Homeland 4.06: From A to B and Back Again

 Posted by on November 2, 2014 at 10:50 pm  Homeland
Nov 022014

Homeland-from-a-to-b Pretty much everyone who writes about Homeland has said that Carrie is a metaphor for U.S. Homeland Security. Bipolar, ruthless, passionate, irrational, smart, and accepted when she should clearly be fired, she is our tangled security policy embodied. Watching From A to B and Back Again, it seemed to me that in the Carrie/Aayan affair, we see America’s crazy relationship with Pakistan; “I love you” during a covert drone operation. And as Aayan is “handled” by his uncle, we see everything the U.S. does and doesn’t understand about Pakistan, and how nuts the whole thing is.

Rest in peace, Aayan. For a medical student, you were remarkably stupid. For the beloved nephew of a terrorist, you were preternaturally naive.

Speaking of naive, Fara, what the hell is wrong with you? YOUR WINDOW WAS OPEN AND YOUR GARBAGE WAS GONE THROUGH, you dope.

From A to B and Back Again was a great episode, full of surprises. Nothing played out the way I expected it to. I never anticipated Duck Philips would be smart enough to follow Fara, or would take his treasonous espionage as far as he did. I didn’t anticipate the reveal on Saul to come the way it did, or as soon as it did. I certainly didn’t foresee the bullet to Aayan’s brain! When the episode ended, I was surprised; the hour had just flown by, and I had been at the edge of my seat the whole time.

At this moment, I don’t know where the spying and counter-spying is taking us. Yes, we could easily see that the break-in was Carrie’s operation, and anticipate that the passport had a tracker. Yes, we could, at some point in the confrontation with Uncle Nepoticide realize that Saul was in the car (but only a few moments before the reveal, to be fair). But now what? Duck Philips is feeding everything to the ISI, who is giving it all to Nepoticide, who probably gave Sandy the information on the family wedding in order to fake his own death. Forget shooting his nephew in the head, this guy arranged for the deaths of half his family in order to bring Sandy down. Is that very different, though, from Carrie saying “take the shot” with Saul visible on camera? Love doesn’t matter when there’s an enemy to kill.

At this point, it’ll be hard to keep Saul alive without being very shark-jumpy, but even though both Saul and Fara have been implausibly stupid, this may be the smartest season of Homeland yet, in terms of its willingness to twist and turn, and stay ahead of the viewer, so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. I’m genuinely watching because I’m engaged, not because I committed to recapping (although I take the commitment seriously, so you Basketcases should darn well appreciate it).

The hour was so taut, frankly, that I’m running dry of things to say. There’s the fake-out of Aayan, some inter-embassy office politics, the discovery of Saul’s whereabouts, following Aayan, Duck’s break-in, and Quinn being self-righteously angry. Bada-bing, bada-boom, that’s the whole episode.

My thoughts keep going back to Duck Philips. Until tonight, his character was mildly interesting at best, but tonight I was staggered by the size and importance of the secrets he’s betraying. Any number of people could die because of him and his mood has suddenly shifted. He’s no longer pathetic, scared, browbeaten: He’s enjoying himself. He’s getting a kind of academic pleasure in being successful, forgetting on whose behalf he has succeeded. He just likes being smart. In one episode, he went from “loser” to “villain.”

What did you think?


  11 Responses to “Homeland 4.06: From A to B and Back Again”

  1. I agree with all of the above, and had pretty much the same reactions, watching.. Would it have been bolder to not have Quinn in the room (his reaction was inevitable) and have Carrie kill Saul to get the wicked uncle? She then could have experienced the consequences of her actions. Would it have been better for Aayan to tell his girlfriend that he had gone back to get his things because he was expelled? Incidentally before the uncle mentioned the drone I thought he might ask Aayan to kill Saul for revenge (“justice”) for his family. I also thought they might have Carrie rescind the order for the strike at the last moment to save Aayan, but I doubt they would descend to such cheesiness.

  2. Was Carrie right to take the shot?

    I vote yes on that, even if it meant killing Saul. Saul is done for in any case.

    What is the actual chain of command if Quinn can countermand the Chief of Station? Whose operations run out of that operations room?

    I’m looking forward to the next F2F between Dar Adal and Quinn re the latest choice he made.

