Homeland: Episode 2.04, “New Car Smell”

What an amazing roller coaster this show is! Homeland up-ends your expectations with every new scene, making you cheer in triumph just moments before you’re covering your eyes and cringing at the next development. The last fifteen minutes of this one is a no-joke, hover-at-the-edge-of-your-seat yelling at the TV screen final act. It’s a game changer that most shows would save for a season or even series finale, but here we are at only episode FOUR of a new season and the creative team is playing their cards. With any other show, I’d be worrying that they better have an awfully deep deck, but it seems insulting to even imagine that they don’t. In seventeen episodes, they’ve never yet come up short on upping the dramatic stakes.

We jump in right where we left off last week, with Saul going to Estes to show him Brody’s confession. It’s a nicely understated scene (though that’s de rigueur for any scene involving Saul), as Estes realizes and fears the repercussions of sitting on the news rather than telling VP Walden immediately that he’s “palling around with a Jihadist.” Saul subtly convinces him to play the long game, because Estes will ultimately be a hero if he exposes/captures a terrorist.

Rupert Friend
Friend…?
They get an outside-the-CIA, top-secret team together to start surveilling Brody, and Estes insists he’s got his own man he wants to lead it. Enter Peter Quinn (played by Rupert Friend), a frank and frankly-asshole-ish  analyst who prompts a weirdly antagonistic relationship with Carrie from the moment he meets her, baiting her about her treatment and her sexual shenanigans with Brody. But Carrie gives back nearly as good as she gets, and Quinn is also a frank admirer of her talent and track record. By the middle of the episode they settle into a rather intriguing rhythm/partnership, and the show seems as though it might be setting up a relationship that could progress to romance of some sort down the line.

Bringing new characters into a great drama is always a dicey bet, but Quinn’s introduction is well-timed for him to operate as a new foil for Carrie, someone who will call her on her bullshit in a surprisingly healthy way, while not making it too personal either. He knows her history, but doesn’t treat her like she’s fragile. Quinn’s a good counter-check to Saul, Danny, Virgil, and Max (who’re back this week!), all of whom have been functioning as a sort of crazy quilt security blanket for Carrie with their assurances and validations. In this episode, even Estes apologizes. (Carrie is a far better woman than I, as she accepts his rather understated apology with an equally understated assurance that a simple “I’m sorry” is all that’s necessary.)

On the homefront, an apology (and an espresso) aren’t quite cutting it as Brody tries to make amends to Jessica for missing the fundraiser. She presses him to explain the real reason he wasn’t there, and when he can’t and just asks her to trust him, she says she can’t and kicks him out. Things are much friendlier over at the Walden residence between Dana and Finn, as they embark on a romance, sealed with a first kiss at the Washington Monument, further tangling the web (and political alliances?) between the Brody and Walden clans. There’s also another smaller plotline where Mike and Lauder start theorizing that Brody and Walker may have been working together the day Gaines got shot. They think they’ve hit on something when they guess Brody’s working for the CIA, but then realize it leaves them still in the dark on who shot Walker.

But there’s not much time to worry about that, as the surveillance team is busy plotting. They send Carrie to innocently bump into Brody, rightly predicting that her presence will rattle him enough to contact his handlers. They do the small talk dance of “catching up” and Carrie says her wellness is thanks to Brody. “You saved me,” she says, confessing that she got help. The chemistry between Claire Danes and Damian Lewis continues to be amazing and it’s a joy to watch them engage. It’s also bittersweet watching how well Carrie fronts at stability, given that we know she was on the verge of suicide just a day before. She sells it completely, though, and Brody has a panicky conversation with Roya, in full view of the surveillance team. But it doesn’t even ping when they compile their shortlist of who his handler could be, aiming at the dark-skinned men he interacted with that day.

While lamenting how long they may have to spend chasing fruitless tails, Brody checks into a hotel and starts drinking at the bar. As Carrie and Peter exchange banter about whether or not she fell for Brody, why Estes likes Quinn so much (he’s “reliable. Extremely reliable.”), and why Philadelphia doesn’t have any good Indian food, Brody picks up his phone at the bar. Seconds later, Carrie’s phone rings! He invites her to “bury the hatchet” over a drink. Euphemism? Not a euphemism? Hard to tell.

Carrie eagerly agrees and quickly plots with Quinn how to proceed (he advocates that she drop Abu Nazir into conversation), then heads out to the bar. And this is where it all gets really interesting. It bears repeating that Danes and Lewis just sizzle together, and the show is never better than when they intersect. It’s clear that their characters are aware of the chemistry they share as well, as they banter about how bars always lead to interesting places for them. Which soon will be the understatement of the year, Brody. He cagily tries to suss out what she’s really doing working with the CIA again and she cagily hints that she’s going after the “head of the snake” this time, whispering  that it’s the guy who kept him in captivity for eight years. Brody softens visibly and apologizes to her for how things went down, then reveals that he knows about the ECT therapy. Carrie’s flustered and awkwardly handwaves it, but Brody calls it a night shortly after, asking the barkeep to charge their drinks to his room tab.

The
Brody and Carrie were young once, too.

