Homeland Recap: 8×10 “Designated Driver”

Previously on Homeland: Carrie got a ride from an old contact named Arman; Tasneem blamed Balach, Haqqani’s right hand, for letting Jalal take over the Taliban; Balach told Jalal that Haqqani had wanted peace; Carrie tricked poor incompetent Jenna into revealing the location of the safe house, then had the American team there arrested by Pakistani authorities to buy herself time; Tasneem decided the best way to protect her country was to protect Jalal; General Aziz amassed vehicles on the border with nukes in them; and Carrie got the flight recorder, but Yevgeny tranquilized her and took it from her. (You’ll remember he took a slight break first to make out with her, but that doesn’t get into the previouslies, sadly.)

Credits. For some reason the closed captioners attribute Saul’s voiceover lines during the credits to Saul, but when Quinn yells, “Is there no fucking line?” they just quote him as “[man]”. Um, rude!

Carrie, having apparently woken up from whatever Yevgeny gave her, strides through the streets looking incredibly nervous and sketchy. Way to be stealth, Carrie. Her contact Arman arrives in a truck, which she hops into–and starts writing frantically on a clipboard. She’s trying to get everything down from the flight recorder before she forgets. She tells Arman it’s better if he doesn’t know what this evidence is. He gives her water. What a nice guy! Ugh, just typing that makes me think he’s dead meat. Or a bad guy. Anyway, he tells her he can get her to Bagram Airfield in six hours.

Back in the US, Hayes meets with the Pakistani ambassador, scolding him for not giving them Jalal. The ambassador tries to explain that there’s a huge area in which Jalal might be. Then Zabel condescendingly sneers, “How about you take some of [your army] and look?” Oh my gosh, this guy is the worst. And he pronounces Jalalabad “Jal-ale-a-bad.” Like I said, the WORST. Anyway, Zabel and Hayes are mad that Pakistan aimed nukes at the US troops instead of giving them Jalal, because they’re still convinced it’s a simple mission. The ambassador, completely understandably, says that if US troops cross the border his country will defend the border.

Wellington finds the ambassador in the hallway, and the latter is pissed. “Do they want us to launch our missiles?” he asks. “It’s our country.” What he doesn’t realize is that to Zabel, only white people get to have patriotism. Wellington pulls him into his office and tries to convince him that a mere show of good faith would promote a dialogue instead of nuclear war. He wants the ambassador to get the special ops team out of jail in Kohat. The ambassador isn’t exactly pleased that there were American agents in his country, but Wellington keeps pushing him and he finally seems to come around, out of a genuine desire not to see a nuclear war. Is this the first time Wellington actually accomplishes something?

Jalal, flush with the triumph of having gotten Pakistan’s protection, asks Balach to advise him like he did his father. So Balach–who knows Jalal didn’t even actually assassinate President Beau Bridges–advises him to stay out of sight and not escalate things. Jalal orders him to find a target, at which Balach glares and walks away. He’s still in a rebellious mood–and he still doesn’t seem to really fear Jalal. Which, as we’ll learn, is a mistake: even weak men can be strong when they stand at the head of a movement.

Arman brings Carrie onto Bagram Airfield and says he can’t take her any further.  When he realizes that’s where the Presidents’ helicopter took off, he looks pretty nervous, but agrees to meet Carrie back there in 15 minutes.

Carrie busts into the airport hangar like she owns the place. “Oh shit, who let you in here?” says the first person who sees her, the man she got demoted earlier this season. She shows him her hastily scribbled transcript and he translates it for her: all the flight jargon means that the chopper started in a controlled descent but there was nowhere to land. So it proves (insofar as a transcript hand-scribbled by a civilian twelve hours and a syringeful of ketamine later can prove anything) that the crash was in fact an accident.

Carrie calls Saul and he answers with, “I’ve been worried sick. Where the hell are ya?” How sweet! She tells him what she’s found out, but then has to admit that Yevgeny stole the recorder from her and the transcript is based on what she heard. “So we’ve got nothing,” Saul realizes, and explains to her, “You have zero credibility,” which is probably an understatement. Carrie demands for him to go to the Russians and ask what they want for it. Saul agrees, but says it’s time to turn herself in. Carrie just hangs up on him and gets into Arman’s truck. “We done?” he asks. “No,” she says, looking set-jawed.

