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‘Homeland’ recap: The Brody-mind connection

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Good man or monster? Or both?

A gripping episode about questions and answers, truth and lies, and the overlapping Venn circles of selves each of us has to shuffle, "Q&A" sees Quinn and Carrie work an intense variation on the good-cop-bad-cop, to turn Brody into a double agent. And it brought to mind, strangely enough, a great line from Claire Danes's breakout series, "My So-Called Life," when Danes's character Angela Chase talks about people from different parts of your life colliding: "What I like, dread is when people who know you in completely different ways end up in the same area. And you have to develop this, like, combination you on the spot."

It's about the only thing the '90s teen drama has in common with "Homeland" besides their lead actress, but the episode is about the "combination yous" of its characters. The combination Brody is obvious: Marine, father and husband, brokenhearted tutor, vengeful terrorist. And it's something the combination Carries -- talented analyst and searcher for love, manic and depressive -- can plug into and use to the CIA's advantage.

Brody's interrogation starts out in a standard way, not least because everyone's annoyed with Carrie for going off the reservation; Quinn lays out a series of questions about Isa, the drone strike, and the plan to kill Walden, then busts Brody in his lies by playing him the suicide-note tape. (Carrie, denied first crack, has to admit that Quinn's good.)

Pinning him down, literally

Quinn, having already responded to Brody's bellowed request for an attorney with a snide "life is full of disappointments," gets Brody to admit to knowing Isa and thinking VP Walden is a "war criminal," but when he still won't admit he had a bomb vest on or that Abu Nazir has a plan, Quinn whips out a huge knife, pins Brody's hand to the table with it, and has to be hauled out of the room while screaming, "This is my interrogation!"

But it's just his (um, "unusual") way of tagging Carrie in, and in the room, she kills it, turning off the cameras before asking Brody whether he felt nothing during their weekend at the cabin; saying she wasn't playing him, "not the whole time, anyway"; wondering what he tells people when they ask him about the war. It's textbook good-cop -- show vulnerability, find common ground, move in for the kill -- and Carrie performs it to perfection…but the perfect part isn't that she's playing him now. It's that when she says she's "just happy to be talking to" him again, she means it. Yes, she's using real feelings to break him down; what's more, he knows it.

But it still works, because when Carrie tells him he's a good man, he heard Dana's voice and called it off, he's not a monster like Abu Nazir, then changes course to ask him, "Are you sure you're not a monster?", his weakness and humanity is that he's not sure. One of the Brodys is a monster. The Brody Carrie says Abu Nazir "systematically pulled" apart, then put together again as "someone else" might be. All of the Brodys together aren't. But there isn't one answer. The questioning look Brody gives her that seems to say, "Is 'a good man' the self you see? …How?" -- it's heartbreaking.

He actually can handle the truth

Carrie sees her opening and takes it: What's the plan. Who else in Nazir's network have you met. Brody answers fairly honestly, then, emptied of what he knows, goes fetal on the floor; later, he's told he'll get immunity and a nice life "far, far away" if he helps them shut down Nazir's next attack. Otherwise, it's prison, and shame. Brody's not sure they can protect him from Nazir, but goes along when Carrie says their "affair" is their cover for the operation. (She's businesslike about it…mostly. She's definitely happy when, in the car on the way to his house, he takes her hand with his wounded one, a nice bit of symbolism that would feel heavy-handed on another show.) He's dropped off at home, Virgil watching over him from the van, to go inside and finally tell Jessica (a version of) the truth: that he's working for the CIA.

Jess has also developed combination selves of late, angry estranged wife overlapping with protective mother; she's self-righteous about Brody's lies, but also feeling guilty. The drive to school after Brody moves out doesn't go well, when Jess has no answers for Chris's wounded questions about their relationship. (Her cheering-up attempt, reminding the kids that that night is "pizza night," sounds lame even to her.) She shows a third "we're all adults here" self to Dana, though, when Dana lets Xander down easy to go out with Finn Walden. "I'm proud of you" for telling the truth, she tells Dana, and the resentful fog between them seems to clear.

Unfortunately, Dana's date with Finn ends abruptly when Finn, showing off for her by eluding his Secret Service detail, hits a pedestrian. She freaks that they have to call 911 and go back to help; Finn yells that his father is the Vice President. Panicked, she buckles herself back in and goes along; arriving home from this traumatic outing, the Dana she chooses to present to the family is her customary grumpy "whatever" persona.

The episode ends with Carrie alone with her various selves and a glass of white wine.

More intel

The interrogation room has a crappy metal folding chair for Brody; Quinn gets to sit in an Aeron chair. Good detail

It's shades of Carrie's Wall Of Mania when Saul and Quinn rearrange the big board with the names they've gotten from Brody (a hint too of the FBI's Mafia family-tree bulletin board in "The Sopranos").

See Claire Danes on the Golden Globes red carpet right here:

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