In last week’s episode, the action finally ramped up, coming from two surprising directions in a show that has always focused on terrorism from abroad. In this week’s episode, things get even more exciting—without interfering with the integrity of the show’s new socially conscious direction.
Previously on Homeland: Sekou was driving a truck and it blew up; President-Elect Keane was ushered to a safe house without her staff and wouldn’t shut up about it; Carrie left Franny in the hands of Peter Quinn while she went to deal with Sekou’s death; Saul thought Iran was cheating on its nuclear deal; Carrie got a tape of Mean Agent Conlin interfering with his informant, Saad; Quinn went rogue on a bunch of reporters and held Franny hostage due to his fear of the mysterious man across the street, but was eventually arrested by the SWAT team as Carrie held him down so he wouldn’t get shot; and Carrie found Quinn’s photos of the mysterious surveiller.
Now, Carrie is sitting in what is clearly the waiting room of a jail (you can tell by the green filter on the camera) flipping through the pictures on Quinn’s phone, especially a helpful shot of a license plate, followed by a shot of the Medina trucks, and a shot of Mr. Skullcap. When someone else gets called up for their visitee, Carrie objects that she’s been there two hours longer than the other person. “So tell your friend, next time, limit himself to misdemeanors,” the officer snarks. Hee! She asks him to check on Quinn, which actually works somehow—and it turns out he’s not even here, he was taken to Bellevue. She says this is bullshit and that the arresting officer told her to go here. Despite her ‘tude, he warns her that she won’t be able to see Quinn for 72 hours because he was sent to solitary confinement.
So it turns out the current president is … Seth Cohen’s grandpa. He is making a speech about the attack, calling Sekou a “young man filled with hate,” and bringing up the fact that he was already arrested and set free so that he can publicly pressure Keane to strengthen the Patriot Act.
Keane watches from her safe house, a dire expression on her face. She demands of one of her Secret Service handlers to go back to New York. He says that they’re concerned about continuity of government, and says he had to physically compel Cheney to take shelter after 9/11. Keane cracks a joke: “Well, for once I understand his position.” Then she begs, yet again, for Rob. OK, I joke about how she’s so obsessed with him, but I actually enjoy the subverting of stereotypes going on here—the implication is that Rob is an assistant so attuned to Keane’s needs that she basically feels he’s indispensable, which is a common trick of movies and TV that want to have a Girl Assistant while paying lip service to modern notions of female empowerment (see: Iron Man, as one notable example among many). So the Secret Service guy agrees to this and leaves, not that I believe him.
After the speech, Carrie finds Conlin, who says it’s wrong for her to be here. She begs him to look at the photos, which she apparently already sent to him. After some arguing, he agrees and flips through them. Of Mr. Skullcap, Carrie says, “My cyber guy is trying to ID him.” I hope that means Max will be back in person! Then he asks who took them, and when she answers, says dubiously, “The crazy vet who held your daughter hostage?” Carrie says stoically, “He thought he was protecting her.” Conlin finds this ludicrous, rather understandably, but Carrie presses him that Sekou doesn’t know how to build bombs, and suggests that he didn’t even know about the bomb. “You really have no idea how offensive you are, do you?” Conlin says. I love how anti-political-correctness types pretend that “offensive” is a silly word until they want to use it.
At the CIA Station in New York, Saul bursts in like he owns the place and greet someone named Mercedes, who introduces him to a youngish man named Nate, who sucks up to Saul over some lecture he saw. Saul pauses for a long, judgmental moment before saying, “Thank you.” Hee! They give him a report, and he looks at them in shock and says it’s not what he asked for—he had requested surveillance on Tovah. Mercedes swears and says she’s been distracted by the bomb, but says she’ll get it to Saul in a day or two.
Saul leaves, seemingly unbothered by this. But Nate follows him out into the hall with his supposedly forgotten coat. He correctly surmises that Saul left the coat in order to speak with him, which is apparently a frequent trick of Saul’s. Saul asks him why Mercedes doesn’t want him to have the info, and then presses, “I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t absolutely have to know.” In other words, “I know you’re not allowed to tell me but I REALLY REALLY want to know, so it’s OK.” With that convincing argument, Nate totally breaks and admits there’s a standing no-surveillance order on Tovah. Which, apparently, Saul can’t see? He says he can’t look up her file for Saul without “a flare going up,” so Saul lets him go. Well, that was easy.
