Homeland: Allison, We Know This World Is Killing You (S5, E8 RECAP)

 

homeland logoThis week’s episode is All About Allison, but mostly it’s all about When Carrie Met Allison. There are lots of flashbacks to those tumultuous days in Occupied Bagdad where soon-to-leave case officer Allison, is giving newbie Carrie some pointers. Unlike the way some shows mix in time jumps to keep us from noticing a total lack of substance or sense, (like Quantico) here the flashbacks won’t just provide clunky backstory, but may lead to actual revelation (in keeping with the religious nature of the season).

Allison, always dressed to kill, but a real lady lets someone else pull the trigger.

Allison, always dressed to kill, but a real lady lets someone else pull the trigger.

Meantime, Peter Quinn continues to inhabit a storyline that while up to date with recent events in a truly awful totally politically incorrect way – all those sneaky jihadis amongst the refugees – has very little to do with anything else happening on the show. Saul’s “defecting to Israel” plot also feels increasingly more distant from the main event.

Quinn appears to have been demoted by his terrorist friends. Remember how he was the one whose advice they sought? Remember how he talked them into going to Syria to fight, instead of just bombing random targets in Europe? How they’d begged him to come and offered him beacoup dinaris to do it? Somehow he’s now been relegated to the back of the van – literally, and told to not even show his face or reveal his presence when they stop off on some mysterious mission or maybe just a rest stop. Who knows? It’s not like they’re telling him anything. Who’d he piss off?

Allison is back at the No Tell Parking Garage for another secret rendezvous with Ivan because it’s not like parking garages might have security cameras or people going to park or pick up their cars. Allison is worried because Carrie hasn’t called her yet to firm up their meeting plans. What if she’s figured something out? Ivan assures her that Carrie will call her and the only way she could find out anything would be through Achmed – the one person who could connect Allison to the SVR, but he’s been neutralized so not to worry. Allison just needs to play it cool with Carrie. Also, Ivan at this point is no longer planning to kill Carrie because “too many bodies.” Maybe they have a quota.

Dar is watching the tape of Saul getting grabbed from the elevator. He yells at Allison because that’s what Dar does this season, but then after making it clear he doesn’t trust or respect her, he takes her advice – talk to the Israelis about getting him back. It’s getting harder to hold on to my “Dar and Saul are in this together and suspect Allison theory,” but why does Dar get that weird gleam in his eyes whenever he talks to Allison? And why does he do her bidding after yelling at her? I can’t buy that it’s her feminine wiles working on him. I’m pretty sure Dar is immune to feminine wiles and playing for the other team – and by other team I mean he’s totally gay (and not in hetero way) for Quinn, and clearly prefers the days when the spy business was more of a boy’s club. Does that make his character an awful little throwback of a stereotype? Sure it does! Welcome to Homeland.

A good actor acts with his face. A great actor acts with one eye-brow.

A good actor acts with his face. A great actor acts with one eye-brow.

Carrie stops off a church because it’s the theme of the season, but also because churches are super cool places in which to leave notes in prayer books for your spy friends.

Etai and Saul play a game of chess because that’s not a trope used enough in spy stories, as they talk strategy. Dar is pressuring Israel to hand him over. To avoid a big international incident and all, Saul is proposing he get out of Etai’s thinning hair and give Carrie a few more days to straighten things out, so Israel doesn’t get blamed for blowing up the general’s plane. Saul refers to Carrie as his agent, and makes it clear that he totally trusts her. The lesson here is that while Saul may get angry sometimes when Carrie does dumb things which he finds morally reprehensible, no one – not even Allison at her most insidious – can come between them for long. Remember that’s what family means when you sit around the Thanksgiving table.

Backgammon is popular in Israel, but might remind viewers of Lost.

Backgammon is popular in Israel, but might remind viewers of Lost.

