It's not easy being Carrie Mathison, that's for sure.
In this tense, suspenseful episode of 'Homeland,' we finally learn the truth about her mystery ailment: she's bi-polar, and has been since college. Deprived of her medication following the attack on the square, which sent her to the hospital with a concussion and some nasty facial abrasions, she cascades into full-scale mania, berating the staff of the hospital over its inadequate supply of magic markers (my favorite line of the episode: "Is green elusive? I mean, my kingdom for a fucking green pen!") and giving Saul an awful scare. When he questions her, Carrie admits that her sister is medicating her, and Saul and Maggie Mathison are soon splitting up chaperone duties like a pair of amiable ex-spouses, since it's obvious that Carrie can't be left alone while she's in this condition.
Alarmed as he is by Carrie's predicament, Saul does not make the mistake of discounting what she has to say. Right away, he sees the wisdom in her frantic declaration that Nazir would never pin all of his hopes on a single sniper, even one whose targets is the president himself. There has to be more to the plot. Saul relays the warning to Estes, who mentions it to Vice President Walden, who is waiting out the scare in an undisclosed underground bunker. Walden swats away this unhelpful suggestion -- "You want your portrait up at Langley some day? Focus on that. Find Walker. And fire somebody. I don't care who." -- and also discloses a vital piece of information: he's running for president, and plans to announce his candidacy next week.
Suddenly, it's all starting to come together, isn't it? I haven't yet mentioned the episode's haunting opener, in which a man wearing glasses methodically assembles a suicide vest. As we'll soon find out, the vest is intended for Brody, whose family trip to Gettysburg, PA, serves not one but two secret purposes: to instill some patriotic gusto into his sheltered, self-indulgent kids, so they won't be completely useless after the shit hits the fan, and to pick up the vest, try it on for size and get a quick rundown on how it works. For some reason, he wants to make extra sure that his head will be severed clean off his body, allowing the clean-up crew to make a positive ID. I guess he really wants to world to know that he's no hero.
Unfortunately for Brody, Dana spots him conveying the suspicious-looking paper-wrapped package (seriously, they couldn't have spared a plastic bag for this thing?) back to the car, and doesn't really buy his story that it's a gift for dear old Mom. She also isn't quite sure what to make of the home video footage she shot that shows Brody standing stock still, staring at Little Round Top, for approximately 45 minutes. Brody tells the kids all about the battle, which the Union side won thanks to the astounding audacity of Maine schoolteacher Joshua Chamberlain, who led his woefully outnumbered troops in a so-crazy-it-worked bayonet charge against the attacking Rebel Army.
Brody clearly identifies with Chamberlain, so again, it's necessary to ask: What's he cooking? Clearly, his plan involves strapping the suicide vest on under his uniform and attending the vice president's campaign announcement. But is that it? He pulls the cord, blows himself and the VP to smithereens, along with anyone else who happens to be nearby (he told Dana to look after Jess, so presumably he's not planning to take them with him)? And then the authorities find his head, leaving the media to conclude that it must be really bad over there in Iraq if our own guys are turning into freaking suicide bombers? Meanwhile, Tom Walker knocks the president out of the sky, and then what? Is someone booby-trapping the Speaker of the House's Audi?
Surely, that can't be what he's after here, can it? Or is there something in his admiration of Chamberlain's unexpected action that we can learn from? Is he planning to hurt Nazir, and embarrass the vice president, using tactics that no one would ever expect from a U.S. Marine (leaving aside the fact that Tom Walker is out there pink-misting hunters and blowing Saudi diplomats to Kingdom Come)?
Whatever his plan is, you can be sure David Estes won't be the one to figure it out. He's too busy scapegoating Carrie for the fact that his agency still hasn't neutralized any of the threats that she identified in the first place. Her decision to call Brody and ask him for help in solving the Nazir puzzle does indeed seem to have originated in her "bad gut," as her father warned her, but I couldn't help but be impressed by Brody's ruthlessness in using Estes to throw a log across her rails. By the time Estes and his goons came rushing into her house to clear it of confidential documents, Saul had discovered the logic of her color-coded conspiracy theorizing and organized it into a very eye-catching wall display that promises to reveal Nazir's next move -- if they can just figure out what happened during the "yellow" period (we already know this is when Nazir's son was killed in an air strike authorized -- and later lied about -- by Vice President Walden). No matter. Walden wanted someone fired, and Carrie -- messy, crazy, inconvenient Carrie -- was the first person to give him an excuse.
The end of the episode is wrenching. As Carrie's beloved jazz drowns out the chaos surrounding her, all her fears seem to come true at once: Estes and her sister have the upper hand over her, the secret of her mental health issues is out, her career with the Agency is over, Saul is nowhere to be found, and America is at risk of being attacked -- and there's nothing she can do about it.
Guess we'll have to wait for the season finale to find out what happens next.
Two more notes, though, before we break for the week:
1. A number of commenters have fingered Galvez as Nazir's "mole" inside the C.I.A., and there was a highly suggestive nod in that direction about five minutes into tonight's episode. After learning that no fewer than 16 agencies had knowledge of the sting in the park, Estes asks Saul, "So how do I find the leak?" Saul's reply: "You can start by looking around you." Who's the next person Estes sees? Galvez. And what does Galvez have to say? "Sir, the vice president wants to see you." Could it be possible that we're all right: Galvez is the mole, and so is Vice President Walden? I know, this still doesn't make sense, but I'm holding on to it because my gut tells me there's something there. I just hope it's the good gut and not the bad one.
2. How about that scene where Carrie jumps out of the car and runs over to the garden by the side of the road? It was a bit of a stretch, I know, but it gave rise to yet another masterful juxtaposition. Contemplating the plants in her manic state, Carrie grasps the botanical patience of her terrorist targets: "You wait, you lay low and then you come to life." Next scene? Brody arriving to pick up his vest. Now that's good editing, folks!
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