Homeland Recap: Explosions in the Square

I’m not sure there’s been a very loud chorus of people out there saying that Homeland hasn’t been exciting enough, but if there were any such malcontents, maybe this episode was for them. Because KABOOM, what an ending, right?

First thing’s first: Carrie listens to more jazz than maybe you were prepared to handle. If she’s not smoothing on some Miles Davis as she waits for her “date” (biggest, scariest quote marks around that, given the outcome) with Brody, she’s listening to it in the car on the way to work. She also listens to jazz while she’s wandering ethereal hedge mazes while mentally picturing history’s greatest atrocities, but I’m still not ready to discuss the opening credits.

Following up on the lead Carrie got from the imam’s wife, the CIA has zeroed in on Saudi diplomat Al Zahrani as their next target. They’ve got a couple of angles to take on the guy, as it turns out he’s both in debt and down-low gay — bathhouse photos and everything. Carrie and Saul are hoping to be able to put the squeeze on this guy, but the State Department gets sooooo skittish when it comes to the Agency violating diplomatic immunity agreements.

I know everybody got scared that Homeland was turning into 24 a few weeks ago, when we got the double-fake-out about Brody’s terrorist leanings. But I can sniff out this show’s 24 DNA much better when they use things like “diplomatic immunity” as plot points. It’s a classic international-intrigue boogeyman that places The Rules at odds with Getting Things Done. For my money, I thought The West Wing did the diplomatic immunity thing best when they had President Bartlett yell at them for not paying their parking tickets

David Estes manages to take his balls out of his purse (or, you know, flagrantly defy longstanding diplomatic agreements) and tells Carrie and Saul to go through with the interrogation anyway. And he wants Carrie to take point on it. It seems for a moment like Saul might have some hard feelings that he’s getting leapfrogged — these past several weeks have really shown Saul to be taking refuge from his personal life in his work — but he ultimately gives Carrie an encouraging pep talk: “Eviscerate the motherfucker.”

Meanwhile, Brody gets a visit from the vice-president who — just as Brody was told would happen — asks him to run for the Congressional seat of disgraced Representative Dick Johnson. Brody certainly wants to — this is how he’s supposed to signal to Abu Nazir that he’s back on the plan to terrorist the country (that’s what it’s called, right?). His major obstacle, of course, is Jess. I can’t imagine why anyone would agree to their spouse running for public office, but Jess very correctly points out all the reasons why this would be a particularly bad idea for them: Their family only JUST got back on track; he’d once again be leaving them for long stretches; and oh yeah: the both of them have big, fat infidelity scandals just waiting to be uncovered by an opposing campaign.

So Jess knows about Brody’s fling with Carrie. One assumes this came out during the great Brody family reconciliation of a couple of weeks ago, though from Brody’s face, it’s possible Jess just put it together after Carrie showed up on their lawn at dawn. Brody is concerned enough about the possibility that the affair could come back to haunt him that he calls up Carrie and asks to meet with her. Poor Carrie gets the entirely wrong message and prepares for it like it’s a date, and it is damned heartbreaking when we see her realize why Brody’s really there. This may be a show about a race against time to stop a terrorist attack playing out right under the CIA’s noses, but in many ways it’s also a show about that battle being fought by some seriously lonely people. After all, the desperation for human contact is part of what drove Brody to turn terrorist, so without crippling human loneliness, we might not even have a show. Anyway, Claire Danes crying — a master at her craft.

Luckily, Carrie is able to pour her pain into the Al Zahrani interrogation. Only to her and Saul’s chagrin, the threats to out Al Zahrani to his wives (not to mention his certainly intolerant Al Qaeda brethren) hit a brick wall when he defiantly tells them to tell whomever they please. It pleases me to no end that someone got paid to write the sentence “I suck cock and I love it! Yummy, yummy, yummy, yummy” on the most acclaimed new drama of the season. Great Gay Moment in Television? Anyway, Carrie thinks quickly on her feet and pulls out a more universal bit of leverage, threatening to deport Al Zahrani’s Yalie daughter, sending her back to Saudi Arabia to “get fat and wear a burqua for the rest of her miserable life.” This gets him back to the table. He admits his role in the Nazir organization is essentially as an information conduit, and they strong-arm him into setting up a meeting with Tom Walker in Farragut Square.

The next day, Al Zahrani puts out the signal to Walker, then shows up to a Farragut Square teeming with Agency personnel, including Carrie on the ground. After a terrifically tense scene, it’s not Walker who shows up but rather a homeless guy paid to show up with a package. It turns out to be a bomb, and Carrie is too late to sniff it out in time. At this point, I refer to the KABOOM from the first paragraph. A terrorist attack on American soil. Carrie is blown back by the blast (I admit I let out an “Aw, Virgil!” when he ran to Carrie’s aid), but she survives. Next steps for her and the Agency: finding out who on the inside is funneling secret information to Tom Walker. Yep, There’s a mole. Here’s hoping the show doesn’t get stupid about who that mole is.

Carrie’s Fridge Update: Um, nothing on Carrie’s fridge, but instead we got a look at Saul’s work fridge. He seems to be living out of his office these days, and I don’t think I’ve seen anything sadder on TV this week than Saul spreading peanut butter on saltine crackers with a ruler from his desk drawer.

Brody Housekeeping Update: As mentioned, Jess has many valid reasons for concern when her husband tells of the Veep’s proposal. But I kind of love that her very first reaction to hearing that the VP had visited was horror at the messy state of their house.

Mike Marginalization Update: As with any good new show, it takes time to feel out which characters are working and which directions to take them. With Mike essentially reduced to the role of Jess Whisperer, trying at Brody’s behest to convince Jess to let her man run for Congress, I feel like we might be at the end of our rope in terms of finding reasons for Mike to still be on the show. Does it even feel like Jess is drawn to him anymore? She seemed more than a little grossed out that he was acting like Brody’s personal assistant.

Homeland Recap: Explosions in the Square