‘Why Is This Night Different?’

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Homeland’ Season 5, Episode 4 Recap: Everyone’s plans go up in flames in ‘Why is this night different?’.

But after Carrie Mathison’s former lover decided to protect her instead, and even helped her fake her death, it ended up being a high stakes game of spy vs spy with double-crosses galore on Sunday night’s installment of Homeland.Homeland’s third episode shatters the illusion of Carrie’s new civilian life as her past sins swirl around her in her lithium-free, cocaine-fuelled mania. It all reached the giddiest of crescendos when, just seconds after answering a call that seemed to identify Berlin station chief Allison Carr as a Russian spy who was trying to kill the lovebirds, a jet carrying a powerful Syrian army officer turned by the Americans exploded above her head.

But at the end of the episode, we learn that now Quinn himself is on a hit list, as he is shot following his regularly scheduled Deutsche Post proof-of-murder drop-off. It is she who set up Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend) to kill Carrie (Claire Danes); she who, presumably, has facilitated the blowing-to-bits of General Youssef (Igal Naor) and his family, foiling the United States’s plans for regime change in Syria. Mandy Patinkin is in fine, fine form in the fourth installment of “Homeland’s” fifth season, “Why Is This Night Different?” The action in this episode, written by Ron Nyswaner and directed by John Coles, covers a whole lot of territory, from ripped-from-the-headlines geopolitical chess games in Syria to the tenderest of moments between Carrie and Quinn to the curveball of casting suspicion on the allegiance of a key character, Miranda Otto’s Allison. Setting out to ascertain who tried to kill her last week, she let her bipolar disorder go unmedicated and attempted to engage the window of lucidity and “crazy energy” which expedites her best work. Surrounded by photos of all the enemies she has made and prompted by a vision of Aayan Ibrahim, she comes to the realisation that it must be someone acting on behalf of all of them, like some kind of avenging angel.

The CIA worker had helped her boss Saul Berenson seemingly persuade General Youssef to become an American puppet who would rule instead of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but her reaction suggested she knew all along his aircraft was never going to leave in one piece. In an enthralling hour, Homeland proved that its most edge-of-your-seat moments come not from the jump-starts of explosions, but the unspooling of its central characters. Given the real life closeness between the Russians and the current regime in Damascus, it certainly added an extra dose of contemporaneity to this week’s installment of the espionage drama. Quinn is another ghost from two years ago, but one she’s happy to see, unlike the one she hallucinated last week. (Speaking of which, before we move on, I do want to point out that when I called Carrie “crazy,” it wasn’t the best idea, as many of you mentioned. The idealistic Numan meets with Laura and the pair find common ground over their inability to return home, while Korzenik instead offers the information to the Russians seeking financial gain.

It started off at a breakneck pace, with Rupert Friend’s Quinn slicing his hand, smearing blood all over Carrie’s face and taking a photograph that made it appear he had neutralised his target. To be clear, I don’t use the term to diminish the severity or the state of her mental illness; rather, just as a Homeland viewer, I wasn’t happy with the way the show wedged it in as a plot device. The moment Carrie kissed goodbye to daughter Franny (off to safety in the US) was quiet, underplayed, and yet the lump in her throat was palpable for the viewer. In fact it was a ruse to throw his masters off the scent, buying Carrie precious time to make her escape and start a new life away from the world of espionage altogether. Sure, revisiting Carrie’s demons was necessary to get her out of her comfortable Berlin life, but bringing back her mental illness at this point felt like a decision on the part of the writers to simply catalyze the action.

This key plot shift occurs seconds before the episode’s second big OMG moment, which is the mid-air explosion of the private jet carrying the Syrian general Saul and Allison had hoped to install in place of the current president of Syria, Bashar Al-Assad. There, she plays bad cop and threatens to send Youssef to The Hage where he’d stand trial for war crimes while Saul tells him he’d make a way better ruler than his murderous cousin — kindly reminding him ISIS is taking over Damascus anyway and his country’s screwed without American help.

It’s not that I want Carrie to no longer have to deal with her bipolarity, it’s that I wish the show wouldn’t use it as a “danger of the week,” a phrase a commenter used on this post deftly breaking down the issue of “unstable” Carrie by Alan Sepinwall over at Hitfix. General Youssef had been lured to Switzerland under the ruse of an awaiting kidney donor for his daughter, only to find Saul waiting for him at the hospital with a massive leadership sales pitch. The pair’s discussion in the garden setting of the cold-hard calculus of the CIA’s plan to install Youssef as the successor to Assad is remarkable for its discussion of real-world leaders, real-world terrorists (the Islamic State) and real-world politics (Russia’s support of Assad). This subtle scene gave way for a rousing display later on, when, under the supervision of boyfriend Jonas, she holed up in a cabin and let the mania take over. Saul, as Otto Düring observes, has become arrogant, belligerent and too used to getting his own way – Carrie notes he wasn’t that way before – and now seems happy to tread beyond the bounds of legality to achieve his ends.

