Carrie (Claire Danes) faced sterns tests and tough choices throughout most of Game On, only for it all to be revealed that her whole confinement inside the mental health facility was all part of an elaborate ruse so that she would be contacted by associates of the current in-vogue terrorist mastermind Majid Javadi.
This was the kind of twist that brings up conflicted emotions. On the one hand, we needed Carrie back out in the field again. The disintegration of her relationship with Saul (Mandy Patinkin) was painful to watch, and it's a heartening idea that it can all be remedied by a loving hug and a nice cup of tea.
On the other hand, there are major issues of plausibility being strangled to death by the show's writers. When did Saul tell Carrie about the plan? Why did Carrie agree to it, but then seem so shocked and hurt when the CIA took her car and credit cards away? How did they know Javadi would contact Carrie in the first place?
At least we'll see no more 'One Flew Over the Carrie's Nest'. I don't think I could tolerate any more scenes of Carrie nervously fidgeting before a hearing, or of her spotting patients that look similar yet are worse off than herself as a way of the writers none too subtly suggesting the fate Carrie could face.
She had to put up with an awful lot of criticism from an intelligence organisation terrified of leaks getting out to press (as if that would ever happen). From being branded radioactive, a liability, a pariah, the best put-down came from overzealously shadowy CIA figure Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) when he said: "The agency's still weak Saul. It could die of the common cold, and she's a full blown contagion."
Carrie was at her best when talking to Leland Bennett (Martin Donovan), the client of Javadi offering freedom in exchange for betrayal of the CIA. It's these moments when Carrie is being pulled by oppressive opposing forces, such as the one she had between the CIA and Brody, where the show's greatest strength lies.
Follow the Money
There was no Brody to overtly compare with Carrie this week, so instead we were treated to more Mun-Dana family drama from the Brody's, and the money-tracing work at the CIA that would actually be interesting if developed properly.
Using the old adage from The Wire to "follow the money," Fara (Nazanin Boniadi) reveals that money is being laundered through a Venezuelan football club where the secret majority shareholder is an Iranian goalkeeper who died years before. I knew those foreign owners were ruining football. And, yes I know what you're thinking, "Since when was there a lot of money or talent in Venezuelan football?" That fact this isn't the most implausible element of the episode says a lot about the stage we have reached with Homeland. The dead owner is a suspected alias for Javadi. Brody (Damian Lewis) is currently hiding out in Caracas. I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that these separate threads are going to be related.
Dana's (Morgan Saylor) relationship with Leo (Sam Underwood) is also in danger of descending in to soap. Her stubborn speech to her mother that Leo brought her joy after the despair of what her father did was a great moment that suggested this season might provide a subtle examination of how people deal with the trauma of family betrayal. No chance. Instead the two go smoking, drinking, hanging out in cemeteries, before we find out that Leo is potentially dangerous and might have in fact caused his brother's death.
Mike (Diego Klattenhoff), who makes an unwelcome return this series (unlike David Marciano's Virgil, who also returned and we don't see enough of), made the astute observation, "I'm not a mother". Neither is Jessica (Morena Baccarin), who is prone to frequent outbursts about how she is worried for her children as she doesn't understand them.
Every line of dialogue, every smattering exchange, is imbued with such flatness that you can feel your head drooping just listening to it. No wonder Brody fled the country.