Monday, November 14, 2011
Bill Simmons Recaps Last Night's Homeland
By Bill Simmons
Andy Greenwald normally recaps Homeland every Monday in this space, but he’s taking a long-overdue vacation this week. I nominated myself to take his place because it’s my favorite TV show, because it seemed like an editor-in-chief-y thing to do, and also because I was hoping the Brodys would throw another crazy party and wanted to be typing jokes as it happened.
A quick recap of Homeland if you’ve never seen it …
Brody spent eight years in Afghanistan as a POW and may have been turned by Al Qaeda … Brody’s family is somewhat terrified of him … Mrs. Brody was banging his best friend (Mike) right up until Brody miraculously came home, and to be honest, he’s probably a better catch than Brody, who has sex with her by either pseudo-raping her or making her sit there topless while he beats off on her … Brody’s pissed-off, pot-smoking 16-year-old daughter is going to start sleeping with her entire high school and possibly the entire NBA soon to get back at her parents … Claire Danes plays the super-loony CIA agent who convinced herself that Brody turned, spied on him for a few weeks with cameras that were planted inside his house, became attracted to him, got drunk with him and banged him in her car, only it’s unclear whether she inappropriately went undercover or actually likes him (or maybe both), and by the way, did I mention she is batshit CRAZY? … Mandy Patinkin plays Saul, the grizzled CIA agent (Claire’s boss) who kinda sorta failed a lie detector test last week and may have slipped a razor blade to Brody’s captured former guard/torturer so the guy would kill himself, or, it’s a total misunderstanding and he’s a really nice guy … I don’t know the name of Claire and Saul’s boss, but he might be up to stuff too, and more important, Dennis Haysbert DEFINITELY turned down that part at the last possible second … and just last week, a terrorist couple renting a suspicious house right near the airport were sniffed out and went on the lam, with the Arab-looking boyfriend eventually getting killed Tony Montana-style by somebody (almost definitely Al Qaeda) and the American-looking girlfriend (she kinda looks like a young Meryl Streep) escaping through a window.
Got it? It’s a fantastic show, you have to believe me. Here’s a running diary of Episode 7, which was named “The Weekend” but easily could have been called “Brody Has Normal Sex Again” or “Claire Danes Doesn’t Care If It’s Showtime, She Will NOT Take Her Top Off.”
0:00: I’m not a fan of Homeland's opening credits. In general, we’re in a weird era for opening credits — they’ve gotten too ambitious and there’s too much going on, as personified by American Horror Story (a show with opening credits so excruciating they actually make you stop watching). Whatever happened to the days of ER and The Sopranos? Just tell me who’s on the show, give me a cool song and don’t make me go blind.
0:02: We see Aileen (the terrorist on the lam) buying a bus ticket in Beaumont, Texas. She’s headed to Mexico. There’s like a 45 percent chance that the Duke and Jack Walsh were at this same bus station 21 years ago. (Obligatory Midnight Run joke to win over Alan Sepinwall so he doesn’t get threatened that I did a TV recap.)
0:04: Last week’s episode ended with Brody possibly cheating a lie detector test (about feeding a razor blade to that dead guard), then Claire seeing him in the parking lot and inexplicably getting into his car. Why? Because she’s crazy. I keep telling you. Even Brody can’t figure it out. When she asks where they’re going, he says, “I don’t know, you just got in my car.”
They end up deciding to go to a bar, which is great news for every viewer who enjoys when Claire turns into a drunk/desperate bimbo. But what bar?
Claire: “Swanky or hole-in-the-wall?”
Brody: “I don’t like the word ‘hole’ anymore. But I do like a good dive.”
Me, too, Brody. Just promise me we’ll get through the night without you beating off on a crying Claire. Please, promise me. Let’s have a pinky swear or something.
0:04: Yes, a billiards scene! Just when I thought I couldn’t be more attracted to Crazy Claire, now she’s throwing down beers and beating Brody in pool. Reminds me of Tiffani-Amber Thiessen winning over an off-the-wagon Dylan McKay (and also, me) waaaaaaay back in the day. Just a note to the kids out there: Always watch out for a girl who can play pool well when she’s drunk. Don’t run from them — if anything, you should run TOWARDS them, just don’t fall in love or anything. Watch out. The “Don’t Fall in Love” hierarchy looks like this
LEVEL ONE: Porn Star
LEVEL TWO: Stripper
LEVEL THREE: NBA Team Dancer
LEVEL FOUR: Great at Playing Pool While Drunk in a Dive Bar
LEVEL FIVE: “Last Name Is Kardashian”
0:05: While Brody was getting beers, a neo-Nazi hit on Claire, then she started a fight with him, then Brody and Claire beat him up and escaped out the back door before the other neo-Nazis got their revenge. See, I told you — Claire is trouble.
