‘Homeland’ recap: ‘Parabiosis’

9 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Homeland’ recap: ‘Parabiosis’.

What could possibly be in these MacGuffins documents?! On tonight’s episode of “Homeland,” our playing-dead protagonist was about to board a private jet (courtesy of her employer, Otto Düring, who is, like, the 27th person in Germany who knows she’s actually still alive) and head off to an undisclosed location when Düring presented her with a special gift from Saul Berenson: the classified hacked documents that the Russians really don’t want her to see.

It turns out the biggest mystery of Sunday night’s installment of “Homeland” is why it’s titled “Parabiosis,” which means the anatomical joining of two individuals like something out of “The Human Centipede.” Spoiler alert: That doesn’t happen.This week we got to watch two spies show off their craft: one an old master, dusting off some clever sleight-of-hand; the other a young gun, grievously injured but still cunning enough to outwit his captors.Russian mole Allison directs suspicion for the explosion of General Youssef’s plane in Saul’s direction as Carrie calls on unlikely allies as she attempts to make sense of what is going on and save Quinn.

After last week’s frustrating hour of filler, Homeland is finally on the move again with “Parabiosis.” And it begins by… having Saul discard Carrie Mathison and thereby make her decisions last week appear even more fruitless. They’ve fractured the CIA’s Dar Adal/Saul backbone, sent Carrie on a tailspin, and, worst of all, they’re killing Quinn, all because the Russians don’t want them to be read.

Now that Peter Quinn has survived last week’s cliffhanger (he’s been tended to by a good Samaritan who just happens to be affiliated with some recently released jihadists, because, “Homeland”), Carrie’s fate hangs in the balance as we wonder if she’s going to stay in Berlin or leave in order to evade her Russian assassins. “Homeland” may still be Carrie’s story, but this week’s episode, “Parabiosis,” belonged to her still-estranged mentor, Saul. The pacing off-kilter, the dialogue contrived, the background music oddly plaintive, and the characters both muted and, oddly, overdrawn — as though the regular actors had taken the night off and been replaced by a group of far less talented understudies. Having hit viewers with one twist after another so far, it was perhaps inevitable that Homeland would require a pause for breath to reload in preparation for its second half. After realising that it’s the Russians who are after her, Carrie set about finding out what’s on the leaked CIA documents that Russia so badly want to keep from the public, and a critically injured Quinn decided he might be better off dead. He initially dismissed his protégée’s cry for help at the start of the hour, but the former acting director of the CIA changed his tune once he realized he was being trailed himself, and that Dar Adal suspected him to be a traitor.

Merz) being released from prison after his sentence is vacated because of the revelation that the German and U.S. intelligence agencies were spying illegally. But where last year the series-long arc pivoted around Saul’s kidnapping and Aayan’s killing, Better Call Saul (a cute little shout-out to the Breaking Bad spin-off) presents us with a more subtle character piece that builds up several of the secondary players by focussing on their relationships with the central trio of Carrie, Saul and Quinn. We’ve barely had time to get used to the idea of unscrupulous Allison as an agent for the SVR (the Russian foreign intelligence service) and already the cracks in her stony facade are beginning to show. Too bad everyone’s busy preventing each other from accessing them, and as a result, almost everyone in tonight’s episode fails to see things clearly.

Carrie, in this episode, is the manipulative, whiny crazy lady I’ve seen depicted before in many viewers’ online reactions to the show; a vision I don’t normally share. Elsewhere, Saul (Mandy Patankin) and Carrie (Claire Danes) hold a shadowy meeting, but it doesn’t go too well for the long-time spy and his former protégé. “We’re here because you tried to take me out,” she says, before revealing that Russians have somehow penetrated his supposedly airtight black-ops arrangement with Quinn “Someone put my name in your kill box.” The CIA big doesn’t trust his former prized student, especially when she asks to see the confidential files that had been hacked.

First of all, in the aftermath of the plane explosion, she’s not working hard to come up with a half-decent story to cover her own tracks, telling a dismayed Dar Adal her shrewd “working theory”: “Somebody betrayed us”. After being the lone man to even consider Carrie’s integrity during the tragic season 1 finale, as well as for most of season 2, the idea that Saul would dismiss Carrie as crazy for thinking someone is trying to kill her is downright infuriating in terms of character development. I had missed that Allison’s one-word response (‘Da’) to Carrie’s call at the end of last week’s episode was in Russian, revealing her true allegiance. Wearing a black spy outfit, she runs from man to man looking for someone to save her, halfheartedly trying a bit of seduction in between her bouts of damsel in distress manipulation. Here’s where “Homeland” is at its best: Seeing the two veteran actors chew up scenery together is a reminder how the secondary characters on this show are not nearly as interesting.

