Claire Danes and Martin Donovan star in the best episode of "Homeland" so far this season, "Game On." (Credit: Kent Smith/Showtime) I love how this episode is called “Game On” because it’s like a call to arms for all the sleeper cell plot points that had been lying in wait for the first few episodes of this season.
Crazy Carrie is really Genius Carrie! I mean “Homeland” has been hitting us over the head with that one ever since the beginning, and even harder since they started using the audio clip of Saul telling her that she’s “the smartest and the dumbest f—ing person” he’s ever known.
But seriously, it all makes sense now! And I totally didn’t even see it coming! If you’re reading this now you can pretend you saw it coming all along, but did you, really? When I watched Crazy Carrie bang her head on the bathroom mirror until she drew blood last week it was so cliché, and I fell for it, got annoyed and sighed, “Ugh, the writers are smarter than that.”
And they certainly are smarter than that. They were willing to let fans be disappointed in them for a week in exchange for this big payoff. But let’s analyze the stuff that unrolls before this reveal of Keyser Soze proportions. (Is it really that big of a reveal? Maybe we should say “of ‘No Way Out’ proportions,” but does anybody know that movie? If not, check it out. I remember it being pretty good, but that was when I saw it in seventh grade. Don’t blame me if it doesn’t hold up. But while we’re inside of these parentheses and hitting all of these little distractions, let me just put forth that maybe the combination of the “Crazy Carrie is really Genius Carrie” reveal with the “Dana’s new boyfriend might totally murder her” reveal makes this whole episode comparable to the suspense of “The Usual Suspects.”)
Now back to the program! We open up on Carrie waking up in the middle of the night in the asylum. I would have previously called her Crazy Carrie, but we now all know that she was faking. She has been awakened by screams. She walks down the hall to see what the big deal is and she sees a woman being restrained.
Is this woman a “Chekhov’s gun” or is she there just to illustrate that Carrie really doesn’t belong in the institution? She’s not that crazy, right?
I mean, upon first viewing it seems like the latter, but knowing what we all know now it seems like we’re definitely going to see her again. First we’ll see her in the “Previously on ‘Homeland’” recap and then we’ll get to know her story. That’s what I’m calling at least.
So one of the orderlies sees Carrie witnessing this, and rushes after her as she returns to her room. He tells her “This door stays open.”
Then we see Fara working studiously like she’s been at it for hours. At least the two coffee cups, one soda can and wrappers for chips are there on her desk to give that impression. See below!
Nazanin Boniadi as Fara: "Hey, so check out how long I've been at my desk! I've got two coffee cups, one bag of junk food and one soda!" (Credit: Kent Smith/Showtime)
OK, so it’s not as exciting as the “Princess Bride” scrawled notebook from the recap of the premiere, but now that we know that was fake, that makes so much more sense! A real crazy person wouldn’t write that! And a real crazy person would be so obsessive that she wouldn’t have left that notebook with anybody else for even a second. But if we take this into consideration, maybe Fara faked the amount of caffeinated stuff she appears to have been imbibing? Hmmmm?
OK then. Moving on.
So Saul busts in and Fara tells him that she did what he asked her to do and followed the other 5 percent of money unaccounted for in the transactions that funded the attack on Langley and are currently funding other terrorist initiatives.
She tells him after the dinero arrives at the HLBC subsidiary in Venezuela (HLBC are those banking dudes that Quinn got to cooperate with the CIA in Episode 302) the money is converted into small bills, stacked onto palettes, loaded into a truck and delivered in the middle of the night to the stadium in Venezuela, where it's held at the box office and declared as receipts for the next day's soccer game. Snorrrrre. Oops. Sorry. We have to follow this minutia in order for any of this to pay off. No pun intended with the "pay off" thing. But Fara estimates that about $45 million over the last 10 years has been laundered like this. Saul proposes that it might be the owner of the soccer team. Fara singles out the guy as Nasser Hajezzi. But it's funny because when she says the name, Saul is like, "Say it again" and I'm pretty sure what's implied is "as a favor to anybody writing a recap of this episode."
Nasser Hajezzi is a real guy, and he really was the goalkeeper for Iran's 1978 World Cup team, and as Fara points out, he really is dead. At this point bad 'ol Dar Adal enters and Saul tells him, "I left the DOJ documents on your desk."
These documents of course pertain to Crazy Carrie and making sure she isn't released from the asylum, but we don't know this at first.
