Homeland Recap: 7×04 “Like Bad At Things”

Spoilers following the cut.

Previously on Homeland: Carrie told Dante she was bipolar and she had a lithium tolerance, so she was supposed to sedate herself; Saul came to find Brett at a white separatist compound, but a bunch of armed reinforcements arrived; Saul tried to protect a horde of armed transphobes by claiming that this “doesn’t need to end badly”; Dante tipped Carrie off to a woman named Simone who is involved with Wellington and got a ticket near McClendon’s prison when he died, and Carrie found the ticket; Keane refused for a second time to bomb an armed shipment despite her advisors urging her to, but Wellington went behind her back and claimed she authorized it anyway.

Wellington is in his apartment, apparently getting ready for another day of backstabbing, when Keane shows up to yell at him, her face totally dire. “My presidency’s just been hijacked!” she yells, saying she came here so no one could hear their phone call. But of course, Carrie is eagerly listening in. Wellington immediately confesses to having done it, which of course Carrie also hears. He tells her that she needed one in the win column. “Are you out of your mind?” Keane asks, justifiably. Wellington thinks this plus releasing the 200 has helped her reputation. The furious Keane does not appreciate this as much as he expects. “I should have you arrested,” she says, which on the one hand is her answer to everything, and on the other, is completely justified. She’s about to stomp out but he gives her a very noble, and very full of bullshit, speech about believing she can be a great president.

Just then Carrie’s interrupted by a noise in the house. Keane leaves Wellington after one more witheringly scornful look, while Carrie runs down to answer the door to Max. She tells him everything she’s just learned. “It’s crazytown. Anything is possible!” she says. They go back up to her room and watch Wellington settle on his couch, looking not particularly proud. Max refuses to tell Dante about this because he doesn’t want anyone to know about the surveillance. Carrie gives him the files she downloaded from Simone’s computer, and he agrees to take a look. “While you’re unlocking her emails, I’m gonna go to Hazelton,” Carrie says. Max is like, uh, what happened to the self-induced coma? “I need to borrow your car,” is Carrie’s hilariously in-character response. And Max just gives it to her with no further argument! God, I love that guy. And I love Carrie. She has no shame.

Brett looks on while a bunch of dudes in camo and ponytails unpack trucks full of survival supplies and crazy guns that should definitely be illegal, and hopefully will soon. Dude is clearly terrified, which is not an unreasonable reaction but amusingly cowardly considering his usual rhetoric. Mary (Bo’s wife) is annoyed that she didn’t know what was going on and didn’t have the chance to get the kids out. Brett growls out a very heroic-sounding promise that he will turn himself in before anyone gets hurt. He promises her that they don’t want a fight, so they should hold out for awhile so the world can see what they’re doing.

Just then, a drone flies overhead… and one of the separatists takes it out with his giant gun and everyone cheers. Brett practically wets his pants. Oh yeah, this will end real well, Saul.

Back in whatever station the Feds have set up, Maslin is pissed and Saul looks all wise and sad. Like, oh, shocker, the crazy survivalists aren’t behaving rationally just because they have skin the same color as yours!

Carrie’s off to Hazelton in Max’s car. She stops at where the ticket is from and looks around at a series of rather unprepossessing storefronts until she notices a “Dash Cash.” Inside, she holds up Simone’s picture for an employee and uses his name (Carl) ostentatiously in a way-too-desperate attempt to ingratiate herself. Then she explains that the woman in the picture is her sister and that she’s bipolar, meaning crazy, and is living with her and driving her family insane. Carrie threatens to sue him by making up some story about how she had her “sister” declared incompetent and somehow made it illegal for her to withdraw money. (“Like, bad at things?” says Carl, conveniently using the episode’s title for us.) Anyway, Carrie’s threat gets Carl to reveal that she was in to get $9,950 and that he’s never seen her before.

Back at the compound, Mary is taking the kids out back somewhere. Downstairs, Brett kind of wanders around uselessly knocking into guns while people plan without him. Then they hear dogs, and Bo says, “Where’s JJ?”

As it turns out, he’s chasing the dog through the woods while holding a big gun. The feds shoot the dog, so he lifts his gun and gets shot. One of the officers frantically runs over to JJ and cradles his head and asks people to call the medics (again, if this had been a 17-year-old black boy, that level of concern and remorse would be fairly unusual coming from a cop who shot him). Then a bunch of Bo’s pals show up with their guns and take the officer hostage (and drag JJ back with them too). Hooray for the second amendment!

Back inside, Brett looks on in total shock as Bo throws a few punches at the officer, while a bleeding JJ moans on the table. “He’s worth more to us alive,” the other separatists tell Bo. Brett clearly has some regrets about this whole The Resistance thing.

