Homeland’s Middle East Peace Plan

When did you start laughing at this episode?

HOMELAND (Season 3, Episode 9)
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson in Homeland.

Photo courtesy of Kent Smith/Showtime

At some point during this episode of Homeland, I started howling with laughter and basically could not stop. In “One Last Time,” drug-addled, broken, ready-to-die Brody gets drafted for one last mission, and it is a doozy. This episode really had it all: a Princess Bride almost-reference, really boring hallucinations, super chill Marines, a Dana Brody kiss-off, and easily the most cockamamie plan to bring about peace in the Middle East that has ever been said out loud with a straight face.

For me, the episode really tipped over about 15 minutes in when Saul decided that Brody’s withdrawal wasn’t going fast enough. Enter Dar Adal with a Hail Mary. “There is one more option,” he said. “Ibogaine,” a drug based on a Nigerian plant that speeds up detox but gives users “violent, mind-bending hallucinations.” This is a real drug, but it sounds so silly that when Dar Adal first said it, all I heard was iocane, as in iocane powder, the tasteless, odorless poison that kills the Sicilian in The Princess Bride. I wish that is what Dar Adal had offered up, because at least that would have been an intentional joke. Mandy Patinkin could have made some sly “prepare to die” reference. The whole thing would have been knowingly ludicrous instead of unknowingly so.

The ibogaine thing was, instead, a classic Homeland cul-de-sac: a plot both ridiculous and needless. Saul gets extra time for Brody’s recovery some other way, by very quickly and easily figuring out Mira’s boyfriend is a Mossad asset giving information to Lockhart. Brody could have been rehabbed like a regular person. And even without the ibogaine he could have had hallucinations and stabbed up his own forearm, thus establishing another link between himself and Carrie, who both had clipped wings this episode.

Even after the all-powerful ibogaine, Brody still wants to die. “We’ll see about that,” Saul says, and then decides to test Brody’s commitment to death by… throwing him off a boat in the middle of the night. Look, I don’t know what you would do with a valuable human asset who had recently demonstrated a pretty serious commitment to suicide by trying to stab his wrists out with a broken chair, but I think tossing him into a dark body of water hoping he’ll swim is a wee bit reckless. If Saul is going to yell at Carrie for taking Brody off base, where “anything could have happened,” he might want to give himself a little lecture in the mirror about tossing Brody into a lake, where he could have died.

Anyway, the nightswimming does not convince Brody he wants to live or that he wants to help the CIA. So Carrie takes Brody to see Dana, who is now working as a motel cleaning woman (no comment). This inspires Brody to call Carrie a bitch and to go along with the CIA’s plan. As for that plan: Homeland has been silly and outlandish before, but this plan is the living worst. Saul’s world-changing plot is to smuggle Brody over the Iranian border, where he will be welcomed as a hero of the revolution. Eventually, he will end up in the same room as the current head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, whom he will somehow kill. Brody will then escape with the help of some very handsome and bearded Marines, and Javadi will take over the Revolutionary Guard. Thus one of the three most powerful men in Iran will be an American asset, which will fundamentally alter the “facts on the ground” and bring about the possibility of peace between Iran and America. 

It is not just the concrete details of this plan that are implausible. It is its spirit. Because this is what Saul’s plan boils down to: Assassination plus double agent equals peace. Saul’s plan is arguing that the extrajudicial killing of a high-level Iranian official can reasonably be expected to kick off, in a roundabout way, a peace process. He claims that a plan that involves U.S. forces extracting an assassin from Iranian territory will foment peace and not an international crisis. He believes that negotiations that take place between the United States and a country heavily influenced by a United States spy will be predictable and productive and reliable. Which, no.

Other things that made me laugh about this episode: Brody transforming from a drug-addled catatonic zombie to David Blaine in 16 days. Brody’s easy access to automatic weapons. The Marines being all, “Brody is a super chill, cool dude who maybe killed 200-plus people, he can totally ride with us!” Imagining the size of Chris Brody’s therapy bills: “Everyone always acted like I didn’t exist.” Dana speaking the meta-truth to Homeland’s writers: “Write it down and I will say it to you, as long as you promise I will never have to see you again.” The fact that Brody—alive and smuggled out of the country only thanks to the devotion of Carrie Mathison—brushes her off, calls her a bitch, and then in the car claims she is “keeping her distance” from him—demonstrating that Caracas may have messed up his brain but not his negging skills.

Things that made me laugh less: the monstrous selfishness of Brody and Carrie in bringing Brody to see Dana at all. Know better, you egomaniacal grown-ups! Not really being able to appreciate Claire Danes’ awesome, flirtatious line reading after Brody catches her smoking—“I don’t. I’m not. It just looks like I’m smoking”— because Carrie is still pregnant. And, more generally, just everything that has happened and continues to happen to this show.