Sometimes watching "Homeland" feels like punching the gas pedal and slamming on the brakes at the same time. At least that’s how this week’s episode, “The Yoga Play,” felt to me.
Narratively, there was much momentum and many moving parts -- Saul’s CIA betrayal, Carrie’s downward dog switcheroo, Dana ratting out her boyfriend on a dime and a damning TV news segment. All that forward motion kept things exciting. But on a broader level, as I’ve said before about this season, things felt a little stuck in place. At the end of this week’s hour, what we were left with, really, was a lot of plot we’ve seen before: Carrie kidnapped by a terrorist (shades of Abu Nazir), Saul bitter about his role at the CIA (true when he worked for Estes, now true again) and Dana back home and horribly depressed once more (pretty much how she was during much of Season 2 and Season 3 so far). In life, history sometimes repeats itself. On "Homeland," it always does.
Still, there were enough twists to make this episode a net positive, even if Saul’s confirmation to Peter Quinn that Carrie’s hospitalization was “all an act, part of the plan” continues to leave the bitter taste of disbelief in one’s mouth. (Quinn’s response to that revelation -- “Fuck me” -- seems like the only right one, assuming you haven’t already made a two-word statement that starts with the same obscenity and ends in “it.”)
But let’s push aside our lingering doubts about the involuntary commitment play and focus on the things that worked well in “The Yoga Play,” along with some moments that fell into the frustrating category.
First: I loved the clever simplicity of Carrie’s yoga-related ruse and all of its little details: the pretend yoga mat; the fact that Virgil was involved; the use of Lisa, the decoy Claire Danes dressed in the same teal T-shirt. (Until Lisa, I had no idea it was possible to be an on-call, fake yoga class taker.) Some of these details were a little off; for example, if that yoga studio was in D.C., there’s no way Carrie could have gotten from there to Bethesda and back in 15 minutes. Then again, that diner/coffee shop frequented by Agent Hall didn’t look like it was really in Bethesda anyway. But I didn’t care all that much because I was too busy wishing that Carrie would follow up on her “You do know how 'Romeo and Juliet' ends? Not well” comment by shouting: “And I definitely know how Romeo and Juliet ends because Leonardo DiCaprio and I totally rocked that situation back in ‘96.” Then Carrie could have put on a pair of angel wings and started dancing to the Cardigans’ “Lovefool” and this would have turned into the best episode of "Homeland" in Showtime history.
Of course, that’s not what happened. Instead, that clandestine FBI outreach to ensure Dana’s safety made it clear that Carrie is still willing to put herself at great risk on Brody’s behalf. The question is why, exactly. If we’re supposed to believe that everything we saw Carrie do early in this season was a lie, then presumably that includes her impassioned defense of Brody’s innocence. Or does it? Was she protecting Dana -- and, as Saul noted, wasting so much work and pain -- because she still loves Brody, or because she believes Brody’s daughter is the best way to lure America’s Most Wanted Ginger into facing justice? Having thrown pretty much everything into question with last week’s reveal, it’s fair to wonder where the "Homeland" writers stand on this point.
Whatever her reasons, it’s getting pretty maddening to watch Carrie repeat the same mistakes -- flushing all her meds, compromising carefully plotted operations on a whim -- and winding up in harm’s way. Carrie had been out of the mental hospital for, what, a couple of days, before she was taken into another type of custody, the kind that involved her getting stripped, kidnapped, hooded and shoved into a room with Majid Javadi? On one hand, I fear for her safety. On the other, if she’s going to repeatedly jeopardize her own missions, I really think she should get out of the CIA business and go back to teaching English as a second language. But then we wouldn’t have a show, would we?
Saul didn’t seem too worried that Carrie’s likely in terrorist custody. But then, Saul’s got other things on his mind, having now been completely screwed over in his bid to become permanent CIA director by the newly appointed Sen. Lockhart. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was just waiting during that whole hunting trip for Lockhart to accidentally shoot Saul in the chest, à la Dick Cheney and Harry Whittington. Instead, Saul got stabbed in the back. But he handled it beautifully, delivering a toast that was pure Washington: smooth diplomacy in tone of voice, but all daggers in terms of real content and subtext.
While he may have been reluctant to take the position initially, Saul now knows he wants, more than anything, to be the director of his agency. So he’s presumably thrilled that Carrie’s now with Javadi because that means the CIA might be able to get to their wanted man quickly, perhaps just in time to make Saul look like a hero and convince some members of Congress that confirming Lockhart -- because he has to be confirmed before he can take on his new role -- isn’t the best idea after all.
Lastly, we need to talk about Dana, the most maligned character on "Homeland" and a fugitive who flipped out on Leo, then turned him into police when she saw a news report implying he may have been responsible for his brother’s death. It was a sudden emotional turn for Dana, one that put an end to a life that, just moments before, she was prepared to spend with Leo, flipping burgers and cruising with the radio cranked.
It actually made sense to me that she would crack so easily under those circumstances considering the way they mirror her discovery of her father’s alleged terrorist activity. It was also understandable that Dana didn’t grasp the weight of what she had done until she got home and was all alone again, with no one to send suggestive selfies to anymore. I don’t care what all you Internet meanies say. I feel bad for Dana, and I don’t think her story is going to end well. (“It hasn’t started well either!” Yeah, yeah. I hear you, Internet. There’s no need to shout.)
What was more unbelievable to me than Dana’s behavior was the conversation that took place between Jess and Carrie early in the episode, when Jess asked for help to find Dana. Clearly we were supposed to conclude that Jess was so distraught that she had to go to Carrie. To her credit, Morena Baccarin did a fine job of conveying that. But there was still something about the scene, about the way Carrie and Jess talked to each other like they were former book club acquaintances instead of adversaries who slept with the same man, that didn’t quite feel right.
Then again, women have a way of shoving aside a rivalry when it’s clear that the man who caused it has inflicted pain equally on both of them. Maybe that’s the case with Jess and Carrie. Or maybe the "Homeland" writers just needed a viable reason to get Carrie to risk her own safety. And, since history always repeats itself, a Brody was just the ticket.