‘Homeland’ 4.08 or #Saulute or There Are Only Wrong Choices

Carrie and Khan sitting in a tree?Last night’s episode of Homeland was brought to you by the letter H. H stands for Helplessness. The kind of helplessness you can only feel when the skies open up to reveal that “there are only wrong choices“. The kind of helplessness where the better alternative would have been allowing your mentor to blow his head off because, hey, there are fates worse than death. Namely, death wrapped in betrayal, torture, and guilt.

And speaking of being wrapped in… watching all those tiny red triangles swarm over the warm blue dot that was Saul Berenson, and drag him away like roaches on a cookie crumb whilst screaming for Carrie, was some new form of television torture. Particularly cruel and unusual punishment. Did anyone else go back to Sandy screaming for his life in the season opener? For a split second I even thought they would beat him to death right then and there, before realizing that was not at all their mission.

Before the breakdown, I just want to take a moment and give major props to the episode’s director, Alex Graves. From the moment that Carrie begins to smell something fishy in that briefing room to the moment Saul is recaptured, Graves pulled off twelve uninterrupted minutes of as high stakes and high anxiety television as I have felt since the last six minutes of that episode of True Detective or the Blackwater finale in Game of Thrones. If I had an award to give for the Best Placed Shot of that sequence, it would be the very silent cut from (A) Saul with a gun under his chin at the fountain to (B) the overhead drone footage of him from the ops room as Carrie and Co watch and wait along with the audience. Hopelessness. Helplessness. It was held for three seconds of sheer terror where one could just hear the gun shot and picture his tiny spec of a body collapsing. It’s pretty genius actually, using the assumption that showing someone’s brains being blown out in a tight shot is not likely, and faking the audience out with that “larger picture” shot almost in anticipation… and of a moment that never came. (Oh hai, HBO! It’s Showtime!)

This was an intense and very plot-centric week, and despite fabulous performances, the character development was minimal and/or pretty straightforward here, and that’s okay. Accordingly, I’ll be skipping the specific character discussion this week and taking a deeper look at what may be going on behind the story, instead.

THE STORY ARC

Carrie wakes up with a Bipolar Hangover at the home of our favorite Hot ISI Guy (HISIG, Khan, etc.), and in a bed so high up off the ground I’m pretty sure she was feeling about as tiny as Alice after a few bad mushrooms. Upon waking, HISIG explains that she was arrested after causing “a scene”, and that his men were then notified. They found her in holding cell and in “quite a state” (cue the straight jacket). That same morning, on his way to his meeting with the Americans, he finds out from Tasneem that what what he did was interfering with her operation by helping Carrie. This was a significant twist as I think many of us at home had assumed that HISIG was part of Tasneem’s operation after the way things ended last week.

At the meeting between the CIA/Embassy and Pakistani Intelligence, the ISI serves as supposed broker between Haqqani and the Americans. A clip that they were “sent” by Haqqani of Saul alive and in captivity is broadcaster there, in which Saul takes the opportunity to insist that the Americans give Haqqani nothing — in other words, he rather die there. Saul is able to snag a small pin to aide in an escape on his way back to his sell. Haqqani demands his entire command structure released from American custody, which is not even an option.

Carrie being Carrie figures out that her pills were switched, which wasn’t much of a stretch especially considering it was Carrie and she’s a genius. She gets new pills, advises Lockhart and Quinn about the breach, and learns of the latest with Haqqani. Lockhart is at his wits end having several days in Islamabad with no resolution and tells Martha about the breach. He tells Martha that she’s “eating shit” by playing the Pakistani’s games. Lockhart gets runner up for best delivered line in the episode:

They hate us. Good luck finding common interest in that.

Of course poor Martha reveals the breach to hubby dearest (i.e. Prof. Boyd, The Devil Incarnate, The Breach), which per usual he shits himself about and tells Tasneem. This time it is he who is being spied on, as HISIG Khan watches their exchange. Tasneem passes Boyd a napkin with a new “easy” mission.

Saul escapes in the baddest ass of bad ass ways, particularly for a man pushing 60 (!). He calls Carrie’s cell phone first.