So Saul puts forth a theory to Fara, "say I'm an Iranian official whose job it is to fund terrorist efforts in the Western hemisphere, and say I'm watching all of these bankers get rich on the deal, why not me too?"
He speculates that a false identity would help with that endeavor and protect him from getting caught laundering money.
"Like a goalkeeper," Fara says.
Saul then takes down a photo from the bulletin board of a guy who used to love Nasser Hajezzi when he was a little kid. Dammit, I don't know how to spell this terrorist's name! Jah Booty? Chad Bodean?
So Carrie is about to go in for her hearing to be released from the asylum. Her attorney assures her that her dad and sister are coming. She gives her some makeup. Carrie's relatives have not arrived at the hearing. The hearing goes smashingly well though anyway, right?
Well, yes, but that doesn't always get you out of an asylum. As she awaits the verdict, she sees Dar Adal. D'oh! He's definitely rigged it so she won't get out.
"Miss Mathison, I'm afraid I can't approve your release from this facility today," says the judge when Carrie returns to face him.
"Miss Mathison signed away some of her constitutional protections when she went to work for the CIA," the judge tells Carrie's lawyer. The attorney argues that the testimony of the psychiatric professionals should trump a document from the DOJ saying that Carrie is a threat to international security. Carrie looks legitimately pissed. She borrows her attorney's phone to call her dad, who tells her he thought Carrie's hearing was canceled. He's playing chess on a porch with a woman who may be a romantic interest. There's a carefully crafted lemon drink between them. Nude selfies being exchanged there? Sorry. That's gross. It's just a callback from a previous "Homeland" recap I wrote. (You follow these religiously, right?)
Anyway, Carrie has a message that she wants her dad to give to Saul. "Tell him that I give up ... I can't stand another second in this place ... I'm going out of my mind. ... I'll do whatever he wants, just not this."
Was this a specific code? Or was this just her playing up the "betrayed by her employers" role? As Carrie walks back to her room, looking dejected, she sees the woman she had previously seen being subdued.
So speaking of crazies trying to get out... Leo escapes and Dana Brody is waiting for him in her mom's car. We see them buzzing along, sharing a joint and rocking out to a band that I tried to Shazam but just couldn't figure out.
Dana's phone rings, Leo sees on the caller ID that it's Mrs. Brody so he just throws Dana's phone out the window. Leo reasons that "they could catch us with a GPS" and Dana bemoans "they're going to catch us anyway."
Leo says some BS about how the young couple in love shouldn't make it easy for them though, and Dana then gets this look on her face that's all "Wow, he's so rebellious and crazy and I love him," not knowing of course that he really is crazy! Dude killed his brother! But we're not there yet.
We see that Jessica has been hanging out with Mike, Brody's old Army buddy and Jessica's former lover from when she thought her husband was dead. They're on their way into a meeting with Leo's parents. We learn for the first time that his last name is Carras. (At least I think this is the first time we learn that.) Everybody's trying to find the two crazy kids and the Carras family accuse Dana of being a bad influence on their son, ya know, given that her dad was a terrorist. Jessica of course takes offense.
"You should know that my daughter is not responsible for what her father did," Jessica says.
Then we see Leo and Dana bartering with some mechanics at a place called Vester's Auto Repair, trying to trade in Mrs. Brody's Outback for a Camry and get a little extra cash. Dana jokes, "We just carjacked it. We're natural born killers."
Oh, poor Dana. You don't know that this is actually true for one of you.
One of the mechanics is like, "I know you from someplace!" and the two crazy kids just wanna get out of there, and hopefully with a car that doesn't belong to Dana's mom. They trade car-for-car with no cash back.
We then see Carrie lying in bed at the asylum again, staring up at the ceiling, but not in Crazy Carrie mode, she's just bummed out about the ugliness of her surroundings. Then her nurse friend comes in and tells her she has been released!
She gets back to her place and sees Paul Franklin sitting there. He's the one who got her out. All he wants to know is if she'll just meet with the partner in his firm who is so interested in her. Carrie's release is for only 24 hours, but a judge that the firm knows could be willing to make it permanent if Carrie will just take that damn meeting.
"Why not at least listen to what the man has to say," reasons Paul Franklin, "what have you got to lose?"
Carrie seems to reluctantly agree to have Paul Franklin pick her up in the morning for the meeting.
But then she tries to get the hell out, or at least give the appearance that she's trying to get the hell out, right?
But her car is gone and her financial accounts have been frozen.
