Monday, November 26, 2012

"Homeland," Season 2, Episode 9

Posted By on Mon, Nov 26, 2012 at 10:27 AM

WATCHING THE DETECTIVES: Claire Danes on Homeland
"Two Hats" is the ninth episode of "Homeland's" second season, but it may also represent a preview of next year. Against the backdrop of the Brody/Nazir plot, "Two Hats" plant seeds of a secret investigation within the task force, which will doubtless have ramifications for Season Three. Sometimes it's hard to ignore news of TV show season renewals and simply enjoy a story on an episode-by-episode basis. It's like reading a big scene in a book and noticing, "This can't be almost over - there's like 200 pages to go!"

Where in the world is Carmen San Diego Congressman Brody? Team Quinn scrambles for answers as the helicopter apparently vanished into thin air the night before and "Terrorist chatter across all hot zones is virtually nonexistent." (Did I mention how I love contemporary spy jargon?) Carrie and company conclude that even if Brody's not physically dead, he's "operationally" dead, and they have no choice but to arrest Roya as their last lead. Carrie's putting a brave face on it.

Meanwhile, an SUV pulls up behind a grubby building and Brody gets out - he's OK and apparently none the worse for wear. Nazir, barely recognizable without his beard and glasses, tells him goodbye. When Brody's alone, he breathes so heavily with accumulated stress, he practically hyperventilates. Brody looks around the neighborhood and asks a waitress in a diner, "Do you have a pay phone?" "Not since the last century," she replies. (In fairness, Brody was a POW for nearly a decade.) Brody calls Carrie, who asks where he's been in the last 12 hours. Brody's first concern is to make sure his family's safe. But who can the CIA have babysit the Brody family whom they know and trust?

Mike, of course, who shows up at the Brody house that morning and announces that they need to move to a secure location. Dana grumps about the move and acts more like a petulant teenager than a grieving sort-of killer. Mike basically tells her to stop moping and start packing. It's like he's a firm, discipline-oriented male authority figure, in addition to being Dana's buddy from last week.

Then we find Virgil and Max breaking and entering someplace. Wait, what are they doing? Where is this? It's clearly not Roya's apartment. They find a hair on the door-jamb (an old surveillance trick, if spy novels are to be believed) and take a cell phone picture of it, so they can sneak in and replace it without leaving evidence of their presence. The place looks barely occupied, but they find a photo of a young woman and newborn baby in a copy of Great Expectations (not What To Expect When You're Expecting?). Virgil calls Saul and clarifies things: "This look into Quinn was feeling like a big fuckin' jerk-off," but he's never met an analyst with a sniper rifle. It turns out that Saul has never trusted Quinn, "the analyst," and has apparently been keeping tabs on him on the down-low.

Mike and a CIA employee/hostess I didn't recognize check the Brody family into a palatial hotel suite. Dana's still mad at her father, though, and at one point says to Mike, "Ever since he came back, everything's just gone to shit, and it keeps getting worse," but Mike comforts her. The domestic turmoil suggests that it's a safe house, but not a safe home.

Carrie picks up Brody at a rendezvous and wants to know just where he's been all night, mister. Danes and Lewis look like the most nervous couple in America. Cut to the interrogation room where Quinn stabbed Brody in the hand, where now Brody recounts his experience as Nazir's hostage. His captors left him in a room with a car batter for a few hours, and then Nazir came in and had a perfectly pleasant, torture-free chat. Nazir explains that he's in the United States because (if I may paraphrase), "The choice was simple: hide like Bin Laden, or take the fight to the enemy." Brody doesn't tell the task force about praying with Nazir, nor does his flashback actually show that car battery. How deceptive is Brody being? Can we trust a character's hearsay without a flashback to support it?

That's the question the task force asks among themselves in a sidebar meeting in the corridor. Nazir's plan, according to Brody, is to attack a homecoming ceremony involving 300 soldiers and their families, and Nazir wants Brody to make sure Walden is there. Carrie, Saul, Estes and Quinn plan their response: Quinn stands on a staircase, the camera angle framing him as an "outsider" to the group, which fits our fresh suspicions of him. They decide for Brody to go ahead with the mission, but to bust the terrorists beforehand.

Estes briefs Walden and Brody, who feigns ignorance at the news: "Roya's a terrorist?" he asks, being all Mr. Innocent. Estes informs the vice president that Nazir's in the United States. "How the fuck did that happen?" the veep asks. I wanted Estes to explain that Nazir shaved and took off his glasses and stuff. "Get me the terrorists, David," the veep orders. "Homeland's" writers don't exactly bring their A-game to Walden's dialogue.

