“Active Measures” is all about picking up the pieces after the disaster at the end of last week’s episode. As Carrie Mathison gets the wheels spinning during her investigation into Simone Martin — a bit slowly, though the episode ends with the shocking zinger that we may not actually know what happened to General McClendon — the season’s big theme is starting to coalesce nicely. It’s a theme that’s inherent in two of Saul’s words this week, a pair of words that are important enough to Homeland that they’re mentioned in every episode’s opening credits: “Information Warfare.”
We begin as Saul Berenson is being driven through the Virginia war zone, not far from the shoot-out that has killed 19 people, three of them children. It seems like this part of the country is split horribly, and could even be close to a new civil war. Can President Keane pull it back together?
First, Saul confronts Brett O’Keefe about his role in this national nightmare. He points out his fake accounts and bullshit tweets. “You turned a clusterfuck into a goddamn massacre,” he tells him. Brett claims he had no real power, and Saul realizes that perhaps there was another force at play. Perhaps it wasn’t Brett that spread the fake news that the FBI was ignoring J.J. on the operating table? Could it actually have been … the Russians? At a conference, Saul tells President Keane about his theory, but she’s more concerned about how to fix the problem today. Heal the country, and then figure out who was responsible for the wounds.
Meanwhile, Carrie and her partner Dante Allen are putting together a team to use Simone Martin to figure out what happened to General McClendon. The most important new face appears to be a rebel named Anson, played by James D’Arcy. He’s gonna be the wild card to Dante’s conservative superspy. They’re planning to take Martin tonight, but Dante is already worried that they’re moving too quickly.
The best scene this week comes in the home of Jackie Goodman, the newly widowed wife of the FBI agent killed in the Atkins home. President Keane goes there for two reasons: She wants to console Jackie, of course, but she also knows that this woman is the key to bringing the country back together. Keane encourages Jackie to go to the church memorial in town that night, and to bring the other widows. Five of the dead were FBI agents, and their deaths are tragedies too. It’s a politically fascinating move on Keane’s part, refusing to diminish the memory of men who were just doing their job, even if the locals blame them for the carnage.
While memorials and rallies are planned, Saul reunites with his Russian buddy Ivan — a character we haven’t seen since the fifth-season finale. Ivan appears to be living peacefully and happily in Wyoming with a woman named Kira, but Saul wants to know if Russia could have ignited the blaze that erupted down in Virginia. Ivan claims it wasn’t the Russians: “Too soon after we were caught with our hands in your elections,” he says. Saul is suspicious he may know more, although perhaps the guilty party is someone using Russian tactics but isn’t actually Putin himself. Interestingly, Saul later asks someone to look into Kira too — so we may not have seen the last of either of them.
As Carrie and her team of spies wait for Simone’s co-workers to leave the office, the memorial goes down in Lucasville. David and Keane are watching on TV and it isn’t looking good. Keane orders water cannons and tear gas, but no guns. That may not be feasible. At the last minute, Goodman and two other widows arrive in the church. There’s some mumbling, and then some shouting, but Mrs. Atkins takes her hand and seats her in the same pew. These two women who both lost someone will sit next to one another. Maybe there can finally be peace, especially after Keane gives a remarkably inspirational speech about shared grief. Could this actually bring the country back together? Not if Carrie Mathison proves that the White House chief of staff had a general murdered.
Carrie is on that specific trail as one of her men cuts the power to Simone’s building. Two men grab Simone and Anson does most of the talking. “I’m not going to lie to you and you’re not going to lie to me,” he tells her, after punching her in the stomach. He gets her to admit that she paid $50,000 for the murder of McClendon and then tells her that he wants $100,000 to keep it quiet. The idea is that she’ll go to David for the money, and then they’ll have him. Another man places a bug in her purse, but it doesn’t work, so as Simone goes to a bar on the corner, Carrie has to go in and place the bug herself. She does it smoothly, though the plan blows up yet again when the Scoobs realize that the second bug was left in Simone’s Uber on her way to David’s place.
As Dante explains, they still have Simone admitting to the hit and then running to David. That’s all they need. Of course, we know that Carrie and Max have surveillance on David’s house, so we’re just as eager to see what’s happening in there as she is. Carrie runs into a van where Max has been watching the scene. It’s bad news. Yes, Simone got to David’s, but she didn’t tell her about Anson’s assault or the money, choosing a little sex instead of what Carrie wanted. What’s going on here? Was David not behind the hit?
Think about it: We saw Simone in David’s kitchen after hearing Keane tell him to do something about McClendon, but what if someone else was behind it all along? In the age of information warfare, you can’t always believe what you see.
• Is there anyone better at playing “smartest guy in the room” than Mandy Patinkin? Every time he’s in a conference room, it feels like he can run intellectual circles around everyone else in it.
• Casting note No. 1: A few readers noticed that the man who took the photo of J.J. and basically lied about it last week is played by Costa Ronin, who also plays a Russian on one of the best programs ever about espionage, The Americans. Maybe it really is the Russians!
• Casting note No. 2: If you’re wondering where you recognize James D’Arcy from, he was recently in Dunkirk and The Snowman, and he’s had recurring roles on Broadchurch and Agent Carter. He’s a big enough actor that Anson will probably be around the rest of this season.
• So much of the intro sequence this season relates directly to Carrie’s condition. With lines like “It’s only getting worse,” we should have known that Carrie’s health would be a major theme. It’s doubtful we’ve seen the last of it.