"Gerontion," Episode 307 of Showtime's "Homeland," refers to a T.S. Eliot poem about an elderly man molded by events of the previous century.
Similarly, acting CIA Director Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) and Iranian deputy intelligence chief Majid Javadi (Shaun Toub) are products of the 20th century. And both waited many years for their turn at the center of power.
Saul's wait is over because the horrific bombing at CIA headquarters thrust him to the top of his agency -- for 10 more days at least.
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"You're the one who made it possible. I want to return the favor," Saul says to his captured enemy Javadi, who ordered the bombing but betrayed Iran by embezzling nearly $50 million in state funds.
"There's a deal to be made or I'd be in prison by now," Javadi figures. He offers to reveal classified information -- including details of Iran's nuclear program -- if allowed to reside at a guarded compound in Miami and retain his ill-gotten wealth.
Saul desires far more than intel, however. He wants Javadi resuming his spy duties in Iran -- under CIA control.
"You killed 219 Americans. Think I care you also ripped off the Revolutionary Guard?" Saul asks. "From now on you work for us."
Javadi reluctantly agrees, fearing torture and execution in Iran if he doesn't meet Saul's demands.
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Making sure Javadi boards his flight to Tehran is pregnant CIA case officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes). Driving to the airport, Javadi tempts her with info about the Langley bombing. But Carrie is suspicious.
"Fine. I guess you don't want the truth," Javadi says.
"I do," Carrie replies. "I just don't think I'd get it from you."
Just as he's about to depart, Javadi claims the bomber is still in the U.S. And he isn't Carrie's lover Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), the prime suspect and target of a global manhunt.
Was Javadi's attorney Leland Bennett (Martin Donovan) involved in the attack? Bennett, tricked into believing Carrie is a disgraced spy, compromised Javadi by bringing him to America.
"The way this worked out, he's not my attorney anymore," Javadi says.
Jeopardizing the elaborate plan for blackmailing Javadi into submission is Sen. Andrew Lockhart (Tracy Letts), recently nominated as the next CIA director.
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"Why on earth would you trust him?" Lockhart asks incredulously after learning the Iranian spymaster is headed home.
Lockhart wants to fry Javadi in the U.S. justice system. That's an ineffective move, Saul argues, because Iran would simply replace Javadi with someone not under the CIA's thumb.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime operation that can transform everything -- the entire Middle East," Saul exclaims.
Unconvinced, Lockhart announces he's calling the president and intercepting Javadi's plane. Saul prevents that by locking the furious senator in a conference room until the jet departs U.S. airspace.
"An audacious operation," proclaims CIA black ops leader and likely backstabber Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham). "Here's to your continued success," he says, toasting Saul's victory.
For that success to continue, Saul must cover up two murders that Javadi committed in Bethesda. The police grudgingly halt their investigation for national security reasons when CIA operative Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) falsely confesses to the crimes.
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"What do they say? Confession is good for the soul," says Peter, thoroughly disillusioned with his agency's ruthless ways.
"I just do not believe it anymore," Peter adds. The "it," he tells Carrie, "is that anything justifies the damage we do."
Finally, Saul tries to win back estranged wife Mira (Sarita Choudhury), who reignited her affair with charming journalist Alan Bernard (William Abadie).
"Forgive me," Saul says, caressing Mira. "I'd forgotten how beautiful you are."