Homeland Recap: 7×10 “Clarity”

Previously on Homeland: Maggie visited a lawyer to talk about taking Franny; Yevgeny and Simone parted dramatically as Yevgeny went to look for Dante; Paley was told about the whole Dante-is-a-Russian-agent thing; Carrie tried to take Franny out of school but then realized Dante was in danger and left Franny again; then she had a psychotic break when she found Dante dead in the hospital.

“I didn’t need to see that again,” remarked Keets of Claire Danes’ terrifying scream in Dante’s hospital room.

When we next see Carrie, she’s lying on a hospital bed, being wheeled into her third and final ECT treatment. “You’re doing great,” an orderly tells her. The doctor exposits that she’s been responding well except for slight memory loss, but this isn’t accompanied by the sheer panic and scary music that accompanied her memory loss in season 1, when she realized that she was missing something crucial about Dante. It’s more private now, just about Carrie herself, submitting to something painful because she wants her daughter back.

Meanwhile, Beau Bridges, whose character’s name is apparently Ralph but obviously we just think of him as Beau Bridges, is dressing for an event. The main job is to pick amongst his giant collection of power ties. You go, Beau Bridges.

When he’s finally ready he’s traded in a red tie for a blue, and he’s meeting David Wellington. Wellington wants to talk about a document sent by Paley to the attorney general, invoking the 25th Amendment and declaring Keane unfit for office.

Now this is a weirdly on-the-nose episode considering how many of us have idly or not-so-idly contemplated using the 25th to take Trump out of office. But even the argument that someone is “unfit” for medical reasons like senility or a personality disorder was a stretch. Declaring someone unfit because you don’t like their choices is, fortunately or unfortunately, not a thing as I understand it.

Anyway, back to the letter: Wellington knows of four people who are signing on to Paley’s Plot Device Letter, and wants to make sure that Beau Bridges isn’t going to do so. “It must gall her that the survival of her presidency could come down to me,” growls Beau Bridges, in one of those lines that so succinctly sums up the stakes of an episode that you wonder if they put it in specifically for the benefit of whoever’s cutting the trailer. Anyway, Beau Bridges promises that he won’t sign, because he promised to defend the country against enemies both foreign and domestic and he’ll do it regardless of how Keane treats him. Wellington finds this patriotism much more convincing than I do, which is probably because he’s, to put it tactlessly, such a weenie.

Saul visits Sandy at her house. She’s apparently staying there because her husband doesn’t know what she’s up to. Aww, too bad. I was hoping these two were going to make out, but I don’t like Sandy as a dirty cheater. Anyway, she’s found two flights that likely contained people from Yevgeny’s network, and Yevgeny couldn’t have killed Dante if he was on the first one. She thinks Simone was on the first flight, and that “it’s a love story.” Saul says, “It’s always a love story with you.” Um… shut up, Saul.

Anyway, Sandy ignores this because she’s done actual research to confirm that Simone and Yevgeny were in the same town when Simone was a grad student and that she had a Russian boyfriend.

Carrie’s in her hospital room when her lawyer, Wanda, arrives to tell her that her sister has offered an agreement where Carrie gets visitation rights every three weekends and then every two eventually. She says it’s a giant step forward. “This is assuming Maggie wins the custody hearing tomorrow,” says poor Carrie. Wanda delicately sidesteps having to actually say, Yeah, THAT was never in question, and kindly explains that this is to avoid a protracted legal battle.

You can just see the wheels turning in Carrie’s head as she realizes her lawyer doesn’t think she’s going to win the battle. “But you send courts bend over backwards to keep children with their parents,” Carrie says. Poor Wanda is like, “Yes, they do,” and her tone is just LOADED with commentary. It would be hilarious if it weren’t also really sad, both for Franny who has been through so much and for Carrie who still doesn’t get what she’s done. I still can’t help laughing, because almost any other human in Wanda’s position would be like, “Yes, they do, unless the parents purposely brought their children to stay overnight in the apartment of a suspected Russian double agent,” and Wanda somehow manages to withhold the commentary like an utter champ. Nevertheless, she does counsel Carrie to consider the offer. (No shit.)

