Homeland Recap: 6×01 “Fair Game”

Previously on Homeland: Quinn got gassed, and then Carrie woke him up to get information out of him about an attack, which caused him to vomit up black stuff; Carrie stopped the attack; sketchy billionnaire Otto asked Carrie to marry him; Saul tried to get Carrie to work for him, but she wouldn’t; Carrie stood over Quinn looking like the angel of death and appeared to be contemplating euthanizing him. (I wrote a GIANT rant on this topic after that episode, here.)

Now, Carrie rides a bus that, despite being in New York, zips along without encountering any traffic. She gets off and enters a hospital. A physical therapist confirms to her that “he” didn’t show up, and reminds her that you can’t make people do things they don’t want to do. Carrie’s basically like, Oh yeah? Hold my drink.

Meanwhile, Quinn—it’s clearly Quinn, although they coyly refuse to show his face for another few seconds—struggles to open a locker and drops his keys. He looks rough. Overgrown hair, sweaty face, and has apparently not shaved, which reveals the fact that he doesn’t exactly have a full beard on that baby face. “You’re not in physical therapy,” Carrie announces unnecessarily. He gives her a sarcastic answer, and she tries to convince him that if he just keeps going, a breakthrough will happen. “Would you just stop?! You’re being like a dog!” he yells, clearly struggling with his words. He pushes her up against a column and tells her he’s not getting any better, and to get that through her fucking skull. “Let me go,” she says evenly. “Let me go,” he retorts.

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A nurse breaks up the lovers’ reunion, and Carrie, thinking Quinn’s the one in the wrong, starts apologizing for him. The nurse is like, “Ummm, no.” Actually, as is clear to everyone but Carrie, it’s Carrie who is the problem, and who owes the apology, not that she’s ever going to get that. The nurse carefully suggests to Carrie that she scale back on the visits to give Quinn space, and even withstands Carrie’s insulting, incredulous, “So his doctors think this?” without losing her temper. Carrie—who has changed a lot, but whose marvelous gift of self-deception has not atrophied—thinks he’s just upset at his situation and he’s expressing it to Carrie.

Exposition time: Various TV reporters are standing outside an Intercontinental Hotel, where the president-elect is apparently taking meetings. Dar Adal and Saul are waiting for their meeting, and a male military type emerges to comfort them bitterly, “It didn’t last long.” The President-Elect jumps right in, asking if they agree with her previous visitor that troops in Syria could finish off ISIS in six weeks. Saul tactfully says that it’s not just ISIS, it’s what happens once ISIS is gone, and both men insist that the problem is very complicated. Next, she asks about getting out. Dar Adal openly scoffs. Saul explains that the enemy will use the region as a base. The President-Elect (who is very insistent on adding the –Elect to her title) wonders, and she’s not alone, if every problem needs a military solution.

They present her with a brief on something called Operation Signpost, a covert operation for cyber-espionage against Iran. She then interrupts to ask if she can weigh in. They look shocked at this, and assure her that it’s just about establishing a working relationship. She jokes that she loves to talk, but she has no authority over this till the inauguration. Then she asks to skip to the good stuff: the lethal operations. “Especially the ones that don’t require a signoff from the President.” It’s quite amusing to see these two usually fearless old men look absolutely terrified.

In an apartment high in what looks like a public housing project, a domestic scene plays out. A woman is working at the kitchen counter, while her teenaged son Sekou eats at the table. He criticizes his sister for not going to Friday prayers, and his mother points out that he listens to rap music. “That’s just different,” he says. Then he mentions, “He’s gonna want her to wear a hijab.” But his sister apparently has other ideas about female dress codes; she struts into the kitchen in a (comparatively modest, for kids these days) crop top and gives him the finger when he comments that she shouldn’t be allowed out dressed like that.

He leaves, dons a cap, and joins a friend, Saad, in the front seat of a car, telling the guy to drive to the East Side Marriott. Saad starts filming Sekou across the street of the Marriott, which was apparently the site of a terrorist attack before the first World Trade Center one. After a pointless bit where the camera battery runs low (ah, modernity! We are so dependent on our batteries! Or something!), Sekou leads the camera into the ballroom, where a rabbi got “popped” who, according to Sekou, kept calling Palestinians dogs and celebrating when they got murdered. He was killed by someone named El Said Nosair, a “humble brother” from Egypt who was disguised as an Orthodox Jew when he shot the rabbi dead on the ground. Let’s just say Sekou is not finding it particularly distasteful to tell this gruesome story.