Over at the station, Jenna apparently still has a job. When Mike mentions that Carrie snuck onto a base, she gets very nervous, but it has nothing to do with her. She pretends that she didn’t realize Carrie was the one who got the special ops team arrested–which Mike doesn’t find suspicious, I suppose because Jenna never realizes anything on her own–and then very unconvincingly agrees that yes, she would love to get Carrie into custody. Mike doesn’t notice that her hands are literally shaking. Oh, Jenna.

Saul meets with the Russian ambassador, Viktor Makarov–last seen bargaining with Saul in exchange for Carrie’s release from Russian prison— in a hotel lobby somewhere. He reveals that Carrie’s been on a road trip with Yevgeny. You can say that again! Makarov whines, “But he was told to stay away from her,” which I took as a humorous little aside–implying that Makarov has as much trouble controlling Yevgeny when he’s hot for a foreign agent, as Saul does with Carrie. Saul tells him about the flight recorder, about how it proves the death of the President was an accident, and then how Yevgeny has stolen the black box. He asks what the price is to get the box back. Makarov seemingly had no idea about this, but of course you can never tell.

Carrie prepares to exit Arman’s truck with a gun, telling him she’s hoping to find the man who’d dumped her in the town he picked her up in–aka, Yevgeny. He asks if she really needs the gun, and she says, “Hopefully not.” She thinks Yevgeny is back in Moscow thinking about how to fuck her over even more. Then she leaves her friend in the truck, telling him to keep an eye out, and enters the building. Do you feel like we’ve seen the last of Arman? No one ever does Carrie a big favor and lives to tell the tale. I mean, Arman is clearly Max Lite.

But no. Carrie–looking almost as exhausted and wrecked as she ever has–finds Yevgeny’s room empty, even of the furniture. Then she goes back to complain to Arman, who is miraculously still alive, and says she doesn’t know what to do next. “I’ve dug this gigantic hole, and I can’t quite see my way out.” And she confesses bitterly that a few days ago, she’d had the thought that “I did it. I won.”

It’s unusual for us to hear what sounds like an unvarnished, honest explanation of Carrie’s feelings. Who else has she ever been able to speak to in that way? Quinn, maybe, a few times. But usually even when she’s being honest, there’s some kind of point behind it–some scheme, or ulterior motive, that causes the viewer to feel ambivalent about how honest she’s really being. Here, with Arman, it seems we’re just hearing the truth. In a way it’s almost disappointing–we’re so used to all this complexity and all these layers whenever Carrie speaks. But the show is nearly over, and maybe we need to have one last moment of honesty from Carrie before the games begin again, as they will in earnest very soon.

Makarov calls Saul and says no one’s heard about the flight recorder, up to “the very highest levels.” Saul actually begs him: “There must be a price. There must be.” But Makarov continues to deny impassively that his country has the flight recorder at all. From the thrumming, ominous music you can tell this isn’t actually true. Finally, as Saul nearly sobs, “This cannot be your answer,” Makarov says, “I’ve done what I can.” But he immediately contradicts that by doing one more thing: he tells Saul that Moscow’s exact words were, “We have what we want.” Then he hangs up and we see that at least three people are sitting in the room with him.

Arman is still driving Carrie around when they get stuck in traffic and suddenly two men pull Carrie right out of the truck. A third points a gun at Arman’s head. Carrie’s dragged into some abandoned house somewhere, and Yevgeny shows up, apologizing for the ambush as if that will smooth over their relationship. When Carrie implies the same thing, he says (of stealing the flight recorder), “That wasn’t personal.” Nice try, Yevgeny! I think Carrie generally takes it personally when men she makes out with stab her in the neck with a needle. In fact, most people probably would.

Anyway, she asks about the black box, and Yevgeny says that they told Saul there was no price for him— “but for you, there may be a way.” He explains that Saul has a high-level asset in Moscow. Carrie denies this, appearing to believe it–because she would have known after all these years. Yevgeny insists that there’s no other explanation for the information that’s leaked. Carrie stares at him, horrified, as he says that the only thing worth more to his country than watching the US self-destruct on the Pakistan border, is catching this agent.

