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Homeland' episode 8 recap: Phase two, and trimester two, begins

[This post contains spoilers about the fourth episode of 'Homeland' season three.]

(Photo courtesy of Showtime / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)"Homeland" works best as a behind-the-curtain look at the psychological warfare that goes into protecting our country - both from internal, bureaucratic forces and the external evils. And if the "Homeland" bus has been swerving in sometimes frustratingly unclear directions for much of the season, episode 8 marked a welcome return to the smooth road of what it does best - and introduced some new wrinkles to take us on the journey of the final four episodes.

It has always been admirable that "Homeland" doesn't hold back from allowing the payoff to materialize - sometimes to its detriment. I respect Alex Gansa and crew for often taking the harness off and letting it fly, wherever it goes. For example, a lesser, more risk-averse show would have let two circumstances of possible gunfire be teased but unfulfilled. In this case, both shots were taken.

But before we get to the shot heard 'round the CIA stakeout van, let's start at the end, and the partial resolution of my theory from episode 3.

It appears that my Brody theory introduced after his only appearance of the season is at least somewhat incorrect. The timeline part may be true - Brody looks only slightly worse than where we last left him 5 episodes ago. But what we saw as Saul pulled up to the Tower of David, in a delightful bit of misdirection that teased a trip to Iran, is Brody is still alive...barely.

Saul's arrival in Caracas was followed immediately by a meeting outside the Tower with El Nino, who receives the $10 million bounty he previously said he had no interest in. With the bounty collected, Saul was brought up through the deteriorating half-completed building to find a deteriorating, half-alive Sgt. Nicholas Brody. A slight eye movement and leg twitch were the only indications that the most wanted man was still with us. With two of the three lead characters now together in Venezuela, it would make sense that the next step involves Saul and Brody together.

The third leg of the tripod, however, was busy trying to clear the name of her former lover...and the father of her baby. Yes - we learned this episode that Carrie has finally gone somewhat-public with her unplanned pregnancy, and reveals the father is in fact Brody.

But Carrie has bigger issues to focus on. Carrie tells Quinn she believes Javadi - that it was someone else still alive and in the country who built and moved the bomb. A plan is hatched to loop back in Franklin and Bennett, the lawyers who first found Carrie and still believe she had been turned against the CIA and is collaborating with Javadi (somewhat true, just not how they think). Bennett doesn't take the bait from Dar Adal. "Come after me if you want, I've got nothing to hide," he tells him after some gentle urging to come clean.

Carrie and Franklin use code phrases to arrange a meeting, which gives the episode its name, "a red wheelbarrow" (the second poetic reference in a row). Carrie warns they've connected Franklin's firm to the Langley bombing, and with a warrant sitting at the FISA court, problems for him are imminent. Bennett tells Franklin to "get him out" (of the country, we think), and Franklin arranges a meeting with the mysterious person behind the bombing. But we learn this is mainly a red herring - a device to reveal the brutal nature of both Franklin and Bennett. This accomplice isn't getting out of the country - Franklin begins to ready a silenced gun to take him out entirely.

And Carrie won't let it happen. She acknowledges she needs this guy to prove Brody's innocence, and proceeds to try to stop Franklin, thus blowing her cover...and the entire operation. Dar Adal, running things with Saul in Caracas, and Quinn, camped out on the roof across the street, know this can't happen. Carrie isn't listening, and after several warning, Quinn does the unthinkable - shoots and stops Carrie. Meanwhile, Franklin takes the shot as well, and the proof Carrie needed is gone.

Carrie's been shot in the upper bicep, and while bleeding in the ambulance, she conveys two messages to Quinn: "Something's going on...none of this makes sense" and...where's Saul?

Saul is busy with phase two. He wouldn't reveal it to Sen. Lockhart, the future head of the CIA, but he tells the White House Chief Of Staff about phase one, sending Javadi back to Iran in hopes of regime change in the country, and phase two, which we don't learn until he steps out in front of the Tower of David. Carrie doesn't know about it either - Saul instructs Dar Adal that she can't know. How Javadi is tied to Brody, we'll likely learn over the final four episodes of the season.

Meanwhile, there's one more wrinkle introduced - with Alain, Mira's lover. Saul's wife Mira has a change of heart, reconciling with Saul and giving it another shot (maybe it was that breakfast in bed that sealed the deal). Mira tells Alain she's done with him, but he doesn't take it well. Still, what happened next opened a new chapter in this French former co-worker's involvement in the storyline - we see him back at the house, downloading something from the computer. He looks suspiciously proficient at the practice - and as he sneaks out of the house, we may have gained a new antagonist while Javadi is abroad.

With fewer of the characters in the homeland, "Homeland" is shaping up for a worldwide conclusion.

One last thing…
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