After last week's humdinger of a cliffhanger, I was desperately curious to see how Homeland would handle the fact that Brody has been officially outed as an agent of Abu Nazir. Would his life continue to unravel at its heretofore rapid pace, or would the writers cool things off for a week (or two)? Turns out: Both!
We opened with Saul at the Beirut airport, carrying a diplomatic case of great interest to local government officials, who thought nothing of pulling Saul into a dark, windowless room and inspecting said case, even if it caused, as Saul warned, "a serious diplomatic incident." With no elaborate CIA cover story about scouting for locations to shoot Argo 2: The Beardening, Saul had only his wits to manage this situation, and at first, it looked like he was handling it terribly. His feeble protestations and rising panic screamed, "I've got something secret in there that I don't want you to see!" And indeed, feeling along its sides, the official quickly found and removed a flash disk. "Never come back to Lebanon," he told Saul darkly, pocketing the disk and sending Saul on his way.
Just when Saul's Jedi Master powers seemed in doubt, however, on the plane he pulled a second flash disk from what appeared to be a separate secret compartment on the case. It's unclear if both disks held Brody's confession and Saul was betting any inspectors would be satisfied with finding one and not search for the other -- or if the first one was an obvious decoy and always meant to be discovered. This isn't an idle curiosity: If it's the former, then by the time Saul's plane had landed, Hezbollah would've almost certainly learned that the CIA knows about Brody (and would likely have learned about Brody themselves). If it's the latter, then the CIA would have the freedom to pursue Brody with at least a decent window before their new target learned his cover's been blown. I could be over-thinking things, I grant you, but Homeland has also proven adept at revisiting dangling plot strands that seem relatively inconsequential at the time -- it was done masterfully in this very episode, in fact.
In any event, we'll have to wait until at least next week to learn how the CIA decides to handle the news about Brody, since Saul was MIA for the rest of the episode save its superb final scene. Instead, the writers spent the hour squeezing Brody and Carrie's psychological weaknesses, pushing them both to their darkest moments yet. By the end, one seemed primed to plummet even further, while the other may have finally found a glimmer of light after slogging through so much darkness.
First, Brody. It turns out a piece of CIA intel from the failed assassination attempt on Abu Nazir did manage to come to Brody's attention: The tailor in Gettysburg who had created Brody's suicide vest. As Roya Hammad breathlessly explained to Brody while at some kind of private airport, the agency was close to discovering the tailor's identity, so Brody had to go fetch him that day to take him to a safe house nearby. I loved the recall to a character we barely even saw last season, but his sudden presence raised a lot of questions. Why not a phone call? He had to be looked in the eye and reassured he's safe. Why can't Roya go? Because the only person he knows is Brody. Why does it have to be the same day as Brody's speech at the wounded veterans fundraiser? Because the CIA are beginning to move in, and by the next day, it may be too late.
All decent answers, but I still feel that Roya Hammad remains by far the clumsiest element of the season. It's fuzzy to me how she's getting all this information — is it through Nazir's contacts? the as-yet-unmentioned-this-season CIA mole? some combination of the two? — and at this point, she's less of a character than an exposition bot. (Come to think of it, that was pretty much Zuleikha Robinson's sad fate on Lost, too.) Thanks to the car she exited from at the top of this scene, we at least finally learned that Roya works for CNB News, Homeland's fictional cable news outlet. (Who else is imagining Roya locked in a ratings war with Will McAvoy's ACN on The Newsroom?) (C'mon, there's gotta be someone.)
NEXT PAGE: Nicholas Brody's no good, very bad day