Homeland Recap: 8×05 “Chalk Two Down”

OK, sooo, I fell behind on this! But this season of Homeland was so great I can’t resist recapping it, so here we go, just a couple months late…

Previously on Homeland: Carrie encouraged President Beau Bridges to end the war in Afghanistan and shared her plan to come to Afghanistan to announce the peace to US soldiers; Beau Bridges did that; Tasneem and G’ulom were pissed; the Presidents’ helicopter went down in the mountains; the escort helicopter saw Taliban soldiers on the ground, engaged with them, and was shot down.

Poor Beau Bridges. Although–as I remarked to Keets while we watched the second-to-last episode of the show, which came out Sunday–all the shit that goes down later this season is more or less Beau Bridges’ fault for being so stupid as to pick a Republican vice-president. I mean, really. (Or maybe it’s Elizabeth Keane’s fault for resigning the Presidency for no effing reason, leaving the country in the hands of her dumbass VP. No, I’m not over it.)

It makes me sad every time I hear Quinn’s voice saying, “Is there no fucking line?” in the credits. Yevgeny this season was an absolute treat, but I miss Quinn!

So Max is standing at the base looking shocked while all the soldiers run around frantically, presumably in response to the helicopter going down. One of them asks to get some of Max’s equipment, but since Max is more familiar, he says, “I’ll do it.” For once in his life even Max doesn’t seem calm.

In the Situation Room, Hayes is all mad at everyone for not having more support on the ground for the helicopter situation. “Thugs with third-grade educations and automatic weapons, we try to make peace with them, how shocked can we be when they kill our President?” he says. Ugh, what an ass. Saul, on a video call from the station in Afghanistan, points out that they don’t know that the President is dead or that the Taliban did it. But like many people, specifically many Republican politicians, Hayes is not super interested in getting proof for his assumptions about Middle Eastern people. After more whining, Hayes wraps up his little tantrum with, “For the record, I was against all this.” Very helpful, Hayes.

Carrie goes to find a rather weary-looking Saul. He complains that Hayes just basically told them the facts don’t matter. Carrie’s a little more sanguine about it, but Saul says they need to know what happened: “It matters. It fucking matters. It determines what we do next.” He compares it to after 9/11, when they did everything wrong. Carrie, suddenly convinced, gets serious and says, “Tell me what to do.”

Over at the Embassy, G’ulom — facing away from the speaker in total confidence in his sinister black cape while everyone else faces forward — discusses the supposed “weather hold” with the white-clad Tasneem. She tells him there’s a rumor that the helicopters are down. He doesn’t thank her–polite niceties are for lesser beings–but just leaves and busts into a meeting room, to find a CIA guy that IMDB tells me is named Scott Ryan having a conversation that he protests is private. “You asking me to leave?” G’ulom growls in his Disney-villain voice. He accuses Ryan of not being an ally since he won’t tell G’ulom what’s happening. This actually works on Ryan, who closes the door and tells G’ulom that the helicopters are down, and that it has to be kept under wraps. Yeah dude, ask nicely and I’m sure that G’ulom will do exactly what you say. Psych! G’ulom leaves immediately, ignoring Ryan’s milquetoast protests, clearly on his way to stir up some shit.

Carrie arrives at a hangar claiming to be there under Saul’s authority to get more information on the flight. When the soldier there (Major Landau, as we’ll learn later) asks her why, she gives him a “duh” look and says that the flights are, um, kind of overdue.

On the ground, a group of American soldiers, including Max, come across the wreckage of a helicopter–not the one with the presidents on it, apparently, but the other one. They kneel cautiously, looking around. “I was supposed to be on that,” Max remarks as they move forward towards the presidents’ helicopter.

Carrie has cajoled or bullied Major Landau at the hangar into letting her go through the flight records, and she notices an inconsistency: the tail number is different. The soldiers that there was a last-minute tail switch for avionics reasons. Carrie asks to talk to the specialist who did it, someone named Worley–but he left for the barracks, feeling sick, after subbing the tail. Ruh-roh! Carrie brings Major Landau and another guy to check on him–but he’s not there and neither is his car.

Over at the station, Saul watches the screen intently as Max’s unit traipses towards the crash site. They report in about their location (including the fact that they are surrounded by trees), at which point VP Hayes yells, “What about the President?” David Wellington just barely conceals an eyeroll as he informs Hayes that no one can hear him. “I don’t care about the trees,” whines Hayes. David Wellington is clearly the Fauci in this situation.

The soldiers reach the helicopter and at least one body just falls out. They “uplink a video” to Saul at the station and Hayes and Wellington in the situation room, so everyone watches as the president’s body is checked for a pulse. Everyone is dead: no survivors. Saul looks heartbroken. Hayes manages a sniffle for his fallen colleague–and then strides out, declining to deal with all of it. Wellington has to chase him down and remind him about little things like continuity of government and leadership. Hayes just slams the door in his face, possibly because he’s about to have Emotions and real men don’t do that.