Speaking of Allison, she is back at her desk and despite or maybe because her world is crumbling around her, she’s ordering expensive Italian handbags on line. Shop therapy or shop addiction? She gets the call from Carrie, who tells her that Achmed “the acrobat,” is still alive. Allison resists the temptation to say “Not anymore.” Carrie wants to meet Allison who knew him better than anyone, in order to figure out what he knew or what might be in the documents. They agree to meet in Rhinebeck.

This leads us to the first of the flashbacks. Carrie’s is a newly minted CIA operative, already a favorite of Saul’s, arriving at her post in Bagdad. Because every season must contain some kind of Brody shout out and Damian Lewis was too busy to make it to the hallucination sequence, Carrie spots Brody’s photo on the wall of missing soldiers. Was that when she fell in love with him and decided she wanted him to be the father of her spawn? She meets Allison, who’s maybe been there a bit too long. Allison swills down some brandy, and we watch her being less guarded than we’ve ever seen her in the present. She bitches about the assignment. “You can’t shove democracy down people’s throats.” So basically the ideology of Homeland is that anyone who questions the neo-con agenda is one short step away from treason. She also likes the finer things in life, especially expensive handbags from Milan and she can’t wait to take some vacation days once her gig is up. She’s planning to go to St. Lucia, a little bar she knows, Banana Joe’s, with the best daiquiris in the world. That was (a) a lot of information, (b) a little too specific, (c) filled with important clues for later,  or (d) all of the above.

Carrie takes a call from Otto, bringing her and us back to the present. Otto tells her he hasn’t even seen Jonas, let alone been trashing her to him. What’s up with him? We still don’t know, but he continues to act shady and lurky. She tells him that she has Achmed’s laptop and needs Numan’s help to hack into it. He’ll be in touch. Then it’s back to days of old in Bagdad again.

Still with Carrie, Allison gets a visitor. It’s Samir, the judge that Carrie finally reached in last week’s episode. Does he smell liquor on the ladies’ breath? Samir doesn’t like Allison much, but he likes Carrie at first sight. They bond over the Hammurabi code. Carrie’s mention of it shows she has respect for his culture unlike some people. He’s trying to report Achmed who is playing both sides and selling the names of judges to the militias that are assassinating them. After he’s gone, Allison explains to Carrie that Achmed may be corrupt and “venal,” but he’s one of her assets and has been providing some first class intel, and with Allison about to leave, soon Carrie will be inheriting him.

Now let’s jump back into Saul’s present. Tova some tough Israeli, younger but apparently above Etai is there on “the director’s” orders to take Saul back to Dar. Saul convinces her that Israel’s enemies would love to see a rift between Israel and the US, so it’s in everyone’s interest to give Saul (and Carrie) a few days so Carrie can get the evidence the Russians did it.

Numan and Carrie our chatting over the internet because them high tech spies and hackers have all sorts of 21st century tech at their disposal that mere mortals can only dream of. Numan is explaining what she needs to do to let him remotely hack into Achmed’s computer. She asks how long it’ll take and he gives her the standard IT answer: 30 seconds, or 30 minutes or 30 days. Thank you tech support! Otto is watching because billionaires don’t have better things to do and/or for nefarious shady as yet to be revealed reasons.

We’re back in flashback land again. This week’s episode: When Carrie Met Achmed. Carrie brings delicious sweet pastries, but Achmed, the delicate flower, is insulted by her attempt to “tempt” him with cake. She tries offering him mo’ money, but that doesn’t work either and he walks out. She tells Allison who tells her it’s just a negotiation tactic.

Present tense: Peter is still stuck in the back of the van, which he isn’t supposed to leave. Is there a pee bucket in there? Does the guy that brings him table scraps have to change it? He sees the head jihadist and someone else drive off, so he starts sneaking around even though there are other people in the house. He finds a trunk and looks inside. Gas masks.

