HOMELAND 2.04 ‘New Car Smell’

Carrie and the CIA set a trap for Brody as his family life falls apart.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "New Car Smell"

Writer: Meredith Stiehm

Director: David Semel

Previously on "Homeland":

Episode 2.03: "State of Independence"

My initial reaction to this installment of “Homeland” was “this is episode 4?!”

"New Car Smell" defied conventional plot twists and expectations. Instead of giving us several weeks of cat and mouse between recently exposed traitor, Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) and former CIA operative, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes); the episode seemed to end Brody’s charade for good… possibly taking Carrie’s career with it.

There are full spoilers ahead, so don’t read this review until you catch up with “Homeland.”

The first three episodes of “Homeland” reminded the audience of Carrie’s amazing espionage talents. But no matter how good she is or how her mental situation has improved, “crazy” is not out of Carrie’s equation. And it may never be again.

It seems like Carrie had a better handle on guarding her emotions at the beginning of “Homeland” season 1. Now she can barely hide her surprise and disdain when she meets Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), the man tasked by David Estes (David Harewood) to lead the CIA surveillance team tracking Brody. It’s Carrie’s dream and she no longer has the illusion that she is in control of her plans for payback.

Danes adeptly conveyed those thoughts on Carrie’s face in her first meeting with Peter, who seemed to enjoy needling her. It’s harder to tell if Peter really warmed up to Carrie or if he simply knew what to say in order to get results out of her. But when Carrie decided to retake control of the situation late in the episode, Peter essentially told her to “get the f*** back.” And did she listen? Of course not.

While Carrie put her latest setback in motion, Brody was pretty much well on his way down as well. His wife, Jessica (Morena Baccarin) kicked him out of the house for his constant lies and even his daughter, Dana (Morgan Saylor) was tired of his BS. Brody’s son, Chris (Jackson Pace) briefly appeared to remind us that he exists before he slipped back into limbo.

Despite having only secondhand knowledge about Brody and Carrie, Peter quickly surmised that Carrie was Brody’s weakness. Sure enough, a planned “accidental” meeting with Carrie outside of CIA headquarters leaves Brody shaken enough to go running to his terrorist connection, Roya Hammad (Zuleikha Robinson). With every instinct probably telling Brody that Carrie and the CIA were on to him, he still acquiesced to Roya’s suggestion that he renew his relationship with Carrie to learn what she knows.

Thanks to the new CIA surveillance team, our heroes finally have Roya as one of Brody’s potential terrorist handlers… along with 42 other people. We even got to see Virgil (David Marciano) and his brother, Max (Maury Sterling) join Carrie and the off-the-books CIA team to keep an eye on Brody for the weeks to come. At least, that was the plan…

For Carrie, it always seems to come down to control. If she has a handle on a situation, Carrie usually emerges with what she wants. Thus in her early conversation with Brody at a hotel bar, Carrie seems to know just what to say as she feeds him enough hints to guess that her current target is Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban), not Brody.

But the second that Brody brings up Carrie’s electro shock therapy knocks her completely off of her game. It’s not clear if Brody knew that he had hit a sore spot for her, but Carrie wasn’t the same after that and she feared that he had seen through her game. Thus, against the orders of both Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) and Peter, Carrie followed Brody to his hotel room and proceeded to tell him off as she ran down his crimes against the country with details.

The look in Lewis’ eyes as that happened was amazing, as if Brody knew that his time was finally up. Carrie even got to tell Brody that she loved him before illustrating how much she hates him now as he was forcibly led away with a bag on his head. And we stay with Carrie just long enough to see her enjoy the moment… right up until she realizes that she just screwed up their quest to find Brody’s handler and her best shot at regaining her ties to the CIA.

The truth is that Carrie is very emotionally unstable. And if she can’t be trusted to keep her emotions in check on a major operation then there is just no way that she will ever be welcome back at Langley. Her feelings for Brody have doomed her again.

Not that I expect Carrie to ever be written out of “Homeland,” but it will be hard for the writers to come up with a convincing reason for Carrie to be involved with the CIA after this debacle. It’s also difficult to see how the season will progress now that Brody is in custody. Presumably Brody will get free at some point, but then what? Will he turn CIA mole? Or run? What is the next stage of this story?

That side of the episode was stellar. But everything devoted to Brody’s family was less so. There are many things that “Homeland” does well. Teenage romance is not one of them. Dana’s love triangle with the Vice President’s son and her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, Xander is not exactly riveting. But I did enjoy Dana’s put down of the Vice President in defense of his son.

Looking back at “Homeland” season 1, I remembered that Dana’s moment of reefer madness as she went through a glass door was one of the low points. I actually really like Dana as a character, especially when she refers to her dad as a “liar” and her mom as a “rube.” Chris isn’t around enough to be interesting, but I am curious to see how Dana will deal with life once her dad is exposed. I highly doubt that her new boyfriend would go near her after that.

Jessica may be a “rube” and a power hungry Washington wife, but she at least has the good sense to get Brody away from her after a pattern of betrayals. Aside from Brody himself, Jessica may have the furthest to fall once the truth becomes known. Jessica has lived through a lot, but can she live through something like this?

The only one of Brody’s Marine buddies to openly suspect him is the usually drunk, Lauder Wakefield (Marc Menchaca). But now, Brody’s buddy Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) is also seriously connecting Brody to the death of their friend, Tom Walker. Hilariously, Mike and Lauder come to the conclusion that Walker and Brody were working for the CIA. But their suspicions will only be raised higher when Brody seemingly disappears into CIA custody. You can’t just make a congressman vanish. People will notice, especially Brody’s family and friends.

Where “Homeland” goes from here is anyone’s guess. But this season has been an amazing ride so far.