If they think you’re not dead they’ll send someone to finish the job.’ They go as far as recording a seeming death message to her daughter Franny, although the first take is aborted when the black ops agent tells her she is leaving clues that she is still alive in her message. Still, was it unfair to criticize the tonal shift and slap on the word “crazy” when that’s how frustrating manic-depressive disorder becomes in real life? Danes’s brilliance as Carrie shone, from twitchy facial contortion as she snorted caffeine pills, to frantic, pacy erraticism, to a full, nightmarish descent into horror and hallucinations.

As for Quinn, the nature of his CIA wet work has always required ruthlessness and emotional detachment, but the self-doubt and desire to leave that world behind him that haunted him through the previous two series has been purged and replaced by a nihilistic vacuum. The Russians take the flash drive, raid Korzenik’s house for any copies (shooting his girlfriend in the head) and then strangle the dumb bloke to death. After some spirited cabin sex with Jonas (Carrie’s a fan of her woodland mini-breaks – recall Nicholas Brody in season one), a touch of post-coital tristesse was bound to set in once the lovers realised they’d just done it in a room plastered floor to ceiling with photos of Carrie’s would-be assassins. But just when it seems she is going to escape to a mystery location, in a brown wig no less, she has a change of heart, explaining that she has to be convinced her most trusted mentor Saul had truly been the person behind having her killed.

Even so, it was rather imprudent of Jonas, in the throes of such fragility, to leave her with only a bottle of vodka for comfort as we learned Carrie’s personal body count: 167. Pointing out it would be unbelievably stupid for her old boss to send her former lover to killer her, she decides she wants to stake out the post office box where Quinn had been receiving his seemingly clandestine assassination orders. Yes, you heard that right: 167 Alone, Carrie was haunted by her victims and visited by ghosts from her past, including former flame Aayan Ibrahim, the young Pakistani medical student whom she indirectly killed last year.

A gripping and heartbreaking sequence came to a climax as Carrie resolved that she was a war criminal, her fate “right” and “righteous”. “You can’t atone for that much blood, for that many souls,” she told Jonas on his return. When Saul promises that Youssef will have the full support of the U.S. in establishing free elections and Democratic reforms, you can feel the weight of so many past failed U.S. interventions on both of their minds.

Of course, it is when she decides to do just that, after providing some essential first aid to her wounded colleague that she discovers Carr, who is played by sexy Lord Of The Rings starlet Miranda Otto, could in fact be a plant working for the Russian Federal Security Service. A man drives up to Quinn on the street and shoots him in the stomach several times, but Carrie backs into the shooter’s car allowing Quinn to fire back and kill him. Quinn’s plans for their first date keeping Carrie alive involve replacing her with a new identity and finding her fallback, where she keeps the supplies she needs to disappear. She says that Saul is someone “I trust more than I’ve ever trusted anyone,” and knows he wouldn’t put her name on a kill list, no matter how cranky he might happen to be. Speaking of our friends east of Ukraine, the FSB are portrayed as being both brutal and probably uncharacteristically naive when they decide to torture and kill hacker Numan’s friend Korzenik after he hands over the coveted hacked CIA documents to them.

Back in Switzerland, looks like Saul convinces Youssef to lead Syria “into the light.” He boards a private jet with his wife, daughter and $10 million courtesy of the American government to help bribe his fellow statesmen. This plot twist seems incongruous with scenes of the pair so far, and is more than a little groan-inducing for those of us who welcome a female character respected for competency in her job, and not her merits elsewhere. Just before he went inside with his new friends to seemingly collect his cash, he spoke with his worried cohort, who had just learned the drive he handed over to smarmy journalist Laura Sutton had been wiped of its contents, on the phone. And so she tries again, and speaks to the camera — and to us, almost — in what would surely be Claire Danes’ Emmy submission episode if we didn’t still have most of the season left to go. “I didn’t abandon you,” she says, holding back tears. “I know what that feels like, and I would never do that to you… You make up for every mistake that I’ve ever made, and although you don’t believe it, I love you very, very much.” It gives us our most heartbreaking Carrie cryface yet: She’s asking Frannie — or one day, when she’s probably going as “Frances” — to trust her. (Also worth noting: The scene cuts to Quinn many times, just to drive home the point that he also abandoned his child, but Carrie’s level of remorse is exponentially greater now that she’s experienced what life would be like with Frannie.) It’s the same emotional wavelength Carrie’s working with when she persists in asking Quinn whether it really was Saul who put in the kill order.

Unfortunately for him, his Russian agent handler reveals he is ‘cynical’ about Korzenik and his motives and whether he is truthful when he says there is only one copy of the files. Or to hit Saul where they figured it would most hurt, as payback for being a not-so-great friend to Israel, lying to the Jewish state, and on German soil, no less. The dynamic duo use the lure of a kidney transplant operation in Douvaine, Switzerland to lure General Youssef, which gives them an opportunity to try and turn him into a US agent. But maybe I’m just reaching with this thought.) Üter explains why they’re there, asking those at the table to “remember the enemies we still have all over the world,” giving Saul a pointed glance.

