At its surface, Sunday’s episode of Homeland was a snooze compared to last week’s “Still Positive” -- an absolute blood bath.
The only blood spilled this week was from Javadi’s nose, still leaking from Saul’s blow to his face. However, the episode was also a much-needed moment for the show to catch its breath and come to terms with some of the more outrageous plot twists of the season. Finally, after a very bad run of personal and professional luck, Saul appears to have regained the upper hand. He pulled off his extremely high stakes plan to turn Javadi against his own Iranian government, made some amends with his wife, and put his chief political rival, Senator Lockhart, in his place, at least for now. But in the process he has invited the doubts of Peter Quinn and even Carrie Mathison -- whose instincts about Brody have been validated yet again. Their trust in and allegiance to Saul no longer seems to be a sure thing.
Much of the episode is about shifting allegiances. Saul trusts that Javadi is now his spy. “I’m your new case officer,” he tells the Iranian. Dar Adal scolds Quinn for trading in on his loyalty in favor of Saul. Quinn is questioning his own allegiance to the CIA. “I don’t believe in it anymore,” he tells Carrie, “That anything justifies the damage we do.” Even with these misgivings, Quinn is deeply committed to Carrie. Without a second thought, he agrees to help her follow up on Javadi’s tip about the Langley bombmaker being in the United States. (Carrie and Quinn 'shippers were surely disappointed when their nocturnal rendezvous didn’t end with them making out on the hood of her car.) Carrie is still devoted to Brody, and with Javadi on a plane back to Iran, her next mission will be to clear his name of the Langley bombing. Speaking of love, after some infidelities, Mira chooses to give Saul another chance after all.
And then there’s puzzling shape shifting of Dar Adal. After last week reaching out a hand to Lockhart, he switched to Team Berenson. Had he always been loyal to Saul? Was his pledge to Lockhart a spy trick of its own, a tool to lull Lockhart into trusting him? Was Dar Adal turned off by Lockhart’s criticisms of he and Saul’s trade? Or did he just see Saul and his grand plan to be the political winner he wanted to attach himself to? Saul trusts Dar Adal, but as Javadi’s initial betrayal of Saul during the Iranian revolution shows, his trust has been burned before.
Through the police interrogation of Quinn about Mrs. Javadi’s murder, “Homeland” got to air some of its grievances with the very CIA it has depicted. “I’m just trying to understand this sh-t that you people do. This sh-t that we are a party to because we pay taxes,” the police chief says, adding. “Have you ever done anything but make things worse?”
But “Homeland” also got to mock those who dismiss the work of its spies. In the same breath of calling the CIA a “clown show,” Lockhart struggled to work a speaker phone -- “How does this work? --” before being locked in a conference room. Who’s the clown now? The episode also further revealed a side to Saul that was not all benevolent, as he explained his master plan to Javadi. “Thanks to you I stand at the center of things. You put me in power,” he points out to Javadi, referring to the Langley attack that cleared the way for Saul’s ascension in the CIA. An agency directorship is an awfully nice silver lining for 300 of your colleagues being blown to smithereens. He seems to suggest that Javadi could be party to a similar fate in Iran if he works with Saul. “You started this, I think you’ll want to be there when it ends,” Saul promises him.
The plan -- that Saul could end the cycle of violence between the U.S. and Iran by counting on a terrorist he has blackmailed to rise up Iran’s political ladder -- is both wildly cynical and wildly optimistic.
The episode’s title is “Gerontion” referring to a 1920 T.S. Elliot poem. “Gerontion” being Greek for “little old man,” the poem is told from the perspective of a man at the end of his life grappling with faith -- religious faith, his faith in society and faith in his own mind. Saul and Javadi are old men now, with their own doubts, but at least in this moment, Saul appears to have full faith in his abilities.