TV Club

Homeland recap: “New Car Smell.”

What was Carrie thinking?

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn in Homeland
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn in Homeland

Photo by Kent Smith/Showtime.

In Slate’s Homeland TV Club, June Thomas will IM each week with a different partner—policy experts, intelligence researchers, critics, and even Slate commenters. This week she chats with Slate copy editor Miriam Krule.

June Thomas: Miriam, we’ve got to begin with the I-didn’t-see-that-coming final scene. Homeland has a long history of great cliffhangers, but seeing Brody being led away in handcuffs and with a hood on his head leaves me with no idea of what’s coming next—and we’re only one-third of the way into the season. What do you think of this plot twist?

Miriam Krule: I definitely had that reaction at first, too. I was getting excited for some Wire-style surveillance, but then I remembered that on The Wire they were trying to catch the guy; here they already had him. There wasn’t much about Brody that we viewers didn’t know, so how much surveillance-related drama could there possibly be? In Season 1, it was all about what we didn’t know—Season 2 has to deal with Brody’s true nature so there’s no real suspense in watching him do his thing for an extended period of time. The one thing I will miss about the surveillance room is the strange Carrie-Quinn dynamic.

Thomas: Yes, I feel the same way. It’s been a while since we met a new character, so I was looking forward to the Carrie-Quinn sparring—and to hanging out with Virgil and Max. It almost seemed like Carrie was going to investigate Quinn the way she investigated Brody. And I suppose that’s not a crazy thought—after all, this season she seems to be really going with her instincts, whether that involves ignoring everyone’s instructions not to return to Abbas’ apartment in Beirut or blowing up the surveillance by going up to Brody’s room.

Why do you think she did it? She said she “saw … in his eyes” that he was onto her. Do you believe that? I almost thought she was mad at him for bringing up her ECT.

Krule: I thought the scene at the CIA, where she “bumped into” Brody, was Carrie at her best—she did the most amazing, awkward encounter where she was completely in control. In their second interaction, he had all the power (he was the one that called, after all), and she was just reacting, something we’ve seen she’s not very good at. So her reaction was to try and take the power back. I don’t know what she “saw … in his eyes,” but once he called, I had a feeling she would find a way to crack.

Can we back up a second, though? I’m confused about Carrie’s reinstatement. Yes, she was right about Brody, but that’s not why she was kicked out of the CIA. It seems crazy to me that David Estes would a) apologize b) let her back in. Wasn’t the issue that she’s bipolar? Shouldn’t they have realized that she would do something like this?

Thomas: I didn’t think she was back in the CIA, but rather that Estes was using her as a non-company asset (same as Virgil and Max) for an off-the-books investigation. It’s off-campus, no one at the CIA knows about it … but Estes was responsible for renting that lovely bit of real estate and for sending over a pile of sweet CIA surveillance equipment and Quinn to “run it.”

Not to beat a dead horse with the credibility factor, but … I didn’t buy that. Something that was bound to be as big a deal as a former prisoner of war/current congressman being revealed to be an al-Qaida sleeper couldn’t remain a secret. And even if my long-simmering suspicions about Estes were true, and he was sneakily sabotaging the whole thing, why would Saul Berenson be sitting around the room like a broken toy just waiting for something to happen? He goes from being the Beirut station chief to a guy hanging out at an off-the-books operation?

Krule: I was about to bring that up! What happened to Saul? Yes he’s had a lot happen to him—his wife and protégé both left him in different ways last season—but after going door-to-door with the Brody video (that was strange and against protocol, surely)—he seems content to just mull about in the background. The more Mandy Patinkin, the better is my philosophy. My only, slight, consolation is Dana, who’s been filling the Sally Draper-sized hole in my heart. I’m usually not a fan of the family side plots, but I’m a sucker for Dana.

Thomas: You’re right that there was a ton of interesting family stuff this week, and it began in the very first scene with Kenny Estes (the youngest person in the show) in Darth Vader garb telling Saul (maybe the oldest): “I am your father. Don’t make me destroy you.” Cue lots of family destruction: Nick Brody moving out of the family home, Estes cheating on the agency, and Saul acting like the impatient dad watching Carrie and Quinn bickering. But we also saw a little bit of bonding between Dana—who, I agree, always brings something to the table—and Finn. They’re the next generation, complete with Dana dissing the old, dumb vice president. I have to say, though, kids today have some kinky text habits–she’s Sally Hemings to his Thomas Jefferson? That’s up there with the uncomfortable racial politics of the surveillance team focusing on “the dark-skinned” people that Brody interacted with. It must’ve been icky for Estes—the only person of color in the room at the time—to hear that, even as he accepts that it made sense. And how strange that Roya Hammad somehow became an honorary white woman. The power of the press!

Krule: One thing we haven’t talked about that’s been bubbling up for a while is how Brody’s former Marine friends have essentially solved what the CIA couldn’t and are the only ones asking any questions. Lauder bangs on Brody’s door (in a manner somewhat reminiscent of Carrie running on the lawn in last season’s finale) and basically demands to talk to Brody/find out what really happened to Tom Walker—only to be talked down by Mike. I couldn’t shake the feeling I had during Season 1—and it’s one of my biggest frustrations with the show—that Homeland seems obsessed with having “crazy people” be right about everything, and all the “sane/rational” people preventing them from doing what needs to be done.

Thomas: I know you’re a big fan of Hatufim, the Israeli show that Homeland is based on. How would you compare the two shows?

Krule: Yes! I started watching Hatufim when Hulu began streaming it (as Prisoners of War) this summer, when I was anxiously awaiting Season 2 of Homeland. Although the American show is loosely based on the Israeli one, and many of the plot points overlap, where Homeland is full of suspense, Hatufim is full of emotion, for lack of a better word, making them very different shows. This makes sense: After all, Israelis are just celebrating the one-year anniversary of Gilad Shalit’s release, and they have an appetite for storylines about POWs coming home. The U.S. audience needs the added elements of suspense and intrigue. For example, the Carrie Mathison character is not only a minor presence on Hatufim, she is told to pose as one of the POWs’ girlfriends (there are two in the Israeli show). Most of the focus is on the families and the internal drama. As a result, the pace of Hatufim is slower, and it focuses more on adapting and is therefore more true to life. When I watch Homeland, I’m usually at the edge of my seat. When I watch Hatufim, I feel emotionally drained—in the best possible way. Oh, and the Israelis were POWs for 17 years, more than double Brody’s absence.

Going back to your first question about what’s going to happen next, I’m most curious to see what they tell family and friends about where Brody is. I can’t imagine they’ll make some big announcement and let the public know. Then the show really would be over. My best guess is that they will try to turn him against Abu Nazir. The Carrie-Brody dynamic has to continue in some capacity, and this seems like the best bet.

Monday: What other writers and Slate commenters thought about Episode 4.