Five Essay Prompts for Homeland: 2×2 “Beirut is Back”

Just two people, hanging out on a roof. (Showtime)

These questions regard the second season premiere of Showtime’s Homeland. Please answer the prompts with specific examples from SUNDAY’S EPISODE, though supplementary material will be accepted as a secondary source. Please write legibly. No. 2 pencils only. You have an hour to finish this test. See below for questions and sample responses.

1. Compare the role of the CIA in Homeland to the role of the NSA in Good Will Hunting, as described by Matt Damon’s character.

Well, since Homeland shows us that there are roughly 10 people in the entire CIA, that makes the NSA, what, 70 people by Will Hunting’s numbers? Seriously, Estes is the director of counter-terrorism, but he seems to have to do everything himself, including meeting personally with a pesky reporter simply because she might reveal stuff about Israel’s attack on Iran. Since when is that in the purview of counter-terrorism? The CIA doesn’t have a press office? Meanwhile, there seems to be only one competent agent in the whole agency, and she is mentally ill and not actually an agent. Does Saul have any training at all? His entire role seems to be talking in a strident voice. Why isn’t he out there hitting anyone with a brick?

The whole place works about as well as that coffee dispenser that spit out coffee, then sugar, then a cup. After giving Carrie a wig and brown contacts, they just forget about all that and drive to the source’s house undisguised, her blond hair like a sunshiny beacon to every scary man with a gun within a 10-block radius.

Let’s hope Matt Damon is right and the NSA is handling the actual intelligence, because the CIA apparently has its hands full trying to do basic things like making coffee and monitoring text messages that come from inside the Pentagon.

2. The name of this week’s episode is “Beirut is Back.” Compare Carrie’s situation to that of a former champion collegiate beer ponger coming back for one last tournament.

Carrie is only a champion in the sense that she never missed, not once. But now she can’t hold her liquor anymore. So you all better hope she keeps never missing or you’re going to be cleaning puke out of the carpet for weeks.

Why do some people call beer pong Beirut anyway? Shouldn’t a game called Beirut involve less throwing things in cups and more running across rooftops while you’re being shot at?

3. Saul’s ability to judge Carrie’s coping abilities is to Estes’s decision to send Carrie across the ocean to meet a source when she no longer actually works for the agency, as Agent Brody’s microchip finding its way into the bag in Beirut when last time we saw it, Walker had it, is to _______.

“Carrie running into a building she had no way of knowing or real reason to suspect had important evidence in it, at the risk of her own life and others’, and then picking material at random to stuff into it, and happening to find the one thing that she needed to prove she is not insane.” Or not quite as insane as everyone else thinks she is. I think. The analogy falls apart somewhere in the middle. I hope we can all agree, though, that absolutely none of the characters is acting rationally at this point. Saul yelling at Carrie for doing stupid things is like me yelling at my cat for leaving hair everywhere. You knew she was going to do it when you brought her there. Just get yourself a lint roller and wait until the flying fur settles.

4. Is Carrie on too much Lithium? Why or why not? How does this affect her decision-making skills and/her panic attack in the safe-house?

That depends if we’re talking about real-life Lithium or convenient-plot-point television Lithium. Too much real-life Lithium makes you dopey, not panicky and prone to suddenly running into buildings.

The real question is whether Carrie’s feat of time-bending reasoning, which seems to have convinced Saul, actually makes any sense from a drug-reaction perspective. Can a person really retroactively trust her past judgment while doubting her present one … especially with the full knowledge that when she made the original judgment, she was both mentally ill and unmedicated? If the problem is doubt, and the Lithium is making you doubt, shouldn’t it make you doubly doubt things you thought before you were taking it?

5. How long until Brody’s kid bangs the VP’s son? Show your work.

This is a trick question. Of all the completely unlikely events of the episode (Brody just happening to be in the room when they try to assassinate Nazir, the video just happening to be in the bag Carrie grabbed, etc.), the one I found most unlikely was Dana confessing her change of heart. Since when do 16-year-old girls admit they were wrong, especially to their parents? There can be only one explanation: the two of them have already done it. She’s playing daddy’s girl so he won’t flip out when he finds out they’re screwing. QED: The VP’s kid, in the library, with the …

Five Essay Prompts for <em>Homeland</em>: 2×2 “Beirut is Back”