‘Homeland’ 4.05 or Child’s Play or Spy vs Spy

Homeland episode 4.05

Sunday night’s episode of Homeland was brought to you by the letter S. S stands for Spy.

Something that works really well about Homeland is the way in which the character’s keep their private lives as confidential as their top level clearance government secrets.  They don’t tell each other, their spouses, partners, and certainly not the therapists which they should all be seeing, about the fears and desires they experience while serving their country.  When a character does open up to another it is almost exclusively to another CIA colleague with the same level of clearance, not only because it could be illegal otherwise, but because a civilian could only sympathize or misunderstand but never empathize. And even then (even then!) one wonders, are they they playing themselves? Are they playing each other?  As Farah put it in Sunday’s episode, people like Carrie, Saul, and Quinn are “professional liars”, and we are watching the three spiral off in three different directions. Farah and Aayan, our middle eastern characters, are curiously not spiraling but being lead down the rabbit hole.  Let’s examine.

CARRIE

This was a very interesting episode for Carrie who, not since her season two days in the mental institution, spent an entire episode indoors and not chasing any bad guys or calling any shots.  Since learning of Haqqani’s existence, she has dropped all other leads and focused solely on the possibility that Aayan could lead them to Haqqani, and further, to the reason why Sandy was killed, who the embassy leak was, and why ISI (i.e. Pakistani Intelligence) would have coordinated it.  In this episode alone, her obsession with Aayan resulted in four direct threats to her very investigation:

  • Hubby dearest, Prof. Boyd, is sneaking into her apartment and uncovering her mental illness while she’s away sleeping with Aayan
  • Farah and Quinn are unable to call a drone in on Haqqani and his men past the safe zone without her “go ahead”
  • Saul, and her team, have been set up to believe Ghazi is boarding a plane to Johannesburg
  • ISI has kidnapped Saul, whose phone and/or devices have been tapped, and he is likely on his way to some waterboarding

I want to be clear about something, we should not judge Carrie more than we judge James Bond for sleeping around to get what she wants, but maybe we should judge James Bond.  I don’t doubt there is a sense of discomfort among viewers in seeing an older woman seduce a younger virgin man for nothing more than government secrets, but one should reflect on why this is uncomfortable.  Carrie has a lot of terrible traits, and no doubt many of them are coming to a head at the moment, but perhaps we should cut her some slack in that “90% of a good cover is true”, words spoken a few episodes back between Farah and Carrie.  If we listen to her story to Aayan, from her past with Brody, to her child, to who came knocking at her front door and where she went (“One of my stingers. My freelancers”) there are only a few details which are lies.  In the end the biggest lie is that Aayan will not be going to London and getting into Kings College.  I don’t think that Carrie’s affection for him is even as false as that.  It may have not been intentional at first but Carrie is beginning to care about this young man more than she imagined.  Perhaps not as a lover, or a mate, but as a good human being and a friend.  So much so that it is affecting her vision elsewhere.  Let’s not judge her too harshly.  She is flawed and she is using an innocent young man as a means to an end but it is not so black and white.  Carrie Mathison is a utilitarian.

SAUL

Poor guy just can’t seem to get home, eh?  In this episode we find that Tasneem and Handsome ISI Man (did anyone catch a name?) are partners or colleagues of some kind and have successfully dug into Saul’s life and worked together with Ghazi to set him up and kindap him.  When I think about it, I love that all the fabulous tension built around Saul seeing him at the security line, losing him, relocating him into the gate area, and contacting Quinn was ultimately a play on him, and therefore a play on the audience.  We were had!  There was no tension because Saul wasn’t on to anything more than what ISI wanted him to. And now he’s on his way to the “danger zone” gagged and bound in the back of a car which Farah was only feet away from.