We then see Saul in his office, on the phone, learning that Carrie has been released. He's pissed, or at least it seems! Dar Adal walks in and presents his "Carrie's gonna talk, maybe I should insinuate one more time that we should just kill her" case that he always seems to be presenting lately.
"The agency is still weak, Saul," he says. "It could die of a common cold, and she's a full-blown contagion."
Read: KILL HER!
Saul tells Dar Adal to get Carrie off the street. Then we see a shot of Saul thinking, which it now seems in hindsight we're to interpret as, "Oh man, my top-secret plan is kinda nuts, I hope it will work."
Carrie is on the loose, and she's turning anywhere for help, including her old buddy Virgil, who helped her illegally bug Brody in the first season. He reluctantly tells her he'll help her, and he finally agrees to let her borrow his van, but then he gives her ye olde "listen, don't meet me" code by way of Andy Samberg's impression of Mark Wahlberg. Did that make sense? Basically, he says, "Say hi to your mom for me," knowing full well that Carrie's mom is dead.
Read: Don't come get the van, Carrie!
Everywhere Carrie tries to go, she sees surveillance people looking out for her. It's probably around this time that you, like me, noticed how hot Claire Danes has been looking in this episode. And then you said, "Why doesn't she wear a wig or something?" Because with that golden hair she's so obviously noticeable. And lookin' fine, girl!
But that's the thing! She kinda wants to get noticed! But you don't know this when you're watching for the first time!
Then we see Dana and Leo hanging out by Leo's brother's grave. They're sharing a bottle of wine and she's reciting "Kubla Khan" for him. She totally should have been reciting Wilde or Keats or Yeats or anything else from "Cemetery Gates" by The Smiths, right? I mean, if she's gonna do something so embarrassingly wannabe intellectual, the writers should at least be more winking about how absurd and dramatic teenage life can be.
"Guess it was my job," Leo says of his brother who was 11 months younger, "to protect him. Isn't that what older brothers are supposed to do?"
"He killed himself with a gun," Dana responds, in a "it's not your fault" sort of bid, and Leo looks at her with a menacing sort of "if only you knew" glare.
Leo and Dana's field trip then takes them to the airport where Dana bid her dad farewell when he first shipped off to Iraq. The scene is one of the many that makes viewers be like "Holy crap! Morgan Saylor is such a good actress! You guys had better use her as much as possible because she's SO GOOD!"
At least the scene made this viewer say that. It's mostly in the subtle nuances of what she does with her eyes. She knows when to look away. She knows when to pause, and she knows how to show hurt. But I have every confidence that the "Homeland" producers know all of this, because look how this storyline with her is becoming so much heavier.
We flash Jessica and Mike talking. She feels guilty for letting her daughter run away, and then for not letting Mike move in before Brody came back home. "I could kill him," she says of her husband.
Meanwhile Fara and Saul go over the Jah Booty stuff and how the guy uses his goalkeeper pseudonym for all the trips he made to Venezuela. Fara asks if she can open up a formal investigation, but Saul says no. In order to do this properly, they have to wait. Saul wants to "rip him down to the studs."
Carrie rings the doorbell of the dude she had a one-night-stand with a few episodes ago. She flat-out asks if she can crash with him.
"I've got exactly one couch and one bed," he says, flirtatiously.
"Bed's cool with me," she smiles.
In the morning Carrie wakes up before the dude does and she takes some cash from his wallet. Dude keeps way more cash in his wallet than anybody I know. But when she walks out of his door in the morning, a big 'ol Cadillac SUV pulls up and Paul Franklin picks her up to take her to meet Leland Bennett at this stately manor that the firm keeps for their more "privacy-sensitive clients."
Oooooh! (but with a different meaning).
Carrie tells him she's not for sale.
He reassures her that "no one's going to ask you to do anything that makes you uncomfortable."
She says "For all I know you're FBI and this is a sting," a suspicion that we later understand she doesn't even really feel.
His manor is perfect and Martin Donovan is an excellent casting choice to play the sleazy above-the-law rich lawyer.
"Our firm has several longstanding relationships with countries in the Middle East," he begins, still super diplomatic, before getting into the dirt. "We lobby on their behalf and quietly represent their interest in Washington."
Gah! The worst thing about this is that there most likely are people in this world who do this sort of underhanded thing.
Anyway, Bennett's client wants to put Carrie on retainer to pick her brain from time to time. For example, all of the guys who got wiped out in that "Wizard of Oz" mission a few episodes ago, the client would like to know "how those men were identified and targeted."
