Homeland Recap: 6×09 “Sock Puppets”

As usual, this episode is a fascinating exercise in alternate reality: How would the “fake news” issue and the frothing rage of right-wing media, and the concept of a “deep state” working against the elected government, look in a very different world where the President hadn’t, you know, hired the King of Fake News as his advisor?

Previously on Homeland: Carrie had Franny taken away by Child Services; Quinn took the bullets out of Astrid’s gun and she was shot to death by Mr. Black Hat; Saul and Carrie believed that Iran was not breaking the nuclear agreement, but Javadi double-crossed them by telling Keane the opposite so he could get on Dar Adal’s good side; Keane lost faith in Carrie.

When we open, Carrie’s in therapy, talking about Franny’s father, and her decision to have Franny despite the fact that she had an “unusually intense” relationship with Franny’s father and how his life was “complicated.”

Well, that’s one way to spin “I was conflicted about being pregnant with the spawn of an actual terrorist.”

Side note–Carrie also hilariously mentions how much Franny looks like the ginger-headed Brody, which was legitimately creepy in earlier seasons.

Anyway, she breaks off and says she doesn’t like this and the doctor couldn’t possibly understand, only to be gently reminded by her unremarkable salt-and-pepper therapist that, you know, Google exists and he actually does kind of know what she might be talking about. Then Carrie explains the fact that she brought Quinn home because she “can’t lose another one.”

Therapy scenes are tough to pull off for any show. You want to avoid the ultimate cliche: “Defensive character goes to therapy thinking it won’t work, only to discover that it does, and all of her inner wounds are healed!” And you don’t want to turn the thing into essentially a procedural, where the only story is a doctor healing a patient. A fun strategy to avoid these pitfalls is the one taken by You’re the Worst, where you just put your character into therapy and see how badly you can actually make her behave. Which was quite entertaining. But Carrie’s not in the same place she was earlier in the show, where her behavior likely would have been intensely (and entertainingly) inappropriate. She wants to do this right.

And in my opinion the show does a reasonably good job of showing what happens when someone extremely flawed and unprepared for self-reflection attempts to play along with the therapy process. The scene plays out just enough to put a tiny dent in the self-justifications and defensiveness Carrie has built up around her conception of what happened with Franny, which is the most that a single session could realistically accomplish: the doctor reminds her that she’s actually going through something that every parent goes through, which is the question of how to balance herself with the needs of her child. And a four-year-old “need[s], at times, to come first.”

That’s it, and it’s not (to my mind) sexist or shaming or particularly deep, but it does make a tiny difference in Carrie’s entire attitude. So, all in all, a nicely done scene that doesn’t overestimate the magic of therapy or descend into too many cliches.

Meanwhile, at Keane’s hotel, Dar Adal arrives for a meeting that Keane has called a day ahead of a scheduled briefing. He starts off with a highly unconvincing apology for their having started off on the wrong foot, but Keane sits him down and says she wants to pick his brain about Iran and the “contingency plans” they need if the nuclear deal is broken. She even confirms to him what Javadi told her and the fact that Saul was involved in the misunderstanding. Oh, Keane. You’re so fucking trusting. That always seems to be the downfall of liberals in this country: see everything that happened to Barack Obama.

Anyway, Dar pays lip service to defending Saul, pretending that he’s not jumping up and down on the inside for glee at Saul’s downfall, but then gets down to business: anyone she was formerly considering for Secretary of State might be too lenient in this new situation. Keane looks a little wary, but agrees to look at any names he brings her.

Carrie arrives home to her apartment to find the ever-loyal, saintly Max and complaining about confessing a bunch of shit about herself in therapy in the hopes of getting to see Franny. Max shows her the results of his investigation into where Conlin was when he last called Carrie: a start-up in a deserted-looking building that has posted tons of job listings for “internet support” and “social media.” Being an expert on things like The Internet, he has applied for a job.

I’m so psyched! Max is going into the field! I love that they brought him back for a more exciting storyline this time.

Carrie protests that she doesn’t want to keep putting people in harm’s way, but he says it’s not on her. The pace of inner change being slow and unsteady as it always is, Carrie, despite her new pangs of conscience about endangering other people, looks like she’s convinced.

