By Alex Smith, Hollywood.com Staff
It seems that Homeland is able to reboot at the end of every episode in this second season. My feeling is that shows often end with a giant finale cliffhanger (example: Dexter) to inject some new juice when things start to feel a little stale; Claire Danes & Co., however, put everything on the line every single week. That's really outrageously impressive. I know a lot of people say that "The Weekend" is the biggest and baddest episode of Homeland (not that there are a ton of episodes to pick from, yes) but "New Car Smell" was MASSIVE. That's really the only word to describe where we've traveled by the end of the episode. Note: Meredith Stiehm wrote both "The Weekend" and "New Car Smell" - give the woman a raise!
Saul stops by Estes' home, but Kenny, Estes' son, greets him; Kenny is wearing a fantastic Darth Vader costume, and while I'm not really sure of the implications (Saul is everyone's father?), it's a cute gag to start the episode. We swiftly move on to Saul showing THE TAPE, and Estes just sort of having a major brainmelt moment. So, what's the plan, with this tape in play? Nothing changes - leave Brody right where he is, watch the scoundrel, follow him to Nazir and therefore the next attack. The greatest point of this conversation is that Estes has to admit that he was very wrong; while such an admission will probably never happen for Carrie directly, the look on Saul's face is more than enough. The power in this situation is slowly shifting into Carrie's hands, as she has always been the one that should be in control.
I made something of a mistake in my recap for last week's episode - I spoke of how much I dislike Jessica this season, but I forgot give Morena Baccarin the appropriate props in actually accomplishing such a thing; sure, the woman isn't my favorite character, but the actress is providing some real power to combat Damian Lewis' Emmy-winning performance. Anyway, Brody tries to apologize to Jess for last week's insanity, but Jessica is really not in the mood; I have a feeling that it takes a lot more than an espresso to ease back from the edge of divorce. Ultimately, Brody moves out because he can't say something true to Jessica. The fundamental rift in this relationship has been a long time coming, but the crumbling of Brody's support system still stings because it became so real so soon. In a minor-key reflection, Dana is growing up and out of her relationship with quasi-boyfriend Xander; Dana realizes that there's a lot more to being a teenager than enjoying pot, which might just equal enjoying Finn, but still. Dana also knows that her father is lying about everything in the universe, and Brody's car does not smell like Brody's car. Better clean out that dead bomb builder guilt stench! Pay attention to the way things smell.
I was concerned that we've already watched more than three minutes of a Homeland episode without actually spotting Carrie, but clearly that was quickly resolved. Carrie shows up at the new CIA secret Brody compound with her two techie friends; the main member of this duo is named Virgil, but I like to call these men Jasper and Horace, after the 101 Dalmatians characters that must hunt down the pups for Cruella. I'm weird, I know. We all remember Jasper and Horace as the men that helped Carrie install 3,073 secret cameras in Brody's home when she suspected him of being evil. Carrie meets Peter Quinn, an extremely cute CIA wunderkind that's running the operation. Carrie has to swallow any attitude and play along; the plan is for Carrie to "accidentally" cross paths with Brody outside of Langley, causing Brody is freak out and run to his handler for instructions.
Brody tries to get his car cleaned after the comment from Dana, and the man running the carwash recommends key lime car freshener. We can 100% assume that anyone recommending a key lime scented car needs immediate medical attention, and therefore all of this car washing business is extremely suspect. Carrie is waiting for Brody to arrive at Langley, but this whole smelly car key lime thing is taking too much time, and we're treated to more moments of Carrie waiting around and almost crying. I need to pull out all of my hair when I have to watch Carrie wait, it is really that painfully scary. When Brody finally does arrive, the entire episode suddenly explodes - the physical reunion of Carrie and Brody is understandably quiet on the surface, but seeing Claire and Damien do this quiet clash is so rewarding; layer upon layer exists between the two, where Carrie reveals that she's back at Langley but can't talk about her work, drawing the line between Brody her "new life." Could these two be more complicated? It's like they're about to jump in bed together, enjoy the sex, and then wait for the other to fall asleep first so they can successful suffocate their real fake lover to death.
Carrie is given big applause on her return to the secret bunker, but this is a tiny victory in the grand scene of things. Brody secretly meets with Roya in the middle of a crowded hallway, but her status as a member of the press is so well established that she isn't immediately see as part of Nazir's secret army; while the CIA can afford many eyes, ears are far too difficult, so the conversation goes unheard. Brody calls Carrie "stubborn as sh*t" (true), and Roya wants Brody to renew the relationship. Brody and Carrie are awful together! I can't wait! Confusing sex in the parking lot after group therapy!