Now Saul calls G’ulom to tell him that both presidents are dead… i.e., he’s the president. Saul says that he’s asked the US ambassadors to coordinate a response with G’ulom, and says, “Division will look like weakness.” G’ulom gets an, “Oh yeah? Hold my beer” look on his face, hangs up on Saul, goes over to the US Ambassadors, and responds to their condolences for the loss of the Afghan president with, “I never really liked him.” Awkies!

He strides off, cape flowing, ahead of the ambassadors. On his way, he hisses orders to one of his people to find Haqqani, who must be around since the US President was planning to meet with him. When he gets inside, he tells Tasneem, who looks shocked–but we know Tasneem can dissemble, and the camera lingers on her shadowed face. Then he warns her that he won’t be able to guarantee her safety for long. Tasneem nods calmly; I’m sure she can get out of anything, so I’m not too worried about her.

Carrie and the two soldiers are searching for Worley, the specialist, who has a “friend” he might be visiting. They locate the spot by a graffiti of a pair of eyes (“We’re watching you,” Carrie interprets, rather unnecessarily) and then get out with a full team of armed men in camo, plus Carrie in her suit. The soldiers can see Worley inside, along with some others, and they burst in to clear the space — only to find a woman in labor on the bed. “Don’t you fucking hurt her!” says (presumably) Worley, who’s being held at gunpoint. Whoops. Carrie looks chagrined, but doesn’t bother, you know, apologizing to the woman on the bed or anything. She only apologizes when she’s still hoping to get information out of someone.

Over at the crash site, Max climbs in the helicopter to get Beau Bridges’ personal items. Then some of the soldiers, standing guard, hear some rustling on a nearby ridge. A rock falls, indicating someone’s up there. After some tense silence, Max discovers a handwritten copy of Beau Bridges’ speech from earlier and pulls it out–just as the team outside finally see a group advancing towards the ridge. From their headgear I think we’re supposed to know they’re Taliban. The US soldiers immediately shoot the first one to come over the ridge. So much for the ceasefire, I guess?

A shaky Max finishes up inside while the soldiers try to hold the line, under heavy fire from the Taliban above. They radio in to the station that they’re under fire and can’t hold their position for long. But backup is still an hour out, and air support can’t see through the canopy.

Saul is interrupted by a call from Carrie, telling him about her hunt for the specialist and finding him with his Afghan girlfriend. (Just then Worley is dragged out, under arrest, and spits at Carrie that his girlfriend’s family will kill her. Carrie just rolls her eyes and keeps talking to Saul. Y’all know I love that Carrie is heartless, but damn, she is heartless.)  Anyway, she says to Saul that Worley says they always switch out helicopters, because there are always problems, and that maybe the whole thing was an accident. Saul softly tells her that Beau Bridges is dead and to get back there. As soon as he hangs up, another piece of bad news: G’ulom has brought out his own troops and they’re searching every car leaving Kabul, looking for Haqqani.

Saul rushes away and calls over to where Haqqani is staying in a luxe suite somewhere, with a balcony overlooking the city. “Is it time?” he says when he hears from Saul. Saul has to reveal what happened, which Haqqani doesn’t appear to have known. He tells Haqqani there were Taliban in the area, which Haqqani is not surprised by, and then says that they shot down the escort helicopter–his question clearly implying, Did you do this? Haqqani, when he realizes, grows fierce. “No. I did not,” he says. “I’m observing the cease-fire. So are my men.” Then Saul whips out his line that’s been in the credits this whole season: “I believe you. No one else will.” He says he can’t protect Haqqani anymore and that he has to get out of Kabul. Haqqani hangs up, looking sad. It’s still really hard for me to reconcile this character–regal, reasonable, sympathetic–with the fact that he cut Fara’s throat right in front of us in season 4. The actor is very good, though.

Over at the crash site, at least one US soldier is down. Someone else drags him to safety, and they radio in that they can’t hold the line without backup. Over at the station, Mike realizes that if the men withdraw, the Taliban will have the body of the President. He thinks they should destroy the site as soon as the soldiers pull back, including the body of the President— “unless you want to see him dragged through the streets of Miramshah with his dick in his mouth!” Lovely. Saul pleads for them not to destroy the evidence of the crash site, but no one else cares about that since they think it’s obvious the Taliban did it.

Cut to David Wellington running through the halls of the White House. The VP’s office is already empty, since he’s asked for his things to be moved to the Oval Office. Wow, don’t let the body get cold or anything, Hayes. Jeez. Wellington explains the problem and tells Hayes to make a decision between ceding control of the site or destroying it. The moment calls for an ability to make a very difficult decision under a lot of pressure, so naturally Hayes does a great job. Psych! He does a terrible job. First he tries to say it’s “a military matter,” which of course Wellington has to point out that, um, Hayes is commander in chief now. Then he starts complaining that he’s inherited the mistakes of the dead President for trusting a terrorist. Very Presidential… at least by today’s standards. Wellington has to raise his voice to get Hayes to focus and then says very slowly and steadily, “You need to make a decision.” 

