There has always been something grotty and amoral about Homeland. From the beginning, the show has presented a drone-cam vision of a topsy-turvy world, one devoid of good guys and bad guys, right and wrong. In fact, it's a world that barely qualifies as a world at all: just a daisy-chained collection of safe houses and cabins, of anodyne condos and sterile conference rooms populated by well-intentioned patsies, Machiavellian suits, and jacked-up spies too busy getting off on being watched to pay much attention to what's actually going on all around them.
And so, during my time away from the show these past three weeks (I was scoping out rental properties in Caracas; lots of open spaces but not much overhead — often literally), I actually came to appreciate the greasy film of seediness and disgust coating the A-story in this challenging third season. With Brody's ghost haunting the margins and his body covered in track marks in a Venezuelan squat, the remaining characters have seemingly given up any pretense of doing their jobs. Instead they're stuck in frustrating, self-made ruts: crazed Carrie flushing pills and circling the drain; cuckolded Saul playing checkers while his enemies, at home and abroad, play chess; Quinn driving around dumbly in an SUV and slipping through the sliding glass doors like some desperate, suburban security guard. In the wake of the 12/12 bombing, the actual adults have returned to wrest control of national security from a rogue cabal of homegrown emotional terrorists who came close to wrecking the country over a high-stakes game of footsie. At times it has seemed to me as if Homeland is admitting something about itself with this dead-end twiddling. It's the sight of a mistaken-for-highbrow show coming clean about its own filthy heart.
Three episodes into its third season seems a bit early for a show to have split its fan base into distinct, warring factions — Breaking Bad, by contrast, waited until the very last hour. But Homeland has never been a particularly patient series, so here we are. On one side of the divide are the Brody Banishers, die-hard fans who feel frustrated by Sergeant Nick's stubborn refusal to die. To their eyes, Homeland is still a worthy show, but one being held back by its slavish devotion to the diminishing returns offered by its original story line. On the other side are the True ’Shippers, those who feel — not unjustly — that Homeland elevates only when its two touched-in-the-head leads are furiously touching each other. (The True ’Shippers, I should add, would have a much stronger case if Carrie and Brody's names lent themselves to a catchy portmanteau like all other important 21st century couples: Bennifer, Kimye, et al. But "Brarie" has unfortunate connotations and "Carrody" sounds gross.)
If last week's recap didn't make it clear, I've been firmly planted in the banishment camp ever since the second-season finale. That was when Carrie, in the post-crater chaos, fled Langley and pushed her ginger gentleman across the Canadian border. (Sorry, Canada! He's your problem now. Consider this payback for Tom Green.) By choosing exile over death, I thought showrunner Alex Gansa had stumbled upon the ideal way to have his Emmy-winning cake and eat it too. With Brody gone for at least half a season — and ideally more — Homeland could get down to the busy, necessary work of securing itself against other threats and prepping for other story lines. One True Pairings like Carrie and Brody can easily sink a show, even if said Pairings aren't explicitly intended to be romantic. Like a blackjack dealer in Vegas, a showrunner is nothing if he can't repeatedly shuffle his own deck.
If Homeland's title had ever intended to double its length, I'd always assumed the missing word would be "security." But two seasons and two episodes in, I now think "stability" is a better fit. In a country as big as ours and with psyches as damaged as the ones belonging to these protagonists, stability seems like a much more workable objective, something more pliable and forgiving than the all-or-nothing implications of security. After all, when do you know something is truly secure? When it has been tested? Or after it has failed? In matters relating to both bureaucracies and mental health, a status quo is much preferable to any sort of dramatic swing — regardless of the direction.
And yet, after two installments of this treacherous third season, stability continues to seem well out of reach for all involved. Carrie in particular has devolved into the hottest of messes. After Saul threw her under the wheels of the Senate bus, she spent the opening moments of the wonderfully titled "Uh ... Oh ... Ah ..." bursting into his home in search of ... well, it's not quite clear. Revenge? The last word? Yes, Carrie's bipolar, but her real weakness is her tendency toward binary thinking: Those who aren't with her are immediately assumed to be against her. The only gray area she ever tolerated was the one she found between the sheets with Brody. In lieu of foreign enemies, Carrie has now settled for domestic ones. (I guess it helps that Saul will never pull an Abu Nazir and confuse things by shaving.) After freaking out Mira, Carrie headed straight to the de-mothballed set of All the President's Men in order to suicide bomb herself in the most spectacular way possible.