In a fancy hotel room, Dar and Javadi share a peaceful breakfast as Dar brags that he’s changed the President’s mind. Javadi is going to get his forty-five million and retire, though he cannily won’t tell Dar where. He remarks that Saul isn’t happy with him, and Dar says, “Also Mossad.” Javadi starts to get worried and protests that he lied for them—but Dar presses on, saying Javadi’s been dropping missiles on them for years. Then the doorbell rings. Dar, drawing the web tighter, gets up to answer it as he tells Javadi that Mossad has been pushing to get ahold of Javadi, and Dar defended him since they had important work to do… but Mossad was very persuasive. Javadi, realizing what’s happening, backs away as a bunch of large, scary men come into the room, bearing a housekeeping cart full of towels.

Wow, this SUCKS for Javadi. On the one hand, he double-crossed Saul in favor of Dar Adal, which is clearly the wrong choice. On the other hand, he’s trapped in a hotel room with a bunch of people who appear to wish to stuff his dead body into what is essentially a giant hamper, so. It’s kinda hard not to feel sorry for him.

Sitting in Franny’s room, Carrie takes a break from ruminating when her phone rings. It’s poor Javadi, dialing her from behind his back in a last-ditch attempt to get saved. She can hear what’s going on and quickly patches in Saul, who’s complaining about Keane sending him back to Langley. When Saul figures out what’s going on, he pulls in his secret ally, Nate, who is apparently also a phone tracking expert and starts trying to triangulate Javadi’s location as they listen to the poor slob getting clobbered and stuffed into the laundry cart. Just then, the call ends. RIP, Javadi.

Up at the Cottage of Untimely Deaths, Quinn is hanging out with Astrid’s pale corpse as two folksy cops investigate reports of a shooting at the cabin. They can see a trail of blood on the floor, but by the time they get in, Quinn’s disappeared—though not before smearing some of Astrid’s apparently-still-wet-even-though-she’s-been-dead-for-like-eight-hours blood on his mouth like a total emo kid. He hobbles through the woods, gets in Astrid’s car, and guns it down the highway, bound for revenge. Have I accidentally changed channels to a Leonardo DiCaprio movie?

Saul, Nate and Carrie have found Javadi’s hotel room somehow, but everyone’s gone and security cameras are all off. They do, however, notice a suspicious pile of fresh towels on the floor. Carrie finds the housekeeping closet, only to realize that Javadi’s phone has been buried in one of the carts, but Javadi is long gone.

At Keane’s offices, Saul and Carrie show her the video of Nefisi admitting to Javadi that he lied because Mossad paid him to trick the US. The reason? That Keane “needed to be educated.” Keane gives Saul an angry look, as Saul says that it was “a gift from a doomed man,” and Carrie adds that it’s not just Mossad but also Dar Adal. Keane yells that he’s an “obsequious little shit” and asks Saul and Carrie why the intelligence community is—I’m paraphrasing here—so fucked up.

At this point, Carrie also tells Keane about the surveillance that’s been on her own apartment, and the fact that the same man was tinkering with Sekou’s van the night before the explosion, and that Dar Adal warned Carrie off working with Keane suspiciously close to that event. Carrie says that Sekou was framed, and Keane corrects her, “You mean murdered.”

Ooh, that’s kind of a great little exchange. Carrie, though she cared about Sekou and knows he wasn’t a terrorist, has already slotted him into the giant matrix of data and clues she is building in her head, and Keane still instinctively thinks of him as a person even though up until a moment ago she thought he was a suicide bomber. And that’s why the intelligence community seems so fucked up to her.

Face red, Keane leans forward and asks, “How do we shut him down?” Oh, that someone could.

Max is waiting in the lobby of the sketchy building after his interview. The scary blonde lady who yelled at Conlin before is explaining to Brett (the “Real. Truth.” guy) that even though he flagged Max’s resume as near perfect, Max has a gap in his resume he won’t explain. Brett sits down with him and they chat for a bit, Max putting on a little bit of a libertarian-nerd persona. Brett asks him about the gap year, and Max refuses to explain long enough for even a suspicious man to be convinced he actually is willing to forgo the job for his own privacy. Then he melodramatically writes “M and M” into the resume, explaining that he spent that year smoking meth and masturbating because of Fara’s death. It’s unclear how much of it is true—it certainly could explain Max’s new I-don’t-give-a-fuck beard–but it does remind us that quiet, unassuming Max has been affected by his own tragedy. Anyway, Brett buys it, and essentially hires Max on the spot.