Brody: “You are a dangerous fucking drunk.”
And she’s no picnic when she’s sober, either. (Brody — you need to run. Your hole in Afghanistan was safer.) They can’t decide where to go next, so Claire says, “I have a cabin, my family does, I’ve been meaning to get there.” Off to the cabin!
0:07: Cut to Mrs. Brody giving her son and daughter haircuts. This has been the real tragedy of Homeland — that Brody couldn’t have cut a million-dollar cover-story deal with People magazine so his kids could afford to pay for their own haircuts. The daughter asks where dad is. Mom says, “He’s taking the weekend away.” The daughter says something mean about their marriage, leading to mom’s defense, “It was complicated,” then the daughter saying, “Yeah, you gave up on him and went whoring out with his best friend.” You have to love Homeland, a terrorist show in which a hormonal 16-year-old daughter is meaner than any of the terrorists.
0:08: Saul and Haysbert find out about Aileen the Terrorist heading to Mexico. Programming note: I’m calling that character “Haysbert” because it pisses me off that Dennis Haysbert isn’t playing that character. I love Dennis Haysbert, I miss Dennis Haysbert other guy, you’re no Dennis Haysbert.
0:10: Claire calls her sister because she can’t find the family’s cabin key. “You were supposed to come home tonight and get your meds,” the sis reminds her. Ohhhhhhhhhh boy. Drunk Claire is spending the weekend with Brody and she’s off her meds? I’m prepared for anything right now. They might have a threesome with a bear.
0:11: Carrie gets into the house (with Brody still outside), finds the family’s gun, loads it and hides it. She’s so crazy. I love Claire Danes on this show — one of my favorite TV characters ever. All bets are off with Claire in every scene. She’s a man-stealing, crazy-eyed, flirty, boozy, pill-popping, inappropriate drunk who also happens to be excellent at her job and our best chance to prevent the next major terrorist incident. Her best role since My So-Called Life. I also love that she’s breaking up someone’s marriage on Showtime, the same network that runs Mary-Louise Parker’s show Weeds, when once upon a time, Claire stole Billy Crudup from Parker when Parker was seven months pregnant. No, really. This happened.
0:13: Carrie jokes with Brody about beating his polygraph. I would have waited until after dinner to bring this up. That leads to this exchange
Brody: “I’ve been thinking about last night.”
Claire: “Parking lot sex classy.”
Brody: “Can we graduate to cabin sex?”
Here’s the short answer: Yes.
0:15: Aileen the Terrorist gets arrested by Saul and the Mexican police. Now he’s driving her back to the States, and if you don’t think Mandy Patinkin is going to use these long car scenes to break her down while simultaneously gunning for an Emmy, you obviously don’t known Mandy Patinkin well enough.
0:17: Saul to Aileen: “I’m looking forward to the drive. We’ve had some upheaval at home. I’m looking forward to the peace and quiet.” Nah, I don’t think that’s the Emmy clip. We can do better, Mandy.
0:19: It’s the next morning and we see Claire staring at the lake and seeming happy. Brody appears. He seems regretful? Just a little? They talk about how peaceful the lake is. Brody says, “I should go home.” Claire nods and doesn’t say, “I should go home, too — if I don’t take my crazy pills, my head will start doing 360s soon.” But wait, you can’t end it now — this episode was called “The Weekend.” This is NOT a weekend. I was promised a weekend!
0:21: Saul tries to break down Aileen while holding an Emmy committee member at gunpoint. He’s doing everything but wearing a “Patankin for 2012 Emmys” T-shirt. Finally, she speaks: “You don’t know me,” she says. This will take time. Mandy seems relieved; he needs more time to win the committee over.
0:23: Brody and Claire haven’t left yet — they’re walking in the woods now. I’m on edge with every Claire scene. She needs her crazy pills. I mean, she was crazy WITHOUT the pills. Brody does some prying — what brought Claire to the war veteran support group that night (when they first started flirting)? Claire audibles: “I lost someone — my translator,” and tells a whole story about it. They change topics and talk about Brody’s marriage.
“It’s like she doesn’t know exactly who I am now,” Brody says. That’s not true at all — you’re the guy who shot a deer in her backyard, punched out her buddy, and made her sit there topless while you spanked it. I think she has a pretty good idea who you are, Brody.