    I like the symbolism of the garbage bags in Carries office in the final scene.

    What a dysfunctional operational profile!

  3. I’m enjoying the unusual complexity of seeing the “Spy vs Spy: Who are you calling a terrorist, terrorist?” game from at least 2 sides. The Haquanni-Saul car ride into Afghanistan is a nice parallel with the Saul-Aileen car ride from Mexico.

    [spoiler discussion of previews removed]

  4. Aaaiiieee….what a nail-biter of an episode. I agree with Deborah: it was superb.

    And as horrible as this may sound, taking out Saul would not have been out of the question for the group to do at that point: Saul would be a goner in any real-life scenario (of what value is he to the terrorists OR ISI or, come to think of it, his former employer? He no longer works for the CIA or is all that privy to their current secrets). On the other hand, that terrorist uncle was an extremely high-value target, as were his henchmen. I think they’d have taken the shot.

    We were meant to think, Oh how awful, Carrie is letting her desire for revenge against the murderer of her lover blind her to the fact that her former mentor, Saul, will be blown up along with the group, should the drone fire on them. But I think it’s simpler: they would’ve been at least somewhat likely to take the shot, regardless.

    Now, they’ve got to rescue Saul somehow, which will be very difficult given that ISI is actively helping Ayan’s uncle and his group and Carrie’s safe house and cover are totally blown.

    Aside: what is the big deal about revealing Carrie’s mental health status to the ISI woman? It was public knowledge that Carrie was not only diagnosed as bipolar–when Saul fake-threw her under the bus during televised Senate hearings in the last season–but that she had been conducting CIA business during one of her manic phases, also revealed to the world media, as was her public meltdown in the restaurant, and her public meltdown at the newspaper, the one that got her involuntarily committed. NONE of that was secret. Yet a top national intelligence agency (ISI) would not have bothered to read background on someone they were keeping tabs on (or trying to)? I mean why would the writers have Duck pay special attention to her meds, photographing them and so forth. So what? Only Carrie, Saul, Dal Adar, and Quinn knew that Carrie was fake-committed in order to attract the Iranians. To the public, the media, and the archives, all of stories about Carrie and her bipolar disorder were real, every single one.

    • Perhaps before starting a season the writers should read a synopses, at least, of the previous seasons.

      • REALLY. I realize that showrunners might develop a “clean-sweep” mindset, especially after a difficult season during which they were criticized for their choices. So they might bring in a brand-new writing staff. But come ON, in some ways, it really seems as though this season’s writers believe they’re starting a brand-new show, one in which the characters have no history! Crazy.

        • Maintaining an accurate show bible is REALLY important and surprisingly difficult.

          • Show bible or not, in this case, the issue–the very central-to-the-protagonist issue of Carrie’s mental illness, and how she and Saul exploited it, very publicly, as part of the ploy to bait Javadi–would not have escaped anyone who’d watched the previous season! It seems that none of the writers of Season 4 did in fact watch Season 3, and that’s unbelievable.

          • Now that you mention it, it seems clear that no one making Homeland respected the show (or its viewers) enough to maintain a Bible beyond the one made to greenlight the pilot and the show.

            (Roddenbury and his team did for their guest writers)

            As for “difficulty” – I’d go along with that for one who does it for no pay, in addition to a full-time job, in her spare time, along with blogging duties.

            What would it really take for someone in the writers room to maintain such a reference – with photos of all the white boards and sticky notes and the other material that goes into getting the scripts ready – along with screeners?

            20 hours/week – tops?

            I wonder how Weiner did his Bible? (I’ll bet someone came here regularly to scour out all the extras)

  5. I too, enjoyed the show (at least when Carrie was not “loving” her prey). I wondered how/if Uncle Nepoticide (good one, BTW) was going to escape. When he shot his last relative he showed himself to be ruthless and shrewd. But idiotic – as if trotting Saul out would save him? Really?

    I have no anticipation that the show will reconcile with plausibility – but will watch anyway.

  6. Good insights as always, Deborah. I agree that this is a very smart season (and your recapping is quite appreciated!!)

    Mark Moses seems to be so great at antagonistic characters who are not entirely unsympathetic. (Yes, he went from loser to villain, but I still can’t forget his wife talking about the man who used to shine, and “he’s gone”)

    Definitely interested to see what comes next.

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