But Carrie is very right about the names in the post-office box and the fact that if it’s Saul directing this stuff, then Saul would be really stupid to send Quinn after Carrie, because he knows their relationship – he would assume that Quinn would try to help Carrie instead of kill her. He explains that the Islamic State is preparing a massive Syrian offensive, and insists that ‘If Damascus falls, you and your family will be slaughtered.’ Saul is convinced he has enough loyal supporters to secure a successful coup, and insists he will furnish him with enough cash to buy off those who remain in opposition.

Except it’s been tampered with by his partner, who warned him, “You don’t even know what a fool you are” and looks set to woo a wealthy Russian with the documents. As if to make it even more cold-hearted, Carr refused the military man’s request his wife and daughter stay behind, insisting it would ‘raise a red flag’ with the Syrian regime. Just to add even more mud to the already murky waters, the Berenson had earlier told the Israeli ambassador in Berlin the CIA was ‘out of the business’ of Middle East regime change, a claim that the big bang overhead will make slightly more difficult to sell the next time they meet.

When Saul pushes back on the questioning by wondering why Israel would rather not have peace, Üter almost laughs. “You used to be a good friend to Israel,” he says. The first is when Quinn strokes her cheek while smearing his blood on her face to take the picture that’s meant to convince Saul (?) that Carrie is dead. After Quinn’s kidnap of Jonas’s son for bait, and her own refusal to leave the hideout to help find him, paranoid Carrie ventured solo into the woods with nothing but a hunting gun. Quinn tracked her down, and after a shoot-out and brief scuffle in the dark, injected her with the sedative she’d probably already needed for a good 24 hours. Her story requires the same sort of untethered freedom that allows heroes of children’s books — Harry Potter, Sara Crewe, and all the other child-protagonists whose narrative life depends on the death of their parents — to undergo their loss-fueled trials and triumphs. “If you want Franny to be safe, you have to be dead,” Quinn says.

He notes, with jealous pride, that while living with Jonas, she never updated her old “fallback plan.” He shrugs off her attempt to rewind to the point of their last near connection: “Doesn’t matter now,” he insists, when she asks him where he’s been, and she tells him she’s never stopped thinking of him. Quinn, as we know, is a man of few words, so instead of flowery declarations of love, we get moans and whimpers from him — sounds I am sure Quinn would have muted, had someone other than Carrie been there to witness his pain. And she has the presence of mind to grab said Russian’s smartphone and snap a picture of his slumped body in the BMW before racing off to aid Quinn, who refuses to go to a hospital.

Saul cryptically reminds him the U.S. will do “what it takes” to end the turmoil in Syria. “I know you’re a patriot,” Saul says. “Show them the way forward. The CIA learned very well from Hollywood, from a man named John Chambers, a special-effects guy who was portrayed by John Goodman in “Argo.” He was brought in to teach the CIA how to do makeup and special effects and disguise. Judith Warner, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, is the author, most recently, of “We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication.” The only telephone number on the dead Russian’s smartphone is one that rings Allison, who is on the tarmac with Saul watching Youssef’s plane take off. Because Laura’s rendezvous with Numan only got her a blank USB and a rude cartoon, she pressures Jonas into getting her a meeting with another hacker who can track Numan down.

She steps out of earshot from Saul to answer it with a telling “Da.” There’s of course the possibility that Allison was running a CIA-approved con game with the Russians, but the lack of surprise on Allison’s face as the plane disintegrates overhead makes us all think otherwise. Look, she’s got a poster that says, “Read the Constitution, Not My Emails,” in her humongous apartment, along with this gem… …so that’s all you need to know. Settled in the back seat of a town car, he’s more confident than ever: His hair is slicked back, his tie is straight, and he’s got a glint in his eye that, well, bodes poorly for him. Too idiotic to act on Numan’s warnings, Korzie follows his driver into the back of a dingy restaurant, where he meets a man who definitely isn’t the Russian embassy officer he bribed back in Club King George. The idea of taking out Bashar al-Assad and putting in [the fictional] General Youssef – this is not out entirely of the realm of possibility for the CIA, we’ve done this in the past.

The issue with the idea behind taking Assad out of power and the American government/the CIA inserting our own guy is, they don’t mention Iran, they don’t mention Russia or Hezbollah not allowing this kind of thing – because they wouldn’t. The biggest problem they’re running into is what we call a “dangle.” If you’re operating as an intelligence agent in another country, everybody knows you’re an intelligence agent. Now what happens in that case is when dangles are used to entice people to commit espionage, or, to entice a diplomat from Russia, let’s say, to pay somebody for information and it’s a sting operation, you can go, “Aha! And because of that, anytime anybody comes to you with information, you don’t just say, “Yeah, come on in, here’s some money.” There’s a process. I know people will want to argue, “Well, they want to make sure he doesn’t tell anybody the Russians have the documents.” Which is all fine and good – then you pay him to keep him quiet.

Because what that does is bring in the police and the intelligence agencies, and all of a sudden, they’re snooping around, they’re trying to figure out what’s going on, and that creates an investigation.

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