There has always been a strong element of silliness to Homeland, but the way it has been handled has been consistently smart. At its very best, the show mimicked not the plausible particulars of our national security mechanism, but instead the real emotional mania that has rumbled like a subway line beneath the insecure decade since 9/11. Claire Danes's Carrie Mathison was so spooked and ravaged by the massive intelligence failure that defined the beginning of her career that she'd lost all perspective on what she was looking for; in her medically maintained head, the ideas of saving her country and saving herself had become dangerously intertwined. By asking questions that were almost impossibly crazy — a Marine hero turned Al Qaeda sleeper? Turned congressman? Turned presidential running mate? Turned CIA asset/doomed hero? — Homeland actually found a way to dramatize ideas that were uncomfortably, often painfully, true. How can we spy on the world without taking a hard look at ourselves? Do we want actual security or just the illusion of safety? And is one more possible than the other?
Though the show's second season wasn't nearly as catastrophic as some critics maintain — in fact, some of it was outrageously good — its latter half did give itself over to a certain kind of madness. Part of it was commercial: In a business as unpredictable as television, it's awfully hard to kill off an Emmy-winning co-lead, no matter what the facts on the ground are telling you. But even reasonable business decisions can have creative consequences. Despite Damian Lewis's dwindling usefulness, Homeland’s brain trust seemed so wedded to the idea of keeping him employed that it transformed Carrie and Brody's fatal attraction into a full-fledged harlequin romance, thus imbuing something wonderfully twisted with a bogus, unpalatable righteousness. The two had an extraordinary connection, sure, but it's the same one an addict has with the bottom of a whiskey bottle. Pretending otherwise seemed to serve Homeland’s long-term viability more than its audience. Mistaking the couple's kink for commitment felt like staging a Catholic wedding in an S&M dungeon, and it was about as easy to watch.
Khloe Kardashian & Lamar Odom: "She once picked him up at a downtown L.A. crack den. In June, she busted down a door at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to find him with another woman. Two months later, he assured her he was sober — and then promptly got a DUI." Then she found Lamar's drug paraphernalia in her room. "She said, 'That's it.' She didn't feel comfortable in a place where Lamar had abused drugs." Khloe is no longer speaking to Lamar. "There's no hope for reconciliation. She feels like she never knew the real Lamar." Really? "This is her Lammy, the love of her life. But he lied to her. There are only so many things you can do for love."
Some days, there's a cohesive theme to the afternoon links. Other days, like today, it's difficult to find any overarching meaning within the knots of the giant ball of Internet we call "life." N-words and doughnuts. Funky Winkerbean and pregnancy after 40. Ah, the rich texture of the world. How can we begin to understand it? It's too complex! Everything is happening all at once! There is immediacy, confusion, and catfishing to be contended with! Why bother with the riddle? Why not take 10 hours of your life to wrangle 500 balloons into a puffy Iron Man costume instead? Two years ago, balloon artist Jeff Wright created a Buzz Lightyear outfit, but his feat was overlooked for a year until Toy Story 3’s director, Lee Unkrich, tweeted about it. If the most important thing about the Internet is immediacy, we have no choice but to celebrate Inflatable Man today. In these uncertain times, tomorrow is no guarantee. Float away, Jeff. Float into the mystery with your suit of balloons.
George Clooney & Eva Longoria: "Back in March — while he was still dating Stacy Keibler, 33 — Clooney, 52, connected with Eva Longoria, 38, in Berlin." Oh shit! "George told her that he was still with Stacy, but had plans to break up with her — and was interested in being with Eva. Then he pursued Eva with texts and calls, though they never hooked up."
