Spoiler alert: Do not read until you’ve watched episode 511 of this season’s “Homeland,” titled “Our Man in Damascus.”
As this season barrels toward its finale, all the seeds that have been carefully planted are bearing fruit: Qasim’s doubts. Allison’s selfish treachery. Laura’s relentless crusade.
And the only person standing in their way: our hero, Jack Bauer. Er, I mean — Carrie.
This action-packed episode (written by “24” alum David Fury and directed by Seith Mann) echoes the Fox thriller at its height, with hours ticking down to an impending terrorist attack, and all sides going to extraordinary lengths in pursuit of their causes.
Poor Quinn. As if he hadn’t been already tortured enough at the hands of the jihadis, he’s now continuing to suffer in the name of international security. Although he’s in a coma due to respiratory failure, Saul and Carrie instruct his doctors to wake him up to pump him for any possible intel on the location of the pending terrorist attack. That never works. And sure enough, before he can tell Carrie anything, he starts coughing up blood and collapses back into unconsciousness.
“You’re staying here, I assume?” Saul asks Carrie at the hospital. Silly question, Saul — she has figured out a mission: A surgical wound was inserted into Quinn’s abdomen, and she’s off to find the good Samaritan.
Meanwhile, the jihadis are having trouble with their trigger, which isn’t transmitting its signal. And with the rest of the gang on the watchlist, it falls to the ever-wavering Qasim to track down its designer, Dr. Aziz, and get him to fix it — and prove his loyalty.
But before Inspector (Lethal) Gadget can finish the task, there’s a knock at the door. Enter Allison, who — as we’ve suspected — is still playing double agent. Or trying to, that is: She’s been handed her walking papers by the SVR, much to her chagrin. “You’re damaged goods,” she’s told. “We’re pulling you from the field.” Her argument that she can rehabilitate herself falls on deaf ears: “You’ll never be fully trusted. And we’ll never fully trust the information you’re given access to.”
Even worse, the SVR wants her to let the attack go through: “The West needs a wakeup call. Radical Islam must be eradicated, root and branch.” Allison doesn’t have any options: Stick with the SVR’s plan, and she gets her money and a dacha on the Black Sea (not to mention the fame). But if she doesn’t, she’ll spend the rest of her days in an American prison. So it comes as little surprise that Allison comes up with a twist on their plan: she murders Dr. Aziz and her bodyguard Conrad, and shoots herself in the shoulder, setting the stage for her later escape.
(Side note: It’s still mind-boggling that the CIA/BND Brain Trust has been letting Allison run free, sitting in on strategy meetings, with only that sympathetic bodyguard as babysitter. I’ll let the parking ticket from the “meter maid from hell” slide, but wouldn’t he have checked the bathroom — or at the very least, shouldn’t she have been assigned a female handler? And handing her his gun is inexcusable.)
And then there’s Laura, our ever-intrepid journalist/social crusader. Egged on by Otto During, who’s not happy with Saul and the BND about the mistreatment of Faisan Marwan (“I must ask you to keep a low profile,” he instructs her — all but instigating her to do the opposite), Laura heads straight to the nearest TV station and demands to speak to Marwan — or else she’ll release the rest of the hacked documents. She has already told the hacker Numan to share them should anything happen to her. (Cue another in a long string of subtle yet effective F-bombs this season by Saul.)
Unfortunately, that won’t be so simple. Under pressure to confess details of the attack, warned by Saul about the consequences if he doesn’t, Marwan jumps out the window of the BND interrogation room. “I think I’ve had enough for one day,” says Saul, with a heartbreaking look of horror in his face as he glances at Marwan’s untouched tea. Oh, but wait.
Amid all the intrigue, “Homeland” doesn’t take sides, offering up ideological debate aplenty: Dr. Aziz explains to Qasim why he’s betraying his country; Laura argues why she’s gone rogue in defense of Marwan; Al-Amin tells Carrie why he’s against this attack. The one defense we don’t get to hear is Allison, though we know it’s all about dollar signs. Or rubles, technically.
She is a cold one, indeed. In the seconds after the double murder, you can almost read her mind as she calculates her plan. Brilliant camera work in that overhead shot as she paces in Dr. Aziz’s apartment, plotting out her moves in her head. And indeed she lies, sending the police to the airport, instead of the train station.
But Carrie’s detective work, which has led her to Qasim’s apartment, suspects the truth. “Are you sure it’s the airport, Saul?” says Carrie, planting that seed of doubt in Saul’s head. Sure enough, his already epic day is about to get a lot worse, when he realizes Allison’s been lying — and has escaped.
Armed with a photo of Qasim, Carrie spots him in the station (even without his beard). He loses his nerve when he spots a woman in a hijab and then a father with a child — but then disappears down the tunnel, with Carrie in pursuit. I almost expected the “24” ticking clock as the credits rolled.
Last season’s relatively quiet “Homeland” finale was deemed anticlimactic. With that ticking bomb still set to explode, next week’s season-ender won’t likely disappoint.