Brody meets with Roya for some last-minute details, and Roya tells him that, at the ceremony, he should stay with the cameraman. The CIA team, listening in, takes to mean that they're going to blow up the event with that huge bomb/doomsday device we saw in Gettysburg.

Then Saul walks into a Philadelphia precinct house to check out that woman in Quinn's photo: they were able to read her hospital ID badge and discover that she's a policewoman. Saul claims to be Bert Macklin Mike Keller of the I.R.S., and has the various business cards and photo IDs to back it up. "I haven't seen John since John Jr. was born," the lady cop says, but she's highly suspicious of Saul and reveals little else.

But Saul's long drive isn't a total loss: leaving the building, he calls Virgil and says that Quinn's about to get a call from the mother of his child, which totally happens. Quinn, normally the responsible one, leaves the building and asks Carrie to cover for him. In my favorite Claire Danes moment of the episode, she asks, "Me, cover for you?" Max follows Quinn by car and it's watching-the-detectives time: Quinn gets on a bus, then switches and takes one going the opposite direction, where he chats with a mysterious guy who appears to be F. Murray Abraham. Max gets a photo, and they I.D. him as "Dar Adul," who's some kind of bigwig in CIA black ops.

With his family at the safe house, Brody goes home and, in my favorite Damian Lewis moment of the week, eats dinner from a bowl while watching TV. Because no matter how much you love your family, it's great having the house to yourself. Across town, Jessica wakes up from the safe house bedroom, which she's sharing with the kids, and goes to Mike in the guest room. She removes her nightgown (a scene that the commenters on the AV Club's recap seem to particularly appreciate) and they get it on. Which is only fair, given that Brody hooked up with Carrie a couple of nights earlier.

The next morning, Jessica wakes up with sunlight pouring in - you can practically read her thought-balloon that says "Oh shit!" - but her kids are still asleep in the other room, so she doesn't get busted. Not long after, Brody calls his family. His son says, "Uncle Mike made huevos rancheros!" and Brody pauses almost imperceptibly before saying "Great!" with a lack of enthusiasm. Dana wasn't talk and there's post-adultery awkwardness between Jess and Brody.

Following their operational "hymnal" (great jargon!) the CIA tail Roya to a burger shack, where she's making a rendezvous. Quinn leaves, offering a story that he's being the FBI liaison, and Estes tells Saul, "He's wearing two hats today," just like basically everybody on the show, whether they're terrorists, secret agents or lonely spouses. At the burger shack, members of Nazir's team show up and begin switching out ominous, bomb-sized camera batteries, so the good guys swoop in to bust them. Carrie leaves the car to confirm they got Nazir but nope, the mastermind has still eluded their clutches.

So a limo pulls up to take Brody to the ceremony and a pistol-packing Quinn is the driver. Brody gets in the car and Quinn pulls out his gun, only to take a call from Estes saying that they don't have Nazir, and still need Brody alive. Brody notices that Quinn's his driver and Quinn explains, "Believe it or not, I'm your best friend right now." And the partition between driver and passenger goes up.

Notes
The whole Nazir-strikes-the-ceremony thing seemed a little too easy to take at face value, and I'll bet that Roya's team was actually a diversion. For a minute there, when Brody was talking to his family on the phone, I thought that the terrorists were going to blow up the safe house, but it seemed unlikely that the show would get rid of so many regulars at once. This isn't "Game of Thrones."

Easy work week for F. Murray Abraham, who merely had to ride a bus on camera. Clearly they're setting Dar Adul up as an important character, perhaps the "big bad" for Season Three. But does he have a connection to Nazir? Walden? Or does he represent another antagonistic faction? At any rate, Quinn and Estes are ready to kill Brody the minute his usefulness is no longer required.

Quinn's cover story as an analyst seems inspired by Jeremy Renner's fake analyst character from the fourth Mission Impossible movie.

We don't get much of Brody and Carrie together this week, but their relationship seems based on adrenaline and obsession compared to Jessica and Mike's comfort with each other. Watching this show, I always wonder, who does Brody love, anyway? He seems to have feelings for both Jessica and Carrie, while also being emotionally cagey with them.

Finally, as a dad, I'm often struck by scenes in TV and movies with families leisurely hanging out before kids have to go to school - and it's light out. Maybe our schools start earlier.

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