Based on the title of this week’s episode of Homeland, “Still Positive,” the question seems to be how much anyone can actually know, or be “positive” about. Senator Andrew Lockhart (Tracy Letts) is preparing to move into his new role as Director of Central Intelligence, but before that, he wants to know all of the skeletons that Saul (Mandy Patinkin) has left behind. No more surprises like Damian Lewis’s Sergeant Brody, he cautions, and no more bipolar operatives like Carrie (Claire Danes). And so he enlists Saul’s number two, Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham), to feed him information, inspiring him with a jingoistic pep talk that promises a new direction for the C.I.A.: “What happens next is that we reclaim the respect and the fear that the world used to have for this agency’s hard punch.” (Adal swiftly reports this to Saul, but it remains to be seen if this is out of loyalty or if he’s playing both sides.)
Meanwhile, though she’s been abducted by Iranian intelligence officers and 12/12 bombing mastermind Majid Javadi (Shaun Toub), the number two over at Iranian intelligence (and mastermind of the 12/12 Langley bombing), Carrie thinks she can outmaneuver him. She’s not afraid of his cool attitude, or the bodyguards hanging around his country-club estate, because she believes the C.I.A. is watching her back. As the audience knows, that’s not the case: Quinn (Rupert Friend) was unable to track her. But intelligence is pretty much a shell game, and even with fancy lie-detection equipment, Javadi has no idea that Carrie isn’t telling the truth, especially when she’s also presenting the financial evidence Saul’s new analyst, Fara (Nazanin Boniadi), has been digging up.
Moreover, Saul’s convinced that blackmailing Javadi with the threat of exposing his embezzlement to Iran (making him an enemy of two states) will work. After all, the two were once bittersweet rivals during the dying days of the Shah, in 1979, and Saul’s convinced that he knows this man: “Survival’s the only thing on his mind right now. He will not take any unnecessary risks with his life.” Of course, Saul also thought he knew his wife, Mira (Sarita Choudhury), and it turns out that she’s been cheating on him. Because he himself hasn’t changed, he’s oblivious to the fact that other people do; so when Javadi deviates from Saul’s carefully rehearsed plan (Carrie gloats to Javadi that it’s been in the works since the day after the 12/12 Langley bombing), Carrie shows up too late to stop Javadi from murdering his own ex-wife and daughter, leaving a two-year-old behind to wail in a pool of blood.
Although the mission is technically still a success, with the Langley mastermind in custody (in a dank interrogation room that’s the inverse of the rather comfy and well-lit one that Carrie appeared in at the start of the episode), Javadi sees it as a Pyrrhic victory: “You don’t look like a man who just landed the biggest asset of his career,” he sneers, just before Saul punches him in the face. At last, Saul abandons the veneer of detachment and respect that he’s been keeping up, throws away everything he supposedly knows about gathering intelligence, and gets angry. But with only 12 days before Lockhart replaces him, it may be too late.
Brody has only appeared in a single episode this season, and now his daughter, Dana (Morgan Saylor), has also abandoned her family, legally changing her last name and moving in with a friend. It’s been months since Carrie last saw Brody, but as the obsessive-compulsive stack of used pregnancy tests she’s got locked up in a drawer suggest, she’s almost certainly carrying his child. What the very solid “Still Positive” most demonstrates, then, is how little audiences know about Homeland’s ever-shifting endgame—and how enjoyable it can be to ride along in the dark.
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