Alone, Carrie calls Peter who congratulates her, but she thinks it went terribly, lamenting that Brody “made” her and knew she was trying to trap him. It’s such a kick in the gut to see her paranoia and insecurities take hold again the second she’s alone and doesn’t have to be “on” anymore. Peter protests that it went fine and she beseeches Saul that she could see it in Brody’s eyes and that’s why he left. Both men assure her she did good, and when she insists they have to go in now, Peter orders her back to headquarters. Carrie’s not so good with orders though, so she sashays right up to Brody’s room, much to Saul and Peter’s horror as they look on via the surveillance feed. (It’s a rather neat full circle the show makes here, with the surveillance so nicely mirroring the series’ opening episodes.)

Brody lets her in, as Carrie flirts that she wasn’t quite sure if he said his room number so ostentatiously because it was an invitation. Brody flirtingly plays along, and then, in the flash of an instant, Carrie’s sweet expression changes. “It reeks, you know,” she points out. “My confusion?” Brody answers, still laughing. “Your bullshit,” Carrie spits.

Boom! As I at home start moaning at my TV screen “Oh Carrie, what are you dooooing?! It’s too early!,” Saul and Peter lean forward, grab for their radios to say they’re blown and order the strike team in. But Carrie has more to say. She warns Brody they only have a few more minutes alone. For a split second here, I thought the show had REALLY thrown us for a loop, and that Carrie was going to be some kind of a double agent, and this was some kind of elaborate double con she was playing and was going to attempt to help Brody or warn him that the CIA had his tape or something equally foolhardy. But Brody knows right away that this is a bust. He says she’s still nursing her crazy theories about him, and when Carrie says they’re not theories anymore, Brody backpedals and says he only invited her there because he thought they could be “friends.”

Which sends Carrie a bit off the deep end. (I appreciate that it’s the same sort of statement that would probably make her nuts if they were just dealing with a straightforward romantic relationship too.) “Do I want to be friends with a demented ex-soldier who hates America? Who decides strapping on a bomb was the answer to what ailed him? Despite his daughter, his son, people who loved him in real life, not in the mind-fuck world of Abu Nazir? Who in the end, didn’t have the stones to go through with it, but had no problem sending me to the nuthouse? Yeah, no thanks. I don’t think I need a friend like that.”

Mandy Patinkin
Always in Carrie’s corner.
It’s a righteous rant, and you want to cheer for Carrie to finally be able to express all that, even while you cringe about the timing. Brody realizes the gig is pretty much up here and his expression turns chilling as he starts moving toward Carrie. Saul, wonderful Saul, says to his surveillance monitor “Get the fuck away from her!” And Carrie, bless her, taunts him, asking if Brody will kill her now, blame it on rough sex. “How long can you get away with something like that?” she wonders.

“I’ve had a pretty good run so far,” Brody smarms, still smiling a little. “I’m pretty good at this, if nothing else.”

“You’re special,” she says, mockingly and Brody’s face twists a little.

“I liked you, Carrie.”

“I loved you,” she stresses. And when he moves in again, he’s either going to kill her or kiss her…but we’ll never know because the strike team finally bursts in and wrestles Brody to the ground.

As he struggles, Carrie leans down and says “If only the circumstances had been wildly different.” Sigh. The worst part is that it’s so true. They could’ve had it aaaaaaaalllll! Rolling in the—

But, I digress. She leans in close to say her final, victorious, excoriating piece. “You’re a disgrace to your nation, Sergeant Nicholas Brody. You’re a traitor and a terrorist. And now it’s time you pay for that.” Chillingly, the strike team puts a black bag over his head and hustles Brody out, as the camera pulls away from Carrie’s triumphant face as it begins to crumble.

Can you believe we’re not even at the halfway point for the season? This is the best episode Homeland’s delivered yet, surpassing even the brilliance of 1.07’s “The Weekend.” I don’t know how they’re going to top this, but I do know they’re going to try, week in and week out. And that’s pretty damn exciting.


Tara Gelsomino is a reader, writer, pop culture junkie, and Internet addict. You can tweet her at @taragel.

Read all Tara Gelsomino’s posts for Criminal Element.

Comments

  1. Heather Waters (redline_)

    So good! Also, the new guy is intriguing…

    Can’t wait ’til the next ep. Where on earth could the show be going next?

  2. casey

    I’m still trying to catch my breath from that jaw-dropping final scene! Where do we even go from here now that Brody is fully exposed? I’ve heard a lot of complaints around my office at DISH that the show is playing all their cards rather soon, but I know we are still in store for a wild ride! I can’t wait to see where they take us from here. I just wish that the show aired on a different day than Sunday though, since I have to squeeze it in between football, Dexter and The Amazing Race. I’m just lucky that my Hopper DVR has more than enough memory space to record all of these shows, so I don’t have to feel rushed into watching everything. I hope the rest of the season keeps bringing the heat!

  3. Tara Gelsomino

    @redline I keep hearing that this next episode is insane, and we haven’t seen anything yet. There’s a 15-minute scene that is just Claire Danes and Damian Lewis Q&A in a locked room. HELL YES. And apparently the acting is also off the charts! CANNOT WAIT.

    @casey Lots of theories out there suggesting that the CIA will turn Brody into a double (uh, triple?) agent. I can see that working well for the show, especially if Carrie becomes his handler. That way you get the two of them playing off each other still and Brody actually has the chance to earn redemption to some degree. Plus I like it, because you know boundaries will get crossed again if they’re working together. Heh.

    Sundays are difficult nights for sure. A lot of great TV on.

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