'Homeland' Episode 4 recap, 'New Car Smell'

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Damian Lewis as Nicholas "Nick" Brody in 'Homeland.'
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Damian Lewis as Nicholas "Nick" Brody in 'Homeland.'(Kent Smith/SHOWTIME)

Sure, her official position is hazy -- and she might not even be getting paid, but Carrie Mathison is back at the CIA. And so are bunch of video screens fixed on Nicholas Brody.

The recursive storylines that defined Homeland's first season were back in a big way in Episode 4 of Season 2, as Carrie returns to work on a top-secret surveillance team monitoring Brody. As the show's perspective switches between the two characters, we again see Carrie's life being defined by the Brody she sees and hears on screen.

The unhealthy obsession takes over again, she goes off-script on a mission and at the end we see Brody in CiA custody -- taken out of his hotel room with a bag over his head.

The close of this episode was a shocker, standard for Homeland this season. How can Brody be busted in Episode 4? What will the rest of the season be about? We have no idea, but let's just hope it leaves plenty of room for the thrilling interplay between Carrie and Brody instead of the mediocre subplots between the minor characters that took up too much time this week.

The episode begins began with Saul bringing Brody's confessional video to Estes' house. It turns out that Estes has a kid? Never mind. He needs to concentrate on saving his job. After running Carrie out of the agency largely because of her over-the-top (now confirmed) suspicions that Brody was in league with the terrorist leader Abu Nazir, he now realizes he was wrong.

The gang wastes no time establishing an elaborate surveillance operation to keep eyes and ears on Brody. A secret, off-site operation based around a surveillance operation and a high-priority target? One in which extenuating circumstances call for the return of a disgraced investigator? What a great idea for a TV show!

This new operation called for a new character, Peter Quinn, who unfortunately was reading from an old Dawson's Creek script where the good-looking transfer student establishes himself as an arrogant threat to the familiar power balance on the debate team... I mean, CIA.

Carrie's got suspicions about this guy, and she might be right. She's never seen him around the CIA, and Estes brought him in especially to run the operation. Instead of Saul.

The team wants to smoke Brody out, suggesting to him that they are getting close to Abu Nazir so he goes to his contact and reveals more about the operation that has embedded him within the U.S. government. They arrange for Carrie to run into the congressman and put him on alert.

Their brief encounter outside the Langley office is the first time they've shared the screen this season. There was a crackling awkwardness between the two as they did the post-break-up small talk and resurrected their old convoluted game of cat and mouse.

Scenes involving neither of the two leads couldn't hold our attention once the Carrie-Brody wire went live. The perpetually drunk veteran who is gaining ground on Brody's secret pushes the show's favorite "discredited messenger" theme into overkill territory.

And Dana's romance with the veep's son is a total snooze. Their relationship will probably enable some critical plot twist (Brody finally in position to pull the trigger on Vice President Walden, but his daughter's in the line of fire?), but it's all slow-pitch softball for now.

The tighter structure of this episode's plot corrected for some of implausible details of the past few weeks. Other viewers rightly pointed out the low odds that Abu Nazir would call upon Congressman Brody to run a highly inconvenient errand just hours before he was expected at an official event. Tonight the writers shored up some of that; unfortunately they failed to pay the same level attention to the characters' dialogue.

The kids, in particular, deliver some clunkers. (At the top of the shuttered Washington Monument: "It makes you realize there's this whole big world out there." And earlier, the classic "Want to get stoned?") Hey kids, bring it back to earth, you're spitting too much real talk for these viewers.

Foolishness of the week: Kids texting with commas. COMMAS AND PROPER CAPITALIZATION! "Good night, Sally," one of the text messages reads.

Brody's persistent failure to be a good husband because he's too busy being a terrorist lands him in a hotel, where we get the scene of the episode. As he drinks neat whiskeys at the bar, Carrie and Peter watch on her screens as he picks up his phone. Call your contact, they implore. But it's Carrie's phone that rings. He asks her to come over -- and she does.

In the hotel bar, Carrie and Brody are finally ready to share the screen for an extended conversation, with motives so complicated that neither party appears to have a clear grasp on the give-and-take. In addition to their "professional" interests, Carrie has a personal score to settle.

In the climactic final scene, she ignores her handler's advice, marches up to Brody's hotel room, and takes her revenge for the private and public humiliations she's suffered since the end of their affair. As federal agents throw the hood over his head, she tells him she loved him.


-Was Carrie right to go up to Brody's room and light the fuse? Operation smokeout was not complete, but she did get him to acknowledge some of his misdeeds.

-Is Quinn a plant? Will Estes help Brody? We have this as a candidate for the plot device that allows Brody's early-season capture to make sense.

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