You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Homeland’: Stakes and Emotions Run High in ‘There’s Something Else Going On’

Homeland’’s” ninth episode, “There’s Something Else Going On,” was a combustible mix of action, nail-biting tension and plot twists and turns. In the middle of all this, the show has made its way back to holding a mirror up to U.S. foreign policy actions to examine them in the harsh glare of a naked fluorescent light.

SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading if you haven’t seen the Nov. 23 episode of “Homeland.”

There was a lot to chew on in this week’s episode surrounding the high drama of the hostage exchange, the Faustian bargain agreed to in the previous seg of swapping five of Haqqani’s most ruthless lieutenants for ex-CIA chief Saul Berenson.

Nothing was more chilling than the brief shot from Saul’s point of view inside the burlap hood he wore as the Haqqani’s goons muscled him from place to place. You can’t see this and not think immediately of journalist James Foley and other ISIS victims who have been beheaded for the cameras in recent months. You can’t help but shudder and think that the fuzzy perspective of squinting at light coming in through burlap threads must’ve been something close to the last thing they saw before their deaths. In an instant, “Homeland” reminded me that I’m privileged to have been able to make the choice not to watch those horrific videos.

Nothing was more heartbreaking than the earlier scene with Saul comforting the boy’s troubled sleep. Pure humanity, in a whisper. Only an actor of Mandy Patinkin’s skill could have pulled that off.

Like Patinkin, Claire Danes was also again in a class by herself — thanks to the superb script by Chip Johannessen and Patrick Harbinson and the taut direction of Seith Mann. The wordless high point of Danes’ performance this week was her quivering jaw during her telephone conversation with Mira, aka Mrs. Berenson.

This episode brought into full focus the theme that has been building since the season premiere. The three key characters — Saul, Carrie and Rupert Friend’s Quinn — have realized that the “war” against terrorism is pretty much hopeless. It makes good people justify doing terrible things in the name of stopping other bad people from doing worse things. Except is there much worse than dropping a bomb on civilians at a wedding party? It doesn’t excuse, but helps explain the motivation for why pre-teen boys are being trained to strap on suicide bomb vests to strike back at the infidels.

Saul’s protest of the prisoner exchange — his decision to sit down on the tarmac in the crosshairs of machine guns on either side — was his last-ditch, non-violent demonstration taking a stand on principle. He didn’t want to be a pawn to allow dangerous men to go free. He’s sickened by the whole chess game.

This episode also brought into stark relief another running theme of the series since it began in 2011: the love affair of Carrie and Saul. Seeing her talk him off the ledge, so to speak, and rubbing his back in a soothing maternal fashion was perhaps the strongest image we have seen to date of the deep connection between those two. They’re the two most guarded people in the world, but they do have each other. “No more dying,” she implores. For Carrie, the entire Saul escapade is a mission to do for this love of her life what she couldn’t do for Brody: save him.

The exchange between Carrie and Saul on the tarmac is wrenching when Carrie sees that Saul has become inured to the fact that a boy’s life would be sacrificed for his protest.

“He’s a child,” Carrie tells Saul.

“They put the vest on him, not us,” he replies.

“So that makes it OK? Do you know who you sound like? Them. Fourteen years of war and this is what it’s come to? Asking a child to blow you to kingdom come? And for what? … This is not who we are. This is not who you are.”

From the start of the episode, it was clear that the process of betraying Saul’s wishes in the previous week’s episode — letting him get re-captured by the Taliban rather than allowing him to put a bullet in his own head — had the effect of sobering Carrie up in a way that made her see things crystal-clear.

This episode also seemed to go out of its way to question the truth of stated tenets of U.S. foreign policy. We don’t negotiate with terrorists. Except for when it suits us. We no longer detain people indiscriminately with no stated charges for indefinite periods in places that no one can find on the map. Except for when it suits us — as Carrie made clear in her interrogation of traitor Dennis Boyd. (I have no doubt he’s a nice guy, but it sure seems that Mark Moses was born to play slimy characters.)

