Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 2, Episode 9 of Showtime's "Homeland," titled "Two Hats."
Now this is the "Homeland" we've been waiting for!
In "Two Hats," arguably the best episode of the season so far, the writers piled intrigue on top of intrigue. You've got Estes, Quinn, Saul and Carrie trying to figure out what Nazir has planned, and whether or not they can trust Brody. Even if Brody is telling the truth, there's the possibility that Nazir is using him to throw the CIA off his trail. Then you've got Carrie, Saul, Virgil and Max trying to figure out who Quinn -- or should I say "John X slash Peter Quinn"? -- is working for and what he has up his sleeve. Meanwhile, Jess seizes the opportunity to seduce Mike Faber in the guest room of the CIA safe house (memo to Jess: They bug the hell out of these places) and prove once and for all that Morena Baccarin didn't add a "no nudity" clause into her Season 2 contract.
The good stuff was so good that even I, a founding member of the Team Dana fan club, wanted to punch the screen every time she and Mike had one of their dopey heart-to-hearts. "Get back to the action!" I felt like shouting. "More shadowy tension, less soul talk!" (Though it was nice to see Mike stand up to her "This is bullshit" bullshit.)
That tension was there from the start, coiled tight as a spring, as Estes, Quinn, Saul and Carrie puzzle over the disappearance of Brody. Carrie has to be the one to say it: "He's dead. If not physically dead, then operationally dead." If he's alive, then Estes' plan to roll up Roya will surely kill him and Carrie can't object for fear of looking like his bleeding-heart girlfriend instead of a guy's-guy super-spy.
Cut to Brody, who is, of course, alive. A clean-shaven Nazir, who apparently is not celebrating Movember, gives Brody a big kiss and says he trusts in him because Allah trusts in him. As soon as Nazir speeds away in his car, Brody runs to a restaurant to ask for a payphone (cue hilarious joke about payphones being so "last century") and, when that fails, a cell phone. He calls Carrie and tells her to move his family somewhere safe, then wait for another call in an hour.
Carrie, who has a vested interest in seeing Jess resume her affair with Uncle Mike, sends him to scoop up the family and spirit them away to some luxurious safe condo where they are free to pursue their passions: Dana emanating gloom from every pore, Chris gazing like a simpleton at all the flat-screen TV's, Jess asking unanswerable questions about Brody's mission, Uncle Mike cooking yet another breakfast with a towel over his shapely shoulder.
But why am I still talking about the most boring part of the episode? Brody calls again and says to Carrie, "Remember where we first met, and I don't mean your office?" She replies, "In the rain?" I'm glad she remembers, because I don't. She goes there and he jumps in the passenger seat. "I thought I was dead, Carrie," he says, which gets the patented Claire Danes waterworks going. She knows just how close he was. She has to haul him in before Estes and the gang, but first ... for all the people who complained last week about the CIA's inability to track that helicopter from last episode: Brody explains that it flew "very low, very fast," which presumably kept it under the radar. Satisfied, folks? Didn't think so, but let's move on.
Brody's testimony is not terribly convincing. His "fuck him" talk about Nazir feels especially forced. And yet, for viewers at home at least, his story is seemingly corroborated by dramatic reenactments. Does that mean he's telling the truth? Or could they be dramatizations of his lies? And how are we to interpret the scene of him praying with Nazir, which he declines to mention for obvious reasons. Personally, it feels like a misdirection tactic in itself: If you're a racist jerk who thinks Islam equals terrorism, then you think he's lying about everything. If you're a liberal who thinks it's a shame that a congressman can't be open about his choice to worship Allah, then you think it's an understandable omission. Maybe the truth is somewhere in between?
Brody says Nazir has decided to "die taking the fight to the enemy." His plan is to blow up 300 returning Special Forces soldiers at a homecoming ceremony with Walden and ... Brody. Brody's mission is to get Walden to let Roya cover the event with her camera van full of explosives.
Carrie thinks Brody's telling the truth. The plan, she says, is "quintessential Nazir." Everyone else is more skeptical. The best part comes when Saul is watching on a closed-circuit TV as Brody pulls some voodoo shit on Carrie about how he only cares what she thinks. Quinn creeps up on him, and Saul says, "Think you're the only one who understands that this fucker needs watching like a hawk?" The anger in his voice! I guess he's tired of seeing his girl Friday get jerked around by the crazy congressman.
Another sign that Brody might be faking: When Carrie admits that it was her idea to send Mike Faber to look after his family, he doesn't say, "Don't you know that's the guy who's been fucking my wife?" He says, "Smart."
He's definitely faking during the scene with Estes and Walden, where he pretends to be debriefed about the plot. "Roya Hamad's a terrorist," Brody exclaims with mock horror in a bit of bad acting that shows just what a good actor Damian Lewis is.
Once Walden's up to speed, Brody calls Roya, who advises him to stand near her and her cameraman when the plane full of Special Forces soldiers lands. "It's a bomb," Saul concludes. She's telling Brody how to stay safe.
(This is the moment where, if this were "Les Misérables," everyone in the cast would bust out in an ensemble rendition of "One Day More.")
Jess and Mike are drinking half-decent CIA wine out of those big yuppie glasses when she hatches a plan to seduce him: "Take the guest room," she says. Next thing you know, she's sneaking out of her own bed and into Mike's room. There's a super-uncomfortable scene where she reaches down Mike's shorts, but I guess that's supposed to let us know that Mike is still a decent fellow -- dude never had a chance. In the morning, Jess has a brief panic attack when she realizes she's slept the night in Mike's bed, but she returns to her own room to find Dana and Chris snoozing peacefully. But yeah, that's going to get ugly at some point.
And then there's this whole crazy thing with Quinn's secret identity. He's figured out a way to keep intruders out of his apartment with a stack of quarters. He has a kid with a police officer in Philly. He works for some weird guy who lives on the bus. It's complicated. All you really need to know is that, in Estes' words, "He's here to kill terrorists, just like the rest of us." And that means that, after the operation goes down and Roya's rolled up, snipers kill her accomplices, and Carrie figures out that the guy in the van dressed up like Nazir is not Nazir ("WE DO NOT HAVE SANDMAN!"), Quinn decides NOT to assassinate Brody in the back seat of a limo in the family driveway. Estes is the man who makes the call, telling Quinn via his earpiece that, since Nazir is still alive, "We still need him."
So that's how it's gonna be! I assume the motive for killing Brody is to prevent him from telling Walden that Estes has been secretly running him as a double agent. It's a good thing I know that Carrie always wins and Estes always loses on this show, or else I'd be worried that the good congressman might actually be in danger!
But what happens now? If Nazir wasn't in the van, where is he? And what does he have planned? We'll have to wait till next episode to find out, but feel free to leave your guesses in the comments.
By the way, anyone else notice that the title of the episode has two meanings? There's Estes' remark about Quinn wearing "two hats" during the mission to take down Roya and Nazir, and there's the fact that Nazir and his double are wearing the same silly golf hat.
Am I right that this was the best episode of the season? Did I miss anything good? Anything preposterous? Let me know in the comments!
"Homeland" airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.