Carrie arrives at a low-key office and bursts into a large meeting, late, to discover that Otto is there. They greet each other with an awkward double-kiss, European style. Carrie introduces Otto to some people who he’s already met since he wasn’t late, and they discuss some work they’re doing for clients charged with terrorism. “If you’re male and Muslim, the conviction rate is pushing 90%,” one man says. I wonder if that’s true? Otto reminds them with a smile that he’s already written them the check, and gets out of their hair, pulling Carrie aside with him.

Carrie, still wearing her light blue scarf, which presumably symbolizes the heavenly peace she’s achieved now that she’s living in domestic, non-spying bliss with Franny, leads him into her office. She kind of jumps into rejecting his proposal again as she apparently has been doing for months. But Otto is more interested in why she’s working here, since it’s such “small potatoes.” She argues that “law enforcement needs to stop harassing and demonizing an entire community.” But if you just harass one hot ginger, it’s OK, I gather. Otto thinks that the billions of people living in poverty are more important. Before they can settle this age-old question, they pivot to Otto announcing that he’s met someone. Carrie, bless her completely paradoxical heart, goes into Half-Cry Face (not as wrinkly as Full Cry, but definitely still dramatic enough to remind us why Claire Danes gets the big bucks) and asks whether this is an ultimatum. Um, Carrie? You JUST rejected his proposal. AGAIN. THEN, she tells him to leave because she’s not changing her mind, basically acting like he made up this woman to get her to change her mind, which is fantastically self-confident even for Carrie. Otto somewhat plays into this by saying that she’s wrong in thinking she can live on her own, so, I guess this is the season where Carrie lives out a nineties romantic comedy? “If it’s not me, Carrie, let it be someone else,” he says. Hopefully George Clooney comes along on a rainy day to teach her to stop being such a self-sufficient career woman.

Speaking of someone else, we cut immediately to Quinn. Subtle. One of the nurses helps him sneak out into a car where he’s met by a friendly redhead who I assume is his dealer until later, because I’m extremely naive. He is having aphasia, and seems borderline manic, a very different mood than before. But hey, everyone gets cheerful when they’re about to get laid. The redhead checks that he has his check before driving off.

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Dar and Saul are hanging out in a fancy library somewhere, drinking and trying to make sense of their meeting with the President-Elect. Dar Adal thinks she’s naive and dangerous. Saul thinks that they’ll learn to work together. Dar Adal also raises the possibility that her son who was killed in Iraq might be her real agenda. He thinks it’s weird that she never uses his death for political gain. He thinks she despises “us,” the CIA, and ran for president—and won—due solely to a secret plan to hold them all accountable. I would make fun of this, but sometimes I honestly suspect Donald Trump just took on the presidency as a way to make sure his companies get favorable laws. So who knows. Finished filming, Sekou and Saad walk through Times Square and discuss Sekou’s father, who’s in Africa and he hasn’t seen for fourteen years. Sekou demurs that he barely knew him and hasn’t seen him in years. “You want one of mine?” kids Saad. Then they arrive at their destination: the spot where Faisal Shahzad parked the Pathfinder that was filled with explosives in Times Square. Sekou is a little less reverent with this one, because Shahzad was “a shitty bombmaker.” Well, sure. No one likes a shitty bombmaker. Saad starts filming so Sekou can start his story, explaining why Shahzad was angry—killings and rapes of Middle Eastern civilians. “There’s two sides to every story,” he says. I guess Homeland is finally gonna tell that other side?

At the world’s sketchiest check cashing place, Quinn cashes his check as the nurse warns him not to let the redhead, Clarice, run off with it “like before.” Quinn ignores him and leaves. As he gets back in the car, the nurse warns Clarice to have Quinn back by ten.

They drive off and arrive at what I, once again very naively, thought was a motel at first, but is in fact a brothel. Clarice explains he’s a soldier, and he gives her two hundred bucks. They walk by a few pairs and groups engaged in various not-very-energetic sex acts. Clarice shows Quinn to her “private area,” which only she and her friend Justine use. Justine greets him and Clarice asks for another hundred bucks, then leaves him alone with Justine. He seems to be having some kind of aura, where the lights glow in his vision; he tells Justine he sees “another world.” Then Clarice comes back with what I believe is a crack pipe and gives it to Quinn.

Well this is a series of GREAT decisions. Good job, Quinn.

Dar Adal meets a suit-clad woman on a pier. She is surprised he wanted to meet. He asks her to keep the meeting off the books, and only share with people in person. She’s an Israeli agent, apparently. He tells her that it’s worse than they thought, and the president doesn’t like their “joint covert action program.” Then she asks after Saul. “Sworn off women, I hope.” “Haven’t we all,” says Dar Adal with a tone that’s way too flirtatious for a seventy-year-old man whose head looks like a skull to be using with a fortyish woman.

