Spoiler Alert: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 3, Episode 7 of Showtime's "Homeland," titled "Gerontion."
Make no mistake -- the second-half of this season's "Homeland" means business. After meandering aimlessly for a few too many episodes at the beginning of the season through Dana's teen runaway subplot and Carrie's "beautiful mind," the show's writers have returned to the white-knuckle tumble of interrogations and cat-and-mouse games that we've been waiting for all along. In other words, we're back to the fun stuff.
"Gerontion" (cheers to the T.S. Eliot reference) begins with Saul revealing the hand he has in store for captured Iranian terrorist Javadi. Keep in mind, this is the exact play that Saul has been spinning for at least the past two months. Javadi, still covered in his ex-wife's blood, smugly outlines his conditions for trading intelligence: "There's a deal to be made, or I'd be in prison by now. If I talk, if I do that, I need protection. I need a secure compound in Miami, and I need my money, all of it." Javadi -- like when he turned against Saul in the fall of the Shah back on his homeland -- is a survivor, loyalties be damned. He is the Iranian Brody: a one-time hero of the United States turned against his own country. They're both cockroaches.
But Saul has something even better planned for his one-time friend: He tells Javadi that he will be returning to Iran as an asset for the CIA; if he doesn't, Saul will out Javadi for stealing $50 million dollars from the Iranian government. "You killed 219 Americans. Do you think I care you also ripped off the Revolutionary Guard?" Saul asks. "Make no mistake of it, you'll be returning back to Iran, either as a traitor or as an asset ... I'm your case officer now," Saul says, knowing that he has Javadi fully backed up in a corner. Javadi initially resists, then accepts his doomed fate in the only way he can: by copious amounts of sighing. He sighs as he changes into fresh clothes in the bathroom. He sighs as he talks to Carrie. He sighs as he boards a ridiculously luxurious plane. There's so much sighing and so much saudade to the man, Javadi is one minor key melody and a couple of soulful lyrics away from being a moderately convincing Portuguese folk song. After he sighs pre-embarkation, he mumbles something threatening to Carrie that is meant to play with her already crazy emotions. But more on that later.
In between interrogations, our transactions specialist hottie Fara Sherazi is growing agitated. First, she yells at Javadi in Persian, forcing Saul to eject her from the room. Then she pleads with Carrie for Javadi to be tried in the U.S., not Iran, because justice needs to be served for the 219 American lives he's taken. "He manipulates people, that's what he does," Carrie warns Farah. But is there something greater going on here? Is Fara -- who Saul once berated for wearing head scarf at Langley, because it was a "fuck you" to the people who worked there -- a double agent? Or does she have another, more secretive incentive to keep Javadi in the U.S., but far away enough from her that she'll grip a knife in his mere presence? IMDB says that Farrah (Nazanin Boniadi) will only be on the show for one more episode, so whatever's going to happen to her can't be too good.
His asset secured, Saul prepares to drive back to Langley but pauses before getting into his car. He calls Mira and regales her with tales of their time in Tehran, a quaint little nostalgia jaunt for which her level of enthusiasm appears to be slightly inferior to his. But then -- shock! -- just as her night gown draws apart suggestively and she starts to engage more with Saul's silly old fogie reminiscences ("You were so young," he says, as if addressing his grandchild), the camera pans back and we see Mira's French sociologist lover, Alain, draped shirtless through the bedsheets with a kind of pining, bareback loucheness. Naughty, naughty Mira -- and naughty Alain! For a show that strains to draw even its straightforwardly evil Muslim characters in such a subtle and balanced manner, it must be comforting for the writers to be able to take a breather from all the nuance by falling back on that handiest of character cliches: the dirty dog Frenchie, charismatic and generous of breast hair, worming his way into the taken American woman's bed with little more than a shrug of the shoulders, some middling field research in academic sociology, and a Gallic pout. We're excited to see what will happen to this character over the weeks ahead; could Alain Bernard be "Homeland"'s new Dana? Let's hope not.
Thank god we were relieved of the sure-to-cumbersome backstory regarding Carrie's pregnancy. While we're sure we'll be getting a juicy plot line in the future, so far Carrie's impending motherhood has only served to throw her off her game while visiting the double murder crime scene of Javadi's ex-wife and daughter-in-law. She vomits, then says to the police, "I'm sorry, I don't know what's wrong with me." Punchline of the show?
Back at Langley, Saul attempts to rush back to his office unnoticed, in that slightly harassed and constipated gait of his, but is intercepted by Dar Adal, who had apparently been maintaining a diligent, continuous vigil over the elevator bank for the week or so that Saul, Carrie, Quinn and the others were AWOL. He demands an explanation for Saul's absence. "I need details," he snarls, an irascible marsupial in too-big pants. What are we to make of this funny little man? Is Dar a snake doing Senator Lockhart's bidding, or a dedicated CIA man looking out for the integrity of the agency? We get an answer -- a provisional answer, at least -- almost immediately, with Saul leading Dar back to his office, where Lockhart is also waiting, and explaining the whole story to them, from the set-up with Carrie's detainment in the psych ward to the recruitment of Javadi as an asset. Lockhart is predictably furious that Saul has lured Javadi into the country and allowed him to escape again without trial, deriding the notion of recruiting Javadi as "Cold War, human intelligence crap."
