Homeland Recap: 7×09 “Useful Idiot”

Spoilers under the cut.

Previously on Homeland: Simone said she delivered money on behalf of Wellington; Senator Paley asked Keane to resign the Presidency, but Keane sent Wellington to tell the Russians to stop instead; Carrie left Franny with Maggie, even though Saul told her to go back and fix it; the Russian ambassador told Yevgeny to call off Simone’s testimony; Simone disappeared, and Saul told Keane she’d put a target on Simone’s back, but it was OK (for Simone) because actually Yevgeny is her boyfriend. Oh, and Carrie brought in a lawyer to poison Dante so he’d admit he was working with Simone. Far from the worst choice she’s made even that day, but … still impressively bad.

Just before dawn, Yevgeny wakes up Simone, who’s sleeping in the front seat of their getaway car. They have a freakishly normal couple conversation about how she was asleep and he let her because he likes to watch her sleep, like they’re not crazy Russian spies. It’s totally unsettling.

As they pull into an airfield they make a plan to go to his uncle’s estate to rest after this, but Yevgeny’s phone rings before they board. It’s another man, telling him Dante’s missing. Simone says it’s not normal for Dante, and that the hard part is over so it doesn’t make sense for him to have cold feet. But she gets pissed when Yevgeny says he’s going to stay behind. She argues that the mission has already succeeded, but Yevgeny is worried Dante turned himself in. Simone says he’s been reckless just coming to get her, and he should leave it to “Clayton” (presumably the guy on the phone). But he won’t go, so she boards the plane after telling him she’s probably never going to see him again. Cold, but true.

Carrie waits outside Dante’s room, visibly hanging on by the barest thread to her calm. She pops half a pill just before Saul shows up and tells him the update on Dante’s condition: no apparent brain damage, but they won’t know till he wakes up.

Jeez, never get romantically involved with Carrie. Statistically, you’ll probably wind up in a coma.

Meanwhile, Saul tells her he hasn’t found Simone and they have no other evidence without Dante. Carrie’s worried he’ll deny what he said or even forget what he said. Saul, presumably recognizing how unhelpful this line of conversation is, just leaves to go brief the President.

Who is sitting in her office with Wellington, watching with a dire expression (I feel like I use this phrase, “dire expression,” a lot with Keane, but it’s so fitting! And she does it so well!) as Paley appears on live TV telling reporters that Simone has disappeared. When Saul shows up, Paley is in the middle of bringing up the I-word—impeachment. Saul tells them Simone’s probably already dead, and that Dante’s testimony is “problematic.” Well, that’s one word for “I poisoned a witness,” I guess.

Wellington argues that impeachment is such a danger that even the link from the Russians to the fake news story isn’t enough to distract people. Saul suggests bringing him in on the whole story so that he might tone down the rhetoric, because he’s a patriot. It’s so cute that he has faith in a Republican politician to tone down the rhetoric based on facts.

Yevgeny picks up a call from Moscow telling him to get back to the airfield because he’s “overplayed his hand,” but he insists on getting his people back and switches lines when he gets a call from “Clayton.” Clayton has found Dante at the hospital and found out that he was arrested last night. He sends Yevgeny the location (“[cellphone bloops]” is the closed captioner’s adorable way of describing the sound that follows).

Over at said hospital Carrie lets herself into Dante’s room, where he’s groggily awake. She goes for an almost caring tone as she asks how he’s feeling and pretends that she’s trying to find his lawyer, but things quickly disintegrate. At the first sign of hesitation from Dante, she goes from zero to sixty, accusing him of protecting his lawyer and protecting people who want to kill him. “I was trying to figure out how to tell your mother you were poisoned by Russians,” she says, convincingly near tears. Ewww. This is so gross. “You have an idea of who I am and what I did, and it’s nothing like that,” he finally says. Carrie says she believes him, and then pushes for more information. Finally Dante seems to give in.

Carrie leaves his room gloating to Saul that Dante’s cooperating and ready to confirm he and Simone were Russian operatives. She tells him that Dante gave her a burn code for emergencies that can torch the operation for the whole network, and it has a response code that everyone else in the network is supposed to send back to confirm. They remark that it’s weird that this exists, yet there is no discussion of whether Dante might be tricking them. Carrie’s just full of smiles, and Saul full of gratefulness. It’s kind of weird. It’s also, like, if there’s an emergency such that you need to stop the entire operation, is it a great idea to have all of your secret agents tweet the same response code back at you so they can be easily identified?? Meanwhile, as Carrie drives away, an older white man (Clayton) walks into the ER, discreetly snapping pictures of the security setup in and around the hospital.

In the Oval Office, Saul informs Keane and the ever-present Wellington that Dante’s ready to cooperate and that he gave them some information, but that they’d have to do some electronic breaking and entering on an American media company, which Keane would have to authorize. “You notice, the longer this goes on, the more I become the leader my enemies say I am,” Keane says. Not that this stops her from asking for an order for her to sign.

