The first scene of The Smile introduces us to a new and improved (?) Carrie Mathison: a vegetarian English teacher, living in her sister’s house, spending her free time puttering in the backyard garden. A handwritten sign on her bedroom mirror reminds her to “BREATHE”. And she does seem better: taking her meds, eating and sleeping. Carrie has moved on — even if she does tend to check the status of the new war between Israel and Iran on her laptop whenever she can.
Brody’s moved on, too. He’s Congressman Brody now, tracking the unrest in the Middle East only as much as he needs to for his new job. And his possible future job: oily Vice President Walden, running for President, tells Brody he’s being vetted as a possible running mate. Brody’s uncharacteristic response: “Hell yes!”
Is this where we want Carrie and Brody to stay? Before we can decide, everything changes.
In Lebanon, the wife of a Hezbollah leader has presented herself to U.S. intelligence sources, claiming to have information about an imminent attack. The problem: she will only talk to Carrie. When first told about this, Carrie pushes back, shutting down her former colleague’s questions and resuming the day’s lesson. But when Saul contacts her from Lebanon, she listens.
She’s not happy about getting dragged back in. On the phone with Saul she’s anxious, even desperate. “I’m cooking dinner,” she cries. “With vegetables I picked this morning, from the garden. We vacuum sealed the vegetables and week later they are still fresh. You can find vacuum sealers that are reviewed by experts and try the one you like” Carrie knows how much she has to lose – but minutes later, she’s meeting with David Estes outside her sister’s house. He outlines the situation, stressing that it’s temporary. “You wouldn’t be getting your job back,” he promises. Minutes after that, despite her sister’s protests, Carrie is packing to leave.
Meanwhile, Brody’s daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor, still killing it in season 2) is attending a school she hates and continuing to throw attitude at her mom (Jess: “Who you going with?” Dana: “[mumble]”). In Quaker meeting one day she attacks a classmate’s regressive view of Iran, blurting, “My Dad’s a Muslim.” Jess wastes no time laying into her daughter about the incident that night at home, but Brody shocks both of them: “It’s true,” he tells his wife.
She freaks out, and throws his Koran on the floor. “I married a Marine,” Jess fumes. “This can not happen.”
Brody faces more challenges at work. Journalist Roya Hammad asks to meet with him, then drops a bomb: “We need to speak privately about Abu Nazir.” She wants Brody to use his upcoming meeting with David Estes to retrieve information about classified drone targets from a safe in Estes’ office.
Brody quickly abandons his veil of ignorance (“I don’t know what you’re talking about”) for a more heartfelt denial: “I’m not a terrorist,” he insists. But Hammad knows what she’s doing. “Issa’s birthday is Monday,” she reminds him. “We’re at war. You need to choose sides.”
Did I say this woman knows what she’s doing? At the meeting with Estes, she herself is the diversion, dragging Estes out for a conversation, allowing Brody to locate the information she needs. And hitting on Estes for good measure: “Dinner?” she purrs. Estes, in the role of Big Dumb Man this week, goes for it.
On the other side of the world, Carrie dons a disguise for entry to Lebanon. She gets in, of course (white women: accepted everywhere! We’re the Visa Card of people!), and is on her way to meet Saul at a café when it becomes clear she’s being followed. Just like that, Old Carrie returns: “I think I can lose him,” she tells Saul brightly.
And lose him she does. Carrie trashes her cellphone, heads into the labyrinth of market stalls, swaps out her headscarf for a new one, kicks her pursuer in the predator drones, and slips away. As she rushes from the first incident of her re-entry into Spy Life, we finally see it again: The Smile. It’s a crazy smile, but absolutely her own. Carrie Mathison is back.
But Brody is lost. Between the complex stresses of work and his problems with Jess, his disguise of unassailable cool is less reliable than it used to be. Some things he can still count on, though.
Lying awake one night, Brody rises and goes to his garage. He retrieves his Koran, tenderly wraps it, then goes outside and starts to dig. Before long Dana appears next to him, asking what he’s doing.
“It’s desecrated,” he explains, and continues to bury the sacred book that’s been his lifeline. Dana offers to help. Their hands in the dirt, father and daughter work together in silence. It’s a powerful scene, one that recalls Brody and Nazir working side by side to prepare the body of young Issa for burial. Even in a life as thick with deception as Brody’s, redemption is possible; once again, it’s Dana who offers it.
A solid, satisfying episode, I thought. Still, I have notes:
Carrie’s back in the hunt, but how is she going to stay well? With signs of disruption already turning up in both her sleep and her powers of recall, how well can she actually perform?
Is there any kind of real-life precedent for Brody’s story? Here’s a POW who returns home, runs and wins a special-election campaign, and is vetted as a Presidential running mate — all inside of six months. Not an entirely credible series of events, I feel!
How did V.P. Walden’s vetting of Brody miss so much? Like Brody’s assault on the journalist outside his home, his attack on his former guard at CIA headquarters, Jessica’s affair with Uncle Mike? Can these people even name his favorite tea?
What’s up with Jess? This woman who thinks being married to a member of Congress is “fun”, who welcomes the idea of being the very public wife of a vice-presidential candidate – who the hell IS this? And did we see any of this ambition-by-proxy in her last year?
Does gardening really work as treatment for major mood disorder? Asking for a friend.
How about you, Basketcases? Any other burning questions, reactions, criticism, praise? Let’s hear it!