“Broken Hearts” on Homeland: Sam Lim and I discuss Episode 10

Episode 210Last night’s episode of Homeland was crazier than ever, in both good ways and bad. As fellow obsessives of the Showtime series, First Casualty contributor Sam Lim and I usually follow up each weekly episode with a series of frantic emails back and forth to digest what just happened in the preceding hour. This time, I decided (with Sam’s permission) to put (a slightly edited version of) them up on the blog, which we’ll be doing for the last two episodes of Season 2 as well. Without further comment…

Sam Lim: Where to start with this week’s episode…did NOT see Carrie getting abducted by Abu Nazir. Smashing a car in public and then dragging away a woman seems like it’d garner a lot more attention than it did, no? And where the heck did Abu Nazir have time to find an abandoned mill on his own?

Jay Pinho: Damn! Wow…another veryyy twisty episode. Here are a couple random thoughts:

1) Homeland keeps surprising me. Every time I think I’ve figured out where it’s going to go next, it seems to anticipate what that is and goes in another direction instead. Case in point: Carrie getting captured. Like you said, that was completely out of the blue. I expected the rest of the season to have a storyline involving Carrie finding out about the plan to assassinate Brody, and trying to warn him. Actually, that might still happen, but if so, the show is taking a really interesting/circuitous route to get there.

2) Every episode seems to bother me slightly more in terms of plot holes. I mean, to some extent we have to just accept that, yes, this is a spy show and that, for the sake of being entertaining, we just have to assume it’s normal that not a single person at the CIA can trust any other person in the entire agency — despite the fact that, if that were true, we’d have a completely dysfunctional intelligence apparatus. (Come to think of it…)

However, some of the stuff that happens is just so ridiculous that, even in the world of Homeland, I find it hard to digest. Case in point: Saul continuing to confront Estes (now for the second straight episode) about Dar Adal and Quinn. Throughout the entire series, Saul has been portrayed as the wise old sage of the CIA: how can he then turn right around and become a complete idiot by exposing what he knows to the guy who’s most likely to use it against him (Estes)? I mean, the part where he brings up the drone strikes that Estes and Walden tried to keep hidden was just insane: it was almost as if he were asking to end up lying facedown in a ditch somewhere.

I feel similarly about Carrie’s decision to go back into the abandoned mill. And again, you hit the nail on the head about this: imagine Osama bin Laden walking into a Pittsburgh steel factory and asking its owners if he could commandeer it for awhile, and try to picture how badly that would go for him. But Carrie deciding to go back in, while very consistent for her character, just reinforces one of the show’s weaker narrative points, which is that Carrie is a complete loose cannon and, in real life, there is absolutely NO chance — as in, zerooooo — that anyone like her would be allowed anywhere near such a sensitive operation. I understand the whole plot point about how they need her to contact Brody, which makes sense on some level, but when she’s consistently defying orders on a completely predictable basis, no one would ever agree to keep her around.

3) That said, I still love this show. Two episodes left! What do you think is going to come next?

Sam Lim: I still love this show, too! But, like you said, some parts really do just seem so completely far-fetched. Another example: How in the world would Abu Nazir know that Walden has a serial number that can remotely control his pacemaker (did the NYT really get that specific)? And is that even possible to remotely control a pacemaker? (Google says: apparently, it is.) I have to think that somewhere Dick Cheney must have his pacemaker’s serial number under lock and key…

A couple of other observations from this week’s episode:

1) I laughed at Brody yelling “Nazir!” into his cell phone with CIA agents down the hallway (Really, CIA dudes? You wouldn’t burst into a room down the hall if you heard a guy yelling, “Bin Laden! Bin Laden!”?).

2) I also laughed when Brody conveniently found a gigantic Sherlock Holmes-style magnifying glass to read the serial number on the pacemaker remote.

3) Holy cow, that CIA secret loft is nice. Rooftop pool, TWO saltwater fishtanks, and a fridge seemingly stocked full of food.

4) What the heck happened to Roya Hammad? For someone so visible in the past few episodes, she kind of fell off the face of the earth today, other than that brief little shot of her and the other captured peeps on their knees.

Otherwise, on both Carrie’s terrifying capriciousness (I would’ve fired her long ago in real life) and Saul’s out-of-the-blue outbursts to Estes, I agree as well. I can’t help but wonder if Estes is going to pull some crap to save his own skin (again), which might end up hurting Saul in some way. Also, the fact that Quinn’s still sticking around makes me think we’ll see an assassination attempt on Brody in the next two episodes, possibly the season finale as a cliffhanger (I truly hope not as the season six finale of Dexter was bad enough of a cliffhanger for me).

My predictions: now that Walden’s dead (or is he?), I think Brody’s going to be seen as the heir apparent to the Oval Office and will be nominated for president. Since no one (besides Carrie, Saul, that CIA lady in the car with Brody, and of course, the now seemingly deceased Walden) knows that he planned to resign and withdraw from the VP nomination, that would seem to throw a real wrench into the assassination attempt being concocted by Estes, Quinn, and Dar Adal. Perhaps they fail and the last scene of the season finale is Estes and Quinn going down (Dar Adal’s too slippery to get caught, it seems) and Brody becoming president. However crazy, that’d be one way to keep Brody (along with Carrie as the two main characters) alive for season three.