Saad comes to the FBI office, having apparently been summoned by Conlin. Conlin helpfully tells him that he’s been burned (after Sekou’s video where he named Saad as an informant), and Saad is like, YA THINK? Saad asks for protection, but Conlin basically laughs in his face and says it’s Saad’s fault that he missed Mr. Skullcap. Saad says he’s never seen him and he wasn’t working with Sekou. “You’re absolutely sure?” Conlin says. Saad breaks and says, “Whatever you want me to say, I’ll say it.” Conlin says he just wants the truth, which: spiritual growth is possible for everyone, eh? Anyway, Saad examines the picture again and says, “He looks like government, man. He looks like you.” From the ominous music cue, I surmise that we’re supposed to find this convincing.
Saul and a Russian friend of his named Victor are meeting out at a boardwalk so Saul can ask for information on Tovah’s contacts. Victor, who also reveals himself to be an SVR agent, asks why he can’t get it from the CIA, and Saul just says it’s a “technical glitch.” Victor asks Saul what kind of trouble he’s in, but Saul’s not sharing. He just demands the information. Victor scoffs. Apparently he doesn’t know that Saul only asks for stuff when he really really wants to know.
Carrie and Franny are on their way home, having a sweet little domestic conversation, when Conlin steps out of the shadows. Carrie sends Franny to the stoop to read her book, and Conlin tells her that Saad confirmed Mr. Skullcap isn’t an associate of Sekou, and that he can’t find any photographs of the guy. But he found the lease on the license from Quinn’s photos, and it’s been leased by a multi-layered shell company, which Conlin’s going to go check out tomorrow. “I don’t even know what we’re seeing here,” he says. Carrie says, “Not yet.” Then Conlin reveals that he pulled strings to get Carrie into Bellevue to see Quinn. She thanks him, but he says it’s just their best chance of finding out what’s going on. Then Carrie says, “I know how hard it was to come here. I appreciate the good faith.” Aww!
Keane is on a run outside the safe house, sandwiched by multiple bodyguards. When she arrives back she immediately demands of one of the guards whether Rob is there, the only thing she apparently cares about. They tell her he’s been held up, with no ETA. Displeased, Keane curtly excuses herself and goes to fetch a glass of water from the kitchen. Then she has an idea, and rummages in a nearby hanging coat for a phone. She’s caught in the act by the conservative caretaker lady who was watching the fictional equivalent of Fox News last week, who asks gently, “Can I help you?” Keane gives her the funniest deer-in-headlights look. Imagine getting that look from the most powerful woman in the world!
Carrie’s at Bellevue, with the cop Conlin spoke to escorting her. The cop is not a Quinn fan, unsurprisingly. Carrie, left alone, finds Quinn on the floor of a totally bare cell, his face bruised and cut. She asks if he’s OK, but he scoots desperately away from her, groaning. She goes into one of her one-sided Carrie conversations, saying it’s all her fault for not believing him. Then she pauses and squats near him, trying to meet his eyes. She updates him on the photos on his phone, saying that Max and the FBI can’t find anything on him. Quinn gives her a startled look, but he seems too much in shock to speak. She pleads with him to tell her what happened after Mr. Skullcap got out of the van, and whether he put a bomb in the van.
This scene is so painfully familiar—once again, Quinn is in a medical emergency, and Carrie finds herself in a position where, at least in her eyes, she needs to risk his health to get information on a case. Has anyone on TV ever been damaged as terribly by someone they loved, as Peter Quinn has?
Finally he grunts out that she said to protect Franny, and he did. Carrie tears up and agrees, and Quinn continues: “And you took me down.” Carrie tries to explain that she was saving his life because they were going to kill him. Then he starts to get suspicious—she got into Bellevue even though no one can get in, and she showed the photos to the FBI. Carrie tries to explain that Conlin’s helping them, but Quinn just staggers to his feet and starts screaming for the guard. “You’re with them!” he says. She tries to hold his face in her hands and he TOTALLY BITES her hand and is carried away by the guards.
Whoa! Well, now they’ve both damaged each other, I guess!
Conlin drives up to an anonymous corporate building. As he walks through the parking lot, he sees the exact Jeep from the pictures. Then he enters the lobby through glass doors. It’s filled with (mostly) men in suits scribbling on clipboards. He claims to be from “insurance,” saying that a vehicle registered here was in an accident. The sleekly groomed receptionist says she has to check with accounting and sends him to wait, so he picks up a job application and sits amongst all the suits. He notes that there’s a security clearance section on the application, and starts making conversation with one of the applicants. They bond over both having been in government, and the other guy says, “I can’t wait to get into the private sector” and mentions the large number of people this company is hiring. Conlin sees an opening and asks his new friend if they said anything weird to him. The new friend mentions something about a big fiberoptic cable with 98% of the world’s data. He also says something disgusting about an “information throbber” that I refuse to recap. Oh wait, I guess I just did. Anyway, a woman arrives and calls the applicants from one group to follow her. Conlin goes with them and is led into an elevator that descends to the negative sixth floor.