Carrie walks through Brooklyn in her Sky-Blue Scarf of Innocence. She arrives at a house—a proper house, with stairs and everything, that, being a Manhattanite myself, I literally assumed was a school or something till later because it’s so unheard-of to have multiple floors in your home. It turns out Latisha, the nanny, has Franny outside with another young boy.

Back at the brothel, Quinn is getting a slow blow job from Justine as Clarice watches. A frantic-sounding guy comes up and asks her where the soldier is, and basically, it becomes clear that Clarice is plotting something with him. But she holds him off until Quinn’s had a chance to “have his fun,” by bringing him into a different area to have sex with him.

Saad is about to drop Sekou off, and asks him a favor. He says his friend wants to talk to Sekou about his trip. Sekou’s irritated, since this has clearly come up before, and he just wants this trip to be about seeing his dad. Sekou lectures him that their website is getting traction, and since they’re on the radar of law enforcement, Saad has to be really really careful not to do anything wrong. Saad says, “I hear you,” in that way that TV characters say they hear you right before they do something incredibly stupid.

Speaking of incredibly stupid, Quinn’s enjoying his sad little blow job to a melancholy soundtrack when Clarice screams, “Oh my God, it’s a robbery!” and runs in with her co-conspirator. She keeps screaming, highly unconvincingly, that Quinn should cooperate. The robber, waving a gun, demands money from Quinn. Quinn makes a big show of barely being able to coordinate his hands, so the guy gun-whips him into unconsciousness. “Oh, Tommy,” sighs Clarice. Jeez, she better hope that the Unkillable Quinn isn’t secretly awake.

Back in Sekou’s apartment, his sister is trying to do her homework when there’s a huge law enforcement raid. She and her mother think it’s for the dad until they realize it’s for Sekou. Sekou is carried out, yelling not to tell them anything. A white guy in a suit comes in and tells the women that Sekou is under arrest for material support of terrorism. The sister insists they won’t talk without a lawyer. The white guy says that Sekou’s been radicalized and then orders them out so he can search the premises. A really sad part of this scene is their reaction when he orders them out: it’s midnight, where are they supposed to go? Many of us live in places so safe (even in New York) that being kicked out at midnight is just an inconvenience. For these women, who just had their home invaded by a bunch of hostile people, it’s a danger.

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Carrie and her coworker Reda arrive at a detention center to represent Sekou, expositing convenient information like the fact that Sekou and his sister Simone are citizens, and that his father was deported for overstaying his visa during a different deportation wave after September 11. (Although I’d be willing to bet the dad actually was a terrorist of some sort, because no one gets mentioned this much in a season premiere for boring old visa issues.) Reda introduces himself and Carrie, and poor Sekou says he needs to get home because he’s late for work, clearly not understanding the severity of his situation. He’s shocked to learn that the arraignment won’t be till next week. “But I didn’t do anything!” he says. Carrie points out that his website is supportive of America’s enemies. He says he can say what he wants and is not violent. Reda says he’s inciting others to violence, which…OK, not exactly true, but he does seem to be rather pleased by the idea of violence.

At a press conference, the white dude from the raid explains to everyone why Sekou is under arrest, and referring to him as a “homegrown violent, do-it-yourself jihadist.” He apparently wrote a pamphlet about 39 ways to participate in jihad. When he gets off the podium, he sighs that Carrie would be defending this asshole. Carrie argues that it’s religious and political debate. He argues intent. “What if he’s just honestly opposed to US foreign policy in Muslim countries, like I am, more and more?” she says.

Huh. A lot must have happened in the last two years.

Anyway, Carrie says that he’s an angry kid, but the agent says that he had five grand in cash and tickets to Nigeria, where apparently no one goes except to hang with Boko Haram. Carrie’s a little thrown by this.

Summoned to Quinn’s clinic by a phone call, she learns from the nurse that Quinn’s missing. She yells at the nurse for not knowing where Quinn is. The nurse, finally losing her patience, points out that Clarence left Quinn in his room last night, when, “As you’ll recall, he was angry and upset.” Hee!

Anyway, Carrie finds Clarence and, next thing you know, she’s exactly at the brothel. I guess when you’ve interrogated scary terrorists, figuring out where some nurse left Quinn is not a tough feat. She sniffs his breath and irritatedly shakes him. He starts to stagger away without his pants and shoes, until she reminds him. She rolls her eyes at him, very much like a sister with an addict brother, in my estimation. Quinn is an absolute disaster. Greasy, clumsy, childish, defiant. It’s really sad. And don’t get me started on how insane it is to start off this season with Quinn getting attacked YET AGAIN. Didn’t we have enough of Victim Quinn last year?