Kate Mara was a no-show for the Emmy announcements this morning, broadcast as they have been since time immemorial from the steerage class mess hall on Les Moonves's war yacht. Airplane trouble was to blame — the actress was reporting a story for Slugline in Arizona — but no matter, because the pre-dawn ceremony was about the only place where her House of Cards didn't make an appearance. The doomy Netflix original crashed the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards in a big way, garnering nine nominations in major categories ranging from dramatic actor (Kevin Spacey) to dramatic actress (Robin Wright) to dramatic clavicle (also Robin Wright). That means the happiest person in Hollywood this morning isn't actual Emmy host Neil Patrick Harris, whose celebrated podium charm replaced Mara at the last minute. It's Reed Hastings. This was exactly the outcome the Netflix CEO was envisioning when he outbid HBO for 24 episodes of the David Fincher–helmed Cards. Hastings knew his company needed the strong appearance of quality, if not the thing itself, in order to get attention and respect from a dubious industry. Regardless of whether Netflix actually goes home with any awards on September 22 — Jason Bateman was also nominated for Arrested Development; I have a feeling Spacey is taking the trophy — Hastings has successfully evolved his company from red envelopes to the red carpet.
That was the biggest takeaway from what felt like a transition year for the Emmys. All of the old favorites were nominated — and, in the case of Dame Maggie Smith, I mean that quite literally. 30 Rock received 13 nominations for its phenomenal final half-season and even a wheezing The Office grabbed a writing nomination for series adapter Greg Daniels's tasteful finale. The casts of Modern Family and Downton Abbey once again clogged up the ballots in the comedy and drama categories, leaving little room for fresh blood like New Girl and The Americans. While, speaking of blood, Game of Thrones (16 nominations) and American Horror Story: Asylum (17) treated the technical and miniseries categories the way Walder Frey treated guests at the Red Wedding. Boardwalk Empire was the only formerly major player to fall off the map this year (10 nominations, but mostly for hairstyling and costuming), and it's probably best to think of that not as a snub (although the second half of Season 3 did improve considerably) but as the first sign of big changes to come.
On Sunday night, the Screen Actors Guild gathered its members at L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium for its annual celebration of their shared craft, a delightful ceremony free of the annoying focus-pulling that plagues awards shows that insist on handing out statuettes to the unwashed masses who scratch out a living on the wrong side of the camera. Unfortunately, not every SAG Awards nominee gets to take home the coveted Actor, the highest honor thespians can receive from their brothers- and sisters-in-arms; for every five stars receiving the validation of a nomination, four will find themselves confronted with the challenge of making gritted teeth seem like a smile, and white-hot jealousy like warm magnanimity as the cameras mercilessly probe their reactions for any sign of disappointment. And so here we are, the morning after the Saggies (they don't call them the Saggies, but they should), to relive last night's victories through the faces of the defeated. When you're this good at your job, you can make misery look a lot like triumph. Well, most of the time.
Lindsay Lohan Is a High-Paid Escort: According to her father, Michael Lohan, Lindsay "is getting paid to date rich men. Dina is pimpin her out. It's disgusting." A second source confirms the story. "The dates last for days, and the guys pay for everything — hotel, travel costs, food, whatever — as well as jewelry and other gifts." While she might just be receiving a fee to act as "arm candy for wealthy men who like to be seen with beautiful and famous women." Clients include Prince Haji Abdul Azim, third in line to the throne of Brunei, and Spanish-American painter Domingo Zapata.
"Domingo let Lindsay live in his penthouse at the Bowery Hotel in NYC for free and at his L.A. pad at Chateau Marmont." Zapata rescinded his kindness after Lohan's hit-and-run incident in September. "He said that Lindsay kept taking, taking, taking and asking for more — cars, dinners, clothes, everything." Lohan is now hanging out with "Vikram Chatwal a.k.a. The Turban Cowboy, who owns a chain of luxury hotels." Is that a self-appointed nickname? Michael Lohan says "Dina is exploiting Lindsay because she's broke too and gets 20 percent of everything Lindsay makes." Michael Lohan is not the most reputable source, though. A friend of Lindsay's says her escort work is "no big deal" because Lohan is "totally broke and in serious debt, and no one will hire her." Plus Lindsay thinks of it as a kind of method research for some future role. "Being an escort is just an easy way for her to stay above water. [Lindsay] says she's an actress and won't turn down getting paid good money to act a certain way!"
On Jodie Foster's Not-Quite-Coming-Out Party
Cecil B. DeMille was an absurdly prolific showman-producer. He oversaw flamboyant biblical and pseudo-biblical pageants like The Ten Commandments, Samson and Delilah, and The Greatest Show on Earth. They were epics of delirium and decadence that lavished the upside of sin, then sent you home relieved that the sinner isn't you. He manufactured dual celebrations of vice and virtue, vulgarity and purity.
