A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Homeland reaches the most illuminating hour this season with an episode largely divided between the present and Baghdad in 2005. Last week I had noted the narrative cleverness of roping in all of the previous seasons, the good and the bad, into the folds of this current season. In one sense, the intertwining of the previous seasons into this one allows for the previous work of our characters to stay connected and prevent the series from feeling like a loosely connected anthology. In another, it allows for mysteries to garner some much-needed context without necessarily having to unspool the narrative at a breakneck pace (which, to be fair, Homeland needs at this juncture of the season). In a third, going back to Carrie’s opening days at the Central Intelligence Agency allows for a narrative construct that ties her past into the present effectively enough to at least partially answer why she has become such a vocal point for Russian intelligence two years after her own departure from the CIA. Last but not least, this rather cold and detached season of Showtime’s espionage drama benefits greatly from the emotional heft of going back to a young Carrie, drawing out a semblance of tragedy as the camera focuses on the twinkle in her eyes, the excitement that is tempered in no fashion by the exasperation clearly entrenched in Allison’s expression.
That exasperation in Allison’s expression in Baghdad is key. The complete and utter chaos of Operation Iraqi Freedom is evident throughout as Carrie walks past several varied military and security individuals into an office ruled by complete and utter chaos. A haggard Allison greets her replacement Carrie with two glasses of whiskey and the most resigned pep talk in the history of job meetings. From Allison’s point of view in those circumstances, Washington is simply crafting idiotic, impractical decisions that fall upon the shoulder of personnel like her to implement without any actual thought process as to how those implementations are actually going to work. The orders are enveloped under the guise of spreading the famed institutions of freedom and democracy, although, as Allison wryly notes, democracy cannot be foisted upon people’s throats. Judge Sharif, last week’s “Touchstone” to Carrie’s “Oriole”, reinforces that point from the vantage point of being a Sunni judge in a power structure where being a Sunni in a governmental position was no longer tenable and fraught with danger. As it turns out, a clerk named Ahmed Nazari was apparently selling information on Sunni judges that was leading to their deaths, a notion that is understandably frightening to Sharif.
Ahmed forms the connection bridge through which Carrie discovers the final crux of the puzzle that she needs to take to Saul for the season’s final stretch. Ahmed was, under Allison’s tutelage, an informant for the CIA supposedly operating under extremely dangerous circumstances. He was so vital, she noted, that his intel repeatedly made into the President’s daily intelligence briefs. And it was handing him over to Carrie that was going to prove to be the trickiest part of the entire endeavor. While Allison was dreaming and understandably so of a long vacation in St. Lucia with daiquiris and gorgeous men, Ahmed needed to be handed over to Carrie to continue his relationship with the CIA, a meeting that goes about as well as expected. Ahmed apparently has a thing for Allison that she doesn’t reciprocate considering her professional responsibilities and upon learning of her going away, he offers her a proposition. Allison at that juncture is tired, exhausted by the bureaucratic nightmare her life has become embroiled within, with no semblance of true relief seemingly coming by at any point. He puts forth a plethora of cash, noting how many bags full of it were lying around as if its contents were worthless. He offers Allison the chance to take the eight million and split it with him for a comfortable existence together and she acquiesces.
That giving in was her fatal(?) mistake. Ivan opens the door and Allison immediately recognizes that Ahmed was working for the Russians. Ivan noted how her career would be over, but he smartly avoids simply using blackmailing in these extremely strenuous conditions. He taps into her ego, her frustration at the bureaucratic wrangling that left her mired in Baghdad with little seeming hope of moving up the ladder. And he pulled the card of ensuring that the both of them would benefit from their mutual relationship. He would move up the Russian ladder for recruiting her and she would move up the American one with the intelligence he would give her. Of course his intelligence would be much less valuable (“chicken feed” would be the appropriate term here), but it’s an agreement Allison takes. Lo and behold, a massive courthouse attack occurs and Allison assures Carrie that Ahmed was on the list of fatalities. Carrie in the present-day contacts Numan and has him hack into Ahmed’s computer through her own. The simplicity of the answer can be incredulous in a brilliant and terrible fashion simultaneously, but there is something admittedly golden about Carrie recognizing her friend’s duplicity through a screensaver of a man sipping a daiquiri at Banana Joe’s. “Allison”, indeed.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“You drove him into Etai Luskin’s arms.”
+The Israeli sequences are riveting, buoyed considerably by the presence of newcomer Tovah, whose sharp wits Saul should be wary of.
+The “Carrie’s Clues” soundtrack playing as she arrives in Baghdad
+Nicholas Brody’s picture on the wall (“Let’s bring them home.”)
+“My country is circling the drain.”
+“We’re trained to avoid those kind of mistakes.”
+Allison shouts “Ya manyak!” when Ivan appears, which is a Hebrew phrase. Surely this is significant?
+“His name’s on the confirmed kill list.”
+“The prophet says one plate is enough for two.” There’s a redemption story here, isn’t there?
+“You ever been in a war zone?”
+“In our business, that’s not always a good policy.”
+“I had a life. I want it back.”
+“Watch your back, Carrie.”
Episode Title: All About Allison
Written by: Ron Nyswaner
Directed by: Dan Attias
Image Courtesy: Homeland Wiki