What’s your take on what’s coming up in the final two episodes?

Jay Pinho: Ha! You literally picked on so many other flaws I’d meant to bring up but forgotten about myself — especially point #1 about Brody yelling into his phone, “Nazir! Nazir!” in a building crawling with CIA agents. Righttt. And speaking of that building, I get that it’s probably unrealistic that a safe house would have to be in a bunker somewhere, but does it really have to be in a building with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking what appears to be a major urban area? That seems unnecessarily complicated for an operation specifically designed to keep the family safe.

The magnifying glass thing was hilarious too. In fact, the whole scene in Walden’s office was kinda funny, although also way too reminiscent of other scenes in which Brody finds himself rummaging through people’s stuff (remember him going through Estes’ safe while Roya kept him distracted?). Somewhere, there’s gotta be a Tumblr called brodyfranticallythumbingthroughdocumentsinotherpeoplesoffices.tumblr.com. Or at least, there should be. It’s interesting you bring up the possibility of Walden not dying too, especially given the fact that it was never conclusively proven that he conked out for good. I actually somewhat hope that’s not what happened, though, because that would really put Homeland too far over the edge in terms of plot ridiculousness.

But I think one of the more disappointing moments in the episode — and you may disagree with me; I know a lot of people did, based on Internet comments I’ve read — was Carrie’s conversation with Abu Nazir. It started off promisingly, with him raising a solid political point about the inherent subjectivity involved in defining a word like “terrorist.” But the dialogue increasingly resembled a half-hearted attempt to talk about serious issues without ever really making the viewing audience even mildly uncomfortable. I have no idea what the demographics are for Homeland viewers — I’d guess they’re pretty similar to the American population at large — but my feeling is, whatever their political persuasion, people will generally continue to watch a great TV show even if they don’t particularly care for its politics. So the fact that Homeland quickly shied away from anything resembling genuine social commentary and instead allowed Carrie to have the final word — “Like I said, you’re a terrorist,” delivered with an impeccable smirk of superiority, even as she’s tied to a pipe in a mill somewhere — was a letdown for me. Even Nazir’s monologue about American pension plans, beach houses, and sports clubs was so completely off-message, and such an obvious straw man argument, that it was clear the show’s writers had basically allowed our prevailing national narrative — “we’re the good guys; they’re the crazed religious fundamentalists, and this has nothing at all to do with politics, or foreign intervention in Muslim countries, or our support for dictators,” and so on — to write itself right into the script.

Or maybe they just don’t share my politics. (Likely, considering that they also created 24.)

BTW, we both talked about Saul here: interestingly, Alan Sepinwall’s (whose TV reviews are can’t-miss events every week) review of tonight’s show had a very different take than ours on Saul’s naivete:

At least Saul all but inviting Estes to detain him felt entirely in character. Saul is, as Dar Adal noted, too sensitive, and too willing to believe in the goodness of of others. (As Bill Hader-as-Saul said in the “SNL” parody, “She’s only let me down every time I’ve trusted her. Give me one reason not to trust her again.”) I believe that he would openly poke and prod Estes — a man whom he knows has gone to very illegal lengths to cover up that drone strike — never for a moment contemplating that David would resort to using similar tactics on him. Then again, we’ll see what’s waiting for him in that interrogation room next week. (Can it be James Urbaniak? Pretty please!)

Couldn’t disagree more. But that’s his take, anyway.

My feeling for the last two episodes? Eek. I really don’t know. This show keeps throwing me for a loop. That said, I’d be surprised if Brody ends up a serious contender for the presidency. Homeland asks us to believe a lot, but it would be a bridge too far to ask me to be OK with the idea that a guy with a daughter who was an accessory to a murder and a wife who’s screwing his best friend can now run for President despite being a sleeper agent for both Nazir and the CIA simultaneously — all without anyone in the press ever hearing anything about it. (Come to think of it, this would be a hilarious indictment of our national press corps. But I’m pretty sure the message would get lost amid the sound of thousands of TV remotes hitting the screens in disbelief as the show officially jumps the shark.)

Ultimately, I think someone in the Quinn-Estes-Saul triangle has to be killed by the end of this season. I can’t really see too many feasible ways in which they continue to coexist. Sepinwall seems to think Brody himself may be a goner too, which would make for an interesting twist. But I’m not sure the writers are ready to do something like that just yet.

BTW, The Washingtonian did an absolutely hilarious review of the episode here.

Sam Lim: Brody rummaging through people’s important documents. Ah, it conjures such hilarity. Haha.

Most of my observations were about the incredulous flaws in the show’s plot, but I also noted the conversation Carrie had with Nazir. It was absolutely disappointing the way they scripted it. I thought for a brief second that they’d struck on an amazing substantive dialogue before it evaporated, like you said, into “I’ve got a more compelling sad story than you” contest. Pity.

I do concede that a Brody presidency would be extraordinarily absurd, but perhaps he’ll only be nominated and then our CIA heroes will attempt to take him down. If one of the Estes-Saul-Quinn triangle actually does die, I’m going to guess it’s Quinn — taken down in an ill-fated attempt at assassinating Brody.

Who knows. But it’s fun to imagine and predict crazy scenes and see something equally crazy but different actually happen.

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