ACT 1: RETURN TO THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
After a brisk title card that abandoned the show's usual jazz freakout opening credits (something I believe last season's finale did too), and a nervy recap of the last few episodes, we opened in the forested idyll surrounding Carrie's family cabin. "Ah, it's all coming back to me," Brody said as they stepped inside, reflecting on the last time he and Carrie stole away to the woods for some private nookie and unexpected interrogation. Except this time, everything was different. "There's no secrets now," Carrie said with not a small amount of trepidation. Not so strangely, they were both even more nervous with everything out in the open — and consider this the obligatory nod to the fact that everything very well may not have been in the open, if Brody was still secretly working with Nazir, etc.
Actually, in a way, life hadn't changed for Brody. He was still under covert surveillance, this time by Peter Quinn, parked in an empty cabin across the lake, taking in the couple's oblivious domestic bliss with a growing-if-silent sense of unease — especially with David Estes' obsession with seeing it done. "She's unbelievable," Estes told Quinn after learning Brody was with Carrie. "You never made a bad move in your romantic life?" asked Quinn, not realizing Estes' answer to that question is "Yes: Carrie Mathison."
As Jessica began to pack up her soon-to-be-ex-husband's clothes, Carrie and Brody began to voyage furtively into the new territory of their relationship. He juggled potatoes, she fake laughed, he declared "I'm funny," she replied, "Now I know." But then he found the pistol Carrie'd kept during their first time at the cabin, and their cutesy banter turned a bit acrid. "A souvenir from my last visit," Brody said, casually aiming the gun in a way that unnerved me. "How sweet," Carrie said with a sour smile before she disarmed the gun, as symbolic an end to their old, contentious life as Homeland really gets.
Carrie disarmed things further by taking Brody on a walk around the grounds, and revealing a wound she had shown no one else: Her mother had abandoned their father when Carrie left for college — and hadn't been heard from since. Carrie understood why her mom had ended her marriage — her father's bipolar disorder was impossible to deal with — but the fact that her mother also abandoned her was something Carrie could never comprehend. "Thanks for telling me," Brody said softly, happy to be privy to Carrie's private pain after she'd been privy to so much of his. "You're the first one," Carrie said, looking up at him with an open loving face.
That night, in front of a roaring fire, Brody and Carrie nervously joked about hiring Brody to be her live-in cabin boy, until Carrie bravely suggested they talk about it "for real." They discussed Brody's post-Congress plans — maybe a builder, maybe a teacher, but definitely "a good person again." They both marveled at the second chance Brody'd been given, but that was fleeting; they had to confront whether Carrie would get a clean slate too, by leaving the CIA to be with Brody. There was a lovely moment when Brody tried to be the Understanding Guy by finishing what he thought was Carrie's thought about how much she loved her job, but instead Carrie said pointedly, "You interrupted me." It was the kind of awkward, relationship-y exchange that never gets to happen in Homeland's merciless universe — which made me relish it all the more.
NEXT: Carrie risks the "l" word — sorta