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Homeland Recap: Traffic on the Beltway

The Brody-Jess-Mike triangle gets a little more interesting this week. You all may be enjoying this storyline more than I am, I don't know; it's just between this and The Walking Dead, I am all justifiable-love-triangled out. Sure, we get more "does he know?" behavior from Brody, as he acts pissy with Mike and then thanks him for "taking care of Jess" while he was gone. Mike says Brody would have done the same for him. "You know what?" Brody says, "I don't know if I would have." It's the same stuff we're always getting from Brody: suspicious behavior that could just as easily be chalked up to his post-traumatic state. It's the same thing when he comes upon Jess and Chris in the backyard, checking out a deer that has wandered to the edge of their yard. Chris is fascinated by the creature (what is with kids being mesmerized by deer this season? It's like I can't escape the Walking Dead parallels here), but Brody immediately sees it as a threat. A threat to Jess's tulips, sure, but the more Jess insists that it's no big deal, the angrier Brody gets. It's interesting that the deer is encroaching on their yard from the same angle that the reporter took a few weeks ago, before Brody throat-punched him. In Brody's mind, a threat is a threat.

This all comes to a head at a cocktail party Jess throws for their friends. While Jess throws back tequila shots, commiserates with a fellow army wife about husbands who can't have sex with them upon returning, and has a few fraught stolen moments with Mike, Brody's in the garage, assembling a gun. This is what he's been keeping in the lockbox, away from Carrie's prying cameras. Again, Is that the gun he's going to use to shoot the president and/or the Washington Monument??. No, he just shoots the deer, in the backyard, in the middle of the party, probably traumatizing his son. The upside is that it finally leads Jess to blow up at him about how angry, shut off, and weird he's been since he's returned. You have to feel for Jess. She knows (or thinks she knows) why Brody's been acting this way and knows she can't rightly blame him for it. But good for her for externalizing what we've all being seeing for weeks: that Brody's been acting like a total weirdo and it's been making her life hell. It's enough to convince him to go to a veterans support group, though.

And it's at that support group where this show finds another gear. When Carrie walked into that meeting, it was the culmination of a week's worth of frustration. It's been almost a month since Lynne Reed was killed, and in that time, Saul's jewel-fencing theory has borne fruit. They've now got Bin Walid pegged as conspiring with Abu Nazir and funneling money through a jewel fence fronting as a laundromat. On the list of laundromat patrons who are being investigated is Raquin Fizel, a college professor who we saw purchasing a house by the airport last week. To my relief, the show doesn't play is-he-or-isn't-he games with Fizel. We've got enough of those. When Carrie and Agent Galvez tail Fizel from the college, his wife gets a call with a coded warning — "The traffic is bad on the Beltway" — and she hangs an American flag out the window as a signal to her husband: don't come home. Fizel keeps driving and the house remains secret, for now.

Carrie also has to deal with the expiration of her FISA warrant. She knows she can't defy Saul again — even if she wanted to, his eyes are all over her. So with the Brodys at church, she and Virgil and Max uninstall the cameras. Of course, Carrie takes the opportunity to snoop around the house, including the garage that had been a blind spot. She finds Brody's lockbox but no gun inside. The Brody house is now officially a dead end, and not just professionally. When Carrie returns home, the absence of monitors showing every corner of the Brody household is striking. We already know she leads a Spartan home life (Refrigerator Update: We see Carrie eating some melon that may indicate she's bought some fresh produce, but the copious take-out containers around the house suggest this was just some prepackaged supermarket thing), but for the first time in a month, Carrie's not going to fall asleep to the cold glow of Nick Brody. It's no surprise that she starts following him.

I was struck by how little internal turmoil Carrie had in taking up the continued surveillance. She's like a child who obeys only to the letter of what her parents tell her. She can't defy Saul outright and keep up the wiretapping, but he never said she couldn't spend every waking minute watching him from her car! The obsession continues, and after catching what sure seemed like Carrie lingering for a bit on Brody emerging from the shower at the beginning of the episode, I'm curious to see how deep the obsession goes. Are wires getting crossed in her head? We've already seen it happen with Carrie when she propositioned Saul, and we're reminded of it again as the show sheds some light on Carrie's past with David Estes. Turns out they did have a fling, and, we're told, she took off, he followed her to New York, went a little nutso, and ruined his marriage in the process. That scene in the bar where Carrie and Estes end up apologizing for how things went down goes a long way toward humanizing their relationship, one which has previously read as cartoonishly antagonistic.

Of course, Estes is playing it from an angle (I'm not sure Carrie isn't as well). He's been trying to press Agent Galvez into snooping on Carrie to find out if she's got any other investigations simmering on the side. Seems that while her monomaniacal focus has made her the scourge of her superiors, she's something of a rock star among the analysts. Or at least Galvez.

Back to Carrie and Brody, though, as her in-person surveillance — and her desperation to find something on Brody that will justify resuming the wiretap — leads her to make her most reckless move yet: She walks into the support-group meeting and makes contact with Brody. He remembers her from the interrogation, and he finds her easier to talk to than most because she was in the shit in Iraq. There's more to it than that, of course. There's an unmistakable hint of sexual charge in the air as they banter in the parking lot. She's working him, of course — and depending on whether he's a terrorist or not, he might be working her as well. But after four weeks of 24/7 observation — to the point where she could talk him through his morning routine because she knew it by heart — there's a strange intimacy there, made all the stranger by the fact that he doesn't know how much she knows about him. Things with Jess and Mike may have gotten marginally more interesting this week, but I'm far more compelled by what this encounter between Carrie and Brody means for the show going forward than by anything happening in the Brodys' marriage. Between this and the goings-on with the Fizels at Airport House, it feels like Homeland just pushed things into Phase 2.

Photo: Kent Smith/Showtime