Carrie calls Max from the library discussing in a totally normal voice how Simone took out a wire to get McClendon killed. (Not only is she talking in a distinctly non-library voice, there’s a no-cell-phones sign directly behind her.) Max points out that $9950 isn’t exactly a lot to put out a hit on a big-time general. Carrie realizes she must have gotten more money somewhere. Max got into her email and found out that she’s the director of fundraising for a pro-democracy NGO. Carrie asks for her photos. Max points out that she should be driving since she needs to get back by the time Franny gets out of school. Carrie had clearly completely forgotten all about this, so she swears and leaves. Do you sometimes feel like Carrie is most invested in Franny when she needs custody to prove to herself that her bipolar disorder is under control? But when it comes to work, it’s like, Franny? Who’s that?

Brett has gotten Saul on the phone and is yelling at him for shooting a child, like Brett gives a fuck. Saul says he wants to get JJ to the hospital, but Brett says no one’s listening to him anymore. Then he hangs up and lies to Maslin that he and O’Keefe are working to get JJ to a hospital. But Maslin’s finally had it and tells Saul not to do that until he’s got his hostage back, and to take it up with the director if he’s got a problem. So Saul calls Wellington and tells him he needs the President to intervene. Wellington clears his throat and says that his relationship with the President can’t exactly sustain another favor today. “A kid is dying,” Saul says, which shames David Wellington into going along with it. Next thing you know, Saul’s busting back in to see Maslin and give him the President on the phone.

Max, meanwhile, keeps poring through Simone’s emails. When he gets to her EZPass account he gets a nice little location history on Simone and uses that to find nearby cash withdrawal places. When he hears someone behind him he says, expecting Carrie, “You made it!” Maggie, in the doorway with Franny, smirks and introduces herself. “Where is she, anyway?” she asks of Carrie. “Uh… downstairs?” Max tries. Heh. Just then Carrie comes in and coos a little at Franny. Maggie gives her patent I’m-disappointed-in-you-but-I’ll-be-polite-now-we’re-gonna-talk-about-this-later smile as Carrie walks Max out.

Downstairs, Max updates Carrie on Simone’s stops at places near cash places. That could mean $50,000—“enough to get something done,” Carrie says. I dunno, I mean, it sounds like a lot of money and you wouldn’t have to pay taxes on it, but taking out a hit on a celebrity?

An ambulance drives up to the compound and a few rebels pat them down and search the back, as Saul looks on from a distance. “We’re only here for the boy, right?” says a scared-looking medic. They find JJ on the kitchen table, covered in blood. They check him out and say that he’s lost blood and needs fluids; his mother has to hold the saline bag while the other medic goes to check on the hostage. “How you doing?” she asks. She offers to put something on his face contusions. He asks how the boy is, and she says he’s going to be OK as she applies the medicine. Then she puts a small bug on the radiator. Just as she’s done, Bo interrupts them and they start transporting JJ out on a stretcher. From their station, Maslin and Saul can hear the audio from the bug. But they’re interrupted by the incorrigible Brett making hay out of the fact that JJ got shot by Keane’s people. “You make concessions to these people, they piss on you,” Maslin says. Yuuuup.

Then Mary interrupts the broadcast with a pained cry of “Stop!” Brett has the grace to look ashamed, but he still ends with “This is Brett O’Keefe, coming to you from free America, fighting for our lives.” Oh, VOM.

Carrie is staring at pics of Simone and Wellington in the files Max got when Maggie busts in, still wearing that patented expression. She says she’s confused: “After everything you said, how scared you are?” Carrie shakes her head, dismissively. “Are you even taking your meds?” Maggie asks. Carrie opens her eyes all wide like she does when she denies things and says she’s taking it, which Maggie is too smart to actually believe. So Carrie, after a moment of pained hesitation, swallows one right in front of Maggie, tears in her eyes.

On the phone, Saul tells Brett that a trauma surgeon has arrived to work on JJ. They play a few rounds of the blame game and Saul says he’s looking at an army, just like Brett has, “all high on your toxic bullshit.” THEN he says that he and Brett are “the fucking grownups in the room here.” Which… you have to be pretty desperate to think Brett is the grownup in any room. This is sorta like how people keep treating people like Ivanka Trump as the “gronwups in the room” of the administration, like, OK, she may not be a raving IDIOT but that doesn’t mean she’s not a craven POS for being complicit in this mess.

Anyway, Brett likes the idea of being a big boy but doesn’t much like the idea of giving himself up to save lives. So, so much for that. Then Saul suggests getting the women and children out of there. That’s sorta some weird patriarchal bullshit but OK. I guess if all the women don’t have guns they deserve to get out before the slaughter starts.