Allison finds Carrie’s note in the hymnbook and has her own flashback, which seems to take up where Carrie’s left off. And that’s the whacky thing about these flashbacks. Are they just there as a storytelling device, or are characters actively having memories of something that happened? In either case, Achmed is coming on to Allison who’s gone to see him about her leaving and the need for him to continue his “work” with Carrie, even if her hair is less lustrous and she’s kind of skinny. He tells her he’s in love with her. She tells him the money will still be good. He tells her he’s got tons of money and then shows her a suitcase full. It’s from the Ministry. The Americans apparently leave it around – which if we remember the utter stupidity of the Bush years seems perfectly believable. He takes a little every day and has saved up about eight MILLION dollars, and he’d like to share it with her. Sure, she described him as “venal” to Carrie, but what’s a little venality? Besides the venal sins aren’t the really bad ones, and eight million dollars buys a lot of fancy Italian handbags.

Once she saw the money, Allison decided that Achmed didn't look like a sleazy lounge lizard, but more like a young Tony Curtis.

Once she saw the money, Allison decided that Achmed didn’t look like a sleazy lounge lizard, but more like a young Tony Curtis.

In the present, Ivan joins Allison at the church. She tells him that per Carrie’s note, she’s going to walk into town and meet her at a cafe. Despite his earlier remark about “too many bodies,” Ivan says they’ll have a sniper aiming at Carrie,  and all Allison needs to do is light her cigarette if she thinks Carrie knows too much.

Flashback time. Allison and Achmed are discussing their plans. Allison is going to have the money shipped out in a diplomatic pouch. He’ll deposit it an account she set up. She’ll meet him in St. Lucia. But it’s a trap! Ivan bursts into the room. This is how she starting working for them. On the one hand, it’s more realistic than making her the second-generation spawn of Soviet era illegals. On the other hand, its banality is a let down. Basically Allison is another greedy spy caught in a sting. Ivan plays her perfectly from the start, convincing her that the new Russia isn’t the Soviet Union and their relationship will benefit both their countries, and more importantly both their careers. The best part? The eight million dollars is for real, and half of it will be hers someday!

So now we know what Achmed knew. We also get a flashback where Allison tells Carrie that Achmed’s name is on a list of causalities from the justice ministry bombing.

The Allison/Carrie meeting at the cafe would be suspenseful if we had any belief that Carrie might get assassinated. Given the unlikelihood of Homeland’s killing her off, it’s only kind of fun watching Allison fiddle with the cigarettes as the sniper takes aim and Carrie blurts out what she knows, which isn’t enough (so far) to get her dead. After Carrie begs, Allison agrees to “look into” whether or not Achmed could have been playing both sides, in return for which Carrie will make sure the documents don’t see the light of day.

How would Carrie deliver on that promise, given that the Russians have the hacker’s copies and Otto has Saul’s copy? Allison puts the cigarettes away, which might not have been the best choice she could have made under the circumstances.

So the question is, at what point will Carrie’s spidey-senses kick in and tell her that Allison is hiding something?

In Peter’s totally unrelated storyline that will probably make sense when someone stops or doesn’t stop a spectacular Berlin bombing in the finale, Peter finds out that the jihadis are not taking his advice to go to Syria, but are turning around to go back to Berlin – with the gas masks and a tanks of poison gas. Then he gets hit on the head for his troubles. Why don’t they just kill him? What is up with the bad guys not killing people whom it would be in their best interest to kill?

Dames! You just can’t trust them. Turns out Tova did the deal with Dar and is coming to get Saul, but Etai gets him out before she can grab him.

Looks like Carrie is still hanging out waiting for Numan to get into the computer. She looks at a photo of the Brodiette to remind us that New Carrie cares about things more important than fancy Italian handbags.  Numan gets in, but he doesn’t know what he’s looking for, and unfortunately neither does Carrie. She can see Achmed’s computer and notices something – the screensaver. It’s Achmed in some tropical paradise holding what looks like – oh my god – a daiquiri, and that’s all Super Carrie needs to figure it out. She googles, Banana Joe’s, and sees that’s where the photo was taken. Then comes the mouth quiver! Enlightenment at last! And she didn’t even need to go off her meds!

The lesson here: Never use a personal photograph as a screensaver.

Can’t wait to find out how the pieces all come together on next week’s Homeland.

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

TV Show: Homeland

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