‘Homeland’ episode 2.9: ‘Two Hats’

November 26, 2012

As Carrie tracks Brody, Ned Martel will be tracking their every move in weekly recaps of Showtime’s Emmy Award-winning series “Homeland.” Check back each Monday morning to join the conversation on one of TV’s best nailbiters.

Previous episodes

201: “The Smile”

202: “Beirut Is Back”

203: “State of Independence”

204: “New Car Smell”

205: “Q&A”

206: “A Gettysburg Address”

207: “The Clearing”

208: “I’ll Fly Away”

So, good episode or bad episode?

Well, that depends on whom you ask. Here are some bad elements: The abduction of Brody is preposterous, the snooping on Peter Quinn was jarringly sudden, and all those hangouts in the stakeout room seem a little off. Maybe the stakeout room is really the writer’s room back in L.A., where they bandy about what could happen next. They could just lift their own spitballing and drop it into the character’s mouths and still make their dinner reservations at the Soho House.

You’re being unfair. What’s good about it?

“Homeland’s” absurdities help to make it completely engrossing and far superior than television was previously allowed to be. And the acting is routinely bravura. Claire Danes is the new Meryl, and it’s hard not to see Anne Hathaway’s mockery of her on “Saturday Night Live” as jealousy. Claire is just smart, subtle and sensational. To win awards she just smolders, and need not belt out Andrew Lloyd Webber.

But is there a fin in the water ahead? And might some Fonzie-like protagonist soon jump over the proverbial shark?

Well, “Homeland” is surely avoiding the fatal flaw of boredom, and it’s not getting too interior and Ingmar Bergman, like “Six Feet Under” and “The Sopranos” did toward the end. Nor is it devolving into Whac-A-Mole bloodshed, like the final seasons of “24.” The series, as it winds down its second season, is proceeding at a speedy clip up the narrative mountain, with lots of switchbacks to check out the dizzying view. This week, the writers gave useful (but not complete) details about Brody’s recent whereabouts, Peter Quinn’s actual allegiances and Carrie’s lack of command on her case.

Wait, why are you dumping on Carrie? Didn’t she see what no one else saw?

She did indeed. But she’s still slowly earning back the CIA’s trust in her. Sometimes her fears have come true – Brody is an evil manipulator. And sometimes her fantasies — Brody is a misunderstood pawn. For her personal agenda, she is entertaining some way that she can fix her life and Brody’s at the same time. She can be the upstanding person in their relationship, he can get on his feet and they can run away. But even if her eyes are open to the range of possibilities within Brody, that’s no way to run an anti-terrorist unit.

And that’s where Peter Quinn comes in, with mortal weaponry?

The first clue should have been the blade he sunk in Brody’s hand. The dagger was uncloaked! Quinn has always been ready, willing and able to spill terrorist blood. He is trained in wet work, employed by the CIA within the CIA, or really the CIA just outside the CIA. And only now does it makes sense that Carrie was asking why she hadn’t seen him before: Quinn works in the shadows, with rifle-cleaning utensils and silencers. There are aspects to him she would have remembered, had she been exposed earlier, in the office or the field. (And I’m not talking about when he flashed her in the hospital room.)

Oh, so that means that he was never really into Carrie or mad at Brody as a romantic rival?

Just because he sleeps on a twin bed inside a sleeping bag doesn’t mean he likes it that way.

Why exactly was he sent to “grease” Brody?

We can’t say exactly. We can say that Brody’s usefulness as a double agent would be much reduced as soon as Abu Nazir’s heart stopped — or at least as soon as his hands get manacled. Something to consider: Brody has some pretty consistent displays of loyalty to his former captor; he didn’t tell them about their recent shared prayer session, did he? From the CIA’s perspective, it would be strange to have Brody ascending in the political ranks and presenting a daily threat to his other mentor, Vice President Walden.

Why did Peter Quinn need to meet his double-secret colleague in secret, doing that city-bus switcheroo?

It doesn’t seem like there’s a Wet Works HQ. They must make do.

Is Carrie going to flip out again if Peter Quinn ultimately kills Brody?

It wouldn’t be good, but she does try to keep a game face, doesn’t she? You can see her face flinching when Brody talks about his family. Later when she says that she thought it best to send Mike to scoop up Jess and the kids, she has a sly expression. And when Brody tells her that it was clever of her to use Mike on that rescue mission, it’s left for everyone to wonder if he’s saying that approvingly, as in he wants his wife and kids to all to be happy so he and Carrie can be together. Or maybe Brody was noting that Carrie is doing what he needs her to do to stay alive. It’s flirting for survival.

So Jess was game for a Mike reunion, wasn’t she?

A friend explained to me that it takes forethought to evacuate your house within minutes and still pack an inviting nightie. Jess strategically situated Mike in the guest room for a specific carnal reason, and it wasn’t some mere thank-you-for-saving-us session. She is tired of Brody’s deceits and disappearances, and the drag it places on her whenever she has to cover for him at fundraisers or during her daughter’s flip-outs. Mike is reassuringly simple, and Jess is ready for that in the way that Carrie is ready for all the ways Brody is disturbingly convoluted. On her Facebook relationship status, Carrie must always have “It’s Complicated.”

Why must every terrorist plot be interpreted as part of the love story?

The two crises are inextricably entwined — the double-helix of the show’s DNA. Love is a battlefield, right? Plus, nothing is hotter, my friend noted, than the frisson of a flat-screen-filled CIA safehouse. I didn’t ask how she knew that.

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