Hayes presses his hands to his face for a moment, and finally says, “Tell me what to do.” Oh, boy. Wellington has a ready answer: “Bomb the site.” Hayes agrees, clearly glad to have the responsibility taken off his hands. Wellington picks up the phone to make the call–but the order still has to come from Hayes even if he’s too much of a wuss to make the decision, so Hayes reluctantly takes the phone and says, “I’m calling to confirm,” hoping to get out of actually saying the words. Owens, the army chief or whoever he is, asks what Hayes is confirming, exactly. Still unwilling to use his words, Hayes says, “Do it.” Owens says he needs Hayes to be more specific, so Hayes finally says, “Bomb the damn site.”

Wow, that was embarrassing. But perhaps not as embarrassing as the next thing he does, which is to try to get out of going to the Situation Room with Wellington to oversee the operation. Wellington gives him this are-you-serious look (remember, this is an alternate universe where Trump isn’t a thing, so Wellington is maybe not familiar with how pathetic a man can be and still somehow become President) and says he needs to look like he’s someone who can make a tough decision.

Carrie rushes through the halls to the control room where Saul stands looking like a defeated bear, hands clutching his elbows. When she realizes what’s happening, she asks Saul if he told them that they need to find out what happened from the crash site, like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He explains to her in a heavy voice that the danger is of the President’s body being mutilated, and that they’re out of time. Carrie freaks out and lectures him about how much it matters what happened, like he doesn’t know that either. “What happened is that one is listening to me,” Saul growls at her. But Carrie comes up with a new idea: Max.

Over at the crash site, the US soldiers are holding off the Taliban. Max is getting ready to get out of the chopper when his phone rings and Carrie tells him he has to get the flight recorder. “No, no, we’re leaving!” he says in a terrified, panicky voice. Carrie tells him that he has to get the flight recorder first, and that it’s really important. You already know what Max is gonna do: he does what Carrie says, like always. While he struggles, Carrie hears in the control room that they have two minutes till the bomb squad comes — and still tells Max to get the flight recorder. He gets it after a few more seconds, and the soldiers clear out with only seconds to spare before the bomb goes off, killing the Taliban who have overrun the site. They take a bunch of casualties on the way–but Young Brash Guy (who a helpful commenter informed me is named Soto, but honestly, the show did a bad job of making this clear and frankly I don’t think you should have to look up an episode on IMDB to learn characters’ names, so I’m sticking with the nickname!) holds off fire while Max cowers behind him, clutching the flight recorder. Carrie softly calls Max’s name into the receiver, on the verge of tears–I’m guessing mostly for the flight recorder, maybe 25% for Max. In the Situation Room, everyone stands up for Hayes, calling him Mr. President. So the country is now in the hands of someone who is too cowardly to even say the words when he makes a decision to bomb a site. Excellent.

Meanwhile, G’ulom strides through the crowd at the Embassy, with the American diplomats trotting after him pleading to coordinate the response. “This is my country,” he says, which is kind of a fair point. He gets up at the podium and tells the assembled gathering that both the Presidents are dead in an assassination ordered by Haqqani. He declares martial law, and says he’s ordered his army to round up the Taliban and to hunt down Haqqani. Meanwhile we see Haqqani, in the back seat of a car, approaching a barricade and then quickly turning around. Haqqani punches the seat, frustrated. And again, it’s fairly impressive how the show makes you feel for this guy after making him look like evil incarnate a few seasons ago.

Mike tells a waiting, listless Carrie and Saul that seven of the soldiers from the site have been picked up, and three bodies have been identified. But cut to the woods, and we see Max following Young Brash Guy around, still cradling the recorder. They duck in a ditch for a second and Max calls Carrie and Saul on a phone that looks like it’s a car phone that a fancy guy in a 1998 movie would have. Carrie’s very happy to hear that Max is alive! Oh wait, by “Thank God” she means, “Tell me you have the black box.” Poor Max. His response is, “It’s orange.” Then as he’s talking, the one real soldier left protecting him gets shot to death, leaving Max all alone. While Carrie demands for him to talk to her, Max simply drops the (orange) black box and stands up and raises his hands as the Taliban soldier who shot everyone else approaches him. “Max? Max?” Carrie calls, promising to come get him (although she might mean she’s coming to get the black box).

So I will say that at this point, I wasn’t too worried about Max, but it always pulled at my heartstrings when he was in danger! He’s so lovably weird and seems completely defenseless, yet never shrinks from the dangerous stuff, so in the end he’s proven to be as brave as anyone else on the show. Of course, we’ll see whether my lack of concern on his behalf pans out…

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