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'Homeland' recap: 'Standoff'

For The Baltimore Sun

After employing aggressive tactics in her quest to reclaim the contents of her computer in the last episode of “Homeland,” Carrie is convinced that her lithium is no longer working.

She pays an unplanned visit to her psychiatrist, with blood still caked on her forehead, to discuss a new medication. The doctor suggests sedating herself for several days, to a near coma, in order to break the manic cycle she finds herself locked in. Carrie breaks the news to Maggie, who assures her sister that everything will be OK.

Carrie isn't sure of that, and worries that she will end up institutionalized if a new medicine isn't as effective as the lithium used to be. "I can't have Frannie visiting me in a locked ward, ever... Promise me. I would rather you say I was dead," Carrie says. Maggie tries to calm her down, and starts Carrie on the sedation process.

While Carrie faces her demons, Saul and an FBI team approach Brett O'Keefe's compound. After speaking to the homeowner's son, O'Keefe walks out to the property's entrance to face his enemies. "There's no need for this to end badly," Saul tells him. Saul assures O’Keefe that the roads leading to the compound are blocked, and that no one is getting out. Four armed men stand behind O'Keefe, and a standoff seems unavoidable. "I'm not going anywhere," he says. Saul suggests a negotiation, and O'Keefe retreats back into the property, saying he'll think about it.

Saul calls the president, and asks for her blessing to negotiate with O'Keefe on the terms of his surrender. "There are children," at the compound, Saul tells her, explaining why he didn't rush O'Keefe with his team. "Guns were drawn."

President Keane agrees, and authorizes Saul to make any reasonable concessions to avoid a messy incident.

Saul also asks her to order the director of the FBI to have his team stand down, as the agency seems eager to make an example of O'Keefe, and may not be willing to cede control of their joint operation with Saul. Keane discusses the matter further with David Wellington, her chief of staff, who raises the possibility of dropping all charges against O'Keefe, as a means to diffuse the potentially explosive standoff. "Brett O'Keefe is a menace. I want him in custody," Keane says, refusing to yield.

Keane enters a meeting with her chief military leaders, who present her with a plan to use airstrikes against a shipment of arms from Iran to Syria. Keane shoots the plan down, and says that no matter how politically vulnerable she may seem, she isn't backing away from her pledge to phase down military operations. Clearly, her focus is firmly on domestic threats to her power, and she does not share the more aggressive tendencies of her predecessors when it comes to international matters.

Carrie begins her sedation process, but finds herself interrupted by repeated missed phone calls, as she drifts in and out of consciousness. Finally, Dante pays her a visit at home, telling her that he's uncovered the identity of the woman that she asked him to identify from Wellington's home. As he tells Carrie who she is, Carrie does her best to stick to her doctor's plan, and tells Dante to leave her alone. "You were ready to torch my career for the revolution," he says. "Take a shower. Let's go."

Carrie continues to resist, and explains her condition to Dante. "I'm bipolar... Part of being manic is seeing connections everywhere. Some of it's made my career. But some of it's just nightmares that don't stop when you're awake," she says, and admits that some of the nefarious behavior that she sees in Keane and Wellington might be made up.

Dante goes on to tell Carrie that the woman is linked to Wellington, and that a vehicle registered to her was issued a ticket three miles from the federal prison where General McClendon was sent, the day before he died.

That's all Carrie needed to hear. Minutes later, she's popping Adderall and ready to start the revolution again.

Back at the compound, O'Keefe and Saul sit at a picnic table, in an attempt to negotiate. Saul tells O'Keefe that he is a threat to national security, that he's breaking the law, and that he's poisoning the national conversation with his conspiracy theories and lies. O'Keefe fires back, saying that the national conversation ended with the Vietnam War, and the ensuing ridicule of Christian values in the country. He goes on to mock gender issues, and Saul cuts him off and gives him some ground, telling him that all of those things merit debate and conversation. Saul warns, though, that once they jam O'Keefe's broadcast signals, the country will no longer be listening to him. "Here's the truth," Saul says. "You will never be in a stronger negotiating position than you are now. Tell me what you want."

O'Keefe demands amnesty for everyone that harbored him, including his traveling companion, Sharon. Keane and Wellington agree, but Saul tells them of O'Keefe's other demand. He wants a televised trial, something that Keane outright rejects. "I am not giving that lunatic a megaphone," she says. While Saul continues to press Keane, O'Keefe talks to Sharon inside, and tells her not to pack her bags just yet. "We are not going anywhere," he says.

Carrie and Dante stake out the mystery woman's home, and when she leaves, Carrie orders Dante to follow her. While he takes off, Carrie breaks in to the woman's home. She snaps photos of the damning parking ticket, as well as photos of her with Wellington. She also uses a thumb drive to extract files from the woman's computer.

After that phase of her operation, Carrie leaves the house, only to be quickly stopped by two police officers, investigating a report of a break-in. The suspect matches Carrie's description. Carrie tries to talk her way out of the situation, but the officers demand that she come with them to make a statement. Carrie pleads with officers at the police station, asking them not to book her. She says that she's in a custody battle for her daughter, but refuses to provide her name, or anything that even the most lenient and understanding officers could use to help her out. Carrie struggles, and begs, but finds herself fingerprinted anyway.

While Carrie finds herself in hot water, things escalate at the compound. Sharon rushes out of the home and approaches the FBI, telling them that something is going on inside and that there are reinforcements coming. The FBI agents scramble, as an armed militia of dozens swarm the grounds. They grab Saul and threaten him, but release him to the FBI, choosing instead to retreat inside the compound, surrounding O'Keefe. After a peaceful resolution was in sight, O'Keefe decided to double down, and the standoff continues.

With the O'Keefe issue spiraling, Wellington proposes that the president reconsider the airstrike, as a means of diverting attention away from the explosive domestic issue. "I am not going to blow up a convoy in Syria in order to control the news cycle," Keane says. Wellington implores her to reconsider, and tells Keane that if she hopes to accomplish anything in her term, that she needs to start fighting. Keane holds firm, though, and refuses. Wellington decides to take matters into his own hands, and calls the general in charge of the airstrike. He lies, and says that the president has authorized the attack. After much hand-wringing over not hearing the order directly from Keane, the general agrees to proceed with the strike.

Saul looks on in horror and frustration as military vehicles are unloaded at the compound as night falls. Carrie, meanwhile, finds herself released, as Dante calls in a favor and comes to pick her up from the police precinct. As they drive away, Dante confirms that there will be no record of the arrest, a welcome relief to Carrie, as she considers what an incident like that would have meant for her life with Frannie.

Final Thoughts

This was my favorite of the first few episodes of the season. In many ways, it feels like “Homeland” has struggled to find its identity, really since the Brody saga ended. This hour did a nice job in firmly establishing that this is now a show about Carrie, her life, and how she manages to juggle her career with her daughter and her illness. That's not the show that we signed on for as viewers six seasons ago, but it's one that's still worth our time today.

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