Previously on Homeland: SO MUCH. Like, so much.
(Although you’ll notice these previouslies conveniently completely skip that whole thing where Carrie got the President her job back and then the President randomly QUIT like a day later, sending me into spirals of righteous rage.) Anyway, previously: Carrie allowed herself to be caught in Moscow to buy time for Saul to extract Simone Martin, a witness who was key to proving there was a plot against the President; Carrie got stuck in a Russian jail, and a guy named Yevgeny withheld her meds; Saul tried to negotiate for Carrie’s release, but had to wait a few months; then, when he finally got her back, she was in terrible shape and didn’t even seem to recognize him. It was totally intense.
When we first see Carrie as the final season starts, she looks a little better, if only because her hair is combed. But she wakes up in the night, at a U.S. Army Medical Center in Germany, because she’s having panicky flashbacks, in fragments: herself curled under a bed, herself laughing (in a psychotic-break kind of way); being dragged down a hall; talking to some figurines. She goes out for a walk and runs into a doctor or nurse who says she needs to sleep, and that she can have another Lorazepam, but Carrie wants to wean herself. Finally she asks for just half of one.
The next morning, she’s running–and I mean running, like it’s a race–back and forth in a tiny, bleak exercise cage that doesn’t look a whole lot different from what you’d get in jail. She stops in an exam room for some kind of brief daily exam, then enters an interrogation room, only to find someone other than who she’d expected: Jim, who’s sitting in for someone named Doug that Carrie’s clearly familiar with. Carrie recognizes the name (he’s Doug’s supervisor) and amiably agrees to answer his questions. She even smiles at him, which is unsettling, because it’s CLEARLY fake: Carrie never smiles at strangers, so obviously for some reason she really needs to suck up to this guy.
Jim coldly goes over some basic facts about Carrie’s imprisonment, which is supposed to represent that she’s In Trouble for some reason (since she’s already debriefed a bunch) but also conveniently gives us a whole lot of information that we need. Hooray exposition! We learn that she was interrogated for the first thirty days, but held for seven months. Carrie’s smile quickly disappears as she goes over the fact that she went into a “florid psychosis,” and the fact that after that it’s mostly a blank. When she asks for water, Jim ignores her. She’s trying to get reinstated at the agency, but he tells her that she failed the polygraph. She’s clearly gobsmacked. But when he tells her that she failed the question about whether she’s ever conspired with a foreign government, she has a rather suspicious flashback of herself sobbing and clinging to a man back in the Russian prison. She tells Jim–and herself–that her memory doesn’t distinguish between the real and the delusional, but he doesn’t seem to buy it. Then Carrie gets all mad and yells at whoever’s watching her from behind the one-way window in the wall.
Carrie does admit to having given away the location of a safe house that had been out of use, but insists she didn’t give away any assets, even the ones out of the field, because they have families. But Jim asks how she can be sure if there are 180 days she doesn’t remember. I mean… it’s a pretty fair question.
In Qatar, at a fancy hotel with the biggest pool ever in front of it, Saul meets in a small press room to update reporters on what turns out to be a peace talk with the Taliban and the Afghan government. It’s been three weeks and he doesn’t have much to tell them–but off the record, he sits down to give them more details. It’s all kind of complicated, but tl;dr — the Taliban wants America to pull out, and America takes serious risks if they pull out, unless they trust the Taliban to keep their promises, which they probably shouldn’t.
Unfortunately, the reason Saul was pulled urgently out of the room turns out to be that the VP of Afghanistan is giving an unexpected press conference. He basically says that the President has been tricked into promising to release 1000 Taliban prisoners of war, including twelve people responsible for a notorious bombing, but that he, the VP, will never agree to their release.
Saul marches out (Mandy Patinkin has an EXCELLENT angry walk by the way, I will miss that walk after this season). He finds out that the Taliban delegation has stormed off. But he catches up to them (the head dude is called Agha Jan) and tries to convince them that the VP doesn’t speak for the government. These guys are surprisingly polite for… well, the Taliban. Saul finally convinces them to stay by promising to try to get five prisoners released right away–Jan agrees, but only if he gets to pick which five and Saul gets the VP to take back what he said. He gives Saul one week.