We're still dealing with Brody's military brethren feeling suspicious about the whole Walker connection/conspiracy, but that plotline is moving terribly slow compared to everything else, so we'll just see where that goes in the future. A more interesting, seemingly unimportant plotline deals with Dana falling for Finn, the Vice President's son; in a nutshell, Dana is going to sleep with Finn after bitchslapping the actual Vice President with her hilariously intelligent insults. Like, Dana insulted the Vice President of the United States to his face and could literally care less. I would love to see her Instagram account. More importantly, what's at stake here? What is the VP dealing with behind the scenes? Dana's appearance concludes with a nighttime visit to the good ol' Washington Monument (or the Big White Pencil, as used to call it) for some Secret Service chaperoned shenanigans. There is a lot of baby kissing and baby cheating, as Dana kisses Finn and then remembers that Xander is her boyfriend. Oops. Two points for Finn!
Back in the bunker, we discover that Brody met with 43 individuals after his thoroughly planned random run-in with Carrie; Brody wants Virgil/Jasper to look into all the Arabs he met with first, because Saul believes that there are times when "racial profiling" should really just be called "profiling." Saul's a big fan of controversial real talk and/or controversial maybe mole talk. Is that mole suspicion still in play? Should I be worried about Saul, and therefore everything that has ever happened in the history of television? Carrie has her first night duty with Peter, and the two have a bonding moment over food ("I like olives," says Peter) and will probably have sex before the end of the season.
Carrie is still waiting around with Peter, trading details about their lives and maybe trying to kiss a lot if we weren't watching. Why do I want that relationship to happen? Why do I need elements of My So-Called Life in all Claire Danes television experiments? Brody checks into his nice hotel sans Jessica, while the night agents wait for Brody to contact his handler; this all sort of feels like The Wire with all the listening to phone taps in secret bunkers, only now we are dealing with the lives of the leaders of the U.S. government instead of mentally insane Baltimore drug dealers. Homeland likes to raise the stakes as high as possible, naturally. Brody decides not to call his handler, but instead give Carrie a ring. She'll meet him at the hotel bar for a drink. This is scary. Carrie is scared.
Peter can tell that Carrie had a sexual history with Brody, and before Carrie heads out, he asks - "was it work or love?" Carrie obviously can't answer that question, and if she could, we'd be free of a lot of the tension that sits at the heart of this show. Duh I cannot go through the hotel bar conversation blow-by-blow, because I think I would pass out. But yes. Brody informed Carrie that the hotel bar meeting is "not a booty call," and Carrie goes on to call Brody has his wife the new JFK and Jackie O. Carrie is flipping her hair and dropping hints about Abu Nazir, but she becomes noticeably flustered when Brody "apologizes" for turning her over to Estes and causing her to undergo severe treatment; Carrie actually thanks Brody for his help in finding control, but it suddenly becomes clear that this meeting is horrifying - is Brody trying to break her down? Is Carrie really better than before her crazy breakdown? Where would Carrie be if she hadn't been told so fervently that she was wrong about Brody? I have so many questions because Carrie's emotions are too important to me; I hate to see her played by the men in her life.
Brody charges the bar tap to his room, 416, and heads up for the night. Carrie checks in with Peter and Saul, thinking she blew the entire exchange when she became so visibly exasperated; she thinks that Brody knows about her work, and that he's about to slip through their fingers. Is it possible that Carrie just wants to have sex? Everyone thought that, right? Carrie ignores orders to return to the bunker and heads for the elevator.
Brody enters his hotel room, sipping Fiji water (I now must switch fancy bottled water because I cannot drink the things that a scary ginger terrorist would drink). There is a knock at the door. Brody opens the door. Carrie insinuates that since Brody mentioned his room number while paying for the drinks, she should come up. But then. BUT THEN.
Carrie: "It reeks, you know."
Brody: "My confusion?"
Carrie: "Your bulls**t."
Carrie begins letting it all unravel. Carrie begins explaining - "Do I want to be friends with a demented ex-solider who hates America, who decided that strapping on a bomb was the answer to what ailed him ? Who in the end didn't have the stones to go through with it but had no problem sending me to the nuthouse? Yeah no thanks. I don't think I need a friend like that." HOLY HELL, CARRIE. Carrie asks Brody if he'll kill her now, and just blame it on rough sex. Moments before Brody is officially arrested, he spits out that he used to like her. Carries screams back, "I loved you." The CIA team swarms the room, taking Brody down.
Whoa. Brody is led out of the hotel with a black bag over his head - Carrie has taken the entire mission into her own hands, and Claire Danes nailed the edge between the professional and achingly personal need for swift vengence. I can barely make any jokes about this episode because it was really just kept slapping me across the face. I believe that Homeland (and, honestly, American Horror Story) is teaching us a different way to watch television, where we deal with critical plot developments in a single episode that certain shows might wait full twelve episodes to unleash. Homeland is, now, a brand new show. I'm glad we moved past some of the zany, slightly distracting asides in the first couple of episodes. We've rebooted hard since that Season 1 finale dilemma. Amen.
[Image Credit: Kent Smith/SHOWTIME (2)]
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