There isn't much about DeMille that has to do with Jodie Foster. But the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the people responsible for the Golden Globes, named their lifetime achievement award in DeMille's name, and as the recipient at last night's ceremony Foster was less her famously reserved public self and more someone DeMille might have enjoyed: a contradiction.
We think we have already established, at least beyond the Internet-accepted standard of "a supercut-supported reasonable doubt," that Claire Danes is the finest crier of her generation. But does bestowing such a specific and limiting title give short shrift to her entire body of incredibly expressive face-acting work? Last night's Homeland finale was a master class in owning every close-up by conveying complex emotions with dancing eyes, a quivering brow, and yes, the full chin-to-hairline "cryface" that we all know and love. And so we've collected the six best face-moments from last night; the harrowing facial journey Carrie Mathison traveled is one worth reliving, especially when you consider that her romantic screen partner's own repertoire is limited to the pursing and unpursing of a tiny, tiny mouth. Enjoy. We have a long and miserable wait ahead of us for Season 3.
"The agency is a funny place, very insular. It's like middle-schoolers with clearances."
— A former CIA official, as quoted in the Washington Post, 12/10/12
"What is all this squishy bullshit?!?"
— A formerly living CIA official, as quoted last night on Homeland.
Other than Storage Wars, no current television program has received as much scrutiny for blurring the lines between reality and fiction as Homeland. In its schizoid second season, the reigning Best Drama Series — according to a plurality of Emmy voters and U.S. presidents, at least — has walked a wobbly tightrope in its attempts to balance plausibility and imagination, head and heart. After a breathless return that saw the show binging on plot like Carrie Mathison left alone with a box of Chardonnay, recent episodes have ranged far from the reservation, alienating wavering viewers with an abundance of action and a sudsy indulgence in doomy romanticism. But "The Choice" — last night's deeply satisfying, deeply moving season finale — was a reminder that this fundamental imbalance is Homeland’s greatest achievement.
Jessica Brody has just spent nearly a week trapped in a luxurious CIA penthouse making do with semi-decent wine, making time with her extramarital action figure, seeing her daughter freak out over spilled milk, and watching her husband choke back tears over the death of the man who tortured him for close to a decade. Rather than pique her curiosity, all of this has, in fact, shut it down entirely. "For the longest time, all I wanted was for you to tell me the truth," she tells Brody in the parked car that is their relationship. "I don't have to know anymore. I just don't want to."
It seems both convenient and counterproductive for Jess to take comfort in ignorance, especially to those of us impatiently waiting for next week's finale and its promise of either redemption or ruin for a sophomore season that's flirting with the edge. But if the episode briefly known as "The Motherfucker With a Turban" was about anything — and, let's be clear, at times it was hard to tell if it was — it was about Homeland’s particularly cynical view of truth: that, contra the black and white dogma of the Nazirs and Waldens of the world (RIP x2!) truth is entirely subjective, just another weapon to be used and abused, depending on who's doing the asking. Saul fights off the polygraph for the second time in a year — not because he's a mole, but because he knows the score: No matter his noble intentions, anything he says can and will be used against him by an even more dangerous motherfucker, this one in a slick suit. "The test is a goddamn farce," he barks. Sometimes it's better to keep the answers to yourself or, like Jess, just not know anything at all.
Kate Middleton Is Pregnant: "Royal-watchers all around the globe had been on tenterhooks for months." THAT SOUNDS UNCOMFORTABLE. "At long last, Will and Kate are expecting a little prince or princess!" While they were hoping to keep the story under wraps until Kate was 12 weeks along, and release the news on Christmas Day, it came out early when Middleton was admitted to a hospital for morning sickness. Nevertheless, "William and Kate are elated." They started trying in September, "once their Malaria medication has run its course" after their "royal tour of Southeast Asia." The holy "VIP baby leapfrogs Harry to become third in line for the throne behind William and his father." A nursery "is in the early stages" as the couple continue with their move into Kensington Palace. Get ready to hear all about the future royal baby for months from weirdo superfans.