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10/21/2012 11:03 pm ET Updated Dec 21, 2012

'Homeland' Recap, Season 2, Episode 4: 'New Car Smell' Speeds The Plot Forward

Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 2, Episode 4 of Showtime's "Homeland," entitled "New Car Smell."

Uh, now what?

Saul's plan made so much sense. Even Estes was on board! The CIA was going to throw a net around Brody and let him lead them to the mother of all intel scoops: Nazir's plan to hit America back for Israel's air strikes on Iran. Instead, Carrie proved yet again that she's incapable of not going rogue -- and the writers proved that they are the Honey Badgers of premium cable. They don't care!

I just hope all of them know what they're doing.

You have to admit that it's pretty thrilling, though, right? We've all been raised on TV shows that toy with the audience, dangling a desired outcome over our heads and providing resolution only when we literally can't stand the suspense anymore. Will Sam ever get in Diane's pants? Will Ross ever get in Rachel's pants? WIll Mulder and Scully ever bring down The Syndicate -- and get in each others' pants? Even the most sophisticated shows of recent years have mostly observed this convention: Will Tony Soprano ever get pinched? Will Don's secret ever come out? Will Hank ever catch Walt?

Not "Homeland," though. We all assumed that Season 2 would be devoted to a massive game of cat-and-mouse between Carrie and Brody, as she tried to redeem herself and he tried to balance his loyalty to Nazir against his patriotism as a U.S. Marine turned Congressman. But here we are, in Episode 4, with more answers than we know what to do with. Carrie has her redemption -- she even got an apology from Estes. ("I feel like a complete heel." Dork!) And Brody is under arrest, his secret exposed -- at least to a small circle within the CIA.

And yet, these answers only raise more questions.

Carrie, in classic fashion, went way off the reservation when she showed up in Brody's room and revealed the Agency's cards. Saul and the new guy, Quinn, had no choice but to send in backup to arrest him, but that was so not the plan. And you can bet that she's going to be right back in hot water with Estes when he finds out, because this is not what he signed up for with Saul. Estes kept the Brody secret from Vice President Walden because Saul convinced him that it would be better to stop the next attack than admit that he'd blown the last one, but this business in the hotel room doesn't stop an attack. All it really does is get Carrie the revenge she admitted she was yearning for. (Quinn, after summarizing Brody's crimes against Carie: "I'd fucking rip his skin off." Carrie: "Well, that's the plan.")

So what will Estes do when they drag Brody in to see him? Does he even tell Walden? And if he does, what's Walden's move? It won't say much for his leadership skills to have his vice presidential pick exposed as a terrorist.

For clues, we might look to the other storylines in this excellent episode. Dana is about to dump her nice pot-head boyfriend for the "meaner" but cooler Finn, who just happens to be Walden's son. So it's reasonable to expect that Walden will find out the truth about Brody and forbid Finn from seeing Dana, because that's the kind of thing that happens on TV shows.

Then there are Mike and Lauder, who are slowly piecing together a version of the truth based on their suspicions surrounding Tom Walker's mysterious death. As Lauder put it, Brody and Walker were a team for a long time. It's reasonable to suppose that they were working together on the day of Elizabeth Gaines' assassination. But then these two not-quite-brain-surgeons take a wrong turn, supposing that the two ex-Marines were actually working for the CIA. (Apparently, they consider it plausible that the CIA would send a sniper to kill an aide to the vice president, which I hope is not the kind of thing military types just know and accept.)

Again, moving beyond the show's internal logic to the laws of TV writing, this whole subplot would seem unnecessary if Brody were going to be exposed to the world in the next episode. What I'm wondering is whether Mike and Laudner will end up being more right than they realize, as everyone determines that it's in their best interest to deploy Brody as a double agent working for the CIA against Nazir.

That would give Estes some leverage over Walden: Go along with the plan, and promise me a big promotion, or I'll tell the world that you wanted a terrorist to be your running mate. And it would give the show a new juicy setup to exploit: Carrie and Brody working together, and presumably getting in each other's pants, but still never trusting each other all the way.

Not even Jess would have to know, since the writers conveniently placed Brody at a hotel on the night of his arrest.

(Disclosure: I have the next episode, but haven't watched it yet, and the preview version I saw doesn't even tease what's coming next week. So if I'm right about any of this, I'm lucky, and if I'm wrong, I hope you'll forgive me.)

One thing's for sure: There is plenty more Claire Danes chin acting to come!

Random observations:

  • It's so great to see Danes and Damian Lewis sharing the same frame again. If Carrie is Brody's "Achilles heel," as Quinn put it, then you could say the same in reverse. No one gets under her skin like he does. Twice in this episode, we see her struggling to regain composure after encountering him -- and then there's her frank confession, as he's getting arrested: "I LOVED you!" That's what's so great about these characters: They are genuinely hot for each other, genuinely afraid of each other and genuinely determined to get the better of each other. It can only end badly, which is why we can't turn away. And the chemistry they have as actors is just wild. The cloud that overtook Brody's face when he realized he was done for? Wow ... though I'm not sure he said quite enough to incriminate himself, which was clearly Carrie's motivation for confronting him that way -- or at least part of her motivation.
  • "By the way, this is not a booty call." #win
  • Welcome, Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend). Every show needs a guy who comes off like a dick at first, but turns out to be a "reliable" guy. I can't wait to see him turn on Estes.
  • Speaking of Estes, how perfect is it that his son idolizes Darth Vader? "I am your father" indeed!
  • Unlike many commenters, I continue to enjoy the Dana story line. Morgan Saylor and Timothee Chalamet, as Finn, have real chemistry, and I loved the way the scene inside the Washington Monument was shot. It's rare that we get such unvarnished depictions of children this powerful, and the symbolism of their faces, reflected in the window, floating above the capital was forceful without being schmaltzy. Sorry, Xander, but these two are going places. (Also, what's wrong with calling yourself Alex?)
  • This was a pretty solid episode in the suspension-of-disbelief department. While I'm fairly certain that the CIA has nowhere near the live-surveillance capabilities "New Car Smell" credits it with, we've all been conditioned by the Bourne movie franchise to believe otherwise, so that doesn't count. But did I miss anything egregious? If so, please let us know in the comments.
  • I honestly thought we were going to spend a few more episodes watching Carrie watching Brody, since that is -- or was -- one of her favorite activities ever. Well, maybe we will, but now they'll be in cahoots.
  • A bit strange that the episode was named after what seemed like the throwaway detail of Brody's needing a car wash to get the Tailor's cigarette stench out of his car. But maybe it's foreshadowing a similarly artificial cleansing for him?
  • Just a general note to my friends and colleagues: Going forward, if anyone's going to show up at my house and deliver bad news, I want it to be Mandy Patinkin in character as Saul.

Now it's your turn to tell me what you thought of this episode. Any other theories on what happens next? Are the writers moving too fast, or do you find their courage refreshing? Am I the only person who finds Dana interesting? Did you buy the climactic showdown between Carrie and Brody? And how does Mike fit into all this?

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'Homeland'
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'Homeland'