No wonder Carrie (Claire Danes) trusts Allison (Miranda Otto). When they first met in Baghdad in 2005, Allison was a loyal servant of the U.S. government. She was jaded, like most Americans mired in the hopeless ideals of Operation Iraqi Freedom, but she was doing her best to cling to the rhetoric of locals like Judge Khalil (Makram J. Khoury), who naïvely insisted that “Success is possible if we don’t give up.” But at one point, her aspirations didn’t extend far beyond a vacation in St. Lucia, at a bar surrounded by gorgeous” men. No, it wasn’t until she fell into a honeypot scheme involving her asset, Ahmed Nazari (Darwin Shaw), and his millions of embezzled dollars, that she became desperate enough to ally with the ambitious SVR Ivan (Mark Ivanir), who seemed to understand her deeper ambitions, and knew how to temper them with equal parts fear and opportunity.
But almost as soon as this clear picture of Allison snaps into place, it starts to fall to pieces. There’s a single great cut between the episode’s 2005 flashbacks and the present-day plot. In the past, Ivan returns Allison’s gun and promises her $4 million for her cooperation: “Something to take the edge of all that uncertain that frightens you so.” Her face softens, her body relaxes. A split-second later, in the present, Allison’s face is a wall of steel, and she marches confidently toward her rendezvous with Carrie, firmly placing a gold-plated cigarette case on the café table, ready to use it to signal to an SVR sniper should she feel that Carrie’s put too many pieces together. And yet, that clarity doesn’t last. Despite having already attempted to kill Carrie on three separate occasions, she now wavers at the thought of more bodies, and ultimately caves to the tears on Carrie’s face: “I had a life; I want it back.”
Allison’s morality, then, is dramatically convenient. If she’s as fearful of being caught as she keeps telling Ivan or displaying with her panic attacks, then her decision to spare Carrie doesn’t make sense. “All About Allison” provides a reasonable explanation for the way she’s let her loyalty to the United States lapse over the course of 10 years; she’s most recently helped the Russians disrupt American plans in Syria. But there’s nothing in all of her present scenes to indicate why she’d continue to risk being exposed by leaving Carrie alive. If Homeland’s writers are attempting to demonstrate that Allison is adrift, seeking to cling to a happier, less compromised moment in her past, then they’ve failed. If anything, Allison comes across as more bipolar than Carrie, constantly split between extremes.
At least these well-acted scenes provide the simplest pleasure of finally putting together the jigsaw puzzle that the writers have been teasing over the last several episodes. “All About Allison” closes with Carrie finally making the connection that Allison so desperately sought to cover up: The screensaver on the laptop she recovered from Ahmed’s flat in Amsterdam is a photo from that bar in St. Lucia, and a shirtless, posing Ahmed is Allison’s “gorgeous” man. It’s the sort of connection that only Carrie could have made, and Danes plays the discovery with a measure of both refocused relief (at finally knowing her foe) and devastating disappointment (at who that enemy is). But this only clarifies why Allison should’ve killed Carrie; she and the Russians panicked at the thought that Carrie might notice one of a thousand leaked C.I.A. files, but thought nothing of what might be on Ahmed’s missing laptop.
The remainder of the episode is scatterbrained, not just because it jumps so radically across disconnected threads, but because it seeks to reverse course on a few of the plots that the series began last week. For instance, Saul (Mandy Patinkin) immediately clarifies to his old friend from Mossad, Etai (Allan Corduner), that he was just kidding about the whole defection option last week, and that he’s simply trying to buy Carrie more time. Etai’s willing to let Saul walk out the door, no hard feelings, but Israeli Intelligence supersedes those orders, forcing Saul to explain to Tova (Hadar Ratzon Rotem) why it’s in Israeli’s interest to provoke a national incident—in this case, rehashing the fact that Israeli is being framed for the bombing of General Youssef’s plane. This entire sequence looks to be even worse than a wheel-spinning bit of exposition given the ominous way in which Tova warns Saul not to trust Etai just before Etai wakes Saul in the middle of the night to supposedly help him escape.
Worst as usual, however, is the isolated plot assigned to Quinn (Rupert Friend), who sleeps through the majority of the trip to Turkey before realizing that the terrorist cell he’s embedded himself within is actually making an unscheduled stop in Kosovo, 70 miles from the Serbian border. Quinn’s calm demeanor is meant to demonstrate how accustomed to undercover work he is, and in truth, the way in which he attempts to destabilize this terrorist cell is almost automatic, a slow erosion of their grand, idealistic mission with shots of realism: “You ever been to prison?” he asks one of them. “Ever been in a warzone?” But as it turns out, this entire sequence is a literal roundabout, as Bibi (Rene Ifrah) has been playing him and knocks him out, loading him into a new truck that’s headed back to Berlin with several barrels full of an unmarked biological weapons.
At surface level, Bibi’s decision to keep Quinn alive, albeit severely tied up, makes even less sense than Allison’s choice to spare Carrie. As with Quinn’s automatic, casual statements, the writers tend to default to supervillain death-trap bullshit and non-logic, no matter how much it erodes the good faith and realism that’s accumulated by the rest of the series. This, in turn, leaks into everything else. In this light, it’s hard to see Otto During (Sebastian Koch) merely as the genial asshole who’s trying to worm his way into Carrie’s heart; instead, he’s likely the man orchestrating Bibi’s attack on Berlin. That’s a wild accusation, and perhaps it’s unfair to judge a show on what it hasn’t actually done, but if Homeland is going to spend more than half the season following disconnected dots, it’s only natural that the audience is going to irritatedly attempt to connect them.
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