Five Essay Prompts for Homeland 2×11: ‘The Mother…With the Turban’

"Posing like you are in a men's catalog is a sign of strength."--David Estes (Showtime)

“Posing like you are in a men’s catalog is a sign of strength.”–David Estes (Showtime)

These questions regard last night’s episode 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. In last week’s episode, Dar Adal expressed nostalgia for the Cold War, when it was obvious who the enemy was. Conventional wisdom has it that militarized societies will turn on each other in the absence of a clear antagonist. And yet it is only now, when Nazir is right before them, evident and nearly in their grasp, that the CIA is really attacking itself, from Carrie tackling Galvez to Estes discrediting Saul “The Bear” Berenson. What does this self-hatred express and why is it all coming out now?

Look, we’ve all suspected Galvez as the mole from like, the fourth episode of the season. His sudden “reemergence” last week was the perfect red herring. Didn’t his appearance  front and center of the FBI’s firing squad in the opening of this episode ring some “Aha” bells for anyone else? The fact that Carrie was sure enough to go off the hunch (that I’ve been screaming at her to listen to since he became this over-eager little ass-licker,) makes me think that this isn’t the last time he’ll find himself in her cross-hairs.

As for the whole “enemy within” theory, it’s always been Homeland‘s take that everyone is simultaneously  paranoid and clueless. Like:
A) Why has nobody in the FBI watched Spike Lee’s Inside Man, because Nazir’s “fake wall” act was coined by Clive Owens in 2006?

B) Why does Saul suddenly care so much about Brody? It can’t be because of Carrie’s feelings, and it’s not “just” about assassinating a U.S. congressman. I mean, not even Estes knows for sure that Brody killed the VP (though if he did, he’d be even more justified in taking Brody out). Saul’s actions strike me as more of his obsession/blind spot when it comes for saving lost causes than of some deep-down belief that Brody is not a threat.

C) How has Carrie been able to intuit any and all malfeasance towards Brody, but has entirely missed Quinn and Estes sniper-tracking her boyfriend? Especially when she was the one who put Virgil and Max on Quinn detail in the first place? Did she just forget that was a thing?

2. Compare Carrie’s two interrogations, of Brody and of Roya. Did she really think her Good Cop routine would work again, in these very different circumstances? Did Quinn know she would slip in and question her and let it happen anyway?

Aww, Roya! I so wanted her empathy with Carrie to be a “real” moment, but of course it couldn’t be. Roya knows all about Carrie’s affiliation with Brody, which is why she set her up to take the fall when she asks ,”Have you ever met somebody who takes over your whole life (and) makes you do things you’d never thought you’d do?…Well, I’ve never been that stupid.”

Quinn always acts like he doesn’t want Carrie to get involved, but I’m starting to believe him. Unlike with Brody, he doesn’t use Carrie as an emotional bargaining chip this time around. (Then again, maybe he knows he can’t.) She wasn’t supposed to be in the room, but he knows how much it would undermine her already wavering confidence if he had to drag her kicking and screaming out of the room, so he lets her take a shot of it.

My creepy question…what was he letting those guys with the big hypodermic needles do to Roya when Carrie finally called?

3. This episode placed a lot emphasis on the literal meanings of words and expressions. Not only did Nazir literally not run away, but Dana literally cried over spilled milk, and a light literally turned green for Carrie. Assuming that Homeland, like any riddle, is tracing some sort of trajectory from ignorance to understanding, what is the nature of the endgame in which this too-emphatic stress on the literal places us? (Things to consider: Saul getting trapped by the yes/no limitations of the polygraph, Jessica realizing that she doesn’t even need to know the truth anymore.)

The strategy of Homeland‘s endgame–or the answer to the riddle to the show’s literalness—is simple: It is not real life and never will be. Visual metaphors and wordplay rarely coincide with epiphanies. (Though I have literally cried over spilled soy milk, which struck me even at the time as being too obvious to be anything but a coincidence.)

In reality, terrorists don’t accidentally give away the location of their leader by slipping on their verbs, and inmates are rarely running the asylum, as Carrie seems to be doing with heading up the detail on Nazir. When it comes to the polygraph bit (which, by the way, can we give James Urbaniak his own spin-off now?), I find that part literally believable, sadly. Out of all the C.I.A. strategies for neutralizing a threat from within, making  them take a polygraph test with questions that in a court of law would be nothing short of entrapment might be the first one that actually works.


4. Picture yourself watching Homeland when you were Dana’s age. Which would you find more romantic: Jessica’s “If you don’t have to lie to her, you must really love her” or Brody’s “I would gladly and without hesitation assassinate a head of state for you”?

The second, and I’d go with it today. But that’s less about my age and more to do with the fact that I am a woman with irrational LADY FEELINGS that tell me that honestly is less important than someone killing the Vice President for you. I would have made a great Jody Foster.

5. As should be clear by now, Carrie is somewhat less fallible than the pope. Can the CIA really afford to burn her, as Estes/Quinn seem determined to, if she is the most intelligent, most forward-seeing, most capable agent in the whole building? Wouldn’t that be like smashing your crystal ball on the ground because it is a little too shiny for your tastes?

See, I don’t read Estes and Quinn trying to burn her; in fact, they are trying to keep her by getting rid of the two people in her life that she relies on for structure outside of Langley. Estes seems to have a personal grudge against Brody this season, and I don’t think it’s because the United States “doesn’t make deals with terrorists,” because obviously…they did. I think deep down he still harbors some feelings for Carrie that go beyond doubting her reasoning. He was always Walden’s go-to guy, and if things had gone according to plan, there would have been no way Quinn could have killed the new vice president. (Though they do seem much easier to kill than congressmen.)

The way I read Quinn is pretty similar, except he’s cracking a bit. He feels a sort of protective love for her, maybe it’s a big brother instinct, maybe it’s more. But whatever it is, he couldn’t go through with killing Brody on her doorstep, which is basically what Estes instructed him to do. With Carrie being almost level-headed this season, I wonder if next week will end not with her breaking point, but his. Can he go through with shooting Brody in the woods? If he can’t, what good is he to Estes and the C.I.A.? But if he kills Brody he will lose Carrie for good…right before she destroys his face with her teeth or something.