Carrie turns away from Yevgeny, breathing heavily. You can see her realizing that she’s screwed, that she can’t say no to this no matter how awful it is–then you can see her coming up with a different plan. She turns back to Yevgeny looking strong again and insists that Saul would never give up an asset. Yevgeny says gently, “You have to find him yourself.” Carrie begs that she’ll do anything else. “I can’t betray Saul.” Then he leans close to her and murmurs, “From what I’ve seen, you can do just about anything.” Oh man. What a dark thing for her to hear at that moment. Dark–and true.

Balach arrives at Jalal’s base and says he’s found a target, at the border. Jalal is pleased. Balach says he needs explosives and men to place an IED. But Jalal thinks they should use a driver–aka a suicide–to make a statement that they’re not afraid to die. He orders Balach to prepare the vehicle and says he’ll find the driver. Balach looks over at the soldiers from whom the driver will presumably be picked. He warns that this means more endless war. Jalal blames Balach’s “scared little voice” for his father giving up. It’s interesting: you can see that as his power solidifies, he’s acting less like a wimp himself. But like I said earlier, Balach doesn’t quite grasp how things are changing, and he keeps standing up for Haqqani’s views, maybe because he still thinks of Jalal as a kid.

Carrie calls Saul and says she’s turning herself in. He says he had no luck with Makarov, but he knows the Russians lying–he just can’t figure out why. Carrie, of course, knows why; you can see her fighting back those patented ugly-tears, but she doesn’t tell him. Not even when he asks her tearfully, “Yevgeny say anything?” She just flat-out lies to him that he didn’t. So already she’s betraying Saul–just a little, just the first small step. Saul, meanwhile, thinks they’re both having an honest conversation. He removes his glasses (perhaps a heavy-handed metaphor for failing to see the truth about Carrie) and says, “The truth isn’t much good if no one will listen.”

Meanwhile, Arman begs Carrie not to turn herself in, and offers to help her hide so she doesn’t go to prison. So he doesn’t know what she’s planning either. That moment of honesty before was the only one she got, I guess. She does, however, tell him, “They made me an offer, knowing I’d have to accept.” So we know she’s planning to betray Saul. She hugs Arman and thanks him for being a friend, which I imagine she wishes she’d done, even once, for Max.

Carrie discards her phone on her way to the base. When she gets there, she announces, “I’m Carrie Mathison. I’m wanted by the FBI.” Splashy entrance!

Mike makes an announcement that the special ops team is being released. Jenna smiles and claps nervously. Then she goes to Mike and asks to meet the team at the border to supervise the handover and help “get to the bottom” of how they were captured. Mike is even about to agree, despite the clear unlikelihood of Jenna getting to the bottom of anything–but then they learn that Carrie’s turned up at the front gate. Uhoh, sucks for Jenna!

Carrie walks in and goes through security with a hilarious teenagery swagger, like she’s just so annoyed by all of this nonsense about being patted down. All she did was go on a little road trip with her Russian handler slash secret boyfriend! Jeez Mom and Dad!

Over at Jalal’s camp, Balach watches unhappily while a car is loaded with explosives. He grows even more upset when he sees Jalal eating a peaceful lunch with Balach’s own sons. Jalal explains that the boys are there to make Balach obey: Balach is going to be the driver of the car. If he refuses, Jalal will kill his family too. “My father would do the same,” he says. Suddenly it seems Jalal really has stepped into Haqqani’s old shoes, from season 4: he’s cruel and implacable, rather than being cruel and a little wimpy. And like Carrie, Balach is trapped doing something abhorrent to him because the consequences of refusing are worse.

Jenna stares at a closed-circuit video of Carrie waiting alone in an interrogation room, then grabs a drink of water (it’s a callback! Carrie brought water to Samira in an interrogation room just earlier this season! And they linger really meaningfully on the glass of water so that even forgetful recappers like me will realize it’s significant!) and goes in to Carrie. She says out loud, not knowing who’s monitoring the cameras, that the guys Carrie tricked her into giving up are being released. “Maybe betraying your own side doesn’t matter to you, but it does to me,” she whines. Carrie gives her a defiant look and tells her to ask what she came in to ask. Jenna, shamefaced, asks, “You gonna give me up?” Carrie, always the stronger one, says that she won’t. Then she sends Jenna on her way so she won’t get in trouble. In a way, she’s totally still Jenna’s mentor. Let’s hope Jenna learns from all this, anyway.

