For an episode that features the first body count of the season (at least, the first that didn't happen in flashback), "Clean Skin" was probably the least eventful of Homeland's first three episodes. On a show that's written and acted as well as this, that's not necessarily a fatal flaw, but I especially thought the "Brody at Home" portions of the episode seemed to advance the story very little, while focusing on the characters I care about the least.
Now that Brody has decided to play ball with the media, they've set up a soft-focus series of interviews, including a riverside walk-and-talk with MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell (whose affect comes across pretty creepy in a scripted context) and a happy-family-at-home interview. And if What About Bob? has taught us anything, it's that soft-focus at-home interviews will expose every crack and crevasse your family has got. This media blitz story does have the bonus of bringing Gaby Hoffman back into our lives as the news producer. With Christina Ricci on Pan Am, we've officially got half of the child cast of Now and Then on prime-time TV. Thora Birch, the ball is in your court.
While Brody prepares to sell himself to America (for nefarious or benign reasons!), sullen teenager Dana is doing sullen teenager things: smoking pot with her friends, throwing attitude all around, and maybe planning on brat-bombing the TV interview. During a rather eventful wait in the fast-food drive-up, Dana tells her mother that she knows about her and Mike's relationship. This throws Jesse for a loop and goes a long way toward explaining why Dana's acting out like she is. But I think I'm with Carrie who, after Virgil directs her to the family melodrama happening in the house, says she doesn't want to deal with those reality-TV happenings. Notable, if gross, exception: the suuuuuper-uncomfortable scene where Jess tries to sex up Brody again, only to this time learn that the only way her husband can do it is to jerk off to her naked body without ever actually touching her. Shades of Midnight Express!
On the flashback front, we don't see much except for further explanation of how Abu Nazir brainwashed Brody (if indeed that's what happened). It's pretty much what you'd expect as far as brain-washings go: torture, isolation, sensory deprivation, followed by Nazir playing Good Cop and offering Brody food and the chance to trim his scraggly beard. If nothing else, it raises the possibility of Brody becoming a slightly more sympathetic prospect. Who among us could resist the call of delicious grapes and figs after weeks (months? years?) of torture?
It's interesting that Brody ended up using similar Good Cop tactics to get Dana to fall in line. The show has been doing a great job of walking the suspicious/not-suspicious line with Brody, and they do it again here. Sure, Brody's just using good dad strategy as he confides his true feelings to Dana while telling her he's not going to tell anybody else, but after the images of Nazir manipulating him with twisted kindness in Iraq, it's hard not to read something darker into it.
The Carrie half of the episode managed to be far more compelling, even though the climax was the ultimate foregone conclusion. I told y'all Lynne Reed wasn't long for this world. Sorry, girl. Maybe you'd have fared better with a properly spelled, Scot-approved surname — we'll never know! But I'm getting ahead of myself.
So Lynne successfully hooks up the CIA doohickey to Prince Farid's phone, then passes Carrie the chip with all of Farid's data. But Lynne has doubts that Farid's up to anything. Aside from the thing where he keeps a nine-deep harem of professional escorts on call for him, he doesn't seem to have any interest in matters of state. He's a party boy. And besides, he gave Lynne this fat, blingy necklace just for being her. Carrie does her thing where she assures Lynne that Farid is guilty, because he met with Abu Nazir, and also because duh.
Back in D.C., Carrie sends the phone chip off to be decrypted while she tries to get Saul to quit being so mean to her. Mandy Patinkin gets a great scene where he tells Carrie just how badly she betrayed him with the illegal surveillance, and it seems to serve as a bit of catharsis for Saul. He's probably not going to trust Carrie as much as he did, maybe not ever again. But they can work together.
Carrie's ethics are as bendy as ever, though. When Lynne calls her from a nightclub with news that Prince Farid (through his majordomo Bin Walid) is sending her to "welcome" a prospective business associate, Carrie once again says that the CIA has a team watching her back. There's no such team, of course, so Carrie and Virgil speed off to find Lynne and make sure she hasn't been made. Of course, she has been made, and by the time they make it to the alley behind the club, Lynne's been shot dead. For an event we all saw coming, I have to say Lynne's death was pretty affecting. Partly because the character really popped these last couple of weeks, and partly because Danes played Carrie's emotional reaction so well. Fifteen-plus years after My So-Called Life, Claire Danes is still one of the most realistic criers in the business. The very short scene in the morgue where Carrie approaches Lynne's parents, wanting so badly to tell them how brave their daughter was but being unable to for obvious reasons, is really heartbreaking.
So Lynne is dead, and her blingy necklace is stolen to make it look like a robbery. OR WAS IT? The benefit of Saul talking to her again is that Carrie gets the benefit of his mind, which, if this episode is any indication, is a formidable one. He walks through his doubts about Farid as a terrorist. Maybe Lynne was right about him. Maybe Nazir was meeting with someone else on the boat the day Lynne saw him with Farid. Saul suggests a person without Farid's means, who would need to move money the old-fashioned way: through jewels.
I liked the cuts at the end to Bin Walid (who it seems made Lynne as a spy and arranged her murder all behind Farid's back) having Lynne's purloined necklace appraised ($400K, y'all!), followed by a seemingly adorable young couple purchasing their first home — in cash — that is suspiciously close to an airport. All at once, we see how on the mark a brilliant mind like Saul can be (and in fairness to Carrie, it's her doggedness that had Saul thinking about it at all), and at the same time how little Saul and Carrie know about the full conspiracy.
But more important — yes, more important than imminent terrorist threats — is a terror more homegrown than even Nicholas Brody. We need to talk about the state of Carrie's refrigerator. This makes three consecutive weeks that poor Virgil has remarked on the shockingly barren state of Carrie's fridge, which makes it a more prominent supporting character than Lynne or Prince Farid or Bin Walid. For Virgil's sake, if no one else, somebody needs to get that lady signed up with Fresh Direct, like, yesterday.