Homeland arrived at something of a crossroads with "Achilles' Heel." Nobody with any kind of brain thought that last week's double whammy of Carrie and Brody coming clean to each other, followed by Tom Walker being revealed as a secretly alive terrorist, meant that Brody was NOT a traitor. But with Carrie and the CIA officially off the Brody trail and after Walker instead, this episode needed to be a restatement of purpose, and it did a pretty good job on multiple fronts.
We start, as always, with the state of the Brody marriage. After getting a chilly reception from Jess after he returns home from his unexplained weekend away, Brody is about as conciliatory and open as he's been with Jess since he returned from Iraq, and after he lets her unload some of her frustrations on him, they reconcile, and pretty soon it's heartwarming family fun times for the Brodys. It's an abrupt about-face for Brody, who was last spotted at home whaling away on Mike for having been with Jess, but the way Damian Lewis sells it, it seems genuine.
In many ways, it seems like all of the resentment and anger Brody had been putting on Jess is now being funneled onto Carrie. She tried numerous times this week to apologize to him for lying to him, which I think is about all the proof we need that Carrie's feelings for Brody went well beyond tactical opportunism. But Brody ain't trying to hear it, not even after she tips him off about Tom Walker being not nearly as dead as he looked when Brody beat him and saw his "corpse" rolled into a desert grave.
Walker IS just as alive as Aileen the Home-Grown Terrorist claimed he was, living on the streets in D.C., begging for money in between the cars at red lights, and staring ominously at the Capitol building. I like that in the Homeland universe, terrorists just like to stare at their future targets for extended periods of time. It's at one of these intersections where Walker gets a key rolled up in a dollar, with instructions pointing him to a storage facility.
At the same time, Carrie and David Estes have been debriefing Walker's wife and son, who are reacting to the news that Tom could be both alive and a threat against his nation as well as could be expected. After Saul deduces that Tom's been calling home when he knows the family is out — so he can hear their voices on the outgoing message — an uneasy alliance of the CIA and FBI prepare a sting operation, with Carrie as the point person at Helen Walker's home. It gives us a nice opportunity to see Carrie commiserating with Helen, as they're both wrestling with guilty feelings after "betraying" the men they care about. These scenes reminded me of Carrie's interactions with poor, doomed Lynne Reed. Despite her often maniacal tunnel vision when it comes to her work, she's also repeatedly shown herself to be empathetic. Layers, you guys. Lady's got layers.
When Tom does eventually call Helen in the middle of the night, she finds herself unable to go with the CIA's plan. When it comes down to it, she doesn't care what he's become — brainwashed, embittered, dangerous, whatever — and she ends up warning him that the Feds are coming. It leads to a rather thrilling chase that ends when Tom runs into a mosque and the FBI agents in pursuit end up gunning down a pair of innocent Muslims. The FBI's solution is to publicly declare Walker a terrorist, on the idea that then these two murders "won't matter much." It's a chillingly cynical perspective from federal law enforcement, but I have to think that the investigation hitting the public will throw all sorts of interesting wrenches into the story.
And while we're on the subject of interesting wrenches in the story, how about that ending? I honestly thought we'd get a few episodes before we were thrust back into Brody as a terrorist suspect, but after he finds out that Walker is alive, he tracks down the same man who passed Walker the storage-locker key and angrily demands answers. The guy's like, "You'll have to take it up with your boyfriend Abu Nazir," but Brody has a message for Nazir: Brody's out. Out ... of what? Not specified. We can assume he's not talking about holiday potluck plans.
Carrie's Fridge Update: Another week not spent on the urgent matter of Carrie's barren fridge. But after seeing Carrie make herself at home at Helen's during the stakeout, we're starting to wonder if Carrie finds it impossible to fall asleep unless she's facing a surveillance monitor of some kind.
Brody Family Fancy Party Update: Lots of time spent this week at a fancy political fund-raiser thrown by Elizabeth Gaines — because apparently even a kid like Dana knows that Elizabeth Gaines throws the fanciest parties in all of Washington. Elizabeth's fairly transparent plan is to get Brody to run for Congress, but besides the "Be Sharps"–level joke about "Congressman Dick Johnson" as your thinly veiled Anthony Weiner antecedent (clever at first, but less funny every time it was referenced), we didn't learn much aside from the fact that Elizabeth is manipulative and kind of into Saul.
Capital-T "Theme" of the Week: The titular "Achilles' heel" is referenced more than a few times this week. First in reference to Tom Walker, whose love for his family is what makes him stick his head above ground and puts him at risk of getting caught. Later, Saul refers to his dedication to his work as his own Achilles' heel. Even with Mira preparing to leave for India, when he knows he only has so many opportunities to convince her to stay, he still comes running when the Agency calls.
Mandy Patinkin Non-Verbal Reaction of the Week: In the spirit of last week's openness, Carrie ultimately comes clean to Saul about her after-hours relationship with Brody, earning her the Saul Berenson Eyebrows of Judgment. Of course, he can't stay mad at her for too long, and before you know it, she's being wrapped up in the Saul Berenson Embrace of Forgiveness.