Homeland Season 2 Recap: Episode 4, “New Car Smell”
The writers of Homeland have balls. The best word to describe Season two’s fourth episode is “ballsy.” One last time, the events of “New Car Smell” took some tremendous stones. The first third of season two covered plot points that most shows would have spent an entire season hashing out. Carrie is finally back in the game and the plan is to start re-hunting everybody’s favorite undercover terrorist, Nicholas Brody. A return to the formula that made season 1 so addictive, this time with a new wrinkle, seemed all but assured. So what did Homeland do? They looked the audience square in the eyes and did what Brody couldn’t, they blew it up.
“New Car Smell” had all the makings of an episode that was set to start the long pursuit of Brody. Saul told Estes about his colossal intelligence goof and the two worked out a plan to look good by working Brody for everything he’s worth. Carrie is back on the team and gets to bring her private spies with her. The scene where she meets up with Virgil and Max brought a smile to my face and reminded me of the good old days of season one. I was half expecting “The Boys are Back in Town” to blare as they walked in slow motion towards the camera. They find out that their whole operation is going to be run by a new character, Quinn, who brought a fun vibe to the show. He seems to be a flirtatious foil for Carrie whose motivation isn’t 100% clear. All in all he provides new blood to the show and a character who can add a bit of levity and banter while also continuing the Homeland tradition of complicating things. The team gets cameras on Brody and devises a plan. Carrie will “run into” the red headed menace and drop a bit of information to scare him into contacting his handler. Again, the whole direction of this episode seemed to suggest we’d be returning to Season one’s cat and mouse game and this felt like the first minor move in a long back and forth.
Meanwhile, Brody’s home life is in shambles. His wife kicks him out after he refuses to explain what’s going on and his alcoholic former comrade, Lauder, staggers into the house midday to try and confront him. Jessica is forced to call Mike who takes Lauder out. Mike isn’t happy with Lauder’s douchebaggery but he is starting to think there’s something to his theories about Brody. These people aren’t stupid and while Brody thinks he’s “pretty good at this”, he doesn’t seem to realize that the people around him can tell he’s put up a facade. At first they attributed it to his long captivity but that can only hold up so long. In some ways the episode’s shocking finale makes sense as the walls have been closing in on Brody in the home front and his attempts to assuage his family and friends’ fears have come off as insincere. His lies could only last so much longer.
Then we were treated to a little teenage romance via some surprisingly enjoyable scenes of Dana on a date with the Vice President’s son, Finn
the human. They enjoy the perks of being the Vice President’s son and share a teenage kiss in the Washington Monument. This plot has played out well because of the writing and acting. These kids talk like actual teenagers, not wise beyond their years or comically moody. The ties between the two families is setting up a Montague and Capulet style feud considering Brody’s…ahem, explosive…past plans for the Vice President.
Meanwhile the whole episode is structured around the two meetings between Brody and Carrie. The first reminded us why their tie is so damn complicated. When Brody sees Carrie he is alarmed, hell the only person who figured him out was out of the nut house and seemingly back in the game. But during the course of the conversation he appeared to be genuinely glad to see her. They made a real connection during their brief season one fling, Brody felt like he could be himself around Carrie and her crazy spying gave her an odd amount of empathy for her target. Still, it sent Brody to his contact but the CIA missed it. Next Brody drunk dials Carrie from his hotel bar (while Carrie and Quinn monitor him and flirt/argue) and he invites her to bury the hatchet with a drink. We all know where this is going right? A tense conversation where the two feel each other out and inevitably have crazy people sex.
Carrie meets up with Brody, while Saul and Quinn observe, and she tries to get him more paranoid to encourage a trip to his handler. The conversation expertly teeters between lies and subtle truths as the two indeed end up feeling each other out while attempting to figure out their complicated intimacy. Brody announces his room number in order to pay the bill (classic player move!) and says goodbye to Carrie. She’s convinced that she gave herself away during a brief moment though Quinn and Sault insist she did a great job. Carrie does what she does best and goes rogue. She heads up to Brody’s room to fulfill our expectations and have creepy sex while Saul and Quinn get an eyeful of two Emmy winners playing pelvic pinochle. Instead what follows is a scene that is sure to go down as one of the show’s most iconic. Carrie confronts Brody, calling him out with a barrage of barbs that she’s clearly been saving for months now. He inches closer, the danger seems like its mounting. Surely, I thought, she’s going to confront him but he’ll write her off as the same old nut and just be more cautious. Nope. The wheels have been put into motion and as Brody’s face reveals a range of complicated feelings (in some ways he seemed almost relieved for a brief moment to be in the open, bathed in truth), agents broke in, put a bag over his head and hauled him off while Carrie lets him know that A.) she genuinely loved him and B.) he was a disgrace to his nation. The last shot is Carrie, alone again. When it’s all about the chase, what’s left afterwards?
So yeah, a plots worth of season just unspooled in all of twenty minutes and the writers of Homeland pushed their entire pile of chips to the middle of the table. I doubt this is the “beginning of the end.” It’s more likely the end of the beginning. The first iteration of what the show is just ended. My money is on some sort of triple agent angle where the government forces Brody deeper into the world of lies and forces his loyalties even further over the “impossible to keep track of” line. But that is guess is, well, a guess. When a show makes a radical move like this (a move almost no current show save Breaking Bad or maybe, because of the anthology angle, American Horror Story, would dare try) there’s nothing left to do but guess what comes next. Whatever it is, I expect it will take some tremendous cojones.