In a riveting "Homeland," she pulls him back from the edge. But something big is coming
Inside the Gordian’s knot that is the Brody-Carrie power dynamic, Carrie plays the sub to be the dom. Carrie opens herself up to Brody, she makes herself vulnerable to him, she wants him, she attests to wanting him, she forgives him, all to give Brody the sense — but not just the sense — that he’s the partner with the power. An empowered Brody is a calmer Brody, a more reasonable Brody, a Brody Carrie can control.
Carrie successfully turned Brody into a double agent using this strategy. During his initial interrogation (just three episodes but a couple seasons’ worth of plot ago), Carrie led with “You broke my heart, you know? Was that easy? Was that fun?” She laid herself open to push Brody out of his victim mentality, into his perpetrator mentality, the one with whom she can make a deal, the one with enough agency to make choices and amends. Last week, as Brody was going off the rails because he felt overwhelmed and put upon, like everyone’s victim and pawn, Carrie kissed him to give him, as Quinn put it, some control. It worked.
Asserting the personal nature of their relationship is Carrie’s play, her strategy. So long as it is effective, she doesn’t have to examine too closely just how much her strategy encompasses two entirely distinct desires — the one to do her job, and the one to be close with Brody. The extent to which, in other words, her strategy is not just a strategy but also wish fulfillment. She has made her competence as a CIA officer dependent on Brody’s attachment to her, thus forestalling the moment when her attachment to Brody makes her an incompetent CIA officer. Can she put that moment off forever? It’s a fantasy of Carrie’s — and the audience’s — that she just might be able to.
The moment when Carrie’s professionalism and her passion blow each other up was again forestalled in last night’s episode, but it was a very, very near miss. As Abu Nazir’s plot amps up, Brody and Carrie’s personal and professional relationship are reaching such a frenzy it’s hard to imagine how they can both be maintained.
When we first see Brody in this episode, “Homeland’s” camera is doing fancy footwork it usually eschews in order to convey Brody’s disastrous mental state. Leave the stationary shots for Dana and Mike-the-mensch’s story line. (And, oh my goodness, is Mike a mensch. Jessica, run, do not walk, in his direction.) Brody is so freaked he gets jittery, hand-held, extreme close-ups. He’s losing it, and big time, as becomes clear when he tells Roya he’s out.
Carrie, who has already brazenly walked into Brody’s house to go buck him up (I feel huge affection for Carrie, obviously, but Jessica really owes her a punch in the face), immediately intervenes to keep the CIA from shutting the operation down. She convinces Brody to go with her using her patented “this is personal, do it for me” strategy: “I’m trying to keep you from spending the rest of your life in a cage … I care what happens to you even if you don’t,” she says. Brody hands her the keys.
She takes him to a motel called the Landing (Safe landing? Bumpy landing?), where she reaches the apex of her twinned desires: She does her job by fucking Brody. Brody is resigned to his fate, ready to be imprisoned, to accept the consequences. (Taran Killam’s recent performance as Damian Lewis on “Saturday Night Live” has made it impossible for me to un-notice how small Lewis keeps his mouth. It was especially apparent as Brody sat in that motel chair.) And then Carrie puts the moves on him, both mentally and physically.
Brody asks if she’ll visit him in jail — it sounds jokey, but it’s so, so needy. He’s basically asking her to tell him how much she cares. She doesn’t disappoint. She explains what she imagines for the two of them, explains why she is so invested in this mission, and it’s not just because she dreads another attack on America: “If we saw this through together, you’d be a real hero, and that fact would somehow make everything you did before not matter,” she says to Brody. “Including what I did to you?” he asks. “Including that. It just wouldn’t matter anymore to either of us.”
Carrie, as much as Brody, is living inside of a wish, a wish that trauma can be wiped away. Somehow the horrible things that have happened to them can just be mooted, a fresh start plopped in their place. If Brody completes his mission, he hopes he will get to walk away, keeping his family ignorant and safe. For Carrie it’s more twisted: If Brody completes his mission, she will be able to forgive herself for already having forgiven him. If he does this, if he’s really a hero, she’ll feel OK about still being crazy in love with her tormenter. Here then is another thing Carrie and Brody share: a deep, inexplicable affection for the person who broke them. (In next week’s episode, I’ll be interested to see if there are any direct parallels between Brody and Abu Nazir’s relationship and Carrie and Brody’s.)
Carrie’s heartfelt confession might have been enough to calm Brody down, but she’s not taking any chances, especially since she wants to have sex with Brody anyway. She leans in for a kiss. At this point the scene completely recalibrates, morphing from something sort of romantic, to something sordid. We cut to Saul and Quinn and all the techs listening in on them, a scene so awkward I started nervously laughing. (It turned into real laughter when Saul took out a post-coital cigarette.)
This was the first Carrie-Brody interaction in a while that felt totally disrobed of romanticism. And compared to their previous trysts, including last week’s fairly sexy embrace, it was aggressively not hot. It was a reminder of the transactional nature of what’s actually going on between them. If Carrie is screwing Brody for work, even in part, this is what that means — a roomful of dudes are listening in. (Relatedly, it’s surprising that this is the episode in which Brody and Carrie had sex again, and that doesn’t really seem like the main event.)
After this reminder, the moment the morning seemed between the two seemed almost delusionally sweet. Brody calls Roya to make amends. Carrie sits down next to him and tells him to talk to her before things get bad next time. He kisses her shoulder, and she snuggles down under his arm. Lunatics, the both of them.
When Carrie gets back to the CIA, she’s feeling smug that her unorthodox relationship with Brody did not preclude her from doing her job, but helped her keep an asset. Yet when Saul asks Carrie if she’s getting too close to Brody again, she can’t even dignify him with a flat-out lie, just evasions. “So that’s all it was?” Saul asks. “I’m not even going to answer that.” Carrie, I’d be so much less worried if you’d just say, “Of course that’s not all, but what are you going to do now, take me off the case? I’m the only one who can handle him.”
The whole set piece by the side of the road that follows gets its tension not so much from what’s going to happen to Brody — we don’t know what is being said to him, we’re not in his POV when he’s been hustled across the field — but whether Carrie’s two desires are finally going to blow each other up. Because as soon as Brody’s car pulls over, Carrie is out of control. She’s so terrified that something bad is going to happen to him that she begins to act erratically, and she gets away with it only by chance.
When she storms out of the car against Quinn’s order — he’s not wrong when he says she’s acting out a “personal attachment to a terrorist you were boning last night” — she does so because she thinks that Brody is in danger, not because she has a plan. She has no gun and is high-tailing it after two terrorists, one of whom is a known weapons expert and CIA killer. If they don’t get in a helicopter, she’s going to get busted skulking around in the grass, and then what happens? When she sees them take Brody through the field, she says to Quinn, “They’re going to kill him,” and then she chases after them — again, to do what? Throw herself on their mercy? It’s not thought out or strategically sound. But then Brody’s taken away in a helicopter — a good joke: This episode is called “I’ll Fly Away” — to meet a clean-shaven Abu Nazir. Carrie’s conflicting desires get to coexist for another episode.
Willa Paskin is Salon's staff TV writer. More Willa Paskin.
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