But here it’s spelt out for us as she meets with Ivan in a car park and, having already deflected Saul’s suspicions towards Mossad, leaves with instructions to play on Dar Adal’s paranoia about Saul’s relationship with them. Her covert mission has not been without stumbling blocks – last week’s snafu, where her hitman’s mobile phone got into the wrong hands – has shaken her. Dismissing Carrie’s ravings about Peter Quinn being injured, her life being in danger, and that he is being spied on by his own agency—I guess the writers mixed up his backstory with David Estes?

Unaware of his own girlfriend’s betrayal and the surveillance team that Dar has now assigned to him, Saul quizzes his Israeli contact Etai about his presence in Switzerland at the same time as Youssef. Tonight’s exchange with her handler Ivan – the picture of a Soviet supervillain – showed Allison to be vulnerable and uneasy, particularly when shown the photo of a dead-looking Carrie Mathison.

Quite the coincidence… Saul realizes Carrie was indeed telling the truth about him being tailed, so he goes to see Allison (Miranda Otto), who unbeknownst to him is the real mole in the unit. With Saul’s and Carrie’s paths brought into alignment and the hacker subplot becoming more integral, there’s a sense that this slow-burning hour is setting us up for what’s to come. It started fairly strong, but we feel like before tonight it was starting to run into a patch where we wanted the show to move at a little bit of a faster pace.

One of the things I was thinking last week is, they’ve really gone away from having this great location in Germany, and the implications that it has. Much like the star of Francis Ford Coppola’s neo-noir, Saul starts imagining phantom spies he shouldn’t have to worry about like the cleaning lady. Even though Carrie tells him she confirmed it was the Russians behind the order and the attack in Lebanon, Saul is dismissive and refuses to help. “You want me to hand over some top secret documents to you, of all people?” he asks. “You don’t think that’s gonna cause problems?” Of course it’ll cause problems, Saul, but just because Carrie sounds paranoid (and is still wearing the worst wig known to man) doesn’t mean she’s wrong. By extension, Mandy Patinkin is superb at dropping the papa bear routine for a character that’s bitter indignation emanates from a master class performer who is often underutilized.

So Saul needs to find the real culprit and orders the CIA Berlin offices swept down to the studs to find out how their classified plan to bring regime change to Syria failed so miserably. Also, you can sign up here to secure some other TV news on everything we cover, sent right over to you via our CarterMatt Newsletter. (Photo: Showtime.) There’s a disconnect between knowing something, between intelligence, and actually having evidence to prosecute in court – and that can be incredibly frustrating for both criminal-justice organizations and intelligence organizations. Carrie’s one-woman crusade to discover the truth has just cost her boyfriend Jonas (Alexander Fehling), who’s tired of her inability to leave her former life in espionage behind.

That’s why you have a lot of the controversy around the targeted killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki – the American citizen who ran off to run Al Qaeda in Yemen. It all feels like some sort of quick-change acting exercise: like a character on a bad network TV drama who has multiple personality disorder and is prompted to produce alter ego after alter ego on the witness stand. Other key things to take away from Allison and Ivan’s clandestine car park confab are that whatever Allison’s endgame is, she is “almost there”, and that the aim – if we needed confirmation – at least in the short term, is to turn Dar Adal against Saul. On the one hand, I can believe that if Dar Adal thought evidence was strong enough to implicate Saul Berenson that he’d reluctantly pursue bringing down his old friend.

His former golden employee is busy falling apart in front of him, but he promises to loan her his private jet. “I am the problem, I bring down everyone around me and I have this opportunity now to just go away and take the problems with me,” Carrie tells her boss. And the same idea comes across in several more key shots where characters confront the truth: Either way, Carrie has finally returned to the Quinncave, where Jonas is frantically cleaning up, agitated to have been left on his own for a full 24 hours.

No one’s just going to be dumped on the street and ignored; we know these are dangerous people – in all likelihood there is some kind of surveillance. I do ultimately think this continues the strained, manipulative, and incredulous writing that is littering season 5, but it is at least played out in a dramatically satisfying arc this evening.

So Quinn makes a good point – they don’t show it in the actual episode, but the Germans aren’t idiots, they won’t let these guys run around without paying attention to them. We know, from Season 1, that Saul is a useless lie detector test-taker. (He’s too much of a “nervous Nellie” to pass a polygraph, Homeland co-creator and show runner Alex Gansa told The Daily Beast in 2013). They can’t show modern technology, so the stuff they’re showing is store-bought and/or props, and you can actually buy very effective store-bought counter-surveillance technology, but it’s relatively accurate.

The man who saves his life in Berlin turns out to be an Iraqi doctor who came from Mosul after his wife was killed in the bombing of their medical clinic. The process they show is correct: going from room to room, door to door, taking fans apart, opening up light sockets and stuff like that, because you want to make sure that there are no listening devices.