The little group follows their guide through the underground hallway, and Conlin, seeing an opportunity, breaks off. He enters a darkened, empty room that soon lights up at his motion, so that he can see it’s an open workspace in the midst of construction, with cables still hanging everywhere, but desks already set up. Just then his guide finds him and he claims to be looking for “Caroline, from accounting.” “Well, she’s obviously not here,” says the woman sharply, and brings him out into the hall. She knows he’s here looking for a car. He flashes his badge and asks her name, but she’s prepared for this: “You wouldn’t have lied your way in if you had any authority.” Thwarted, he leaves—and on the way, he sees that the Jeep has disappeared.
Carrie picks up her phone out in Brooklyn, and tells Conlin that Quinn’s in bad shape and she made it worse, and he thinks she fucked him over. Conlin says, adorably, “You fucked me over and look at us. Practically partners.” He tells her he tracked down the Jeep, that it was at a very strange place, and that they should discuss it in person. He tells her to meet him at his house.
Rob’s car pulls up at a checkpoint and says confidently enough that he’s here to see the President-Elect. They demand to see the email that gave him the address. “Then why did it say delete?” he says. The agent gives him a dubious look. “I’m her chief of staff, for Christ’s sake,” Rob says. More dubious looks. Meanwhile, the conservative lady sails out past the checkpoint. The agent makes Rob stand by his car while they sweep it. After all that stuff about Rob being “held up,” you have to wonder if there was some kind of plot to keep Keane from ever getting her precious staff.
Back at the boardwalk, Victor and Saul are sitting on a bench facing away from each other as the agent updates him on Tovah. She’s mostly been going back and forth from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv—but there’s another thing. Saul asks to see it, but Victor says, “Nothing for nothing.” Saul now finally exposits who the hell this guy is—he and Saul “backchannel” for their bosses to keep the peace between Russia and the US. Come on, that’s a little out of fashion now, isn’t it? The modish thing to do now is to openly front-channel with the Russians.
Anyway. Victor finally gives Saul the pictures, which show Tovah consulting with Dar Adal on a similarly blue-tinged boardwalk. Victor won’t let Saul keep the photos, and points out that there’s clearly a split between Saul and Dar, which means that Saul is on the outside looking in—and that he’s no longer useful to Victor. Uh-oh.
Rob arrives at the safe house and says if Keane’s busy he can wait. “No, trust me, she wants to see you,” says his escort, in the understatement of the year. But then they realize they can’t find Keane. Everyone panics. Rob looks… not particularly concerned.
Turns out Keane is gliding down the highway with her new friend, Conservative Marge. (No, her name really is Marjorie.) Keane muses that she looks familiar, and wonders if they saw each other at a rally. Marge promises that she didn’t, since she didn’t vote for Keane. Keane isn’t bothered by this since half the country hates her, but wonders why Marge agreed to help her. Marge says it’s because she knows what’s right. Keane asks her why she didn’t support her, and Marge demurs at first, but eventually agrees to answer: she doesn’t trust Keane because she never talks about her son, who died in the war, and she left the job unfinished. It turns out Marge’s son, John, died over there as well. They share a moment of sadness. Keane’s eyes are perfectly dry, even though she’s clearly devastated by grief—she’s just a very tough, private woman. It’s a good moment.
Marge tells her that her silence makes all of the soldiers, and their deeds, invisible, and it seems like Keane’s ashamed of her son. Keane says, “Never.” She says she voted for the war and that she came to understand her reasons were misguided, but Marge says that she doesn’t think her son’s work was misguided. “I didn’t mean it like that,” says Keane. “Yeah. You did,” says Marge. It’s a good point, and one liberals don’t really like to think about.
Keane gets a call from the Secret Service, and she says she’s not going back. He says it’s illegal for her to decline protection. She says with asperity that she’s not declining it—they’re free to escort her back to New York. The agent protests that she could be the target of an assassination attempt, and Keane says she doesn’t think anyone even believes that anymore, and hangs up.
Carrie gets out of her car on an attractive suburban street lined with ginormous houses, and rings the bell. When there’s no answer, she looks over to see that there’s a car in the driveway and goes around to the back of the house. When she gets there, a door is hanging open, so she steps in and sees a path of droplets, and a half-eaten sandwich on the counter. We see the flash of someone walking around just as Carrie rounds the corner to ascend the stairs, but she doesn’t see it. When she gets to the top of the stairs, she sees Conlin, a gun in his hand, a bullet hole through his temple.
Just then, a hand closes the door downstairs.
