mole, they probably are now. Tighten up, Allison. She says Calico is probably just making this up to inflate his own value to the U.S. government and obtain asylum, but Astrid says he’s agreed to hand over evidence of the penetration—and they’re meeting that night. One of the techs watching with Carrie and Saul says of Allison, “She’s a very cool customer, this one.” IS SHE, THOUGH?

She proves me right, as she finally takes the bait and books a first-class ticket to Copenhagen. They hear ominous beeping and Carrie explains to the tech that it’s a prearranged call code for an asset to get in touch with the base. I would have preferred devil emojis, but this will do, I guess. She gets into a cab and immediately starts trying to destroy her cell phone signal, and get the hell out of Dodge, probably the first smart thing she’s done this episode. She goes to the train station and sketchily switches trains at the last minute, heading towards a Russian safe house. Astrid reports that the warrant for Allison’s arrest has been approved as Allison gets off the train and drives off in a shady black car. She arrives at the property of the safe house, and the audio of her bugs goes dead. Carrie explains to them that the bugs aren’t receiving signals because the property is a dead zone surrounded by jamming towers. This is fairly obvious, and everyone in the room would probably know this, but Homeland is really laying it all out for the audience lately.

Carrie wants to execute the order this minute, while Saul is hesitating, because he still doesn’t want to believe that the evidence is conclusive. Carrie points out that the security measures are “through the fucking roof,” and if she’s not the mole, why would she have booked a fake trip to Copenhagen? They’re going to lose her, Carrie says, but then everyone is distracted by the discovery that Allison is meeting with Ivan Krupin, whom Astrid recognizes as the SVR Berlin station chief. This is (finally) good enough for Saul, and he gives the order to send in the arrest teams.

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At the safe house, Allison breathlessly tells Krupin that she’s been burned, and recounts Astrid’s story about a station chief handing over classified information Allison passed to the Russians. Krupin is immediately skeptical, since only two station chiefs even know that Allison exists, and they both left last week for a fishing trip. Heh. He also is much better at this whole spy business than Allison is, so it only takes him a minute to figure out that Allison’s been played. Federal police officers begin to storm the compound, but Allison is still a little slow on the uptake, and insists that she took every precaution to prevent being followed. Krupin tears her a new one for being so gullible, she slaps him, and he makes like he’s going to throttle her. She talks him down, and he lets her go, since they’re sunk anyway, but Allison has a plan.

Krupin and Allison come out of the safe house with their hands up, apparently surrendering. All things considered, this doesn’t seem like the best plan so far. The officers place them under arrest, and Saul, smart guy that he is, looks like he can’t believe it was that easy. Carrie has an even more pronounced emotional reaction than Saul, because we’re supposed to care about her friendship with Allison, I guess.

Carrie and Saul brief a displeased Dar Adal, with Saul saying the seemingly tall tale of Allison being a mole for the last decade has the obvious benefit of explaining a lot. But Dar isn’t incredulous, he’s disgusted, with both Allison and themselves. He interrogates Allison himself, and she begins to spin some yarn about them destroying twelve years of hard work. Dar doesn’t pick up on the innuendo that she’s a double-double agent, and asks her for names. She plays dumb, and tells him that he can’t send Ivan back to Russia, because “they’ll put him up against a wall and shoot him after everything he’s done for us.” She tells him Ivan has been slipping her intel from the get-go, but he’s not buying it, because if she wasn’t the mole then why did she run? She panicked because Astrid told her there was a mole in her station, and one of her assets was in jeopardy, she tells him. Okay, so this isn’t the worst plan in the world, either. The lie that Ivan has been her asset for twelve years would certainly explain any evidence of their having met, although I’m sure there would be other evidence of Allison’s duplicity that wouldn’t be consistent with this story once they start looking.

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And then there’s poor Quinn, whom Carrie has forgotten all about, and who is roughly taken from his cell to be tortured and presumably killed with the gas. Qasim tells him to run, and he fights admirably considering that his arms are duct-taped to his sides, but they overpower him and place him in the gas chamber. Quinn tries not to breathe for a minute, but then begins to spew vomit and scream out in pain. The writers left room for him to live by having Qasim whisper that “maybe he’ll live,” but that doesn’t make this weapon any less horrific.

See you next week!

 

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