Hajik is waiting with a band of his followers as Quinn tries to leave the building. “I am going to cut your prick and shove it down your throat,” the Syrian threatens, drawing a knife. Quinn might not be in top fighting shape, but he knows how to play mind games to save his life. “The real jihad is in Syria, but there you’d have to fight,” he taunts them. In fact, he seemed to help the series paint a downright negative portrait of CIA and American bullishness as they enter what is clearly a public space on sovereign German land, and they still cart of Saul off like he’s a Syrian refugee. But when she mentions the documents, Jonas becomes incensed. “Quinn walked out of that door to protect you, Carrie; does that register?!” he screams. “That’s it, I’m done.” Jonas does what he does best: He walks out and leaves Carrie on her own.

Calm and relief may be on its way to viewers who have longed for Saul and Carrie to join forces once again, as – arranged via a packet of Saul’s favourite blackjack gum – the pair reunited at the very end. Embassy in Moscow, which was being rebuilt in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, and it turned out that the Soviets had built bugs into all the walls and into the rebar and into the cement. Let’s hope he doesn’t mention their meeting to his girlfriend, whom if she sleeps, does so slightly better in the belief that Carrie’s long gone.

While I will give a pass to the aforementioned cold shoulder from Saul (through gritted teeth), the bit where Jonas abandons her in an hour of need because she won’t go home with him is annoyingly idiotic. Its title of the episode is, after all, “Parabiosis,” a term that the journal Nature defines as “a 150-year-old surgical technique that unites the vasculature of two living animals.” In recent years, the technique has been used to connect the bloodstreams of mice, and in aging experiments has actually used the blood of young mice to rejuvenate the organs of old mice. We did the same thing to the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C. – we didn’t actually build anything into the walls, but we found a very ingenious way of digging under the embassy to try to tap into their conversations. There’s much deep symbolism, many heavy-duty moral, ethical, geopolitical lessons to be learned, I am sure — but all I could think about, once I heard the doctor say the words “manage” and “building,” was “building manager.” All I could hear was the sudden return of Quinn’s oddly clipped, hyper-polite, quiet-desperation voice, which we haven’t heard since early last season. However, Claire Danes plays Carrie’s plight well, and I genuinely believe she would get on a plane rather than wait for the bullet to come for her or a beloved child.

Carrie didn’t get very far in her investigation, and wig or not, shouldn’t she know by now to lie low and think seriously about who she can trust, before she storms into anti-Russian protests? Rupert Friend was especially strong tonight in the sequence where his pretenses switch from playing dumb to deadly serious as he attempts to aggressively bluff his way out of a hostile situation. Ever the martyr, Quinn ran away from the tender care of Jonas, and convinced himself that the only way to ensure the safety of his beloved Carrie was to avoid hospital and let himself die.

But what they get right in this case is that if you are worried about any of your employees perhaps being a traitor, the most natural thing to do is to put them on the box (a polygraph). However… this in itself is its own form of problematic since it implies that yes, there are “good Muslims,” but they are isolated and alone, and surrounded by bloodthirsty radicals who are willing to cut up a crippled man on the side of the street on any given night. Dar scoffs and says Saul is the problem, considering his close ties with the Israelis and his affair with a co-worker. “You know what, Dar, f— you,” Saul says. “No, f— you,” Dar replies. (Oh my GOD, f— both of you!

Most agencies know that polygraphs are not admissible in a court of law, but the CIA still considers it as one of several different means of getting at the truth. He’s restless and paranoid when he returns to his hotel room, jumping at slight noises, checking the lamps for bugs, and rummaging through a maid’s cart in search of clues the CIA’s against him.

To get around his roadblock, Saul uses his spy wiles and distracts Mills (the specialist who first realized Numan had accessed their servers) to get onto the system. This is an old trope of Hollywood, where you’re attacked in your hotel room or they’ve been rifling through your hotel room and you’re worried about it.

The CIA arrive to take Saul away, and Düring even takes a stand for Saul, showboating and commanding the CIA officers to apologize to everyone in his club if they don’t find what they’re looking for. They don’t, but as Düring leaves later, he discovers a package Saul had dropped in his jacket much earlier. (Yes, Saul!) Düring gives the package to Carrie when she arrives to take his plane to Norway. She had just finished erasing her time in Berlin — she removes all photos of her cozy life from the past two years off her phone — and taken a detour to spy on Jonas going about his day in their apartment. Now, having left that life behind, she can take the next step. “From Saul Berenson,” Düring says, passing along the files. “He said you’d know what to do with it.” Carrie’s obviously relieved; she has her next step.

In one case it’s a very easy go-to scapegoat, like the boogeyman: “The plane blew up, it’s the Russians.” Or, “They’re surveilling us, it’s the Russians.” This is a long tradition within American intelligence going back to the Cold War, of having that ready-made scapegoat, the bad guy. But a crushed trachea, in most cases you can save the person if you’ve got a little time, and even if you don’t have the time to take him to the hospital, it takes a while for the neck to swell up to the point where you’re not breathing anymore.

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