It's not clear exactly what Lockhart wants to replace human intelligence with once he assumes the helm of the CIA (algorithms? Vending machines?), but his point on bringing Javadi to trial in the U.S. seems like a strong one. Saul counters that it would be "short-sighted" to seek justice through the regular civilian channels at this point, since it will do nothing to prevent future attacks on America and will effectively waste the capture of an asset on the pursuit of a minimally valuable legal end. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that will transform the Middle East," Saul snarls, overplaying his hand slightly. "You sound like you're fucking high," Lockhart demurs, threatening to escalate the matter to the president unless the plane Javadi is on is grounded and Carrie is brought in for questioning. Saul takes Lockhart to a conference room to call the president; then comes the most deliciously satisfying moment of the episode, with Saul and Dar exiting the room and Saul locking the door behind them via remote control. The thuggishly jowly senator is locked in with no way of working the conference phone. "Dar, get me out of here," he shouts, as Dar and Saul look on from outside. "Dar. Dar." But Dar does not move; the marsupial stands firm. The marsupial is on the side of right. "You're dead," Lockhart says, before Saul clicks the remote control one more time to kill the lights. "What the fuck?" asks the senator. Outstanding stuff.
It's worth taking a moment to reflect, once more, on the magnificence of the acting in these scenes, especially from the self-important, pettifogging senator. Last week it was Lockhart's nostrils and upper lip doing all the work; this week his double chin steps manfully forward with its own small masterwork of quivering malevolence. The range of expression in Tracy Letts's skin folds is truly astonishing; if the man doesn't end this season with a swag of honors in recognition of the emotive power of his facial muscles, we'll give up on TV for good.
Javadi won't return back to Iran without a fight, of course. Between sighs, he makes some pretty ominous grumblings about the bombing at Langley and proffers to know more information about who was responsible for putting the bomb in the SUV. Javadi tells Carrie something to the effect of, "If you want to talk to someone you can trust, you should know that the man who put the bomb in the SUV did not die in the bombing. As far as I know, he's still in this country," then directs Carrie to the mysterious law firm who had brought him and Carrie together in the first place. What is his motive? Is he simply looking to manipulate Carrie, or is he looking for retribution to the law firm who was responsible for his own ensnarement? Judging from next week's episode preview, it looks like the Big Bad Law Firm owns a much bigger piece of this terrorist pie than we first thought.
Meanwhile, the show's producers again gift us with the stunning vision of shirtless Peter Quinn showering, cameras panning leisurely on Rupert Friend's bare chest and back as he pads around the house clothed only in a towel. Our favorite vigilante has been captured at the crime scene by the neighbor's security camera, and he must now confront his moral dilemma with his job head on. After he fake-confesses to murdering Javadi's ex-wife and daughter-in-law, the homicide cop shakes his head in contempt. "Have you ever done anything but made things worse?" Detective Johnson asks Quinn, who appears a little too eager to nod yes. This is therapy for Quinn, who has been attempting to wrangle with a deep guilt and conflict since accidentally shooting a child in Caracas earlier this season. "I don't think there's anything that justifies the damage we do," he tells Carrie, opening up to her about his emotions.
For long stretches of last night's episode, especially on those moments where the camera lingered on his blank, disappointed and uncomprehending face, Quinn seemed less like a hardened special ops guy finally being broken by the inhumanity and brutality of his job than a robot struggling to become human, a kind of Bicentennial Man with pecs. "Don't -- understand -- human emotions," you can almost hear Quinn saying to himself; it's as if every scene now promises to end with smoke coming from his ears and the word "MALFUNCTION" flashing on the screen as alarms sound in the background. But there's something else at work too; Quinn is becoming vulnerable, but his vulnerability is almost exclusively a performance for Carrie's benefit. Carrie's one-track mind leads her to crush the potentially romantic moment by banging on and on about Brody, and how she needs his help to go after Bennett, the compromised lawyer that Javadi identifies as the person who "moved" the bomb at Langley. "Sure, Carrie, whatever you want," Quinn says softly, before he drives off mournfully in the dark of the night. If Carrie can't understand him, who will? Quinn is quickly becoming the moral pulse of the show, and his late conversion to ethics is all the more convincing for being so painfully and plainly difficult for him.
The episode ends with a sappy, sexy scene between Saul and Mira, who stare at themselves in front of the mirror like a bad, more hirsute scene from "Eyes Wide Shut." Saul apologizes for not telling Mira that she was beautiful more often and basically tells her he can't bear to lose her. Um, does Saul know that Mira just came back from having hot sex with her younger French lover? Does he even care? There's something about "Homeland" and all of its characters that makes sex on the show so intrinsically unsexy -- Carrie and Brody, Carrie and Brody lookalike, Dana and Leo -- so we're glad to have panned out from that scene when we did.
Questions we have that were answered:
- What does Saul plan to do with Javadi? Send him back to Iran and make him collect intelligence for the CIA as a spy.
- Will Saul and Mira make it? Mira is pretty happy to welcome groveling Saul back into her life. Let's see how happy she'll be when Saul realizes just how recently she has been sleeping with her French lover.
- Where do Dar Adal's allegiances lie? One of the best characters of the show, Dar pulled through like a champ in the episode and showed he still cheers for Team Saul.
- Is Senator Lockhart the most unlikeable character on television? Yes.
- What's up with the episode's title? "Gerontion" is a title of a T.S. Eliot poem told from the perspective of an older man who has lived through World War I and is questioning his faith. The literary reference is a nod to the CIA's changing hands from our veteran, wise man Saul to Senator Lockhart.
Questions we still have:
- Who is the father of Carrie's baby?
- When will Peter Quinn finally throw in the towel? And will his growing affection for Carrie have anything to do with it?
- Is Javadi to be trusted back Iran? Will he double-play Saul and in turn ruin his entire operation? The man has been turned too many times to count.
- What role does the Big Bad Law Firm have to play with the bombing at the CIA, and who exactly are they connected to?
"Homeland" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.
What did you think of "Homeland" season 3, episode 7? Share your thoughts and predictions below.