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'Homeland' recap: 'Horse and Wagon'

Homeland (tv program)IranCentral Intelligence Agency

Just last week, I climbed out on a limb to announce that "Homeland" was officially out of the woods and back on the safe side of the proverbial shark. Then this week happened. By the end of episode nine, I felt like Dana crying in her motel room: “Just promise me I’ll never have to see you again…”

Episode nine finally gave viewers the moment that this entire season has been building toward: the reunion of Carrie and Brody. And I have to admit that pretty-much everything about this episode was terrible. From the "Rocky"-like training montage to the dramatic music swelling at the end, this episode made me want to stab my own arm with a broken chair leg.

Let’s start from the beginning. Carrie is treated at a navy hospital for the gunshot wound that grazed her shoulder. A doctor coldly assures her that she and her baby will be fine.

Brody is also recovering, though his “hospital” room is considerably less posh. He is detoxing under Saul’s supervision at a secret operation house, presumably somewhere in Virginia. Cue the detox clichés of Brody writhing on the floor looking pale and weak. He sees visions of his old pal David Walker, and goes ballistic with the aforementioned chair.

Finally, Brody is lucid enough that Saul can fill him in on the plan. He sells it hard. It’s not just a CIA operation; it’s a shot at redemption, a chance to “be a marine again.” Brody doesn’t take the bait. He says he’d rather die and appears to mean it.

Saul visits Carrie in the hospital and reveals his big plan to her. Saul wants Brody to claim responsibility for the Langley bombing and seek asylum in Iran. Brody will ingratiate himself to Iranian political leadership and somehow finagle a meeting with the head of the Revolutionary Guard. Then, wham!, Brody will assassinate this high-profile target, sneak out of Iran, and Javadi (now Saul’s asset) will move up within the organization.

The plan is far-fetched, nay, stupid. For a brief, hopeful moment, Carrie looks like she’s about to tell Saul that he’s on his own with that. Although Saul’s sadistic treatment of both Carrie and Brody has clearly damaged Carrie’s trust in his leadership, the promise of working with Brody and helping to clear his name overrides her initial hesitation. She agrees to help convince Brody to commit to and prepare for the operation.

After more than three months apart, Brody is cool to Carrie when she finally enters the safe house where he’s nearly through his heroine withdrawal. Moving the plot forward considerably, Carrie finds the magic words to convince Brody that Saul’s scheme is a great way to prove to himself, and by extension his family, that he’s truly Team America FTW.

And yes, people, we are now watching a training montage. Just like Rocky Balboa, Mulan and the Karate Kid, Brody needs to get back into shape. The training montage is truly one of the great dumb conventions of the action genre, but it’s horrifically misplaced in a “serious” show like "Homeland."

Predictably, Brody has a tough time at first, but by the end of a 90-second montage, he looks ready to assassinate Iranian officials, as evidenced by his rapid improvement on tasks such as jogging, target shooting and doing card tricks.

Before he deploys, though, Brody insists that he needs to talk to Dana. Carrie had dangled Dana as bait to entice Brody into cooperating with the CIA; now she drives him to the motel where Dana’s living and working as a housekeeper for an eleventh-hour conversation.

Dana is not thrilled to see her father. She doesn’t care to hear how he’s been framed, how he’s still working for the CIA or anything else in his defense. She tells him that it’s selfish of him to disrupt her life in any way, and she’d really prefer never to see or hear from him again.

Well, that went pretty good!, Brody thinks to himself in the car. As Carrie drives them back to the safe house, he tells her that he’ll come back for Dana…and maybe also for someone else (wink! wink!). He and Carrie make meaningful eye contact as he boards a helicopter that will bring him through the first leg of his journey to Tehran.

Basically, everything about this episode was disappointing. The tight narrative timeline, which has been my favorite feature of season three, was burned in this hour-long episode that sloppily spanned at least three weeks (detox plus boot camp). There was bad romantic music and outlandish plot development.

Sigh. I’ll be back next week to see how Brody fares in Iran. Here’s hoping his hair grows in a little by then.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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