A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Litvinov Ruse refers most directly to the historical figure in Maxim Litvinov, a famed Russian revolutionary and accomplished Soviet diplomat of the first half of the twentieth century. His first major positioning was at the hands of Vladimir Lenin as the Soviet representative in Britain in 1917, at its origin an unofficial position as the Soviet government in Moscow had yet to be officially recognized as a legitimate state by the British government. After that ordeal, his efforts produced the ending of the British economic blockade of the Soviet Union and the crafting of numerous trade pacts that by 1929 produced what became known as the Litvinov Pact. Having gained legitimacy for the Soviet Union from various governments through a myriad of dedicated diplomatic efforts, Litvinov capped that effort with two more strokes in the 1930s. In 1933, Moscow gained recognition from the office of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and in 1934 garnered a seat for his nation within the League of Nations, where he served as Moscow’s official representative until 1938. Soon after what ought to have been the high swing of one of the most successful diplomatic careers of at least the twentieth century, if not of all time, Litvinov’s Jewish heritage became a thorn in negotiations between Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler. His removal gave Stalin a greater (albeit a less intelligent) grasp of foreign policy (in the same manner he purged able generals) and an outlet for the anti-Semitism favored by the Nazi government. In 1941, however, his original misgivings about a pact with Hitler that he had voiced on numerous occasions proved all too prescient and he returned to his career soon thereafter.
The Litvinov Ruse is less of a focus on direct diplomatic negotiations between the SVR and the BND (much to my regret, as I would watch that episode with full and untempered enthusiasm) and is more directed towards the deft maneuvering and intelligence Litvinov was famed for. More literally, however, it refers to the ruse planned by Carrie and Saul to entrap Allison using a pretense of a high-up Russian intelligence official getting ready to defect to the United States via Germany. Carrie’s revelations at the end of last week (albeit as a result of a screensaver, which came off in hindsight as a bit silly), provided an energetic jolt to what had become an intriguing but quiet season of Homeland. Suddenly the narrative gears began to turn in full force and the episode opens up with an entrance to a pairing most viewers had become anxious to see once more. One of the most nagging mysteries of Homeland was the rift between Carrie and Saul growing to a length that Saul had seemingly begun to actually hate his former protégée, and hate is, despite the overuse of the term, a truly powerful emotion. Carrie’s final break of trust occurring when Saul acquiesced to the deal that Dar Adal had made with Haqqani seemed to be the underlying connecting factor and that would have been fine in and of itself. Yet throughout this season, there was a suggestion that there was something more at stake.
That stake turns out to be Carrie’s disillusionment with her own mentor crossing over into her post before she left for Germany. Carrie personally lobbied against Saul garnering the directorship on that disgust she had found, an effort Saul felt was a personal attack against him in response to his deal with Dar Adal. That is as significant a breach of trust that could have occurred between the two and there have been a plethora of other opportunities for that to have occurred. To see Carrie’s quivering chin be embraced so ardently by Saul was a fantastic moment, even if Saul’s happiness itself was even more short-lived than he could have expected. Carrie’s arrival brings with her the unfortunate news that one of the most vital officers of the CIA, the chief of Berlin station, is a Russian mole. For the agency, Berlin is one of the most important offices. Its geopolitical positioning from the legacy of the Cold War, the resurgence of Russia on the foreign policy front from President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive tactics, and its location within Europe’s economic center make that office a cornerstone of the entire American intelligence apparatus (from a general viewpoint, anyhow). Carrie’s evidence, however, is admittedly quite thin. The Banana Joe’s reference makes complete sense to her, but it is not as if Allison in Baghdad had made a giant secret out of where she was going on vacation and Ahmed Nazari being at the same location as Allison isn’t conclusive enough. It’s a neat mirroring of the show’s initial approach with Brody, with the audience knowing substantially more than the characters and this time, it is Saul and not Carrie whose emotional involvement with a potential suspect is muddying the water significantly. So the ruse is put in place.
The Chase of Allison Carr isn’t as sharp as some other chase sequences that Homeland has done in the past (and there have been some phenomenal ones, like Carrie through the back bazaars of Beirut), but it is easily the most thrilling it has been since the initial reveal of Allison’s duplicity on the tarmac. The ruse is put together in conjuncture with Astrid and her colleague, an initially frosty proposition after the data leaks had put an end to their relationship but Saul’s point of the danger of Russia penetrating the Berlin station gets across instantly. Astrid meets with Allison and Dar initially to notify them of a high level Russian official who was ready to defect, but wanted to do so through the BND so there wasn’t an immediate connection made to the CIA. The initial bait doesn’t work, however, and Allison coolly has sex with some delicious Italian dinner in accompaniment. Astrid manages to turn the heat up significantly, notifying Allison at a café meeting that her Russian defector-to-be had evidence on the successful penetration of the Berlin Station by Moscow, evidence he was turning over that very night as his window of escape was narrowing down significantly. Allison takes the bait, but moments after she arrives at an SVR safe house, her cover is blown via BND drones. If everything seemed too easy, it was. Allison, terrified at being captured, turns out to be remarkably calm in the moments of the actual capture. She coolly claims in front of Dar in an interrogation room that she was working Ivan and not the other way around and that was one of the key reasons her tenure as the chief of Berlin station had been so successful so far. It’s a quick ruse on Allison’s part, but its longevity is the greatest question.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“Sarin is a fucked up way to die.” Yeah, no s***.
+“I believe you’re the ones considered to be disloyal at the moment.” Astrid for the win.
+Qasim is foiling this, right? There’s at least one character that is working
+This season has been phenomenally directed. The sequence Saul cutting the bag and then reopening it, with the camera keeping the stairs behind him in just the right amount of visibility, was phenomenally intense.
+Carrie’s reaction to the devil emoji
+“Man on the ground knows best.”
+“I don’t know who to be more disgusted with. Her or us.”
+/-Allison switching trains was neat, but her escape as a whole, while thrilling, left a bit to be desired in terms of the character’s professional experience
-I really am not caring for Quinn’s storyline right now. Getting him into the hands of the jihadis was simply too stretched in logic to begin with and the complete detachment from the other cast isn’t helping much, either
-Sarin is incredibly complex to make and releasing it is fairly tricky in and of itself. Just check the Tokyo subway attacks in 1995 and Haruki Murakami’s sublime Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche and the following piece The Place That Was Promised
Episode Title: The Litvinov Ruse
Story by: Howard Gordon & Patrick Harbinson
Teleplay by: Alex Gansa
Directed by: Tucker Gates
Image Courtesy: TV Guide