They arrive together to the hospital, and Carrie tries to convince him to be thrilled about it, because “it’s what you’ve got.” Quinn looks appropriately dubious of this inspiring speech, but does obediently leave the car as if to go in the hospital. Carrie, finally experiencing a little twinge of conscience, follows him in to ask if she should leave him alone for awhile. His charming answer to this is “Whatever.” She makes to go, disappointed in his lack of reaction, but meanwhile, Quinn is experiencing another one of his glowy auras. He begins to freak out, and starts walking towards the door. Carrie sees and tries to stop him from leaving, and they start shoving at each other until the security guards take him in hand. Quinn struggles fiercely, and when he hears they’re taking him to the “closed ward” he starts screaming and Carrie finally, finally steps in and tells them to stop. You know she’s had enough experience of those closed wards to be sympathetic.

At a bar, Saul consults with another anonymous suited guy who agrees with Dar that they should be concerned about the new president, who seems to think the threat of terrorism is exaggerated. Saul is still clinging to his optimism, and claims that she’s not entirely wrong, because there are no coordinated terrorist networks in the United States. The other guy insists that it’s just because of the great work they’ve been doing. But Saul, let’s just say, is not sure how wrong the President-Elect really is.

Quinn walks dead-eyed through the kitchen of the basement apartment in Carrie’s home, where he is apparently going to be hanging his hat. (We get an explanation for how Carrie affords her giant house: she’s been letting it out on Airbnb.) He insists, testily, on paying even though she tries to say it’s OK. She makes a brief feint at trying to make sure he won’t, you know, bring any drugs or hookers back there because of Frannie, although she’s kidding herself there, as always. Then Quinn asks about the wallpaper and why it’s moving. Carrie says there isn’t any wallpaper, and for some reason doesn’t seem completely alarmed by this, even though wallpaper-based hallucinations have traditionally been quite serious. Then she leaves him alone, reminding him to take a shower.

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It’s end-of-episode montage time! In a detention center, a guard looks on as one of the prisoners—Sekou, though you can’t really see his face—prays. Meanwhile, the President-Elect takes off her locket in front of her bedroom mirror, and stares at the picture of her son. And Quinn, alone in his bleak new home, sits in the dim light of one lamp and looks around, then limps upstairs—only to find that Carrie’s locked him down there. And Carrie, in Frannie’s bedroom, stares at her sleeping child and listens to Quinn rattle the doorknob.

Finally, Dar Adal welcomes several other suited intelligence agent types to a meeting in a fancy club room. “No Saul?” someone remarks. “Probably for the best.”

Conclusion

Well, I think it’s clear we’re watching a whole new show here. Carrie suddenly doesn’t agree with US foreign policy? Saul isn’t sure intelligence agencies need to focus this much on Islamic terrorism? You could’ve fooled me from the last five seasons! I don’t disagree with anything Saul and Carrie are saying, and I’m glad Homeland, though in my opinion it was never as Islamophobic as something like, say, 24, is facing up to the fact that they may have taken part in creating an ominous social change that I’m guessing they never intended to.

It seems quite clear that the writers have experienced a dramatic change of heart about what kind of story they want to be telling, one that makes little sense in the context of the story they’ve told in the last five seasons. I’m wondering if the best way to carry out this change is really to take characters who have always been borderline unhinged with their paranoia about terrorism, and turn them into mouthpieces for pacifism and caution. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to make Carrie and Saul face up to their own part in this, instead of simply letting them pivot to a more forward way of thinking in the break between seasons? Carrie’s never been likeable; there should be no need to sugarcoat her now. Bringing in a character who could actually have challenged some of her assumptions, allowing us to watch her transformation, would have been more effective as well as better-crafted.

On the other hand, maybe we’ll get more explanation in later episodes of how she made this pivot, and it will make more sense character-wise.

And don’t take this as me lamenting the new direction of Homeland. (Fox, obtuse as always, posted a handwringing headline that the show now supports “Muslim civil rights,” like ooh, that’s the worst, when a TV show is… pro civil rights?!) I think it’s a good direction. In fact, in this moment, it is entirely necessary for the show to take this direction. As real as ISIS is, watching a show that speaks to our primal fear of it instead of a show that speaks to the damage our fear does to innocents, would probably have felt very wrong. I just wish that this change was more grounded in the previous story. There are plenty of reasons for Carrie to have done some soul-searching onscreen, but instead she did this entire pivot offscreen. It just all seems a bit facile.

I will also say, though, that a strain of distinctly non-progressive paranoia still runs through this episode. Suspecting the female president-elect of a sinister underhanded plan to use the presidency for personal gain? The weird subplot of Dar Adal conspiring with various Israeli agents? It’s all very expressive of the kinds of suspicions and theories we form about Jewish people, powerful women, et cetera. But at least–though perhaps too late, given that this country has already set upon a disastrous course motivated by the rankest Islamophobia–they are closer to getting it right.

 

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