"Homeland": State of co-dependence

The CIA needs Carrie. Abu Nazir is leaning hard on Brody. Will the dependency push them over the edge?

By Roxane Gay

Published October 15, 2012 6:00AM (EDT)

“State of Independence” is the title of this, the third episode, and also the state that eludes both Brody and Carrie, and one each of them so eagerly seeks. Both Brody and Carrie yearn to be independent of their respective demons. And Brody wants to extricate himself from the implacable Abu Nazir. As for Carrie, she’d love to shake her reputation as a nutcase that is keeping her from her job at the CIA. That job, as we know, is her life, even though they use her like a one-night stand.

In the Beirut airport, Saul is taken to a back room, his diplomatic papers providing him no immunity from a search of his briefcase. They ask if he’s Jewish, a loaded question. Saul tells them he’s “American.” The soldiers rifle through his bag and locate the computer chip. The official pockets it, and I can’t help worrying that Saul’s proof Carrie isn’t crazy has just fallen into enemy hands — especially when he warns Saul, to “never come back to Lebanon.” But wave of relief! On the plane, Saul removes a chip hidden in the locking mechanism of his briefcase. Spies—they are so clever.

Which is a relief, because Carrie is at her father’s house, burning the midnight oil, jazz blaring in her earbuds, furiously working on a report for the CIA, eager to write her way back into her old job. Saul has her ticket back in.

Jessica Brody is up in Brody’s business, reading a draft of the speech he plans to deliver at her fundraiser. For the first time, Jessica sees the isolation Brody has been experiencing, his worry about reconnecting with his family. And that intimacy, which has long been missing, is momentarily rekindled — they start making out. But it is so hard to enjoy any sexual tension between Jessica and Brody because the show always frames their intimacies as fraught with danger. (It also must be said that Brody is also a loud kiss-breather, which is a bit distracting.) Brody goes at her fast and rough, as he has since returning home, but Jessica gets him to slow it down. For once, it looks like the couple will share an actual tender, mutually satisfying moment —  until Dana comes home early from school, with her boyfriend Xander. Way to kill a mood. Another nail in the coffin of their interlude: a phone call from Roya Hammad, which leaves Jessica to wallow in the awkwardness.

Roya Hammad needs Brody to do yet another favor for Abu Nazir. The Gettysburg bomb maker has made it onto the CIA’s terrorist watchlist. Brody, a highly visible U.S. congressman, is clearly the best person to extract the bomb maker to a new safe house. I love “Homeland” but, come on! The lengths this show is willing to go to insert Brody into as many implausible situations as possible …

He throws on a baseball hat, the universal disguise in such circumstances, as if the brim of the cap will make a U.S. congressman look inconspicuous, and heads to the bomb maker’s shop. The bomb maker is extremely paranoid but they rush out of the shop when Brody notices a surveillance truck. After some evasive maneuvers, they are in the clear until the car begins veering wildly (see the insertion of Brody into implausible situations). Brody has a flat tire, and of course, there’s no jack in the car. Because he’s a Super Marine, Brody rigs a jack using two stumps of wood, some common sense and a soupçon of disbelief suspension. As he’s finishing with the tire, Jessica calls from the fundraiser — she needs Brody’s speech. As he’s on the phone, the bomb maker takes a rock and considers pounding Brody with it, but has a change of heart. With a marital and political obligation imminent and a twitchy bomb maker at his side, this situation can’t end well.

Danny picks up Carrie’s report, for a debrief at Langley at 6. Carrie is not only not invited to the debriefing, but the CIA has kept her out of the loop. She sneaks in anyway, but Estes stops the meeting and escorts her out. Yes, she did an outstanding job, he tells her, but they don’t need her. Carrie is furious, anxious, and you can see her heart breaking as she tries to find a way to be a part of it all. Estes asks if she seriously thought she would get back into the CIA — yeah, why wouldn’t she when she just handed them Abu Nazir, even if they failed to get him. A flustered Carrie denies the truth, realizing that they’re going to keep trying to use her without giving her back her job, or due credit.

