Review: 'Homeland' - 'The Weekend': Carrie'd away

Carrie and Brody get quality time in a cabin, while Saul tries to work Aileen

<p>Sgt. Brody (Damian Lewis)&nbsp;lays his cards on the table in &quot;Homeland.&quot;</p>

Sgt. Brody (Damian Lewis) lays his cards on the table in "Homeland."

Credit: Showtime

A review of tonight's "Homeland" coming up just as soon as I take a nosegay...

"Are you watching me?" -Brody

Well, I was not expecting that at all.

And thank goodness for that, because it was just splendid.

With a show like this - featuring the cat-and-mouse game between Carrie and Brody, the ambiguity about whether Brody has turned, whether Saul is a mole, etc., etc., etc. - you would probably assume the suspense/mystery would be maintained until much later in this first season, if not longer. Instead, Carrie and Brody seemingly lay all their cards on the table in episode 7 (out of 12), we learn that some of what we've seen from Brody's perspective is apparently untrue, and that Carrie has apparently been chasing the wrong man all along - that the bad guy is actually the partner Brody is convinced he beat to death.

Now, there's a lot to sort out here. Why does Brody think he killed Walker if Walker is still very much alive and getting ready to shoot the president? I could certainly see how it would be possible to brainwash him into believing that over eight years of captivity. Is everything Brody tells Carrie true? If so, then who slipped Hamid the razor? Are we supposed to still be suspecting Saul, or David, or someone else?

For now, though, it was just so refreshing and fascinating and downright great to see Carrie and Brody facing each other at a table, being honest (or what we for now presume to be honest) with each other, all culminating in Carrie once again screwing up a relationship. That was just a terrific scene, in both writing(*) and acting, and a reminder that as much as serialized dramas try to generate tension out of having characters keep secrets and information from each other, it's possible to have great drama where your main characters just sit and talk openly about what's going on.

(*) This episode was written by Meredith Stiehm, who's best know for creating "Cold Case" and running that show for years. When sentiment turned against "The Killing," it became a popular refrain to suggest that a "Cold Case" veteran wasn't up to the challenge of writing a more complicated, densely-layered cable drama. In this case, Stiehm did damned fine. She's not in charge of this show the way Veena Sud is on "The Killing," but this was maybe my favorite episode so far.

But even before Brody figured out what was up based on Carrie's slip-up with his favorite kind of tea, "The Weekend" was humming along nicely. Carrie and Brody's lost weekend in her family's cabin was another example of how "Homeland" is just as strong at being a character study of two wrecked individuals (one damaged by circumstance, the other by genetics) finding each other to be a kindred spirit, only for the plot to get in the way. There's definite truth to what Carrie clumsily attempts to say near the end: the parts of it that were real were real. She screwed Brody to be able to more closely observe him, and got in his car for the same obsessive, self-destructed reason. But she's more comfortable with him than she is with anybody else, and we've seen in other circumstances that she's too bad at hiding her feelings to be that good an actress.

If what we learned in this episode is all true, then we at least have some idea of how the show might both continue for more than one season and do it with Damian Lewis centrally involved: Brody, because of his knowledge of Nazir, gets reluctantly teamed with Carrie to chase down the big bad. And I hope at least some of it's true, because to this point, I feel like "Homeland" has played fair with us. Walker's death, for instance, was only depicted in Brody's flashbacks, and we know the kind of physical and emotional trauma Brody's been through.

Meanwhile, Saul got to perform his own lovely little all-weekend duet with Aileen, working her slowly but surely until he got her talking - and, more importantly, got her believing that he understood her. Some good work from Mandy Patinkin - and one very snazzy hat during his brief time in Mexico - and another example of how the personal and the professional can bleed together in the strange world in which these characters operate.

What did everybody else think? Are you convinced of Brody's innocence? Is this revelation about Walker a decoy? Were you glad to have our two leads just talk about stuff for a bit?

Alan-sepinwall-sm
Alan Sepinwall
Sr. Editor, What's Alan Watching
Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "The Revolution Was Televised," about the last 15 years of TV drama, is for sale at Amazon. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com
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