Keane has called her cabinet for a meeting. She makes some reference to hunger-gatherers who want to crush their prey, and explains that the US is under Russian attack. She does an OK job and gets some laughs, and pleads convincingly for everyone to stand together. But as the camera pans around the room, you can see that her seemingly compliant cabinet members are, in many cases, avoiding her eyes. When Keane actually mentions Paley’s 25th-amendment letter, she gets more laughs, but it’s all still pretty awkward. “You’ll come through this, Madam President,” Beau Bridges growls in her ear.

Carrie and Anson are taking a romantic walk in a meadow under a cloudy sky. He asks if she’s prepared for the worst with this hearing. Any regular friend would be like, “Take the plea, you’re the worst fucking parent in the world” (and I say this with love, truly). But Anson is like, I know! Oppo research! Carrie thinks for a bit and then says that Maggie was treating her unofficially under a false name so no one at the Agency would figure out Carrie was bipolar. “That’s her medical license right there,” says Anson.

You know the word “enabler,” like those friends who let you give in to your worst impulses? What’s the word for when you’re a step beyond an enabler, like when you look at someone who’s about to make OK decisions and say, “No, but what if you did THE WORST POSSIBLE THING?” Whatever that word is, Anson is that thing.

Saul arrives at a meeting and tells someone on his webcam that “this is crap” and he’s being “slow-rolled” because no one has caught Yevgeny. It turns out the person is from the “HQ” of some state agency and no one in the agency likes Keane, so they’re not helping with Yevgeny. Saul responds to this by confessing that Keane might not make it to the end of her term, which seems like a big risk. But anyway, the best part is that he has an unpublished novel by Yevgeny that describes an idyllic country town, and he wants this spy agency to send a team to it, and look for Simone. That’s so hilarious. Of course the Russian spy writes a novel!

Saul’s next stop is to bring some flowers to Carrie, who’s taking sort of hilarious notes about how to deal with the hearing, including “acknowledge mistakes.” It’s a good thing she wrote that down. It turns out this is the first time he’s seen her, since she was asleep when he last visited. He asks what happened, and she just says it’s “what always happens… when I think I can keep all the plates spinning by myself.” She also says it’s not his responsibility (big step), and then says, “Waking fucking nightmare.” He asks what he can do, which is nothing, of course.

Finally she asks why he’s really there, because clearly he wants something. Saul says he’s looking for Yevgeny and that there’s “institutional resistance” on the US side to finding him, so he needs Carrie’s team to look for him and Simone. Carrie advises him that Bennett (whoever that is) could be a steady leader, but Anson can “think outside the box.” But neither of them has experience in Eastern Europe. “It really should be you, Carrie,” says Saul, whose guilt about her breakdown has clearly worn off. She says she can’t because this is about the rest of her life. “If I’m ever gonna convince anybody I deserve a second chance, first I have to convince myself.” Um, actually, you first have to convince the judge, but TV does love a nonsensical self-help platitude…

Beau Bridges arrives at a fancy restaurant and is brought into the back room, where it turns out not only his expected companion is waiting, but Paley. Beau Bridges claims to have thought this was something about the defense budget. He acts pissed, but then Paley says they have to “hold that woman accountable” and claims there’s no evidence of the “Russian bogeyman.” He’s had time–presumably with the encouragement of his Machiavellian assistant Janet, though he claims that it’s just because Dante turned up dead– to decide that the evidence seems fake. And they reveal that a majority of the cabinet has signed on to the document. Beau Bridges’ eyebrows suddenly take on a more, shall we say, intrigued angle. Instead of storming out, he agrees to sit down with Paley.

The most surprising part of this scene is probably that Beau Bridges wasn’t already plotting against the President while he was uttering fine words about protecting the country to Wellington earlier. This show does a pretty good job at avoiding the obvious twists.

