If you looked over every season of Homeland, you’ll find a little bit of wheel-spinning in chapter nine. It’s almost a necessity for a show like this one when it’s time to set the table for the final trio of episodes. Such is the case with “Useful Idiot,” a perfectly fine hour that’s something of a letdown after the intensity of the last few episodes, even as it puts interesting pieces in place for the final stretch.
Let’s start with the big question: Is Dante Allen dead?! No, not yet. He’s clinging to life while his partner in treason, Simone Martin, is driven to Broadridge Airfield (which is apparently on the moon given how long it take Yevgeny to get back to Washington). She’s put on a private plane, and Yevgeny is about to join her when he gets a call that Dante is missing. He presumes that he’s gone underground and refuses to leave his man behind. Simone begs Yevgeny to come with her, but he won’t. There’s an interesting parallel this week between Yevgeny and Carrie, two people from opposing factions who both allow their emotion to dictate their actions.
As the world discovers that Simone Martin has disappeared, Senator Paley uses the crisis as political currency. He says things to the press like, “The whole thing is deeply troubling.” He even encourages talk of impeachment. As President Keane and David watch the whole thing unfold on TV, Saul tells them that Simone is probably dead already, and clarifies how much they need Dante to live. Paley is already suggesting that the U.S. government “disappeared” someone who was going to testify against them, so Dante is their only hope to refute that conspiracy. Saul has a unique suggestion: Why not tell Paley everything that’s happening? Reach across the aisle to see if he’ll remain partisan or remember he’s a patriot.
Meanwhile, Yevgeny is ignoring orders from Moscow to leave the country. He just has to know what happened to Dante first. He gets a call from his man, Clayton, who informs him that Dante was arrested and is now in the hospital. He’ll be there in a few hours.
Carrie gets to Dante first, and she’s there waiting when he wakes up. She plays dumb as to the poisoning, convincing Dante that it was the Russians trying to tie up a loose end and have him killed. She claims the government can protect Dante and informs him that Simone is gone and probably dead. She wants to know who’s in charge of Dante, but will he tell her? And will his answer be the truth? She thinks it is and informs Saul that she’s been given a “response code” to confirm that the entire Russian operation is over. The U.S. government will have to hack into a Twitter account to send the code, but it will likely reveal an entire network and end an international plan to topple the government. Given our current controversy around how Facebook affected the U.S. election, it’s remarkable how timely Homeland has been this season. Arguably more than any other show on TV.
While Clayton scopes out the security at the hospital, Saul and David read Paley in on the entire Simone/Dante/Russians debacle. At first, he doesn’t believe it, but he later reveals to his assistant that it all makes sense. Paley has been the “useful idiot” in this entire scheme, as the Russians weaponized his politics to meet their own goals. Naturally, it raises the question: Who in our actual government might be useful idiots in 2018?
After some legitimate concern about hacking Twitter and if Dante’s burn code was even real, we discover that Dante told Carrie the truth. Clayton calls Yevgeny to tell him the entire op is coming to the ground. Yevgeny is furious, and now he’s intent on vengeance against Dante as much as anything. Even as Russia keeps calling him back in, he presses onward to the hospital. And as Saul’s team identifies more and more people in Yevgeny’s network, the mad Russian looks more like an out-of-control operative. Again, in a very current subplot, we see how many people working for Yevgeny didn’t even know what they were doing — social amplifiers for a treasonous cause.
As Yevgeny’s rage boils on his lengthy road trip (seriously, was Simone’s safe house in California?), Carrie comes home to find Maggie meeting with a lawyer to get custody of Franny. She’s furious, and rushes to Franny’s school to pull her out early. While that’s happening, Yevgeny finally gets to the hospital and meets with Clayton. Mirov, Yevgeny’s Russian superior, has a plane and Clayton is supposed to put Yevgeny on it. The Russian seems to agree at first, but then Yevgeny pulls a gun and shoots Clayton in the gut. It’s a plan to get into the hospital by bringing Clayton through the ER. After carrying him through the triage unit, Yevgeny grabs a key card and gets access to Dante’s room. And here’s where that classic Homeland suspension of disbelief kicks in most intensely: Dante Allen represents the only thing that could save Keane’s entire presidency, but it was that easy for Yevgeny to get to him? Wouldn’t there be armed guards literally by his bedside? Or Saul himself with a gun in his hand?
Anyway, Dante wakes to find Yevgeny just chilling in his room. Yevgeny drops the bomb: It wasn’t the Russians who tried to kill him, it was Carrie. “I don’t poison my own people,” he says. “I protect my people.” He convinces Dante to call Carrie and listen to her voice, and that call comes just as Carrie is picking up Franny, so she’s already emotional. Dante can hear it. He pauses and does something he likely knows will get him killed, saying, “Yevgeny is here. Lock down the hospital.” Yevgeny puts a pillow over Dante’s face as Carrie flees the school.
Carrie is in full-blown panic mode, trying to get to Dante before Yevgeny kills her. She’s moving so quickly that she doesn’t notice Franny running behind her. She almost hits her own daughter as she tries to speed away. As she races to the hospital, she’s freaking out over what just happened, picturing Franny dead on the asphalt. She drives through stop signs, crying and almost hyperventilating. She races into the hospital and we hear someone say, “He didn’t make it.” We see images of the men in Carrie’s past who have died because of her actions, including Brody and Quinn. And then Carrie has a full-blown hallucination, seeing herself tending to the dead body of Dante. She asks herself, “What did you do?!”
• Presuming Dante Allen isn’t resurrected or the “he didn’t make it” line wasn’t a hallucination, then IMDb lies! Last week, several commenters noted that Morgan Spector is credited in 12 episodes of this season of Homeland, suggesting he couldn’t die before the finale. It’s possible he could be in flashbacks for the final three, or that IMDb shouldn’t be trusted for such sleuthing.
• Do you think that Saul and David really needed a PowerPoint presentation to convince Senator Paley? “Yeah, I know the government is falling apart, but let’s make a slideshow!”
• Costa Ronin gives his best performance outside of The Americans this week. Which reminds me, you’re watching The Americans, right?
• What do you expect from the final three episodes? What do you want to happen? How do you want all of the plot threads wrapped up?