The sixth episode of Homecoming, which reveals the Geist company as a household behemoth on par with Johnson & Johnson, recalls one of my favorite Onion stories: Corporate Philanthropy-Misanthropy Ratio Holding Steady. The “ratio” here for national corporations is 1:770, determined by a Department of Commerce report stating that “for every scholarship program, literacy drive, art exhibition or tree-planting project” that fiscal quarter, companies committed “770 acts of covert pollution, foreign-labor exploitation, worker-safety violations and profit-driven downsizing.” The point here is obvious: Acts of corporate philanthropy are merely a fig leaf for the everyday business of profit-motivated greed and exploitation.
It wouldn’t be quite right to call Homecoming a political show, but the involvement of a private contractor in military affairs does at least have the flavor of wartime no-bid succubi like Halliburton and Blackwater. When Walter’s mother Gloria, played by the wonderful Marianne Jean-Baptiste, calls the VA and learns that her son’s care has been handed over to the makers of her cleaning products, she sees the situation for what it is much faster than anyone else we’ve encountered. Because here’s the thing about corporate philanthropy: It’s not done in secret. If Ford is offering a scholarship fund, you better believe you’re going to hear the company’s name during the broadcast. Walter being “treated” in a facility so hidden that Gloria needs to triangulate the swamps of Tampa to find it — and even then, access to her son is strictly forbidden — makes clear there’s nothing remotely philanthropic going on here.
When Heidi tries to reassure Gloria after she’s stymied in her effort to retrieve her son, she makes herself plain: “If you think you can protect him or anyone else in a place like this, then you’re a fool.” Which naturally brings us to the question: Is Heidi a fool? She may be shielded from aspects of Geist’s program, but she’s not an idiot. We’ve witnessed her operate for six episodes now, and it’s safe to say she knows much more about the Homecoming initiative than has been revealed to us at this point. If she’s a person of conscience who cares about the men under her watch, then how does she justify her continued participation? Gloria sized her up immediately: She doesn’t have photographs of her family on her desk. She doesn’t have a degree on the wall. Can she claim to be a real therapist? We know already that her office space was hastily prepared, with a fish tank that isn’t hers. She’s part of an ad hoc operation that seems designed to disappear as quickly as it popped up.
Yet she’s persuaded herself to stay — and, in fact, has backtracked and acquiesced in the face of Colin’s many belligerent lectures, which is not something a person who doesn’t care about her job would do. And now she’s persuaded Walter to stay, too, over the formidable reason and passion of his own mother. The scene between Heidi and Walter in his bedroom is fascinating to watch, because it’s in an uncomfortable place between mutual affection and outright manipulation. Walter has opted to leave at this point. He’s packing his bags. It’s up to Heidi to convince him to stay, which colors the exchange between them. The argument she’s making isn’t just that he’s not done with essential treatment yet. She’s suggesting that she might be available to him on a more intimate level, which closes the case. Mom can’t compete with that.
There’s an option three here, too. Walter doesn’t need to be there to get better. He doesn’t need to be there to deepen his relationship with Heidi. He needs to be there because it’s dangerous for him to leave and she knows it. Before Heidi goes into the room, Craig warns her about the effects of Walter leaving the facility four weeks into his memory-altering Vietnamese drug protocol. And in the last episode, we saw that Shrier had plainly suffered some physical and psychological deterioration since leaving Homecoming before his time was up. (Though the company wanted him out so badly that it didn’t seem to care how it left him.)
In the future timeline, Colin continues his pursuit of Heidi with a not-so-casual bump-in at a laundromat, where he pretends to be a soldier coming back from two tours in Afghanistan, the second as a private contractor, to trigger her into counseling mode. Lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant turns into a drinking session where Colin pumps her for information, but it’s Heidi who gets the drop on him when his phone buzzes and he inadvertently gives away the fact that he’s still married. “You ever get sick of it, lying like that?” she asks, before implying that she, too, knows the corrosive effect of lying all the time.
In an episode where Heidi’s own deceptions and self-deceptions are at issue, the moment stands out. How much has she lied in the past? How much is she lying now? And how committed was she — and is she — to being honest?
• In the Department of Auteur Homages, director Sam Esmail nods to Rear Window with the final shot in the episode, which shoots from a motel doorway rather than a window, but films the adjacent building as multiple planes of action, with each room telling a story. We’ve never know what those stories are, but the conceit is the same.
• Not sure what to make of Heidi focusing on the generic still life in her office, particularly the glass of wine. Any theories on that are welcome in the comments.
• Colin recognizes his own heavy-handedness in extracting information out of Heidi in the future timeline — he apologizes, claiming he’s still in “interrogation mode” from his time in the military — and it seems possible that Heidi, with her experience in deception, might sniff him out.
• “Craig, I haven’t lost a fucking thing. Now shut your wet little mouth, turn around, and go back to your toys.” Heidi speaks for us all, righteously.