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Monday, November 19, 2012

"Homeland," Season 2, Episode 8

THERES A KILLER ON THE ROAD: The New Guy on Homeland
"Is that somebody turning it around, or is that a stage-five delusional getting laid?" Quinn queries about a Carrie-Brody hook-up on the latest "Homeland" episode. Quinn's openly obnoxious attitude toward Carrie's relationship with Brody raises a question about "Homeland's" gender dynamics. This week even Saul, in his typically non-confrontational way, asks Carrie if her feelings about Brody are under control. But would Carrie's CIA colleagues and supervisors react the same way if the genders were reversed - if Carrie was a man and Brody was a woman? Or, if that conjures a creepy image, if a male agent had involvement with a female source - say, Quinn and Roya Hammad, maybe?

Maybe I'm too influenced by all of this month's James Bond retrospectives and the various "slut-shaming" articles surrounding the General Petraeus scandal. I suspect that Brody isn't the only example of an agent having a relationship with an asset (or a source or a "Joe" or whatever). In big-screen spy fantasies, Bond seduces bad girls over to the side of the angels all the time, with Goldfinger offering just one example. The Carrie-Brody dynamic touches on complicated ethical matters and justifiable concerns over Carrie's objectivity and mental stability. I suspect the long-term double-standard is at play, too. If a male agent turned a female contact by sleeping with her, his colleagues would give each other high fives. A female agent does it, and they treat her with contempt. Haven't these guys ever heard of Mata Hari?

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. "I'll Fly Away" begins with Dana getting off a bus in a strange (to us) neighborhood. Sirens wail in the distance as she knocks on a door. Wait, is she going to the house, where the hit-and-run victim lived? Nope - Mike greets her at the door of his bachelor pad, and lets Dana hang out, once she gets Jessica's permission.

At home, Jessica and Brody argue about the go-to-the-police issue. Brody says, "I told her we'd handle it later!" "We told her we'd handle it now!" It's kind of cool that Jessica and Brody agree to respect Dana's wishes about going to the police, even though the consequences could be dire for her education and Brody's political career. Jessica insists that Brody tell his CIA handlers that Dana matters more than the case and Brody snaps "I CAN'T I CAN'T I CAN'T!" Incidentally, Damien Lewis spends much of this episode in a half-hunched posture, as if his shoulders are pressing against his neck-bones. Dude looks stressed even if you don't know about the spy stuff.

Carrie's listening in on the conversation and meets with Brody, who's at the end of his rope. She coaxes him into attending a big rendezvous with Roya Hammad: "It's almost over." (Of course, "Homeland" has been renewed for a third season, so that claim rings hollow.) Brody goes to the meet at a park, where we see Roya sitting on a bench like a ghostly silhouette. She points out that he's late, and he's clearly having trouble keeping his shit together. Brody, still a natural deceiver, turns his visible panic into a strength and claims to be distraught about the upcoming attack. His resolve breaks and he Roya that he quits and storms off.

Uh-oh. The surveillance room freaks out, but Carrie points out "As long as his cover isn't blown, he's still in play." She looks for him in the crowd, which seems kind of dangerous - if Roya Hammad or one of her fellows saw Carrie, wouldn't that blow Brody's cover right then? They both disappear and Estes scolds Saul for Carrie taking a confirmed terrorist off the grid. Estes also throws Carrie's sexual history with Brody in Saul's face. Neither Estes nor Quinn seem to be able to give Carrie the benefit of the doubt where Brody's concerned, even though she's been proven right at nearly every step of the way.

Carrie checks Brody into a lakefront motel, and he reflects that if the lake will be his last view as a free man, he could do worse. "Will you visit me in prison?" he asks with wry fatalism. "I'll probably be in the cell next to you," Carrie replies. (By the way, I seldom comment on stuff like this, but Claire Danes' hair is luminous in this scene - kudos to the hairdresser and lighting director.) Carrie muses about the two of them having a future together, and Brody laughs she's even crazier than everyone says she is. And yeah, they hook up - with an electronic bug on the window, so Saul and Quinn and pretty much everybody can listen in. And you know somebody's making a recording for the CIA Christmas party.

Jessica checks in with Dana at Mike's house, and agrees that she can stay there. Dana takes her mom aside and drops a bombshell about their failed attempt at going to the police: "It's that woman from the CIA." Jessica absorbs the news that Brody lied to her face about Carrie. This will not end well. Later, Dana commiserates with Mike about how close he was to the Brody family before her dad returned. Jessica and Dana both seem to be (re)turning to Mike for emotional support, Brody having disappointed them.

Carrie goes to the office, where her colleagues contain themselves from hooting and catcalls. She doesn't apologize or wear a big red A on her chest: "He was running off the rails. I did what I had to do," she tells Saul. Saul points out, "It ended badly last time."

The next morning Brody calls Roya, explains that he's been having troubles with his daughter - kids today, am I right? - and explains that he doesn't want to quit after all. Like chastened men throughout time, he says "I just want things to be back the way they were." (This tactic will probably not work with Jessica, though.) Is Roya convinced? It's hard to say. She intercepts Brody later at a parking garage and has them drive off. Brody does that nervous tapping of his fingers on the steering wheel, which they established last season was a form of prayer. He admits he was with Carrie - as per Roya's instructions - and Roya takes his phone so they can't use it to track him.

Mike drives Dana to Columbia Heights, where she knocks on a door. Now she's at the hit-and-run house, and the daughter greets her with hostility. Dana tries to apologize but the daughter shuts her down and says that being in the car was the "same exact thing" as killing the mother. But she shuts down Dana's desire to go to the police, revealing that the daughter has accepted hush-money to keep her mouth shut. It's a horrible situation, but the daughter can use the no-doubt-substantial sum of money more than she can use Dana's regret.

Carrie and company follow Brody's car at a discrete distance. They pull over to the side of the road on a lonely stretch of highway. A figure approaches - The New Guy. Carrie starts panicking for Brody's safety and Quinn, on the radio, makes a snide remark about "the terrorist you were boning last night." Very helpful Quinn, thanks. Carrie ignores Quinn's orders and approaches the Brody rendezvous on foot as the others suddenly hustle him across the field. A helicopter appears practically out of nowhere: you never hear them coming. They're like hot air balloons. Brody gets whisked away. Did we mention this episode is titled "I'll Fly Away?"

They terrorist drag him to a sinister location (lumberyard? Football bleachers?) and a figure approaches out of the darkness. OMG, it's Abu Nazir himself, having shaved his beard . A master of disguise! "Nee-cholas," he says.

Does Nazir still trust Brody? He's not going to summarily execute him, but he could turn Brody into some kind of human bomb, forcing him to fulfill his promise from last season. With Brody in the hands of Abu Nazir and his death squad, "Homeland" could take a turn towards "24"-style spy-jinks.

The fact that the Motel No-Tell is situated by a lake seems like a nod to last season's episode "The Weekend," when Carrie and Brody seemed to fall in love in that cabin in the woods.

"I've burned every bridge - with Abu Nazir, with the CIA, with my family," Brody mopes. He almost never mentions his constituents or the House of Representatives on the show. I know that partially stems from "Homeland's" needs to move the narrative forward, but Brody seldom makes a convincing politician. I buy that he's a popular war hero capable of giving a good speech, but it's hard to imagine him holding up to the public pressures of the job.

The CIA have trouble tailing Brody, suggesting that haven't filled his car with GPS trackers, microphones and the like. I guess they can't think of everything.

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