As a throng of journalists surrounds a hospital asking quesitons about JJ, a nondescript bearded white dude strides right into the hospital, grabs some spare scrubs off a rack, and suits up like he owns the place. He finds an empty area right near the curtain room where JJ is getting surgery, and keeps snapping pictures till he gets one where almost none of the many doctors around him are visible, crops it so JJ’s all alone, and smiles. Outside, he uploads it with the caption “FBI lets boy bleed to death.” Hashtag fake news! So topical! (I mean, it really is topical and interesting, I don’t mean to make fun. It’s just that having seen the next couple episodes before I got around to this recap, it’s hilarious how much they are going to drive home that this is Fake News.)

Carrie, sleeping in bed after her forced ingestion of Seroquel, lethargically answers a call from Dante. She meets him downstairs in his car, walking slowly and tiredly. He’s concerned, but she tells him just to drive.

A big black truck pulls up to the compound, and the women and children start traipsing out towards it. Brett tells Mary, “There’ll be cameras waiting.” Ugh, gross. Still trying to milk it. But he pretends to be just a Man of the People complimenting her for defeating the media’s stereotypes of them. She has no patience for this: “You said you’d hand yourself over before anyone got hurt. But you’re still here.” Wimmen, am I right? You break one promise…

It turns out Carrie has taken Dante on a field trip to her parking lot drug deal, where she stocks up on Ritalin and other fun pharmaceuticals. “Is this safe?” Dante asks. The dealer tells them to avoid the Seroquel “except when she’s too crazy.” And Carrie adds that he needs to watch her and tell her when to medicate. “You won’t know yourself?” he asks. “That’s the scary part,” she answers. Uh, I would think the scary part is hopping yourself up on Ritalin you bought from some guy’s trunk, but OK. Dante’s a little nervous, but Carrie’s more interested in telling him about what she’s discovered about Simone. “So you’re saying she’s a bag man,” Dante realizes. Carrie says they can’t take her in yet, and that she’s not the target—they have to connect it to Wellington. “I’ve got a thought about that, which will be completely illegal,” she says. Well, it wouldn’t be a Carrie thought if it weren’t. He thinks for awhile, then quietly says he’s in.

At the compound, the women and children are taking their final leave, escorted by armed officers. Saul and Maslin are watching from afar. They separate the adults from the children. Just then the fake story comes on CNN that JJ’s dead. Maslin tells Saul that he just talked to the hospital and JJ’s in recovery, and Saul hops on the phone to his new best friend, Brett, just as the agents are frisking down the women before they can get in the van. But someone alerts Bo to the fake story as Brett hesitates to pass on Saul’s information. “Fuck you, asshole! Just tell them it’s not true!” Saul yells. But O’Keefe says nothing, and Bo goes right into the other room and shoots the FBI officer in the head.

Everyone hears the shot, including Saul and Maslin, and the van leaves without the women and children. Brett looks on from the porch as the white separatists run out to confront the government tanks, but immediately scrambles for shelter when the fire starts… and tries to sign on to broadcast the events live. Oh my gosh, shut up, Brett. He accuses Keane of breaking the truce.

Wellington busts into the Oval Office and tells Keane what’s going on. She calls Saul and tells him to stop this. Saul says defeatedly that Bo’s father executed the hostage. Keane demands to talk to Maslin, but Saul says, “Too late. It’s done.” After hanging up, he says, “I’m sorry.” Yeah, maybe don’t trust Brett “Scum of the earth” O’Keefe to do your negotiating?

Back at the compound they’ve thrown tear gas into the basement, and Brett is escorted out, coughing, by agents. Everything’s in flames, and in case you didn’t get that it’s a symbol for America, Brett is literally coughing into a US flag. He’s brought over to Saul, and the two men stare at each other for a moment, I guess feeling nostalgic for that time they thought Brett could be a grown-up.

I’m pretty angry at Saul in this episode, as I guess is clear. He basically decides that these people—who are stockpiling weapons specifically to use against the government, and taking and shooting hostages—are some kind of precious symbol of America that he can’t shoot, when you just know that brown-skinned men in the same situation would have been knocked flat days earlier. It’s very similar to how he acted with Aileen in season 1, and that also ended really badly. So, kudos on the consistent characterization of Saul, but boo to Saul! Anyway, in general, this has been a really fun season: plenty of intrigue, Carrie doing her usual catwalk along the razor’s edge of her genius, and a villain you (or at least I) can really hate in Brett O’Keefe. And this episode was exciting (and topical in a way that managed to actually feel fresh because of how scrambled this world is from current political reality). Really enjoyed it.

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