Wellington arrives in the Oval Office just as she finishes up a call with Saul. She gets to be optimistic about one moment before Wellington tells her about Paley ambushing Beau Bridges. When Keane realizes someone named Mullen was in on it, she starts to fall back into victim mode. “He was sitting next to me in the Cabinet room. Looked me right in the eye.” Carefully, Wellington goes on to tell her that Paley and Beau Bridges have already been at dinner for at least an hour. Keane calls Beau Bridges and (despite Wellington trying to tell her not to read too much into it) leaves a rather, um, ominous voicemail asking him to call her back. Wellington pleads that she talked to Beau Bridges this morning and she should trust him. Wellington is kind of a big dummy isn’t he? I mean, Keane’s paranoia is also mistaken, but on the other end of the spectrum, how did this guy survive this long in politics, though, really, if someone saying that they’re with you is so convincing to him?

Speakng of big dummies, Anson calls Carrie in the middle of the night from Maggie’s office, where he’s broken in to look for Carrie’s fake file to get blackmail material against Maggie. Great idea, Anson. Carrie realizes it’s probably at Maggie’s home office, above the garage. “Is there an alarm?” Anson asks, followed by, “Do you know the code?” Carrie sighs with a conflicted face—not, I think, because she’s concerned about getting Anson in trouble (though she should be) but more in a “WTF am I doing” way.

When morning arrives, Wellington arrives at the Oval Office to find Keane in the middle of preparing a big old abuse of power. She’s going to fire everyone in her cabinet she thinks is signing the petition. Wellington points out that she doesn’t actually know who caved. “Well, I can damn well guess. The ones I didn’t handpick,” she says. He asks if it’s legal, and the lawyer says that she can do that at any time for any reason. Keane starts justifying herself, but Wellington interrupts to yell that she’s starting the constitutional crisis their enemies have been hoping for for months. Keane, as usual, cannot be saved from herself. “I did not survive an assassination attempt just to fold up my tent and go home,” Keane says, deeply missing the point. Wellington, horrified, looks on as she tells the lawyer to send the letters firing her cabinet.

Carrie arrives at the courthouse, where Anson is waiting with the ill-gotten blackmail file. He wishes her luck and leaves. Um, is this good spycraft? Should you really be showing up to the courthouse and exchanging the blackmail material in full view of the counterparty? Maggie and her whole crew are standing like twenty yards away.

Poor Josie has to testify first. You can tell she’s sad not to be loyal to Carrie, the aunt she looks up to so much, but she admits that her mother couldn’t depend on her. “I think she’s trying to save our democracy, which is a good thing if you ask me.” Oh, how sweet. But she admits that Franny crawls into bed with her every night and cries herself to sleep. It’s really sad. Next up is the social worker from last season, who testifies about that whole other time Franny was traumatized by one of Carrie’s morally ambiguous love interests, when she was held hostage by Peter Quinn. She says it’s only OK to separate kids from their primary caregivers when they’ve suffered repeated trauma. And on that note, the next witness is a teacher who had talked to Franny after the Dante incident, saying that she wouldn’t stop trembling.

Finally Maggie takes the stand. First she testifies about Carrie staying out all hours and the credit card debt, and finally the fact that Carrie already thought Dante was dirty when she brought Franny to his house. Carrie seems like she might fully realize the full magnitude of this, closing her eyes with a pained look. In the end, Maggie has a letter prepared, but instead she addresses Carrie directly. She reminisces about how fearless Carrie was as a child, and how proud of her their father was. “I am not extraordinary,” she says. “I’m not a hero. But as it turns out safe has its advantages too. A family, a stable home life. These are the things that I can offer Franny.”

Then Carrie, breaking all known rules of courtroom decorum, insists to Maggie that she wants to be stable and she’s “seeing this very clearly now.” Poor Maggie has heard this before and says bitterly that this is only going to last a few weeks.

Conveniently, the judge declares a break so that Carrie can sit and take all this in. She contemplates the file, then instead goes to find Maggie. The guilt-ridden Maggie starts out by saying she wanted to see her in the hospital but was advised not to. But Carrie just says it’s fine and asks if the visitation schedule is still on the table. She asks to up it to every other weekend, and Maggie says yes. She goes to get the lawyers while Carrie stands there, fighting back tears.

Keane sits in the Oval Office watching the news report about the Cabinet dismissals. When Wellington comes in, she complains, “They’re piling on.” Yeah… that tends to happen when you abuse your power. Wellinton says that Beau Bridges wants to talk to Keane, so Keane grudgingly agrees to tlak to him even though it’s “a day late and a dollar short.”