Quinn stands in a deserted parking lot, siphoning gas from some random car into a bottle, and then planting it under a pickup truck and lighting the thing on fire. The purpose of this becomes clear momentarily: he goes into a gun shop just as everyone inside realizes that there’s a fire in the parking lot and runs outside. This enables Quinn to steal a buttload of guns and ammo from behind the counter. Yay, America.

Carrie arrives in Keane’s suite to meet the Solicitor General, George Pallis. Carrie is apparently expecting Saul, but Keane—still a politician, even if she doesn’t always act like one—says he’ll be there “later.” So Carrie sits down, and Pallis explains that no one would prosecute Dar Adal on the evidence they have—but there is something where they do have evidence. The fact that Dar (and Saul) covered up the Allison situation in Berlin. (Remember Allison? God, she was the worst.) Carrie protests that she’s still uneasy about making problems for Saul, since he uncovered this whole Iran plot and shouldn’t be punished for it. Carrie, adorably, thinks that the fact that she told Keane about this without agreeing to have it used against Saul is some kind of moral claim. Hi, Carrie? You were a spy. Your entire job was to get people to give you information that they wouldn’t want you to use. Keane promises a pardon for Saul, but Carrie wants to talk to him first.

Max is getting onboarded at Sketchy Internet Company, Inc by Scary Blonde Lady. She leads him into the same room full of desks and computers that Conlin saw, only now it’s full of staffers. His section is labeled “OPC 6-03,” and no one seems to know what OPC stands for. I’m guessing that comes back later so I’m just gonna put it here. She pretty much leaves him at a desk, introduces him to his new supervisor, a nervous-looking white dude with a hoodie and a rather sparse beard named Trent. He tells Max that “22,000 sock puppets are gone,” and Max sits down at a computer to take a look.

Carrie and Saul meet in a deserted, wintry park, and Saul, unconscious that he’s in trouble, cheerfully updates Carrie about his translation of the Nefisi video. Apparently Dar is never directly mentioned, but he’s still optimistic that it’s incriminating. Then Carrie tells Saul soberly about her meeting with Keane. Saul lets out a betrayed chuckle and realizes, “You told them about Berlin.” Carrie says, “Weeks ago. It was never supposed to be used.” Like Keane’s a journalist she went off the record with or something and not, you know, the President. But don’t worry: this is far from the most absurd thing Carrie says in this scene. Saul says the cover-up isn’t exactly as exciting as the fact that someone was involved with a Russian spy, namely, him, and that his career will never be remembered compared to that. Plus, the agency may not survive that kind of scandal if the President wants it gone already. Saul prods Carrie to respond, and Carrie busts out with the HILARIOUSLY hypocritical, “Maybe you shouldn’t have been fucking a Russian mole.” Saul, speaking for all of us, snaps: “Coming from someone who fucked a guy in a suicide vest, that means a lot.” just then Carrie’s phone rings, and when Saul irritatedly tells her to answer it, it’s Child Services telling her she’s approved for a visit with her daughter the next day. Carrie hangs up, smiles, and sighs. Then she looks back at the sad, lonely Saul on the bench.

Keane waits tensely in her suite for Dar to arrive. Rob offers to sub in for her, but she refuses, saying that she doesn’t want to tip her hand. Apparently the solicitor general thinks that they could get his list of cabinet recommendations and use it to figure out who might be conspiring with Dar, “Assuming I can stand to be in the same room with him.” Just then, Dar knocks and enters, and one of my favorite scenes of the week ensues.

Let’s just say Keane should NEVER be a spy. The entire time she’s talking to Dar, she is clearly overwrought with tension while trying to maintain a casual, friendly vibe with him. Her awkward, forced smile made me laugh so hard.

She offers him coffee or juice with a friendly hand on his shoulder and a completely frozen-looking smile. Things get worse as she tries to make conversation, telling him about “tough” districts that expect candidates to be able to knock back drinks early when the night shift gets off, while directing an even more hilariously unnatural smile over her shoulder at him. Dar is blithely unaware at first, telling a story about being hosted by a local leader who cleaned his teacup with a gob of spit, but when Keane finally gives herself away with a weird joke, he gets suspicious and tucks his envelope back into his suit jacket as Keane finishes pouring the coffee. When Keane asks for the names he was supposed to bring, he changes the subject.