Oh no, it’s this lady! I forget her name (Tasneem, IMDB reminds me), but she totally stabbed Carrie in the back when the American Embassy in Pakistan was attacked in season 4 — the attack that eventually led to Fara’s death. The actress is awesome, but the character’s presence is definitely not a good sign for whatever Saul’s trying to do. Still doing his angry walk, Saul storms up to her and accuses her of having “push[ed] things off the cliff.” She insists Pakistan had nothing to do with this. He reminds her about the embassy, but she just stares at him and then orders him shown out.
Guys, it’s Max! And Max in combat gear! He’s getting dropped off by helicopter at a combat outpost in Afghanistan. Oh man, I love when Max gets to actually do stuff. (This episode is probably his most exciting adventure yet, in my opinion–it really has my heart in my throat later on.) Anyway, he came with a whole bunch of suitcases full of, presumably, tech equipment.
Saul is in Germany now, watching Carrie run like a little hamster outside the window. He meets with Jim, and the doctors who’ve been working with Carrie. The doctors say she’s in good shape, though still suffering from the effects of malnutrition and not sleeping well. They think the gaps in her story are par for the course, but Jim once again brings up the polygraph in a dire tone. Saul, however, says that he needs her out in the field immediately. The doctors (the ones who like Carrie) warn him that it could lead to a setback, but Saul says it’s important and is worth it. When Jim says she could be compromised, Saul just asks if they have anything other than the polygraph to be worried about. They don’t.
He meets Carrie outside. She makes a bitter joke about being a Russian agent. Saul explains to her that he needs the VP to walk back his comments. She gets some more info from him, and then says that if he gives her a few days she can come up with some options. But when he says he actually needs her, on a plane, tonight, she agrees and is overjoyed. (I was actually surprised by this–I would think that she would be more concerned about protecting her fragile mental health, even if I totally believe that she would still answer the call whenever Saul needed her.) Saul warns her that she’s walking into a different place — it’s more dangerous, and all the assets she reported to headquarters have been pulled. They coyly agree that of course, all her assets were reported to headquarters.
Obviously, anyone who’s been paying attention can make the connection that if someone wasn’t reported, they couldn’t have been pulled, and thus wouldn’t have been safe if, say, Carrie broke and gave them up. Like, I immediately made that connection. It’s weird that Carrie and Saul–Saul, who just pointed out that everyone breaks under interrogation–just smile like it’s so cute that she definitely has assets that weren’t reported and thus weren’t pulled. Like, how could they not be thinking about that, and worrying about the safety of those assets?
Meanwhile, the COS of the negotiations, Mike, gets a call from good old Jim, telling him that there’s a compromised agent on the way to join his mission. Apparently Carrie used to be Mike’s old boss. Jim is so dour and mean-looking he’s almost impossible to root for, but honestly… yeah, that’s probably something that needs to happen. You want someone other than Saul, who has no objectivity about Carrie, to be on the lookout for anything off.
Over in Afghanistan, a bunch of soldiers go over their mission. We’ve got an assortment of your classic movie soldier types: the gruff leader, the brash entitled kid who doesn’t think the mission is a good idea, the stoic one who doesn’t think highly of Max but is going to do his job and protect him anyway… you can probably fill it all in. The point is, it’s a classified nighttime mission for Max to repair some equipment, and they are going to have to cross an exposed riverbed that’s very dangerous to cross. It’s 30 yards across, and Max’s job is to run.
Carrie and Saul have arrived in Kabul, and Carrie looks calm and intense, like she’s just taking everything in, looking for all those differences Saul warned her about–until she tries the window and finds out it doesn’t open, and then you see how tense she is.
When they get into the CIA station, she and Mike tease each other–Mike giving no indication that he’s heard Carrie might be compromised. He introduces Carrie to his newest team member, Jenna Bragg, a pretty young woman. Jenna’s going to be taking care of her. Before Jenna can take Carrie to her room, Mike warns Carrie, well above a whisper and approximately ten feet away from Jenna, that Jenna’s “stuck at the starting gate.” Um, rude!
