'Homeland' recap: Men without countries

Sarah D. Bunting
Yahoo! TV
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"Homeland" -- "Two Hats"

Damian Lewis as Nicholas "Nick" Brody in the "Homeland" Season 2 episode, "Two Hats."

The episode title, "Two Hats," is how Estes describes Quinn's possibly-suspect dual role in the operation to capture Abu Nazir. Quinn's about the only one still wearing two hats, though; most of the other characters seem to have chosen which ones they want to wear going forward -- which roles to play, what fits best.

Brody's settled on the white hat, and he reveals his choice to the CIA team minutes before they give him up for dead and pick up Roya Hammad for questioning. Missing for 12 hours, Brody calls Carrie from Baltimore on a borrowed cell phone to ask her to move his family to a safe house; later, he tells the team that Nazir and his men took him to a warehouse, hooked him up to a car battery, and…let him sit for a few hours, before Nazir brought him tea and they discussed Brody's loyalties. The team is flabbergasted that Nazir is even in the country (and so was Twitter; user @shancornwall wondered if it were actually Quinn who helped him get into the U.S.), never mind that Brody has specific details of Nazir's plan to strike a soldier's homecoming event Brody and VP Walden plan to attend the next day. Only Carrie seems sure that Brody is on the level, saying the symbolism of killing hundreds of American soldiers sounds like a Nazir idea: "Nazir is in our sights. We have to play this out."

All the world's a stage

From there, everyone plays their parts. Estes flatters Walden into thinking he needs to go forward with the event -- and invite one reporter, namely Roya, to bait the trap -- and Brody stagily feigns shock that Nazir is in the U.S., then stagily tells Roya he got her in. Brody may have picked a side elsewhere, too, telling Carrie at one point that whether she believes his story is all he cares about -- but Carrie herself might have finally chosen career fulfillment over unrequited love. During a team conversation about whether to assume Brody's been killed, she acts like she's in physical shock, and when she and Brody meet up after Nazir releases him, Carrie quavers that it's really good to see him, and takes his hand. The connection is still there. But she's also the one to say out loud that if Brody's dead, "we have to talk about moving on." She means operationally, but after Brody turns up, it's like she has moved on; she's focused, more businesslike and less raw, pulling endorphins not from Brody but from the mission itself.

Whatever Brody's chosen, it looks like Jessica is choosing Mike. Carrie thinks moving the family to the safe house will go more smoothly if they send someone the family knows and trusts, so she asks for Mike's help. Brody says it's a "smart call," though you could argue that Carrie hoped putting Mike and Jessica in the same place would rekindle their romance, clearing her path to Brody. It seems to cross Brody's mind. You could also argue that the writers did it deliberately, and we'd concur: after Mike acts dad-like, telling Dana to zip it and pack a bag or he'll carry her sulky butt to the safe house, he hears her out later on how everything's gone to hell since Brody came back, and talks about the wounds they all bring home.

When Jess almost orders him to take the guest room instead of the couch, you know she's going to sneak in there and get on him in the middle of the night. Yahtzee! That's what happens. The safe-house presiding agent lets them call Brody the next day to wish him luck, but you can see each Brody choosing Mike in their various ways. Chris reports to Brody that Mike made huevos rancheros; Dana refuses to take the phone at all; Brody tells Jess it'll be over soon and "we can get back to the way we were," a possibility Jess greets by rolling her eyes using the entire top half of her body.

(Twitter's rolling its eyes at...Dana. We could scarcely count the snarky tweets hoping Nazir's next plan takes Dana out. Meanwhile, @helloschultz was unimpressed with the previous sequence, comparing Brody-less family scenes to "a beginner's acting class.")

Entering stage left: Salieri

Which hats does Quinn have on? Technically, "CIA analyst" and "FBI liaison in the field," but Saul, Virgil, and Max have joined Carrie's "check on Quinn" side op, and they find that he's living like a guy who could have to bolt at any time, a sleeping bag on a bare mattress, a gun-cleaning kit meant for sniper rifles. In the one book Quinn owns ("Great Expectations"…hmm), there's a photograph of a Philly cop named Julia Diaz and her newborn son. Saul visits her, undercover as an IRS agent, but despite his convincing badge and patter, Julia smells a rat and claims she hasn't seen "John Sr." since the kid was born a few years ago. The minute Saul leaves, Julia calls Quinn, who slips out to switch buses "All the President's Men"-style and meet with an infamous CIA operative named Dar Adul (F. Murray Abraham) who used to run missions in Somalia. If Quinn's reporting to that guy, Virgil asks, what's he doing on this task force? Saul, shaken, doesn't know.

The mission goes forward the next morning. Estes isn't sharing anything with Saul, including what Quinn's real brief is, whether it's actually Dar Adul running the task force, or why Quinn is in the field as Brody's limo driver, with orders to shoot Brody if Nazir isn't captured. The team tails Roya to a restaurant, where Nazir's team swaps out her camera crew's batteries with bombs, and are then intercepted by a tac team -- but Nazir isn't on-site, and Quinn, barely prevented from shooting Brody because "we still need him," informs a startled Brody that "believe it or not, I'm your best friend in the world right now." Yeah, we…don't believe that at all.

What should we believe? Who authorized Quinn to terminate Brody in the event of Nazir's capture -- and why? If the FBI is part of the mission, how is the task force still so under the radar that a serious blunder like letting Brody get heli-napped didn't get it kiboshed? It's good that the action is ramping up: forward momentum does carry us over a number of plot holes; plus, the intensity of the Brody/Carrie story has been gorgeously done…but unrelenting, and the audience needed a break for some good old-fashioned spying. But introducing another hidden agenda/unseen enemy this late in the season? "Homeland" is so good at hitting the emotional truths of a scene or subplot, we often don't mind that logistical truths get overlooked. But sometimes it's just too obvious to ignore.

Odds and ends

Chris dopily observes that the safe house has big-screen TVs in every room. Of course he does; the kid's obliviousness is consistent, at least. Still, the cluelessness is getting silly. Find something for the character to do besides never catching his snap; otherwise, send him to boarding school.

@ThatsDaveWithaD feels us:

Brody's flashback convo with Nazir felt stilted and PSA-ish. Brody never considered that avenging the child's death might mean "kill[ing] innocent civilians"? Come on. Damian Lewis has always played the character as knowing the one could mean the other.

Awesome Saul moment du jour: Quinn tells Saul he looks "wasted," and Saul sighs, "I'm just old."

Watch the SNL parody of "Homeland" from last week, right here: