Homeland Recap: 306, Trust

 Posted by on November 5, 2013 at 8:00 am  Homeland
Nov 052013

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 12.05.18 AMAbout halfway through the deeply flawed last season of Homeland, I started to fight with it. A year later, here I am again: not so much watching episode 6 as tearing it apart, tacking its pieces on the wall, and stringing red yarn between the few things that matter. 

I know that Homeland is at its heart an espionage drama, and it’s good at being that. But if I’m going to stay invested in it, it has to spend its time on stories that matter. The state of Carrie Mathison’s uterus is just not one of those things.

The title of this episode is Still Positive – a far-too-cute wink at the one-off scene of Carrie taking a pregnancy test. Yes, we get a pregnancy-test scene, instead of a flashback on the relationship between Saul and Javadi. We don’t need the former, but we could really use the latter.

The most important ingredient is trust. – Javadi

Interesting concept, trust. We could all use more of that: I want to trust this season of Homeland to lead us to places worth going, and I need the show to trust its viewers to follow it.

It already has most of the important things. We’re homing in on the “who” and “what” of this season, thanks to Saul’s investigation of the 12-12 bombing; this week the team captures Javadi (literally) red-handed at a suburban Washington home. This makes me think we’re headed in the right direction.

But the “why” and “how” of the bombing — the motivation for and mechanics of the 12-12 attack — are missing. I’m hoping the seething antipathy between Saul and Javadi will reveal at least some of this. So is Carrie: in fact she’s pushing for it.

Carrie’s tired, freaked out, and secretly pregnant, but she is also doing the one thing she loves more than anything else: confronting someone who’s probably dangerous. She’s done this in a postcoital haze with Brody, drunk in a bar with an aggressive redneck, and with Roya after a faceoff with Abu Nazir, and now she goes after Javadi: yanking off the polygraph sensors (“we’re done,”) and calling him out.

You are now an enemy of your own state. – Carrie

Still, something’s missing. Around this time last year, Abu Nazir’s team invaded the Gettysburg tailor’s shop in a slick, brutal matter of minutes. It was this ambush that told us something bad lay ahead. This year, there’s no indication Javadi and his team are planning anything. What’s an espionage drama without danger?

It’s a soap opera, that’s what. Here’s the evidence:

Villains are two-dimensional. Senator Lockhart shows up at the CIA two weeks early — not to measure the curtains, but to threaten and gloat. He wants to clean house. He wants to restore “the respect, and the fear” the CIA once inspired. Homeland, I’m starting to think I shouldn’t like this guy!

Villains are also inconsistent. Until this week, Javadi was a careful criminal who moves between locations as unobtrusively as possible, refuses to carry guns, and plans his meetings as if they’re chess moves. Why would this methodical guy grab one of the guns he said he didn’t want, take a detour from an important meeting, and kill his ex-wife and daughter-in-law in their home? Would such a man really do this in front of his toddler grandson?

Interpersonal drama is everywhere. Mira and Saul are another thread this fabric doesn’t need. As is often the case in espionage fiction, Saul’s married to his work; Homeland viewers aren’t new to this concept. We’ve met the classic lonely man who’s in love with the game. We know how often his woman gets fed up and leaves him to it. I’m surprised Homeland still needs to explain all of this to us.

The Brody-family fallout continues. Dana Brody isn’t Dana Brody anymore: she’s taken her mother’s maiden name, and is now Dana Lazaro. She’s also moved out of the family home, a development the show treats as something shocking.

You know how not-new a story that is? My Dad did the same thing, in his own mid-teens, some 70 years ago. People leave the places that remind them of painful things, if they can. Dana obviously can.

Houston, we have a narrative non sequitur FETUS. In the messiest scene of this mid-season episode, Carrie is lazily tracking a pregnancy. The pee-stick test she takes is positive, of course; she tosses it in a drawer (ewww) with a whole bunch of other pozzies. Those other tests in the stash, 50 or so, indicate that she may have been checking for a couple of months now.

My problems with this go waaaaay beyond the Brody-daddy question. Carrie just got out of an inpatient facility: while there, she took daily doses of very serious prescription drugs. I just can’t believe a medical facility would do this without having tested her for pregnancy first.

What do you think, Basketcases? Is it worth our time to keep watching? Will Fara ever get a real storyline? And should I be interested in the brochures Mike the Marine keeps sending me from his witness-protection suburb of Omaha?

This week’s Closing Thoughts:

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate the short life and long fade of Chris Brody. The character of Chris finally lost his long, brave battle against invisibility, lapsing into total silence in the arms of the sister he adored. He is survived by his mother, Jessica; his sister, Dana; an unborn half-sibling to be named later; and his terrorist father. Services will be unbelievably private.