Carrie hears this and runs. Someone ascends the stairs—it’s our old friend Mr. Skullcap, who apparently does all the dirty work for this giant shell corporation, I guess? He checks around the second floor and Carrie, who hid behind one of the doors, emerges, grabs Conlin’s gun, and goes downstairs. It’s hard to describe how tense this is, as he and she prowl for each other, just a wall separating them. Finally she sees his reflection in a window, and runs for it, even slipping onto the ground as she dashes into her car. (A reminder that she really is out of the spy business—not only does she not stay to try to take this guy down, which I think the old Carrie would’ve done, but she’s not even wearing shoes you can pivot in!)
She gets to Franny’s daycare and squeezes so hard the poor kid has to tell her it’s “Too tight.” Carrie cries and holds her a little looser.
Keane and Marge arrive at the hotel where she’s been staying, throngs of people crowding the sidewalk in wait for Keane. Marge declines Keane’s invitation to stay the night, and Keane says that Marge has given her a lot to think about. When she emerges, she tells the agent not to give Marjorie any trouble. She tells a reporter that she can’t say where she was, but she wants to thank the people who looked out for her, and that she’ll await the results of an investigation before commenting on the attack. Someone mentions the President’s speech on the Patriot Act, and Keane says they don’t need a police state, but a new approach that she’ll announce when she’s in office. When they ask about Marge, she reveals that they both have sons who served in the war. She praises their courage, and draws a connection to the need to face down fear after an attack–the implication being that expanding the Patriot Act would be giving in to fear.
Back at Carrie’s house, Max checks the door and then visits Franny’s room to speak to Carrie. He says he’ll install the security system in the morning. Carrie thanks him. Franny is sleeping and Carrie is just sitting by her bed, keeping watch, gun in hand.
Meanwhile, at Bellevue, Quinn too is sleeping peacefully when he hears the clank of a door opening. He’s strapped to the bed, so he can’t move when the lights flip off and people in black skullcaps wheel a stretcher into his room. Uh-oh!! They unstrap him, gag him, and put him on the stretcher, rolling him out posthaste, and loading him into the back of a giant black van. At this moment, I thought Quinn was a goner for realsies. That Mr. Skullcap and his pals were taking him off to be killed. But when he wakes up, it’s Astrid, his girlfriend from last season, leaning over him and saying, “Hello, Peter.” Whoa!
As I said in the intro, things are getting way more exciting. The scene where Carrie and Mr. Skullcap are alone in the house with a dead Conlin was utterly gripping and terrifying. Quinn’s kidnapping and/or rescue was also extremely suspenseful, as was Conlin’s visit to the sketchy company facility.
Now that the excitement is back up at satisfying levels, what about the themes? I really liked Keane’s conversations with Conservative Marge. She was forced to confront one of those awkward truths about politics: that sometimes, your beliefs really are offensive to people, even if you think they’re true. If you don’t support a war, it is going to sound to soldiers, and people who have soldiers in their family, as if you don’t value the sacrifice they’re making. I think it’s possible to value the sacrifice without thinking that it’s necessary in the large scale, but Marge’s reaction brought home to me how ludicrous that distinction must seem to many of the people actually on the ground. I also like Keane more and more as a character; I think the actress who plays her, Elizabeth Marvel, is doing a superb job of portraying a woman who is completely human, but also tough as nails. Compared to Hillary Clinton, she is far less smiley, and far less charismatic (I never thought Clinton was all that un-charismatic anyway, although she’s no Bill, that’s for sure). It’s easy to see why she would be a polarizing figure, and yet also easy to see how such a woman could rise to be the most powerful person in the world. (Even though, of course, this whole plot is like a weird exercise in reverse science fiction, as if someone was like “I’m going to write about America in 2017 as if everything was at least kind of normal.”)
Finally, Quinn and Carrie. God. I have written at length about how much I hated the way the end of season 5 devolved into this sort of Passion Play for Peter Quinn, overly romanticizing both him and his suffering, and I haven’t found it particularly pleasant to watch the guy essentially be utterly broken (and constantly getting kicked while he’s down) for the first half of this season. But now he’s in a position of something approaching power—he’s the only person who figured out what was going on originally. So perhaps that’s why I find myself moved all over again by the deranged love story we’re watching play out here. Where Carrie, constantly at odds with herself, tries to pretend that she is using Quinn only as a kind of colleague, a partner in this investigation that she didn’t believe was happening until about five minutes ago. Where Quinn, in his effort to serve both her and the greater good, finds himself in a position where yet again he’s being asked to make an inhuman sacrifice to share the results of his labor when it’s already too late.
And it’s even more complicated now by the fact that his grasp on reality is still tinged with paranoia. He is both correct and not correct in his assessment that Carrie is conniving against him: maybe she didn’t think she was selling him out to the FBI, but when it comes to a choice between his safety and her own mission, we know she’ll always choose the mission, because that’s who she is.
Just because you’re paranoid, in other words, doesn’t mean Carrie Mathison won’t eventually, accidentally, destroy you.