As soon as they’re alone in the elevator, Jenna complains that she’s only been here a month and he won’t let her leave the station without a security detail. Carrie acts exactly like she did with Fara, who was also young, green, and not assertive enough–she tells her to insist, not to whine, and not to take no for an answer, then shuts the door in her face. She’s gonna feel SO bad when Jenna inevitably ends up dead.
Meanwhile, Mike and a colleague listening to a bug planted in Carrie’s room. They gossip briefly about Carrie’s rapport with the VP, G’ulom, then hear her sending an old-school prearranged signal to a contact via phone.
Over in the desert, Max is climbing a mountain in the care of a phalanx of soldiers, who tell him they’re probably already being watched, but they’re not at the Riverbed of Doom yet. It’s totally tense. Like I said, I love this storyline.
Saul finds Tasneem and apologizes for his behavior before. Then he accuses Pakistan of not being willing to be the other adult in the room. Offended, Tasneem points out that it’s not a very good apology. She tells him not to lecture her about peace in the region, since the US has already abandoned the region once and only came back after 9/11. Saul insists they’re trying to avoid civil war, but Tasneem points out that the Taliban can tell the US is already on its way out, which makes it impossible for the US to help make actual peace.
I mean. She’s probably right (I venture to say this with almost zero knowledge of the state of the region, just the fact that Tasneem is now framed as the voice of critiquing American policy in the Middle East, and such critiques are generally credible to me), but it is funny how Homeland is taking characters that were just awful the first time around and being like, “Sorry we were accidentally racist towards Middle Eastern people! Look, a totally new attitude for an existing character, with no explanation of the change!” Similar to how Carrie randomly became super pro-civil rights after thwarting an actual attack in Berlin, also with basically no explanation.
Speaking of Carrie, she leaves her hotel room with a head scarf and loose pants on, goes to a high room, flicks the light, and watches for an answering signal from a building a few thousand feet away. Then she exits through the kitchen, nodding hello to people she apparently remembers from last time she was stationed here, and gets on a conveniently waiting motorbike of some kind.
Desert. The men have arrived at whatever they were looking for. The soldiers form some kind of… well, formation surrounding Max. You know, pointing their guns and watching in all directions and other soldier words. Max, meanwhile, uses a flashlight to look for something. The soldiers start heckling him to go faster, but eventually he finds a big metal box that is apparently important.
Kabul. Carrie meets up with a man named Arman who owns some kind of truck rental empire that Carrie helped him build. In other words: he owes her. And he’s going to drive her on whatever crazy mission she has in mind. As they drive down the highway, he complains about the corruption of the government and says that the VP is more important than the President. Carrie asks a few more questions, probing for possible enemies to help her take the VP down. They can hear gunfire, quite close by, and Carrie gets a little nervous, but Arman says he gives them free gas in exchange for safe passage. They arrive at a checkpoint, which I thought was going to turn into some action, but it’s a red herring–nothing happens. They arrive at Carrie’s destination, and Arman drives off, to wait for Carrie to text him that she’s ready.
Carrie enters a small village and lets herself into a gate and knocks at the door of a very nice-looking house. A young boy answers, and she speaks to him in Arabic (I think) and asks for his father, Roshan. Meanwhile, Arman drives off to some lot where he meets up with some friends. It’s unclear what’s going on here, even on the second watch.
Over at the house, a young woman, Sheena, comes downstairs to talk to Carrie. Carrie gets incredibly awkward, doing that fake stranger smile and saying that Roshan told her a lot about her. Sheena keeps saying Roshan is not here and she won’t call him. Carrie gives up, basically mid-sentence, on being nice and says she’s not leaving till she can talk to him. Then she notices his picture on a side table, with a black ribbon around it.
Sheena tells her that the Taliban killed Roshan for being a traitor for the Americans. Carrie’s Crying Face makes a brief appearance here. Oh, how I’ve missed it! She pleads that she never gave him up. Sheena tells her that this happened five months ago–when Carrie was in prison. Yikes. Carrie tries to apologize, but Sheena kicks her out–and Carrie, horribly upset, lets herself out in the street.