Back at Sketchy Internet Company Inc., Max is working with Trent looking over his shoulder. He exposits for the audience’s benefit—since any tech nerd in his position would probably know what a sock puppet is—that they are “fake users with online lives that you manage, right?” He types some code into something that actually resembles a real development environment, with auto-complete and everything, which is unusual for TV, and voila: he’s found some missing accounts with a “workaround.” Their names are things like “IraqBob” and “NavyWife.” Trent switches on a giant floor-to-ceiling display on the opposite wall and everyone cheers: apparently they’re back. Thousands of windows pop up, showing the social media feeds of all these users. Max watches, looking perturbed.

In the black car home from his meeting with Keane, Dar pulls out the envelope from his suit jacket and examines it briefly. His driver tries to make conversation, and finally Dar looks at him and says, “Let me ask you something. Did I do anything, anything at all, to suggest I was curious about the sound of your voice?” HEE! That was MEAN.

He arrives home and enters his apartment, heading straight for his Don Draper-style bar. Just as he’s about to take his first sip of whiskey, Quinn’s voice says, “Enjoy.” He’s been waiting for Dar in the dining room, wearing a black cap and rather ostentatiously holding a gun. He accuses Dar of trying to kill him with the guy he sent, and Dar says he doesn’t know what Quinn’s talking about. Quinn shows him his shoulder wound, and Dar looks genuinely horrified and says, “I would never hurt you, Peter, you know that.” Quinn says he doesn’t. Dar pleads that he got Quinn out of lockup and flew Astrid over to take care of him. He again looks horrified to hear that Astrid is dead, and pleads with Quinn that they can figure this out together, and that he raised Quinn. He says: “You are my child. More than that.” [creepy whisper] “I would never hurt you. Never. I love you.”

Elderly man (Dar) smiles, with a gun to his face

Of all the wild stuff that’s happened on this show, Dar whispering “I love you” might be the scariest thing I’ve seen yet.

Quinn stares angrily at Dar, who dares him to pull the trigger. But Quinn’s apparently unable to do it, so finally he clobbers Dar in the face with the butt of the gun and rushes out to his car, gasping for breath.

Back in the apartment, Dar calls the gunman and says immediately, “I told you to leave him alone.” Meanwhile, in his car, Quinn is listening to every word from a bug he apparently set up. The gunman says he has other opinions, and at least now Quinn won’t be telling their secrets to everyone now. Dar calls him a fucking moron and reveals that Quinn’s alive. Meanwhile, Quinn finishes triangulating his location and starts his car, driving away.

Things aren’t looking so good for Black Cap Dude.

Conclusion

As I mentioned at the beginning, this episode is bound to seem almost quaint to anyone who’s actually living in the US at the moment. In Homeland’s world, the presidency and the mainstream thrust of American politics are still fact-based. Thus, right-wing internet trolls are still a shadowy force whose power is largely behind the scenes. Brett O’Keefe, after all, is essentially Steve Bannon. If Keane’s opponent had won, he might be a top presidential advisor. As scary as this deep-underground company is where Max has intrepidly ventured to take a job, how much more scary would it be if the President was actually on their side?

There were a lot of great moments in this episode—Keane’s attempt to play it cool in front of Dar was delightfully funny, as were Carrie’s euphemistic ways of describing her bonkers relationship with Brody. And the Dar/Peter scene was powerfully complex and creepy, managing to humanize the loathsome Dar just a bit while also adding even more layers to his loathsomeness.

And Carrie has been drawn into betraying a loved one yet again with this new development about Allison. Saul doesn’t seem to blame her, but it’s hard not to draw a connection from this to everything else that she’s suffering the consequences for this season—her betrayal of Quinn, and her failure to protect Franny from Quinn, for example.

And it’s not just that Carrie’s a horrible person, which I don’t intend to imply at all. She probably made such a good agent because she recognized the hard truth that the mission often would come between her and her personal life, probably in a way that even most other agents—take Saul, for example, who has mostly managed to get through his life without selling anyone out—would not accept. But though that’s led to so many great achievements for Carrie, she’s paying a high—and not unjustified—price in her personal life.

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