In some nearby conference room, Paley waits alone in awkward silence with an aide standing in the corner. Wellington and Saul arrive, let the aide set up an AV presentation on the big-ass LCD screen mounted on the wall, and then send him out of the room so they can tell Paley about Simone. Paley laughs this off at first, calling this an elaborate Hail Mary. But when they start going through their impressively polished last-minute presentation that mostly seems to involve pictures of people’s faces along with one video of Dante being interrogated, Paley gets a shocked look on his face. (I mean, couldn’t Keane have just arrested him as a political prisoner again??) “You’ve been played, Sam. We all have,” Wellington says. Paley notices that his own face is on one slide with a (UI) after it. Saul explains that these are abbreviations – used by Russia, of course, not himself – T for target, RA for recruited asset, UI for useful idiot.

Awkward.

Saul arrives at the task force office and calls together his minions. Clint has a backdoor into Twitter’s base in Ireland. They need to hack into an account called “Real Trade Tramp” who poses as a stock tipster and post “Darwin loves Bitcoin.” “What about Ripple” is the code that Russian agents are supposed to send back. FINALLY someone brings up the obvious: this could be a flare that Dante wants to send to his handlers and they’re about to deploy it for him. Carrie is convinced that he believes the Russians tried to poison her. “That’s your professional opinion?” Sandy asks, her tone making it very clear what she thinks of Carrie’s professionalism. Carrie insists that she’s more skeptical than anyone of Dante (yeah… no); Sandy points out once again that this is a digital dead drop and they have no idea what it means; and Saul pretty much sides with Carrie. Defeated, Sandy agrees to crosscheck any responses the tweet gets with her watch list. Clint goes to send the tweet, and we see that Real Trade Tramp has a hilariously perfect avatar of someone who would be a popular public commentator in the Republican/finance world: preppy good looks and blonde hair. Very convincing.

Paley’s aide, Janet, meets him in his office and he demands of her how she met Carrie. “Were you sorority sisters or something?” Oh my GOD, shut up, Paley. He asks if she vetted Carrie before putting her in a room with Paley, then reveals that he’s the “tip of the spear of one of the most insidious attacks ever perpetrated on the institution of American democracy… authored by the military intelligence wing of the Russian government.” Uh… this isn’t classified? He explains about Simone, staying light on facts and high on histrionics. Janet stays calm and just says they need to get out in front of it. Paley says they can’t do that, but they could take a face-saving measure. Janet says, “When they’re ready, you get to make the announcement. … They want a deal, that’s the price.” Paley doesn’t get as excited as Janet about using an attack on America for political gain. I guess he really is a patriot. Can’t say the same for Janet.

Yevgeny gets a call from Clayton asking if they’re going to ground because Yevgeny sent the burn code. Yevgeny realizes Dante gave them the code and tells Clayton not to go to ground. I was hugely surprised that this turned out to, apparently, be real. He calls Mirov, the Moscow guy who was ordering him to turn around, and tells him that Dante’s talking and sent the burn code. He asks for men at the hospital, “Do you get it or not?” he yells. But Mirov won’t, so Yevgeny hangs up the phone and throws a tantrum in his car, Carrie style.

Over at the office, the task force is working on tracking down the agents who responded, most of whom are security-conscious. Sandy says, “We pray for the lazy ones, some genius who logs in from Starbucks.” Just then Max find a name: a sophomore at UT Austin, who presumably works as an amplifier without knowing who he’s working for. Saul and Carrie share a proud smile. Then Carrie excuses herself to go see Maggie, who “was in high dudgeon.” I love that. She’s acting like Maggie pitched a fit because Carrie drank out of her favorite mug or something, instead of because Carrie scarred her child for life and then abandoned her. Then Max finds someone else—a personal wealth manager from Greenwich who has already been under investigation once.

It’s morning by the time Carrie arrives home at Maggie’s to find Bill in the kitchen, apparently working from home. He greets her cautiously but politely and she asks for Maggie, who isn’t there, then asks after Franny. “I felt awful about that. I didn’t want to leave, but there was a pretty big thing going down, with a double agent… but I think we might’ve stopped it. Came up with kind of an amazing counterpunch, actually.” I cannot BELIEVE she is bragging about poisoning Dante to the people she abandoned her kid with. (OK, I can believe it, but it’s hilariously obtuse.) She asks for Maggie again and makes yet another amusingly obtuse remark that Maggie is just making a point and Carrie gets it. (Which, of course, she clearly doesn’t.) Finally she goes for the phone and Bill admits that Maggie’s consulting a lawyer.

Carrie starts to cry and says she knows she made a mistake but she’s not the only parent in the world who has stumbled. Bill for once stands up for himself, saying that she obviously doesn’t understand what she did and that Franny needs some stability in her life or she’s going to end up just like Carrie. Way harsh, Tai!