Saul’s conversation with Carrie in the car early in the episode had “I know what you’re up to with the kid” written all over it. His non-chalant way of asking questions but always asking more.  The way Carrie looked away, around, and spoke it’s obvious that she was deflecting and embarrassed, even ashamed, that Saul find out but if she’s honest with herself she knows that he knows.

What will Saul’s wife do about this new delay?  We have not seen him on the phone with her, have we?  He left, delayed his trip once, and now he’s disappeared! He’s not an innocent victim, he put himself in this position.  And what’s this about learning Finnish?

QUINN

Sunday was Quinn-lite, and it was a good call from the writers who have quickly tried to compensate this season for the lack of romance last season.  Personally, I had an issue with the lack of sexual tension between Brody and Carrie last season, especially when there was so much action and mind games going on, so I welcomed the Carrie/Quinn ship.  I still do, and I think that Quinn’s sole reaction to Carrie’s seduction games on Aayan in this episode were just what the doctor ordered.  After all, this is not Grey’s Anatomy.  Quinn made it clear that he knows what Carrie is up to, and she made it clear that she can tell he’s got a non-mission related issue with it (“What’s it to you anyway?“).  Carrie is not one to beat around the bush and I get the feeling that she will soon call him out on it or use it to her advantage.

Do you think Quinn will really leave the CIA after he finishes helping Carrie on this?  Or will there always be some new mission that he needs her for?  Like Saul said the week prior, there will always be something for Carrie.

PROFESSOR BOYD, FARAH, AAYAN, TASNEEM

It seems that Prof. Boyd, Ambassador Martha Boyd’s spineless coward of a husband, has decided that the only way to save his honor is to have none.  Martha looks for Quinn to pull her drunken husband out of a hotel bar, unable to find him, she asks Redmond for his help instead.  (I found it curious that Quinn had involved himself in their personal life before and I’m not sure what to make of it aside from the fact that it supports his more sensitive and caring persona.)  In Redmond’s scene with Boyd at the bar, Tasneem interrupts, faking a casual greeting to Redmond but really using it as an opportunity to make her presence known to Boyd before he blabs.  It works but no doubt Redmond is aware that she was there working a case: “She’s on the job.  A muslim woman alone at an American hotel?”  This will come in handy the moment Redmond begins to suspect Boyd of anything.

Farah, I cannot say enough amazing things about both as a character and the actress who plays her.  She is young and green, but bright and sensitive, as well as intelligent and brave.  What a combination!  She calls Quinn and Carrie “professional liars” as if she wasn’t one herself at this point.  No doubt she is far more reluctant but perhaps they all started out this way.  I am excited to see how her character will develop this season.  Will she quit with Quinn?  Or is she headed straight to the Carrie/Saul/Quinn world of mutilated private lives and moral ambiguity for the sake of flag and country?

Tasneem is the Pakistani Carrie in what the series is geniously crafting as a Spy vs Spy.  Equipped with a male sidekick for each woman.  I hope to learn more about Tasneem’s personal life and personality this season.  It would be a brilliant counterpoint to Carrie, and a curious cultural reflection as well.  I am curious to hear what Tasneem would think of Carrie’s seduction of Aayan.

And finally, the boy himself.  He is not really a boy but he is written and played so innocently that it is difficult not to.  We know he is fond of his uncle, Haqqani, and this reminds us that every person, despite of extremist ideology or broken moral compass, is loved by someone.  The story Aayan tells of Haqqani slurping his tea very loudly was endearing and brought back a feeling of caring and understanding towards some of the people who form part of these extremist Muslim groups that we hadn’t heard since Brody.  I wonder if Carrie is reminded of this as well?

THEORIES AND QUESTIONS

So where is this story going?  How soon will the Homeland scoobies realize that Saul has been set up and captured?  Will they link ISI to the Ambassador and Boyd?  To Haqqani and Aayan?  Will Carrie’s attachment to Aayan damage her mission? Or will she keep level headed and damage the boy instead? What will ISI do with the information that Carrie is mentally ill now that Boyd has uncovered it?

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