The next person to arrive to question Carrie is the FBI Agent investigating the President’s death, Vanessa Kroll. Carrie gets mad, or pretends to get mad, that she’s being accused of passing information to Yevgeny to get the President killed. Agent Kroll, unlike Jenna, is not scared by Carrie’s anger. But Carrie quickly plays her trump card: “I am not a CIA employee.” (She also says that she didn’t provide aid and comfort to the enemy, but that “Yevgeny Gromov provided aid and comfort to me.” Is that what the kids are calling it these days? Mike, watching this on camera, heaves a hilariously exasperated sigh at this rather absurd remark.) Then Carrie demands a lawyer–so Agent Kroll announces that she’s under arrest. Watching this, Jenna excitedly observes that it’s like Carrie wants to be arrested, but it seems like Mike barely listens to her, as is his (rather justifiable) habit.

Back in the US, Wellington updates Saul about Carrie getting arrested, and Saul updates Wellington about the voice recorder. Wellington–who’s obviously slightly less convinced by Carrie’s magical disappearing evidence than Saul–says he can try to stall, but Saul will lose credibility if he protects Carrie. But Saul confesses that he sent her to Kabul knowing she wasn’t ready, and “whatever shit she’s in is because of me.” Big contrast with Carrie and Balach: even when trapped, he still refuses to give up his one sacred principle, which is his loyalty. Even if it means that he can’t prevent nuclear war.

Agent Kroll escorts Carrie out while Mike watches with a rather sour face. Carrie makes a good pretense at looking annoyed that she’s being arrested, but she doesn’t, you know, actually run off and hop into a Russian agent’s waiting car, so she’s a little out of character. Maybe for that reason, I think Mike looks a little suspicious, as if he’s finally considering Jenna’s theory that this is all part of Carrie’s plan.

Speaking of whom, Jenna arrives at a dusty, car-clogged gate that the titles tell us is “Angoor Ada Gate” on the Afghan/Pakistan border. The convoy is on schedule; they’ll stop just on the other side, then walk across. The male soldier greeting her says it’s a long way to go and asks if her boyfriend is on the bus. Yuck! Then Jenna responds with, “No, is yours?” Like… I suppose this juvenile exchange is supposed to show Jenna holding her own for once, but I feel like someone cleverer than Jenna could have come up a comeback that wasn’t questionably homophobic.

Speaking of people arriving at the gate, here’s Balach, in the fateful car. He records a video for Fatima, his wife, asking her to forgive him and keep the video as a reminder of his love. Then he sees the convoy go by–and continues recording. Is he going to have the strength to do this? The suspense builds as he finishes recording and hits send.

In a brief intercut scene, Carrie boards the plane with Agent Kroll.

Back at the border, one of the special ops team remarks, “Almost home, boys.” Oh, dude, you jinxed it! Jenna peers anxiously as the bus comes to a halt and the soldiers wait tensely. Meanwhile, we see Balach setting himself up for the attack, and Carrie’s plane taxiing. Finally, Balach starts driving, speeding down the road. Everyone begins to take cover, including Jenna, and the special ops team demands to be let off the bus–but it’s locked. Balach, in a weird mirror image of Quinn’s final moments, drives through a hailstorm of bullets to reach his target and drives straight into the bus full of Americans. It explodes just as Carrie’s plane takes off, as Carrie looks anxious and determined to carry out her horrible mission.

So this wasn’t the most suspenseful episode in the world, but it’s setting up a huge choice for Carrie, and it makes sense for the show to really linger on this choice, setting up how high the stakes are for both Carrie and Saul, and how strong the temptation is for each of them to betray the other. By the end of it, I felt totally convinced that–whether it was true or not–Carrie absolutely believed that the only way to prevent nuclear war was to get that flight recorder. Because that’s really the only motivation that would believably tempt her to betray an asset, or Saul. And we’ll see more of this impossible dilemma in the next episode! (Which I am now officially over a year late in recapping!)


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