The key premise in “Rebel Rebel,” the second episode of “Homeland's” seventh season, is that both the chief protagonist, Carrie, and the chief antagonist, President Keane, are facing new obstacles in their respective quests.
Carrie is dealing with the fallout from her family drama in the season premiere, and agrees to see a therapist at her sister's request. The therapist brings up the effect that Quinn's death might be having on Carrie, which Carrie admits has been a lot to deal with. The therapist also questions whether Carrie's medication is still working as it should, noting that in a small percentage of cases, lithium ceases to be effective after years of taking it. This clearly resonates with Carrie, on some level. But for the moment, this therapy, and her family, are just obstacles as she attempts to bring down Keane's presidency.
On Keane's end, Brett O'Keefe is sticking in her crawl. On his Resistance broadcast, O'Keefe brings up the mysterious death of General McClendon as soon as he entered federal custody. O'Keefe claims that a guard in the prison was a childhood friend of David Wellington, Keane's chief of staff and primary fixer.
When confronted about the matter by Keane, Wellington denies any link to the guard, but Keane is aware of the speculation, fueled by O'Keefe, that she is using nefarious means to grant herself broad new presidential powers. Wellington suggests that a mass release of the 200 government officials that Keane labeled conspirators in the plot on her life would go far in countering O'Keefe's claims, and might take the heat off for a while.
Keane reluctantly agrees, but only if Saul will accept a position in her administration as national security advisor. "The President had a change of heart," Wellington tells Saul.
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"Was this before or after General McClendon died?" the ever-perceptive Saul asks.
"We want a partner. We want to leave the mess behind and move the country forward," Wellington says.
Saul agrees, but declares that he doesn't want to be a smokescreen for any underhanded dealings.
Saul meets with Keane, who declares that she might not ever get over the fact that the national security establishment came after her. Saul reminds her that he was there when the rogue faction came after her, and that he had shards of glass pulled from his face in the aftermath of the attack. "I was on your side," he tells her. "I hope so," she says.
As Saul meets the press, Carrie looks in on Wellington's home via her spy cameras. She spots a mysterious woman in Wellington's home, and sends her photo to Dante. She calls and asks him to help her identify the woman, but Dante doesn't want anything to do with Carrie at the moment and hangs up on her. Maggie interrupts and asks Carrie to come to the television, where she sees Saul's introductory press conference. Carrie is shocked to see her mentor working with the administration that she's hoping to undermine, and storms off after a tense back-and-forth with Maggie's husband.
After the press conference, Wellington tells Saul that his first order of business will be bringing O'Keefe to justice. "Since when does domestic police work fall under my jurisdiction?" Saul asks.
"We see this as hunting a terrorist," Wellington says. Already, Saul is being tested.
Carrie takes her investigation to an anti-Keane section of the internet, and posts the photo of the woman from Wellington's home on a message board, asking for an identification. A user responds to her message with ransomware, holding her PC and its contents for a $10,000 fee. Carrie calls in Max to try to fix the problem, but he tells her that her only choice is to pay the ransom. Carrie tries to negotiate with the user, but he offers her no choice but to pay within 24 hours, or else he will make the damning contents of her computer publicly available.
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Carrie tries bluffing, and tells the user that Wellington is a freak, and that he knows about the cameras in his house. She successfully convinces him of that fact, but he still has the rest of her hard drive. Carrie begins negotiating with the man, and suggests an in-person exchange of sexual favors for the contents of her computer. She demands a face-to-face meeting, and seems to have regained the upper hand, for now.
While Carrie faces yet another obstacle, Keane sets about trying to remove another of hers. With Saul tasked with taking down O'Keefe, she turns her attention to Senator Paley, who is leading the congressional investigation into her administration. She tries to strong-arm him into dropping the investigation, but Paley won't play ball. Keane's path to unchecked power isn't clear just yet.
Saul heads to rural Pennsylvania, O'Keefe's last known whereabouts. As he enters the town, he sees the FBI and federal police officers standing as occupiers, and the townspeople shaking their fists at them. As he questions the police officers who last saw O'Keefe, Saul waxes poetic about how disturbed he is at what he has seen there so far. "You know where I have seen this sort of thing before? In some of the most [expletive] up places on earth, places we are proud that we're not," Saul says. "I know Brett O'Keefe. He knows me. Tell me where you took him. I'll go talk to him, alone. I'll end this. No one will get hurt. You have my word."
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As Saul tries to put an end to one volatile situation, Carrie is entering one of her own. She goes to a dark warehouse in the city, to meet her message board user. He orders her to take her shirt off, but Carrie feigns trouble with a clasp. As the man approaches to help, Carrie attacks, pulling out a collapsible baton and beating the man senseless, ordering him to unlock her computer. He does, and the man pleads for his freedom. "Oh yeah? Like you let me go?" Carrie asks.
She continues her counter-attack, and threatens the man. "I am CIA, motherf-----," she says. She says that she has all of his information, and knows where he lives, and if he comes after her, she will kill him. "Do you hear?" she says. She takes the man's computer, and runs off into the night, unhinged.
That was a killer last scene, showing just how unstable, and dangerous, Carrie is right now. I'm still not sure we have a clear enough picture of what this season's plot will look like, but I feel better about the season's prospects after this episode than I did after the premiere.