“Maybe it just takes time,” Claire says.
“I can’t be with her,” Brody says. And I can’t blame him. The “banging my best friend” thing is a deal-breaker. There’s just no going back. If I disappeared for eight years and Joe House started sleeping with my wife, I would NOT continue to be in his fantasy basketball league. I’m on Brody’s side here. Plus, he seems happier with Claire — she’s crazy and so is he. They’re perfect.
“This is the first time since I’ve been back that I’ve found some fucking peace,” Brody says.
(Important note to the college kids and twentysomethings out there: Anytime a girl admits to you that it’s rare for her to find peace, just start running. Don’t even let her finish the sentence.)
0:25: Even though Brody’s daughter has been grounded, that didn’t stop her from inviting some friends over to drink beer and smoke pot. I’d call her my worst possible scenario for my own daughter in ten years, but that would belittle everything Courtney Stodden has accomplished these past few months. The scene ends with her accidentally walking through a glass door and slicing her arm. Why couldn’t this have happened at the next party at the Brodys? Remember, the last two abruptly ended when (a) Brody shot and killed a deer in his backyard, and (b) Brody punched out a crippled war veteran and his best friend. You know what? I’m counting this as a party at the Brodys. There were three guests, that’s a party. Our streak is at three!
0:28: Diner scene with Saul and Aileen. He’s still breaking her down, she’s still giving him the cold shoulder. (Of course, even by not talking to him, she likes him more than his wife does — she just fled to India to get away from him.) Saul tries to play the “Your Dad is worried about you” card. “He’s worried about what their friends will think,” she hisses.
Now it’s all making sense — she was a rich girl living in the Middle East who didn’t get enough attention, started “cavorting with a local brown boy” (her words), got the wrong kind of attention from Daddy for doing so, and somehow, the whole thing spiraled and now she’s renting houses near airports so that Al Qaeda can shoot down planes. The lesson from Homeland, as always: Things can go REALLY wrong if you have a daughter. I feel sick.
0:29: I feel bad for Brody’s wife and Mike (Brody’s best friend) — they’re a cute couple and just want to go back to having good sex and pretending that Mike doesn’t want to be the stepdad for Brody’s kids when he really does. I should mention that Mike only has a swollen left eye even though Brody punched him hard in the face five or six times. Whatever. “I just want things to be simple again,” Mrs. Brody tells Mike. “I miss you.”
She kisses him before getting called away by one of her kids. We’re getting another “Just in case you forgot, this is Showtime!” sex scene with her and Mike within two episodes, I can feel it. Uh-oh, the evil daughter is in the room!
“Stay away from us,” she tells Mike. “There’s no place for my dad when you’re here.” Can’t disagree there. By the way, there are definitely some in-the-episode parallels between Aileen the Terrorist Once Upon a Time and Brody’s Daughter Now, but I don’t want to get too artsy-fartsy on you.
0:31: Brody and Claire stayed at the cabin — now they’re making dinner and it’s awkward. So awkward that we have this exchange:
Claire: “I feel like an awkward teenager.”
Brody: “Will you go to the prom with me?”
Me: “She can’t, she’s going with Jordan Catalano.”
My wife (laughing): “Good one!”
(Important note: My wife will laugh at any My So-Called Life joke.)
0:33: Time for a fireplace sex scene. It’s intimate and stuff. Claire rubs his torture scars and doesn’t seem freaked out by them, which Brody appreciates not knowing, of course, that she watched him voyeur-style for a solid month. There’s some touching and kissing, followed by some lovemaking and Claire’s steadfast refusal to get naked on Showtime. Brody stops humping her for a second, causing Claire to say, “Do you want to stop?”
“No, I just want to live here for a second,” Brody says.
0:35: Brody has a nightmare, wakes up and Claire is right there. She’s making all the right moves thanks to a month of video surveillance. Here’s where a sarcastic Patriots hater would make an “A little like the Patriots back when Belichick taped everyone’s signals!” joke. How dare you.
(That reminds me HERE COME THE PATRIOTS!)
0:39: Mandy is systematically breaking down Aileen. We’re almost there. She’s crying. He just gave her this one: “I don’t know what happened to you, Aileen. I don’t know how you went from one more angry teenage girl to joining the jihadists.” See? Parallels with Brody’s daughter! Don’t say I didn’t warn you when Brody’s daughter is praying in the garage with Brody soon.
0:40: It’s the next morning again. Claire finally slips up by getting up to make Brody tea and saying, “No Yorkshire Gold out here in the sticks.”
