Carrie is unwavering.You thought "Homeland" would stretch the main plot out like a wad of taffy until it met the season finale, didn't you? Yeah, so did we — until the very last scene of "New Car Smell," when federal agents burst into Brody's hotel room and wrestled him to the floor as Carrie tried not to cry. The episode had so much movement within individual plotlines, and at the same time felt like the end of a movement, like in a symphony. (With one key exception; more on that later.)
Where does the show go from here? It could go almost anywhere, which is awesome, and how it got here is pretty nifty too. The episode begins, hilariously, with Estes's son Kenny greeting Saul at the front door in a Darth Vader costume, solemnly intoning, "Don't make me destroy you." Estes is shortly contemplating his own (career) destruction after seeing Brody's suicide tape: 1) Brody nearly killed VP Walden with the bomb vest; 2) Estes had intel that could have prevented that contretemps, but didn't believe it because it came from Carrie; and 3) Walden is Brody's patron and may not even believe him. Saul points out that "thwart[ing] an attack on America" might save Estes's butt, and suggests following Brody until they can get a lead on Nazir. Oh, and he'll need Carrie for the operation.
Sex and the CIA
Estes has no choice, and approves an off-site operation headed up by Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), a blunt analyst Carrie is immediately suspicious of (he claims six years at the CIA; she's never heard of him) and annoyed by (Quinn assumes, aloud, that she had sex with Brody, and rudely asks whether it was for "work or love"; Carrie snaps, "What are we, girlfriends?").
But Quinn and Carrie have a prickly chemistry that's fun to watch; he explicitly admires her work and trusts her abilities, and they're on the same page in terms of reeling Brody in with an "accidental" meeting at Langley. Both Carrie and Claire Danes play the moment perfectly: the pacing before she "runs into" Brody, simultaneously excited and dreading it; her over-smiling and teary eyes as they shake hands and make peace, then a "sssssuckah" expression as she walks away. (For much of the conversation, too, they're talking to each other through a sculpture.)
Later, Carrie and Quinn watch Brody at a hotel bar on their monitors. Red is having a tough day; after he once again refuses to explain his absences and weird behavior in any real way, Jessica boots him from the house. He can't make the guy at the car wash understand what he needs (the guy assures him he'll get "new car smell"). The CIA team has his entire life under surveillance, including the hallways of Congress and the hotel. Unbeknownst to Brody, his daughter is on a study date with Walden Jr., which ends in a smooch at the top of the Washington Monument and will complicate everyone's lives big-time.
Also unbeknownst to Brody, his alcoholic friend Lauder has come to his house to confront him about the hinkiness of Walker's death, and Jess has to call Mike to oust him. Lauder crutches off to Mike's car and makes a number of regrettable comments — although his apologetic "I unfortunately remember everything I said" is well done — but the ones about Brody acting off are the ones Mike believes. (Another instance of a plotline speeding up with surprising promptness. You'd expect Mike to keep on with the "come on, that's crazy" for another couple episodes.)
It gets even tougher when he calls Carrie, who agrees to meet him, hoping to drop some hints about how close she's getting to nabbing Abu Nazir. Brody, meanwhile, has been instructed by the contact to renew his ties to Carrie to see what she knows. The resulting double-talk cocktail hour is excruciating, and after Brody asks inappropriate questions about Carrie's ECT, then goes to his room without inviting her up, she insists that he's "made" her and she has to go to his room and finish the job. Quinn and Saul overrule her, but it's Carrie; she goes upstairs anyway. (Saul, in a very "Ocean's 11" moment, watches on the monitors and mutters, "Ohhhh, what is she doing.") She pretends to flirt with him at first, but soon gets to the point: they aren't going to be friends. "A demented ex-soldier who hates America," took her job, and got her sent to an institution is not a friend she needs. She knows about the vest, Nazir, everything. Brody advances on her and grits, "Okay, not friends." (Saul: "Get the f*** away from her.") What, she says — you're going to kill me and blame it on rough sex? Maybe, Brody says, and reminds her that "I seem to be good at this."
Sounding strangely offended that she still thinks he's guilty, Brody says plaintively, "I liked you, Carrie." "I loved you," she says as the strike team breaks in and slams him to the ground. As he's hustled away, Carried delivers a canned line about how he's a traitor and it's time for him to pay; triumph and hurt feelings fight for control of her face, and the hurt feelings win.
Almost everything in the episode is an unusual, even startling narrative leap forward. Jess closes her heart to Brody. Dana blurts to Walden Jr., "I like you." (After giving his father guff for coasting into Yale on a "gentleman's C." That character is such a true teenage girl.) Mike signs on to Lauder's misgivings with a quickness. Carrie is assigned to an ops team, and Brody is taken into custody…boom boom boom. But Carrie getting over Brody, the still-sharp betrayal and the fondness that persists in spite of it? That barely moves forward at all.
Next time: Brody is interrogated.
Watch Claire Danes do dramatic turns and readings on Jimmy Fallon last month: