'Homeland' Season 3 Premiere Recap: Saul Makes His Decision

As we begin the third season of Homeland, we see our favorite CIA analyst/assassin with a heart of gold, Peter Quinn, assemble a remote-detonated bomb in a dim, hot apartment that I could not help but associate with Apocalypse Now’s opening sequence. As he attaches the magnetized bomb to a dirty fridge, we get a nice, loaded juxtaposition, as the show cuts to Carrie Mathison (audience applause), our favorite bipolar, guilt-ridden, unsung hero, who helped suspected Langley bomber Nicholas Brody escape the country at the climax of season two.


And so we start off, post-bang (don’t worry, there are more bangs to come this episode), with Carrie and her legal adviser facing a hard-assed, no-bullshit committee dedicated to unearthing the CIA inadequacies that contributed to a bomb being blown up under everybody’s noses.

We cut to a shot of Saul and Dar Adal discussing the committee’s goal to, in Adal’s words, "put [the CIA] out of business." Adal suggests throwing Carrie under the bus, since her "history of insubordination" makes her an ideal scapegoat for the CIA’s shortcomings. Good old Saul refuses, of course. Just before we cut to Carrie again, we learn that Quinn is in Caracas, Venezuela.

At the mere mention of Brody’s name, a small "crazy" switch seems to flick inside Carrie's head, as when committee chairman Lockhart asks for some "clarification" regarding the CIA’s ties with Brody. The committee confronts Carrie with a leaked document describing Brody’s immunity "in exchange for his help in capturing or killing Abu Nazir." Carrie is stunned. She denies any knowledge of Brody's immunity, but Lockhart presses further, asking, "At what point did the agency know Brody was a bad guy?" Carrie’s adviser points out that there’s a manhunt for Brody at the moment, but Lockhart doesn’t budge, asking how "cozy" the agency was with this "traitor" in their midst. Because Carrie's instinct is to love and protect Brody, she suggests he didn’t do it, looking almost proud for standing up for him in front of the committee. This inevitably results in Lockhart asking Carrie what she’s smoking (meth?). After a call to Saul (I can’t resist: better call Saul!) about the leak we cut to Dana Brody’s side of the story.

Which is somewhat interesting. Not to get too into Brody’s family’s side plots, but we learn that Dana slit her wrists in the bathtub, likely because of mounting stress from media attention, death threats, and the fact that she’s the daughter of the most wanted terrorist in America. During her last day of counseling, we get a glimpse of her involvement with one of the boys in her group. Later in the episode, she sends a topless picture of herself to the boy’s phone. Dana might deserve a section deserved to her antics, too, as she clearly does not understand the implications and consequences of an alleged terrorist’s daughter sending topless pictures to some kid who went to counseling. I sense an inevitable media storm.

OK, now that we have that side plot out of the way, let’s focus on the action. Saul enters a meeting with several other operatives and the national security adviser, and we learn that Quinn being in Caracas is just one piece of the puzzle. Saul's alternative to Adal's scapegoating plan is to assassinate six targets indirectly related to the Langley bombing in the span of 20 minutes, putting the CIA back on the map. When the national security adviser asks Saul if the operation is a go, Saul look helplessly at Adal, back at the adviser, and responds, "We’re still deciding."

What Crazy Things Did Carrie Do This Week?

Carrie’s dad confronts her about her disuse of lithium and intensive use of tequila (he found empty bottles in the trash). Carrie attributes her latest round of bipolar alcoholism to a "doctor-supervised program." Would that be Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Carrie?   

We then get a scene in which Saul vents to Mira about his new position as acting director of the CIA. Bringing him up to bed, Mira tells Saul that he does everything he can "to avoid making a decision." She's referring to his inability to make proactive choices about their marriage, but her words apply to his new directorial role, as well. We can definitely feel pressure mounting upon Saul to do something — however unpleasant — to set things straight. We’ll see the what that is very soon.

Back to the committee hearing: refusing to serve as a witness against herself, Carrie stays silent when Lockhart inquires about reports of her leaving with Brody on the day of the explosion, which contradict her, um, inventive alibi that she was passed out in a Langley bathroom for 14 hours straight after the explosion. Lockhart warns Carrie that, "you are doing and have done great harm to you country, which you will pay for one day, I promise you."

We see Saul and Adal gazing at rubble that, after two months, has yet to see a single jackhammer. Saul decides to give the go order for the assassinations.

We are transported to Caracas, where Quinn is on a motorbike following his target’s car. As he’s about to attach the bomb to the car, he notices the target’s child inside, and holds off until they get home. Quinn gets the go-ahead to infiltrate the virtual fortress that is the target's home, and creates a diversion by detonating the bomb and quickly hunting down his target, shooting the kid in the process. Horrified, Quinn walks away.

The episode’s title, "Tin Man is Down," refers to Quinn’s fallen target, but could also refer to the characters’ seemingly heartless decisions, which are not immoral so much as they are made out of pure necessity, and which inevitably come with heavy burdens to bear. The exception, of course, being the "crazies" this episode, Carrie and Dana, who seem to make emotional decisions based on no immediate logic.

In the next scene, we watch with mounting amusement as Carrie piles a Jenga-tower of tequila in her shopping basket while flirtatiously looking at a redhead (she sure likes them redheads). The night ends with a bang (told you there were more bangs!). She wakes up to her father reading the morning newspaper’s headline over the phone: "CIA Officer Linked to Langley Bomber." Carrie’s crazy counter tips over to three as she storms into a restaurant where Saul and Adal are eating (cake, if you were curious), and accuses them of leaking the information. After she’s escorted away by a CIA operative, Adal assures Saul that he didn't leak the information.

On a televised senate investigation into the bombing, headed by hard-ass Lockhart, Saul announces the operation's success. Predictably, this doesn’t please Lockhart, who, after thanking Saul, dismisses the "civilians" as "easy targets" who weren’t directly involved with the bombing. Lockhart then reveals his trump card to a nervous Saul: the headline in yesterday’s paper. Carrie, who’s watching this on television, is now more alert. Withholding her name, Saul proceeds with Adal’s initial plan: to throw Carrie (anonymously) under the bus by revealing her bipolar disorder in front of the committee, as well as the fact that she concealed her affair with Brody from the CIA. Carrie watches, stunned, with tears running down her face.

The jazz-infused credits play. Till next week!

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Aleksandr Smechov

A beer and prose aficionado, Alex is a journalism major at Baruch College. He likes to believe that underneath his quotidian European visage lies a writer with a propensity for the Kafkaesque, an intimate magnetism towards the strange, an aversion to the mundane and outcome-oriented life of a worker drone.

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