Yevgeny is STILL in the car when Simone calls to ask what he’s doing. She tells him that if he doesn’t call Mirov back he’ll be designated rogue, so he needs to calm down. She says she’ll take full responsibility for Dante. Just then Yevgeny gets a call from Mirov and picks up with an immediate apology, but it’s actually Wyler, the hedge fund manager, freaking out that the FBI is at his front door. “Are you calling me from an encrypted line?” Yevgeny asks. “I don’t fucking know!” he yells. Heh. Yevgeny tells him to get a lawyer and hangs up. FINALLY he stops driving, ditches the car in a parking spot and drops the keys into a drain.

Back at Maggie’s, Carrie has packed up all Franny’s stuff while poor Bill chases her around saying things like “This isn’t a good idea.” I guess he only had one speech’s worth of meanness in him. As soon as she leaves, he picks up the phone and makes a call.

Yevgeny meets Clayton in the parking lot of the hospital. Clayton also has had a call from the angry Mirov, but doesn’t seem too worried about it. He tells Yevgeny that Dante is under the protection of the Feds in the hospital. Then he makes Yevgeny get into the passenger seat and shoots him in the stomach. Then he drives up to the ER entrance with dramatically squealing wheels and carries the poor wounded Clayton into the ER, stealing someone’s badge in the chaos. OK, I know Clayton’s a Russian agent and all, but the poor dude is like seventy and that just seems mean! At least shoot him in the arm or something where it’ll do a little less damage!

Carrie shows up at Franny’s school and asks to pull her daughter out. The receptionist is about to do it when a man shows up and interrupts them. He says Bill just called and asked that Franny stay here. Carrie insists, first smiling and then finally saying that she’s the only legal guardian. The administrator, beaten, gives in.

Back at the hospital, poor Clayton is undergoing CPR while machines beep. Yevgeny, not looking particularly worried about his ally that he just killed, clips on the stolen badge and wheels a supply cart into Dante’s room nearby. Somehow there are no guards in the room itself and no one close enough to notice that Yevgeny has closed the blinds. Dante wakes up and accuses Yevgeny of trying to kill him. Yevgeny denies it, thinks a moment, then realizes that Mathison told Dante this. “I don’t poison my own people,” he says. No, he just shoots them in the stomach and smothers them with pillows! (Oh, wait, I’m spoiling it. Hold on one second.) He has Dante call Carrie to ask if she was behind the poison.

Back at the school, Carrie is just about to get ahold of Franny, who’s all packed up with her backpack when she gets two calls from Dante. At his question, she yells in the middle of the hallway, “Are you out of your fucking mind?” When she realizes he doesn’t believe her she says she’s going to come to the hospital with Franny. Oh, Lord. Poor Franny starts clinging to Carrie, but meanwhile Dante growls into the phone, “Yevgeny’s here. Lock down the hospital.” Sure enough, Yevgeny takes the phone and starts smothering Dante with his pillow.

Carrie swears loudly, hangs up, and does a complete about-face, saying that she needs to leave Franny at school now. The administrator, who’s been watching all of this with total shock on his face, is like “….” Franny begs her mom not to leave, but Carrie runs out to the car after a quick frantic apology. Just as she backs hastily out of the parking lot she nearly backs right into Franny, who’s chased her out there. “Get her!” she yells at the administrator, who scoops Franny up and carries her back inside while she yells “Noooo!”

As she speeds down the road and rushes into the hospital, Carrie starts to have horrible visions of running over Franny. “He didn’t make it,” an orderly tells her when she gets into the ER and asks after Dante. Her head starts to be a giant rush of visions: Franny getting run over, Brody getting hanged, Quinn getting killed. When she gets into Dante’s room, where the machine is making a flatline noise, she hallucinates that the nurse is herself. Other-Carrie turns to her and asks harshly, “What did you do?” as Carrie sinks to the ground and starts screaming.

Well, I’m glad they didn’t have Carrie literally run over her daughter, which I think would’ve been too much. This was a super intense ending though. Wow. (Weirdly, though, the preview for the next episode seems to show Carrie totally functional and calm.) Anyway, a lot of the spy stuff in this episode seemed to present an unusual level of strain for the viewer’s credulity, but on the other hand, the Franny storyline came to its necessary climax: Carrie, presented with possibly her last chance to establish primary custody of her daughter, chooses the job instead and throws Franny into grave danger due to her own obsession. It’s actually not even the wrong choice, I think, because Franny would actually be better off with Maggie and Bill. I mean, she was about to take Franny to the hospital so she could continue working a double agent! It’s the combination of constantly endangering Franny while insisting that eveything she does is just “a stumble” that’s truly disturbing.

But I mean all of this as praise for the show, which I think is having an excellent season. Carrie’s an antihero, and this is a daring and well-earned storyline showing the grave consequences of her decisions. I can’t help but enjoy watching a female character who is brilliant, ambitious, and deeply flawed.

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