Saul’s once-tiny secret team of Javadi Hunters is growing! Now that Max is on board, the team can convert Virgil’s van into the Mystery Machine, pack some Scooby Snacks, and start solving mysteries!

Jessica finally hugs her daughter. Does not say to her, “You stole and traded my car. You are grounded till you’re 45.” Does not say, “Change what now? Your name?! You can start by changing your attitude, Grumpy McSulkyPants.” And waits for the kid to announce that she’s moving out, to live with Angela, before bleating, “I love you so much.” Um. Okay.

Security: still a low priority in Washington, D.C.! The safe house to which Mystery, Inc. takes the bloodied Javadi may be “safe”, but it’s hardly secure. Dude could literally crawl out a window, and probably will: $50 says he’s in the wind again, 10 minutes into episode 7.

Saul Berenson can land one hell of a punch. He comes across as thoughtful, never threatening. He speaks softly even when he’s angry. When he’s upset he withdraws or works. But don’t be fooled: get up in his face, and he’ll flatten you with one swift move. If only the rest of this show had such force and economy.


  10 Responses to “Homeland Recap: 306, Trust”

  1. Honestly, I can’t argue with you about the extraordinary stupidity of the Dana or pregnancy plots, but I find the show compelling this season, and smarter in a lot of ways. Javadi is an interesting villain, not an ideologue, just after the money–a villain for our times. A sleazy politician is not an entirely unwelcome addition to the plot–for 2 season the CIA was treated as a playground in which any stupid idea could get carte blanche. Now it’s a real political entity with internal and external maneuvering.

  2. More and more, Carrie reminds me of Amy in “Enlightened” — which I stopped watching after two episodes. I have to blame the writers as they no longer give viewers a reason to root for her– she’s just all over the place.

  3. I’m a little disappointed with this season. I think it has to do with the lack of Damian Lewis. Season 2 was not perfect. But I still managed to enjoy it a lot more than I’m enjoying Season 3 so far. For me, “HOMELAND” was the dynamic between Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. The writers screwed that up by forcing Lewis’ character to go on the run. Maybe they should have ended the series after Season 2.

  4. As campy as it may be, derHomeland is nowhere near as empty, and bubbleheaded as the migraine inducing Scandal.
    One episode of that, and you’ll be screaming into the hills begging, BEGGING, to be one of the torture victims in Zero Dark Thirty.

  5. It wasn’t the main plot line, but I’m annoyed that Carrie’s pregnancy was handled with the usual complete lack of awareness about real-life pregnancies so common in tv dramas, particularly those written by men.

    Being bipolar is not the same thing as being bog-stupid. Yes, she would of course make poor decisions, but I just don’t buy that an apparently newly-maternal Carrie who lifts babies into playpens for safekeeping and whose brimming-with-test-sticks bathroom drawer shows she wanted to keep a pregnancy going–in this day and age, with options available to her–would be downing cases of tequila (remember all the empties in the rubbish bin?) and submitting to big old shots of Thorazine in the hospital. Not to mention, taking all that lithium and who knows what else, without saying anything to anyone. And yes, she surely *would* have been given a pregnancy test before they administered the drugs. So if she didn’t know immediately, she would have learned it in the hospital, and her treatment and counseling would’ve reflected that.

    Come on, Homeland–a large portion of your audience is female, and of that, many of us have actually been pregnant and given birth. Hell, Clare Danes recently had a baby. I’m amazed she didn’t say, Hey, Carrie may be reckless, but hospitals generally aren’t–no way would her pregnancy go unnoticed. And insist they come up with a better explanation for what is clearly being pushed as a significant plot twist.

    • Those pregnancy sticks cost 12 bucks a pop. That’s a pricey way to be in denial. And btw, you’re supposed to use them with first morning urine, when the hormones are most concentrated. I have NEVER EVER seen a woman on TV or in the movies do that.

      Lithium is not compatible with pregnancy, period. Most doctors would advise immediate abortion if a woman on lithium became pregnant.

      When I had ACL replacement surgery, the hospital asked me to arrive 20 minutes early for a pregnancy test. I said “Really? I’ve had my tubes tied. My boyfriend has had a vasectomy. The only way we could be more safe is if we had sex in different rooms.” They insisted. They could lose their insurance if they don’t do a pregnancy test on EVERY WOMAN UNDER FIFTY for any anesthesia administration. Just a data point.

  6. We’re headed back to South America, and soon. My money says it’s Adal (maybe in cahoots with Javadi) who has Brody on ice in that tower block. Also, I think we got an indication in E6 that Adal is in with Javadi when he phoned Saul at exactly the right moment to distract him from the operation. That E7 preview of him rattling Quinn’s cage later that afternoon would seem to confirm it.

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