In this week’s Homeland, the president balances a national need for healing with her quest for vengeance, Saul Berenson is tasked with hunting down Brett O’Keefe, and Carrie Mathison learns that you should never download anything from 4Chan.
“Rebel Rebel” takes place primarily in three arcs: Carrie’s, Saul’s, and Brett’s. First, we see that Brett is still doing his show from the road, hiding out in a farmhouse basement. He’s preaching to his followers about the “early casualty in our revolution” that is the recently murdered General McClendon. Again, we have an interesting plot dynamic here in that O’Keefe is clearly modeled after truth-stretching talk show conspiracy theorists, but he’s not wrong this time. However, he is most certainly engendering a dangerous breed of revolutionary, as he’ll learn this week. He meets locals who adore him enough to get his face tattooed on their bodies and have target practice with pictures of the POTUS. What’s next?
Meanwhile, President Keane is encouraged by her chief of staff David Wellington to “change the conversation.” They need to do a mass release: Just let the 200 out and make Saul Berenson the national security adviser. If she doesn’t do it now, she’ll eventually have to incarcerate everyone in Washington. David takes the news to Saul. They’ve agreed to his terms, but he’ll have to be part of the Keane team. He doesn’t have to be a cheerleader, but he can’t be openly critical either. Can Saul fix this broken administration?
Meanwhile, what will Carrie do without a cause like the 200 to give her focus? There are signs that she’s unraveling early in the episode, including a scene with her therapist, who suggests that the lithium Carrie has been taking for 15 years may no longer be effective. And Carrie’s sister is understandably worried that losing Quinn may have sent her over the edge. Quinn would have understood Carrie’s current mission to save the country from a ruthless dictator. Carrie doesn’t have him or Saul anymore, and she makes mistakes when she’s on her own.
Arguably, Carrie’s first mistake this season was planting surveillance cameras in David’s house, but she can’t stop watching. One of those cameras captures a mysterious woman writing a note in the kitchen. Carrie gets a screen grab and sends it to Dante, her contact from last week’s season premiere. Of course, after Dante’s meeting with Senator Paley went horribly, Dante wants nothing to do with her. Alone again, Carrie takes the grab and puts it on 4Chan, asking if anyone knows the woman. Before you can scream at your TV that this is an obvious trap, Carrie downloads a JPG that she believes will reveal the woman’s identity. Of course, it’s just ransomware — and now she has to pay $5,000 to unlock her computer.
Carrie calls her only true ally, Max, but he can’t fix the problem, telling her to pay the ransom. That’s when things get way worse. It turns out that the hacker who was holding Carrie’s computer hostage was also listening to her and Max. And now he knows he has something more valuable than your average laptop. He ups the ransom to $10,000, telling her she has 24 hours to deliver it, or else the contents of her hard drive, including the fact that she’s illegally taping the chief of staff, will get published online.
Meanwhile, President Keane is having aggressive meetings in the Oval Office. She calls in Senator Paley, ordering him to shut down his investigation now that the 200 have been released. He’s not having it. He even brings up the mysterious death of Keane’s No. 1 enemy. David threatens to put all of the weight of the White House behind getting Paley out of office. He bites back, saying, “Come next November, I don’t think I’m the one out of a job.”
Carrie’s ransom goes up to $20,000, an amount she clearly doesn’t have given the fact that she’s living in her sister’s house and she’s been racking up credit card debt. She decides to bluff her hacker, saying that David got off on the surveillance. And then she senses that she might entrap the hacker with something else: She takes the tape off the camera, going as far as removing her shirt and bra, then she closes the camera. He’ll have to meet her in person for more.
While Carrie deals with her nightmare, Saul is fulfilling his first assignment, finding Brett O’Keefe. He goes to the mattress store from last week’s episode, where the cops who helped Brett escape are being interrogated by the FBI. A revolution feels like it’s brewing and Saul can sense it. It feels like things he’s seen in Afghanistan, Syria, and other hot spots around the world. And so, Saul appeals to one of the cop’s sense of community. He needs to bring in Brett peacefully, or there could really be civil war. This way, nobody gets hurt. He gets the information he needs about O’Keefe’s hideaway, but he instructs the FBI that he alone will get him.
At the same time, Carrie goes to meet her hacker. She’s instructed to enter a building where he emerges from the shadows, ordering her to take off her shirt. He tells her to turn around. Her lip is quivering, and there’s a sense of real danger to the moment. He comes up behind her and touches her back, rubbing it. She head-butts him. They fight, and of course he’s no match for a trained CIA agent. She bites him and pulls out a baton, viciously beating him. She forces him to unlock her computer while she videotapes him and then informs this asshole that she’s CIA and that she could still hunt him down and kill him. Angry Carrie nearly does just that, stopping short of choking him to death. And then she leaves.
Don’t mess with Carrie Mathison.
• Carrie’s hacker is credited at the end only as Troll. The actor is Jordan Wood-Robinson, whom you may recognize from The Walking Dead.
• Do you think that’s the last we’ve seen of this “Troll” or will this violent, drastic action come back to haunt Carrie? Homeland has a history of bringing back major mistakes, though sometimes it does let them slide. Time will tell.
• If you can’t place the actor who plays the FBI agent at the mattress store, it’s probably because Matt Servitto memorably played an FBI special agent on The Sopranos. He’s just got that FBI look.
• The opening credits are back after a short absence last week. I’m sure someone else can analyze all the sound bites and how they will play into this season, but I liked Brett saying, “The time to rise up is now,” and Saul’s phrasing of “information warfare.” Those two words might be the theme of the entire season.