Alone with her, Beau Bridges growls that he was happy to put the bad blood between them behind us. Keane accuses him of working with Paley, but he says he just wanted time to think it through and came down on Keane’s side. He hasn’t signed the document and says he won’t as long as she walks back her firings. He’s trying to keep her back from crossing the line into tyranny, he says. Keane doesn’t believe him that he won’t sign the document if she walks back the firings, because he ignored her phone calls “knowing full well what I was going through.” So petty, wow. He says that he thinks the firings are unconstitutional. In the end, Keane, resenting him trying to stop her from her actions, refuses to walk back the firings. So he vows to sign the document. Then he tells her the world doesn’t have to be such a snakepit.

Carrie arrives by car at a funeral, where Saul tells her she just missed the service. He asks after the court hearings, and Carrie says sadly that Franny is living with Maggie and Bill, but that she’s OK. When Carrie finds out that Saul’s found Simone and Yevgeny, she asks to come along and he seems thrilled. Yay! Time for Carrie to go on a big mission—that’s always fun. We also find out from Saul’s exposition that one of Keane’s fired cabinet members is petitioning the Supreme Court, and that Dante’s parents think he died of a congenital heart defect.

Back at Maggie’s, Carrie packs up a bag and finds Franny and Maggie eating cookies in the kitchen. Carrie and Maggie are being carefully polite to each other, and Carrie tells Franny she’s going to stay with Maggie awhile. Franny stays true to form by asking Carrie one of her patented Innocent TV Kid Questions: is she ever coming back? Carrie, also true to form, acts mildly insulted and says she always comes back. Then there’s a whole cheesy thing about Franny and Maggie drawing pictures for Carrie, and then Carrie, crying, hugs Franny good-bye for just long enough that even Franny thinks it’s awkward and begs off to play with Josie as soon as Carrie lets go.

Left alone, the two sisters have their last good-bye. After a moment they embrace, and Maggie tells her to “Go do what you were born to do.” Carrie meets Saul out front, she climbs into the passenger seat, and they drive away. Then there is a long, like a LONG, close-up of Carrie’s face as they drive. Longer than that hug with Franny. Super long.

This episode was very good, but I have to say, I think it was about five to twelve episodes past time to get rid of Franny. In a way they did a great job by dragging it out as long as they did—Carrie continually lying to herself about where Franny stood in her priorities, Maggie doing her best to paper over the differences, Franny herself taking on as much as she could to avoid getting her mom in trouble. Otherwise, the whole Carrie-is-a-bad-mom thing would feel more like TV finger-wagging. On the other hand, Franny was a major drag on Carrie’s ability to be a hero. As thematically and literarily right as it was to keep her there, it always felt like episodes kind of ground to a halt when this came up. And that impatience, presumably, is just a faint echo of the level of impatience Carrie must have felt at being stuck with a helpless human being whose wellbeing depended on her. Most of all, though, I like how the show, and the characters, aren’t just lumping all of Carrie’s actions together as “bad mom.” It’s “bad mom… and hero.”

And Keane’s storyline was great this episode, too. It’s funny, Keane is definitely not Trump (the difference is vast in intellectual capacity, integrity, ability to speak coherently, etc.). But she shares some of his major personal flaws, like the notion that loyalty to a specific President is some kind of higher moral good, that her own personal feelings of betrayal aren’t important when it comes to making decisions about the country, and that it’s a higher good for her to misuse her power in the Presidency to preserve her own power.

All of these are things that Trump also seems to believe; it’s like they are confused whether they’re President or Queen (or King). The level of personal indignation Keane feels about Mullen “lying” to her (by not, what, standing up in the middle of the meeting and confessing that he was going to sign this petition?) is used to justify all her later acts of corruption. What she doesn’t get is that she doesn’t get to be a personal, individual human in this office. She has the well-being of hundreds of millions of people to worry about. So you can feel for her—and admire certain things about her, like her fierceness and her intelligence—and also see her as extremely dangerous and honestly kind of unfit for this office (though not, I think, in a 25th-Amendment sense).

Anyway, I thought it was a good episode, but I’m most excited to see Carrie finally let loose and kick ass on this mission.

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