Quinn takes over for the operation, and although he is together and brilliant and knowledgeable, he ultimately fucks up the extraction plan by calling drones to fly to the extraction point, Makin, so they can meet Saul there when he arrives in the morning. There were many looks from Carrie to Quinn in this scene as stood quietly, listening to Quinn direct the plan, and I noticed something was up. Carrie wasn’t running the show for once, and this either meant Quinn was finally at her level or… he wasn’t. I hoped for the former, turns out I was wrong.

Saul personally has Carrie promise that “something goes wrong, you drop a bomb on the whole mess. Escape or Die.” She promises, and tells Quinn what happened, and the promise she made.

Carrie, Lockhart, and Quinn think they have an upper hand on ISI now and expect them to crack at their meeting but they do not. Carrie, begins to wonder why and realizes the only reason they have for not being worried is if they still have Saul (i.e. know where he is). Once she realizes where they went wrong it’s almost too obvious:

“They didn’t have to find a needle in a haystack. They just had to find that. Us. We have a drone flying over Makin.”

Interestingly enough no one ever points a finger at Quinn for his lapse in judgment, because shit happens, but I do wonder if it won’t come back up to bite him.

What follows is Carrie’s attempt at rerouting Saul with no plan whatsoever as Special Forces has been held back outside of Makin by this very mistake. As Saul prepares to kill himself, Carrie is able to talk him out of it with lies and promises the likes of:

“Well get you home”
“We’ll thread the needle. You and I.”
“They are waiting for you at the rendezvous point. Don’t let them down.”

The fear in his voice. The desperation. I shiver.

Lockhart heads back to the conference room, tail between his legs, offering up the prisoners Haqqani demanded fo the ISI.

And now the winner:

I betrayed Saul. He was counting on me and I betrayed him. How can saving someone’s life be the wrong choice? But it was! Because there are only wrong choices and it’s like I’m seeing it now for the first time. Nothing good can happen in this fucked up world we’ve made up for ourselves. Can it?” -Carrie

Following her epiphany, Carrie tries to go to bed for the second time in this episode only to again be interrupted by a call. This time from HISIG who gives her a lesson in having to trust if she wants to be trusted, and reveals Hubby Dearest, as the breach who switched out her pills.

WHAT WE LEARNED, ASKED, AND THEORIES

  • HISIG Khan is not fully in the loop with all of Tasneem’s operations, and further, has moral issues with them. In other words, he’s ISI’s Quinn.
  • Tasneem has another mission for Boyd but both are unaware that they have been made by the CIA
  • Saul would have preferred it if Carrie had dropped the bomb on him and Haqqani the moment they found out he had been captured… Carrie would have been right, but it wouldn’t have made her any less insane either. I’m also convinced she would not have been able to live with herself wondering if it was the right call.
  • I have to ask, politically, is it really a better choice to fork over six top Taliban prisoners for the sake of saving Saul’s life who has more than expressed his wishes to be killed rather than allow that to happen?
  • Haqqani has revealed that he is strapped to a bomb at all times, per his appearance in the video. This destroys any possibility that a special forces team could go in after Haqqani or Saul.
  • If the exchange goes according to plan, or at the very least, Saul returns home alive: What will become of him? Will he resent Carrie for the rest of his life? Will he go through PTSD? What will it do to Carrie?
    • In short: He might just get divorced and retire from everything. Yes. Yes. Carrie will live with it, and better than what she lives with regarding Brody because at least Saul is alive. In a way, Carrie might feel better about killing Saul for Saul’s own good, but not for her own good. She is trying to redeem herself for letting Brody die.
  • Will Carrie and Quinn ever consummate their hatred from themselves by sleeping together?
  • And wasn’t there something a little intimate about the way HISIG and Carrie spoke to on another in the final scene? He was scolding her like a lover, or a child, at least. She was pouting to him about fairness to him that couldn’t just ask her there and not tell her anything. Not to mention her fessing up that she remembers what happened between them when she thought he was Brody. Did anyone feel that three romantic interests in one season might be too much? Oh, I certainly do not, but I’m just a melodramatic shipper at heart.
  • Now that Carrie is on to Boyd will the CIA use this to their advantage in the exchange? Plant false evidence? I would not expect less from Carrie.
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