As she walks, she has flashbacks to her conversation with Jim… then the same flashback of clinging to some unidentified man, begging him to stay with her. She’s getting more and more worked up when some men start chasing her in the present time. She texts Arman, who says he’ll be 20 minutes (still not clear to me why this happened–is Arman in on the men chasing her around town?)–so she has to hide. She eventually breaks into a house with two women in it, and they cover for her, for reasons I also don’t totally get–maybe the locals hate the Taliban too?
Desert. Max is staying very calm and Max-like under the constant heckling of the soldiers. I love that about him. He tells them he has to switch out a part. They get impatient, because it’s going to be light soon, so he tells them to just go without him. Oh Max, I fucking love you. They finally goad him into explaining that this is the only listening device near the border and they need it to help them interpret the Taliban negotiations. But what really gets them is when he conveniently mentions the attack on the Embassy. Once the soldiers figure out that Max was there that day, there’s no more talk of leaving him behind.
Carrie has escaped the town somehow, and we don’t see the end of that chase or her ride back with Arman, which is kind of disappointing. But we see her collecting herself as she drops off the motorbike, after that revelation about Roshan. When she gets back to her room, Mike is waiting for her, pissed that she left. And he says that the meeting was rescheduled for six hours from now. Of course, Carrie has nothing, since her contact was dead.
Carrie then decides to COMPLETELY show her hand in a way that any dummy could see is a terrible idea. She asks Mike if it’s true that Russians and the Taliban share information… And when he says yes, she asks if that includes intelligence. When he pushes her, she gets annoyed and asks what he knows, so he calls her on the fact that she tanked a polygraph. Carrie quickly calms down and tells some story about a contact she was meeting with, instead of admitting that the person was dead. Mike seems to buy it, but I guess we’ll find out if that’s really true–it was not the most believable lie Carrie has ever told, let’s put it that way. As soon as he leaves, she hovers on that verge of the Crying Face again. She tries to go out for fresh air, but her balcony doors are locked, and she nearly hyperventilates. Great acting from Claire Danes. I rarely say that because it basically goes without saying, but yeah. I’m going to miss literally everything she does with Carrie.
Daylight in the desert, and the men have arrived at the Riverbed of Doom. This whole scene is SO SCARY. Stoic Guy reminds Max to “haul ass” when he tells him. First he sends a couple of canaries. They make it across fine, though it seems like it takes FOREVER despite being only 30 yards. Then it’s Max’s turn. He runs all alone, which is… crazy. And when he’s almost there, he falls! He just falls on his face!! But he doesn’t get shot, and he makes it to the wall (not so much a wall as a vertical surface carved out of the dirt that they can hide behind).
Finally the rest of the soldiers cross. When they’re nearly there, the shooting starts. They shoot back. Everyone’s shooting but Max. Eventually it dies down and all the soldiers are safe but trapped behind the wall. Young Brash Entitled Guy thinks he was shot, but it was actually his water bottle… or possibly his pee. Heh.
Back at the camp, the guys all tease Y.B.E.G. for peeing himself. Meanwhile, Max is busy with his computer. “It’s working,” he says in a hushed voice. The listening device is working. Go Max! I love that he got to start off this season being a total hero! And kind of a badass in his own weird quiet way!
Jenna follows Carrie into whatever government building where she’s meeting with the VP. But while waiting for the meeting, Carrie rudely and rather cruelly humiliates Jenna for even thinking she could actually come in to the meeting, since she’s a woman the VP doesn’t know. Yeah, either Jenna’s about to die a cruel Fara-style death or she’s actually a mole and is just pretending to be the ingenue–right? I mean, Homeland doesn’t always go for the easy tropes, but… that’s what my spidey senses are telling me.
Carrie seems completely confident and ready to kick ass in the meeting, anyhow–until the door opens and none other than her former Russian captor, Yevgeny–the guy who was involved in Simone’s plot–emerges. And she realizes that her flashbacks of hugging someone and pleading with them were of her hugging him. Horrifying!
OK, this was a really kick-ass episode. It ticked off all the boxes for me: a couple of pulse-pounding suspense and action scenes, a hefty dose of mystery re: Carrie’s last seven months, and Carrie and Saul united on one last big mission. Plus, hero!Max. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this season!