This would be major traitor territory for Carrie!
She says she won't do it and starts to walk away.
"Iran was behind the Langley bombing," she says.
"Which carried out a retaliation against Israeli airstrikes on their nuclear facilities," Bennett reasons.
When Carrie says it sounds like he's drank the Kool-Aid, he says, "I'm a professional. I'm paid to make arguments, not wave a flag."
She starts to walk away again.
"You'll be back in county lockup by the end of the day, put there by the very institutions you're trying to protect," Bennett says.
He then goes on to explain that the CIA will "controversialize" Carrie. They're turning her into the scapegoat for all the bad shit that went down. Dude actually has a point.
"Pretty soon it's not a story about a terrorist attack anymore," he says, "or how the people meant to protect us screwed up. It's about you! It's about sex between a bipolar CIA agent and her brainwashed boyfriend."
Oooooh! (with still a different meaning ... actually, this is kind of the same kind of 'Oooooh!' as the one when Paul Franklin picked her up).
"I'm not a traitor," she says.
"No," he counters. "What you are is a liability to a lot of people who have got a lot to lose."
Claire Danes plays this scene so well, as we gradually see defeat turn her facial features downward as she realizes (or pretends to realize) the truth in all that Bennett is saying. If she doesn't cooperate with him, the CIA will probably kill her anyway. What does she have to lose?
"Let us help you, Carrie," he whispers. "We're very good at it."
If this Bennett guy continues to be a major "Homeland" player then this quote is bound to get some play in the intro soon too.
Carrie then agrees on the condition that she can be kept out of the hospital and is well-compensated.
"I never want to see you again, Mr. Bennett," Carrie says, beginning to cry.
If Bennett obliges, then I guess there goes my prediction of hearing that sound bite in the intro any time soon.
"I will see your client," she continues, "but only face-to-face."
"That could be a problem," says Bennett.
"His problem," she insists.
Oooooh! (read: Yeah Carrie! Although at this point, we still think she's agreeing to be a traitor, so it's not quite a "Yeah Carrie!" moment).
"Think of it this way," Bennett says sleazily, "maybe you two can find some common ground, put the world right and save us all."
Dude doesn't really believe this. Carrie knows that and says "F— you."
Paul Franklin drops her off and gives her an envelope full of Benjamins. She jokes darkly that she'll use the money to buy a plane ticket for a faraway destination, and he informs her that she's on the no-fly list.
Carrie gets out of the car and disappears into a crowd.
Meanwhile in the land of crazy teenage fugitives, Mike has news for Jessica: Leo wasn't in rehab for treatment, but as part of a deal his parents made with the DEA to prevent him from being charged with a homicide. Dude totally killed his brother!
Then we see Dana and Leo in nappy romantic bliss in the Camry in the woods. But now we know for sure he's a killer.
"I just want to stay like this forever," says Dana. "I never wanna go back."
Leo's like "We don't have to ... BECAUSE I CAN KILL YOU AND YOU CAN NEVER COME BACK FROM THAT MWA HA HA HA HA!"
OK, he doesn't say that last part, but that's implied, right? Or is this the writers tricking us again? Did the father really kill the younger brother or something?
In the final scene — the best scene of this season so far — Saul is sitting on his back porch when we see Carrie approaching him from behind.
At this point as the viewer you're like, "oh yeah! Carrie is really gonna give him a piece of her mind! Or maybe smack him upside the head."
They say each other's names as they square off against each other.
You may have found yourself exclaiming, "This showdown is gonna be tight!"
I wouldn't have blamed you. I said something similar myself, but I'm not really comfortable using the word "tight" to describe something I'm excited about.
The charade of an antagonistic relationship continues for a few more lines of dialogue.
And then it happens!
Claire Danes in an instant turns her look of fragility and pity into one of resolute triumph with a tinge of surprise. Think of how hard it was for me to figure out how to put that into words, now try putting that into a wordless expression! Yeah, she's such a kickass actress!
"It worked, Saul," says Carrie. "They picked me up this morning"
Woahhhhhh! Yeah, "Homeland" team! And who is the client? Is it Jah Booty?
"It has to be," she says.
Saul embraces her and tells her she's been very brave. She cries and chides Saul for leaving her in the hospital. Saul then offers to make her a nice cup of tea. The last line is a little bit of a letdown, but come on, every climax needs a denouement.