“We don’t do that anymore. That policy was repudiated,” Boyd sniffs at Carrie. “Publicly,” she snaps back. “You are a traitor and I’m the f–ing CIA.”

There were wonderful aesthetic touches throughout in this episode. One of them was the quick contrast of Carrie and Quinn looking over the Taliban prisoners in the harsh daytime sun with the blueish tint of the dim light in Carrie’s interrogation room scene with Boyd.

The episode ends with a big scary boom aimed at our heroes and an even bigger threat snaking its way into the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. But for me the real cliffhanger of the episode came in that tense embrace of Carrie and Saul at the prisoner exchange.

“I want to go home,” Carrie told him tearfully, just before he relents and lets her lift him to his feet.

Did she mean it?

More TV

  • Upcoming Fantasy Shows Like 'Game of

    10 Upcoming Shows to Watch if You're Mourning 'Game of Thrones'

    Millions of people’s Sunday night routines are ruined now that “Game of Thrones” is over, and there are holes in their hearts as big as the hole in The Wall that are aching for a new fantasy series to fill them. Several prequel series are on their way, but as there’s no word on just [...]

  • Game of Thrones Composer Ramin Djawadi

    'Game of Thrones' Composer Ramin Djawadi: 'I'm Still in Denial'

    Since the first season, Ramin Djawadi has composed the music for “Game of Thrones” and created the epic tunes, including the iconic theme song, heard over the series’ most memorable moments. With the series finished, he talked with Zane Lowe on Apple Music’s Beats 1 about his experience on the show and an upcoming 20-city [...]

  • TUPAC SHAKUR black panther collection

    ‘Defiant Ones’ Director to Helm Docuseries on Tupac, Who Assaulted Him in 1993

    Director Allen Hughes, who helmed the award-winning HBO documentary “The Defiant Ones,” has closed a deal with Tupac Shakur’s estate for a five-part docuseries for which he will have full access to all of the late rapper’s released and unreleased recordings, writings and poetry, according to an announcement from his rep. The announcement says the [...]

  • Ellen DeGeneres -- The Ellen Show

    Ellen DeGeneres Extends Daytime Talk Show Run Through 2022

    Ellen DeGeneres is sticking with her daytime talk show. DeGeneres announced Tuesday that she has signed a new deal to continue hosting “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” through 2022. There had been rumors for some time that DeGeneres was planning to leave the show when her current contract was up in 2020, something she leaned into [...]

  • How YouTube Is Trying to Get

    How YouTube Is Trying to Get Will Smith His First-Ever Emmy Nomination (EXCLUSIVE)

    YouTube could be the key to Will Smith finally earning a Primetime Emmy nomination — or win. The superstar Formerly Known as the Fresh Prince has been nominated for two Academy Awards, five Golden Globes and one Screen Actors Guild Award, and has won four Grammys (out of eight nominations). Yet a Primetime Emmy nomination [...]

  • Carpool Karaoke with Celine Dion on

    James Corden Gets Celine Dion to Sing 'Baby Shark,' Sail the Vegas Seas (Watch)

    Anyone who has seen Celine Dion’s long-running Las Vegas show knows she plays the comedienne almost as much as chanteuse, with a goofball quality that came in especially handy on a Monday night edition of James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke.” The 15-minute segment ended with Dion and Corden trading carpooling for ship-pooling and sailing around Las [...]

  • Greg KinnearPhoto Call with Greg Kinnear,

    Greg Kinnear Cast in Amazon Comedy Pilot 'Good People' From Lee Daniels, Whitney Cummings

    Greg Kinnear has signed on to star in the Amazon comedy pilot from Lee Daniels and Whitney Cummings, Variety has learned. Kinnear joins previously announced cast members Lisa Kudrow and Cummings, the latter of whom is co-writing the series with Lee Daniels in addition to starring and executive producing. Titled “Good People,” the half-hour project [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content