Last week, I told someone that I could spend all my Homeland time watching Carrie and Brody talk to each other. Thanks to the CIA’s 24-hour video and audio surveillance of my home, I got my wish this week. It was awesome … I suppose.
Q&A was a great hour of television: fast-moving and tightly plotted, it set a new level of intensity for Season 2. This episode really moved the story, and the scenes between Carrie and Brody felt like a great tennis match. But the plot holes in this show are not getting smaller, and they change my experience of watching the show.
I realized this week that watching Mad Men has affected my ability to surrender my disbelief. If I’m watching a show set in some imaginary place or time (post-apocalyptic Atlanta in The Walking Dead; years ago, Wisteria Lane on Desperate Housewives), I can enjoy the ride and accept any attendant goofiness. But my Homeland frame of mind tells me that these are real people, living in present-day Washington. When they don’t do the things I’m pretty sure a real person would do, I feel less invested. For me, that’s been the story of Season 2.
The episode starts with Carrie alone in an empty room. In a disturbing touch, the room seems to have bloodstains on the floor. This is where Brody’s being held and questioned, and Peter Quinn is the first to question him.
“Thanks to you and your colleagues in Congress, we have fairly broad powers,” he brags to a shackled Brody when he complains. And starts right in on the questions: “When did the torture stop?” Quinn asks, referring to Brody’s time in Iraq.
“I’m completely off the grid here, aren’t I?” Brody says, more to himself than Quinn.
If the second stage of imprisonment is lying, Brody gets there fast. He doesn’t know who Issa is, no. He’s never met Abu Nazir, and he had no idea about the drone strike that killed Nazir’s son. Quinn responds to all of this by leaving Brody to watch his own videotaped suicide message when he takes a break. “Let him stew for a while,” he says to Carrie and Saul.
Meanwhile, Jess and the kids haven’t heard from Brody in a while. Jess puts her brave face on to drive the kids to school (“It’s pizza night!” she reminds them), but she’s freaked out by her estranged husband’s sudden disappearance. She eventually gets the office lie: the Congressman has the flu. Suspicious, she gets some chicken soup and heads to the Brody Hotel.
Dana’s doing okay, though: she’s dumped Xander and makes a date with Finn. Oh my God, Dana! WHAT ABOUT PIZZA NIGHT.
Deep in Phase 2 of the interrogation, Brody’s lying up a storm. Exhausted, he holds the line: “I killed no one,” he insists (Really? I seem to remember something about a tailor and a flat tire), but Quinn’s not having it.
“Who is the target?” he prods. Brody says he doesn’t know (and maybe he doesn’t), and now Quinn is so mad he stabs Brody in the hand. Seriously: he does that. I don’t know why, either, but it’s Saul’s cue to hustle him out and move Carrie in. Quinn (who now seems a perfect match for our girl) defends himself: “Every good cop needs a bad cop.”
Which makes Carrie Mathison the good cop? Get it together, CIA!
Carrie gets intimate right away: “You broke my heart, you know,” she says. “You really have no feelings for me?”
Brody repeats his position –Yes, I think you’re obsessed with me, I’m sorry I hurt you, so Carrie changes her approach: gets him some water, and (in a callback to early Brody-Nazir scenes) holds it for him as he drinks. Then removes his shackles.
Carrie may know Brody better than anyone does, even Abu Nazir, and she leans into that knowledge: brings up their respective experiences in Iraq, his nightmares, their weekend at the cabin. Her main theme seems to be lying: “It’s the lies that undo us,” she tells him.
She’s very good at all of this, but she’s also a mental patient, and her tactics are as loopy as she is. “If I stopped lying, I could say, ‘I want you to leave your wife and children and be with me.’”
Pause. Crazy smile.
Loopy, yes, but she’s getting there. “You’re a good man because you didn’t explode the vest you were wearing.” Now Brody’s defense (“I wasn’t wearing a vest”) is down to a whisper. All she has to do is finish the job.
She does: “It was hearing Dana’s voice that changed your mind, wasn’t it?” It’s pretty much over for Brody now. When she finally asks him what he really knows (“There is a plan, isn’t there? To attack America?”), he caves, and rolls on everyone: Roya Hammad, the Saudi attache who ran messages to Tom Walker, even the suicide-vest guy in Gettysburg. Not that he ever knew that guy’s name.
Back at home, Jess — who knows Brody does not have the flu, and is spending Distracted Pizza Night with the kids — finally gets a call from her husband. It’s short, but it’s enough: “Don’t worry. We’re gonna be fine,” he tells her, and she’s feeling better as she shares a tender pre-date moment with Dana on the front stoop.
Dana’s date with Finn has just started when she suggests they “have some fun” (which must mean “lose the Secret Service and drive like maniacs around DC” to the kids of government officials). Dana urges Finn to drive faster, he does … and hits a pedestrian with his car. They freak out: Dana says they should call someone, Finn insists they shouldn’t. They don’t. This might be the worst first date in history.
Meanwhile, Carrie is informing Brody of his “options”: a long trial and prison sentence, or cooperation with the CIA and no consequences. He makes the only choice he can make, and now these two will be working together? Really?
The deal done, and Carrie drives Brody home, where Jess is waiting. She reminds him of the terms of his cooperation — “The affair will be our cover.” Considering the busted hand, he’s not in great shape when he faces his wife. His explanation for the absence, the hand, everything, is this: I’m working for the CIA. It’s not really the truth, but it’s closer than what he normally gives her. So, progress?
In the middle of Brody’s return home, Dana slinks in the front door, bids the family good night, and heads to her room. The Brody family now knows even less about each other than they did when the day started.
Across town, Carrie’s long day is ending too. She gets the wine from the fridge and starts drinking. It’s another scene of where Carrie is when she’s not working: on a couch, alone. It’s also the most believable moment in the episode.
So where are we now, Basketcases? After Q&A, here’s where I am:
- Glad Brody turned on Roya. That woman is the worst project manager of all time.
- Positive that no agent of the federal government would respond to his own frustration with a suspect by stabbing him in the hand.
- Wondering whether I really heard Carrie tell Brody, as part of the deal that helps him avoid prosecution, to “quit politics and move somewhere far away.”
- Thinking that having Dana and Finn run into trouble (and a pedestrian) on their first date was going a bit too far.
- Mystified: how the hell does a documented risk like Carrie Mathison still have the authority to do any of this?
- Wondering what kind of story this may be turning into. Carrie, the most unreliable narrator since Verbal Kint, now strikes me as a very persuasive erotomaniac. What if the story we’re watching is not the story, but her version of it?
What about the rest of you? Let’s hear it!