“How do you know the tea I drink?” Brody asks. Claire does some stammering instead of just saying, “You drink Yorkshire Gold? I was just arbitrarily throwing a tea brand out! That’s so weird!” In her defense, it is Day Two of No Crazy Pills. It’s amazing she isn’t cutting eyes out of magazines and taping them to the wall like Drew Barrymore in Mad Love right now. And yes, I was totally attracted to Drew Barrymore in Mad Love, too.
0:43: Saul calls Shoulda Been Haysbert to say he struck a deal with Aileen — she’s spilling the beans on everything. He says to send someone to the roof of their terrorist house; apparently a potential sniper was up there checking things out. And you know what else? The sniper was the POW that Al Qaeda turned; she’s telling a sketch artist what he looks like right now. Will it be Brody? Why does this seem too easy?
0:44: Brody confronts Claire about the Yorkshire Gold thing. He’s pissed. “Did you spy on me?” he asks. Dude, you have no idea. Claire stammers some more. We have this exchange:
Brody: “Don’t fucking lie to me, Carrie!”
My wife (disappointed): “Damn, I was kind of enjoying them together.”
Claire thinks about going to get her gun. Brody gives her the old “You looking for this?” and shows her the gun. I love that move. Is there a better bad-guy move than “You looking for this?” Claire panics and spills the beans, telling him the whole “One of my best sources told me Abu Nazir flipped a U.S. soldier” thing.
Brody yelps, “You’re telling me the fucking CIA thinks I’m working for Al Qaeda?”
“I think you’re working for Al Qaeda,” Claire says defiantly.
Whoa. This is suddenly a great scene. Brody gets bummed out, sits at the table, hands over the gun and says, “Ask me anything.” Claire starts interrogating him. I’ll do my best to sum it up. We are finally getting answers, baby!
Q: Did you slip the guard that razor blade?
Q: What goes on in your garage?
A: He prays.
Q: What’s up with that weird finger-tapping habit?
A: He does it when “I don’t have my prayer beads.”
Q: Wait, you’re a Muslim?
A: “If you lived in despair for eight years, you might turn to religion, too.”
Q: What happened to Tom Walker (the other Marine who disappeared with Brody)?
A: Brody killed him. “They told me to beat him to death or be killed myself.”
Q: Who told you to kill him?
A: Abu Nazir.
Q: Abu Nazir??? Why didn’t you tell us you met Abu Nazir?
A: “I was embarrassed, ashamed. He offered me comfort, and I took it.”
Q: Were you his soldier?
A: “I was broken and living in the dark for years. And a man walked in. He was kind to me. And I loved him.”
Fine, I made that last one up. Great great great scene. One of the best of the season. I think Brody just stole Mandy Patinkin’s Emmy.
0:46: We’re back on the roof. Someone on Saul’s side is looking around with binoculars. He tells Saul he can see a landing strip for a plane that says, “Reserve M-1.” Saul’s face goes white. A direct sniper line to “Reserve Marine-1?” That’s not good. He asks for Brody’s picture so Aileen the Terrorist can look at it. Clearly, Brody was planning to kill the President right?
0:47: Back to the cabin. Claire tells Brody, “I know an American POW was turned, it has to be you.” You’re not going to believe this, but Brody takes offense and decides to leave. Just then, Claire’s phone starts to ring — it’s Saul. He says they were wrong about Brody. Aileen just ID-ed the real POW who turned it’s Tom Walker! He’s still alive! This would have been the biggest shocker of the episode if not for Claire having great cell-phone reception at a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere.
Now, Claire feels terrible and chases down Brody right as he’s driving away. She says she was wrong in other words, “I’m sorry for thinking you were an evil terrorist — my bad.”
Brody isn’t buying it. Their weekend ends like this:
Claire: “This weekend, this time that we spent together, it was real the important parts.”
Brody: “Hey Carrie — fuck you.”
Great ending. In fact, I would have ended it right there, but they added an extra scene with Brody returning home, checking in on his kids (please, like he cares), opening his bedroom door and seeing his sleeping wife (he can’t see, but she’s actually wide awake), then closing it and heading into the living room for a good sob on the sofa. That’s right, Brody has been a good guy this WHOLE TIME. Or so we’re supposed to believe.
I’m still not 100 percent buying it. Are we sure Brody and Walker weren’t turned together? Are we sure they’re not working in tandem? Why does this Walker scenario seem a little too convenient? And more important, when are the Brodys having another party? I can’t wait for the next episode of Homeland. And with that, we’re turning this Homeland recap franchise back to Andy Greenwald — thanks for having me.