The bomb maker, terrified of what his immediate future holds, ditches Brody at the gas station. Brody quickly spies the bomb maker running into the woods. When Brody finally catches up to him, he tackles him to the ground, when the bomb maker impalse himself on a sharp object. Brody tries to stop the bleeding. Which is a perfect time for Jessica to call from the fundraiser. She is freaking out that he’s not there, and that he likely won’t make it. Brody tells her about the flat tire. Both of them try to hold it together — Brody, quite literally, as we watch their relationship crumbling before our eyes. Especially as the bomb maker groans while Brody attempts to make his story to his wife sound credible. What choice does the Marine have but to break the bomb maker’s neck? At least that problem is solved. Now he’s just got to dig the guy a shallow grave.

At her father’s home, Carrie is packing. Her father, protective of his daughter, is eager to know how many different ways she’s being screwed over by the CIA, but Carrie’s not ready to talk about it. She is moving back home to figure out what she’s going to do with the rest of her life. In her darkened apartment, Carrie pours herself a glass of wine, her despair visible. She puts fresh sheets on her bed and unpacks her belongings, neatly folding everything. Something about these small rituals seems to be calming. After sitting in the dark for a while, Carrie dons a pretty black dress, does her makeup and gets ready to go out. After checking her lipstick one last time in the front hall mirror, her demeanor changes. In the kitchen, Carrie empties her pill bottles, pauses briefly, gulps down all the pills, chasing them with two full glasses of wine. There is no hesitation. If there is no CIA in her future, Carrie doesn’t wish to be part of it in this moment. The only independence she wants at this point is the quiet of death. In bed, she closes her eyes. Suddenly, she jumps up, runs to the bathroom and makes herself throw up. No matter how she suffers, Carrie’s instinct awakens her will to live.

With the fundraiser in full swing, Jessica tries to swallow her humiliation or, at least, her grand political ambitions as they fall just beyond her reach. The vice president asks who he’s supposed to introduce, and Jessica holds her head high and takes responsibility. “This is my mess,” she says. She makes her way to the podium and gives a moving speech about how it’s not only veterans but their families that need support for the challenges of coming home. She wishes she had been warned how difficult it would be, how Brody would be, how he would attack her in his sleep, how intimacy would be so difficult for him. She suggests using some of the money they raise to build a center for families of returning veterans so they can know what to expect, so they can prepare for living with a completely different soldier than the one they sent off.

Brody stops at a self-service car wash and tries to wash himself clean, grunting like a desperate animal because he knows he can’t clean what he’s trying to rid himself of. Throughout the entire day he has shown strains of how he survived eight years of captivity, by simply enduring the impossible. It makes you wonder how much more he has left to give.

One last test in this episode for Brody: the sight of Mike on his front lawn, as he’s escorted Jessica home from the fundraiser. Unbeknownst to Brody, she’s invited him in for a nightcap, and though Mike initially declines, he changes his mind when she tells him about Brody’s affair. Just as they’re about to go inside, Brody finally turns up. I’m telling you, “Homeland” is determined to keep Jessica from having good sex. That’s the real conspiracy.

In the foyer, Jessica is ready for combat and lays right into Brody, who is exhausted, and can’t even put up a fight. Which is fine because she doesn’t want to hear another lie. She gives Brody an ultimatum — tell the truth or find a hotel room. She wants him to give the marriage some serious thought but really, when people say such things, they are the ones thinking about whether they’re going to stick around. As she stalks away, Dana emerges from her room and gives her father a disappointed look —his last comrade, fallen.

Carrie, who is passed out cold, but thankfully not dead from her aborted suicide attempt, is awakened by a persistent doorbell. It’s Saul, who gets right down to business. It’s amazing to see how fast Carrie can pull it together where the CIA is concerned. Saul shows her the video from the microchip she retrieved from Abbas Ali's apartment — he thinks she deserves to see it first. Carrie nods and cries — a mixture of elation, grief, satisfaction, anxiety. “I was right,” she whispers and that is what we are left with, what we’ve known all along. Even with that satisfaction, though, we can see how far from independence both Brody and Carrie truly are.

Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay's writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012, Oxford American, the Rumpus, the Wall Street Journal and many other publications

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