Homeland Recap: Break Free

Mike, Virgil and not-crazy Carrie rescue the troubled show.

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison and Stephanie J. Block as Patricia Cooper in "Homeland."
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Until its final three minutes, Sunday's episode of "Homeland" had my eyes rolling at warp speed. It appeared to be another installment of, look how awful psych wards are! Plus another guy with a neck tattoo, which is apparently the cosmetic trend sweeping the criminal underworld.

It was disheartening to see, a third of the way through the season, we were still stuck with Crazy Carrie. Sure we want our heroines to have flaws, but we also want to see them be, you know, heroic from time to time.

For a brief moment, it looks like Carrie is going to have that chance, with her release from the hospital imminent. But, confirming her fears, the CIA thwarts her escape, overriding the doctors orders for discharge with the ole "risk to national security" excuse. Part of her hiring contract was signing away her constitutional rights, Carrie explains, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" – and the permission to grow her nails out. She was back in the fetal position on her flimsy cot. Trust us Carrie, this hurts us more than you.

[Read last week's recap of "Homeland."]

But thankfully (for us viewers anyway), the executive assistant to the lawyer representing the terrorists shows up and gets her out, and Carrie gets her spy game on. Running from the CIA as well as the parties who want its secrets, Carrie is darting behind bushes, plotting to cross the border, and calling in every favor she's got. She picks up on the hint Virgil (Virgil!) gives her that the CIA is on to her. She even shows up at the door step of a one-night-stand – a ginger, just like Brody (eye roll) – to pick his pocket.

Again her escape is thwarted, this time by the lap dog-y assistant who brings her to the meeting arranged in exchange for her hospital release. This is when things get really frustrating. Carrie is shocked – shocked! – when the lawyer, Leland Bennett, explains to her the meaning of "controversialize" and that the CIA is making her into "the story" to distract from its own failures. It's a strategy blatantly obvious from the season's first episode (Alyssa Rosenberg, among others, meticulously laid it out in her recap). Not only is this all news to Super Sleuth Carrie, it's enough to break her down and get her cooperating with the Iranians.

Or so we thought, until Carrie shows up at Saul's doorstep, where it is revealed that there was a long game after all. Did Carrie know Saul was using her breakdown as bait for the Iranians all along, or did she figure it out along the way? Was her attempt to flee the country just a front for Bennett and even the CIA (which may not even be in on Saul's plan)? Is her family in on it? Who cares while Saul is Papa-Bear-hugging her and offering her tea!

[Review: '12 Years a Slave' a Visceral and Emotional Blow]

It was a gratifying twist and reason enough to me to give the troubled show another chance (some of my colleagues may disagree). But that doesn't mean this episode wasn't without its flaws.

Dana is riding in cars with boys again, specifically with Leo, who has a different approach when it comes to getting out of the looney bin. "They're going to catch us anyway," she tells Leo as they race away from the psych ward. She's not naïve enough to think she'll get away with it, so why does she run? Why do I care? I don't care.

But "Homeland" thinks I should, because all roads lead back to Nick Brody, even when he is offstage strung out on heroin and hangin' with pedophiles in a dilapidated South American tower. Leo's parents blame Dana because they know who her father is. If that's not enough, Dana takes Leo to the military base where Brody said his last honest thing to her: "Good-bye" (eye roll).

[J.C. Chandor talks making "All Is Lost" with Robert Redford]

Guess what, "Homeland"? I still don't care, even when Mike (Mike!) discovers that Leo was in the hospital because, it turns out, he was maybe responsible for his brother's suicide. Sad, considering how Dana so sweetly told him he wasn't. Oh "Homeland," you're so ironic sometimes!