Homeland: All About Allison Review

In the latest episode of Homeland, the truth about Allison Carr is revealed as she and Carrie Mathison meet in a "safe" space.

This Homeland review contains spoilers.

Like the title of the episode would suggest, this week’s episode of Homeland is all about Allison Carr. And more acutely it is all about how Allison Carr was turned from a burnt out rising CIA star into a Russian asset, a mole, and ultimately a traitor.

While the episode is certainly retreading familiar ground for Homeland fans, at the very least it offered some of the more interesting scenarios of season 5’s rather nebulous plot. Indeed, a return to Carrie Mathison’s earliest days in Baghdad as she’s fresh off the proverbial bus in 2005 is a way to introduce her history with Allison in full. But it also reflects an era before the series started… and one where Homeland feels entirely in its element.

Admittedly, Claire Danes is not the focus of these 2005 flashbacks; rather, she’s just the ticking clock above Allison’s head that leads to her falling into the SVR’s trap. But the intrigues are also much more, well, intriguing. While “All About Allison Carr” must maintain a foot in the soapiness that has defined much of this season—with Allison’s earliest compromise being borne from an offer to split $8 million of embezzled money with an asset—but it is built on the backs of the real world that also bore Homeland into being. Upon her arrival, Carrie Mathison notices Allison has pictures with Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and all manner of Bushies on her shelf. Discussion about the instability of Iraq and an inadequate government also remind us of a horrifying world where the CIA has more to worry about than a trickling score of security leaks with every passing year.

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Honestly, it makes me wonder if fans would not mind a season about Carrie’s time in Baghdad during the war? Of course, we know how it would end, but Carrie in her element as the competent CIA personnel that Saul handpicked as his protégé is always something more hinted at than fully witnessed. Her obsession with Brody took her off that path, and despite writers’ best efforts, season 4 and especially season 5 have not felt about Carrie getting back on track.

In any event, these flashbacks are for the audiences’ benefit to understand the length of Allison’s duplicity. I am still lukewarm on the idea of returning to the “mole” formula, but Miranda Otto does well in her scenes to sell conflict and also barely concealed avarice. She doesn’t want to be a traitor, yet she sure takes very little convincing to go that route—or that she has the ability to kill Carrie with the flick of a cigarette.

Indeed, this is almost what happens in the present when Carrie and Allison finally have a tête-à-tête. It’s a generally strange bit of plotting since the SVR has decided that Carrie might be expendable after all, despite initial waffling about adding another dead body to their public murders. And yet, they do not pull the trigger, because Allison thinks she can control Carrie—the woman she ordered a hit on in the first place via Peter Quinn. Whatever the rationale is for this change of heart, it is a great moment, and the one bit of the evening where Danes is allowed to really personify the plight of her situation with a desperation about getting back to her daughter. Her fear for her life and what has been lost feels authentic, and not just like the machinations of an obligatory spy game.

But whatever damage control Allison thinks she can do is unsurprisingly screwed when Carrie does indeed break into the laptop in question (which we all predicted last week would hold incriminating evidence for Allison). With that said, I have to admit a special amount of bemusement that the proverbial smoking gun was a screensaver of the Iraqi lawyer chilling at Allison’s preferred bar on the beach in the West Indies. The fact that Carrie can remember the name of a bar she’s never been to and that a colleague mentioned in passing 10 years ago notwithstanding, it is believably the kind of boneheaded screw up that makes the intelligence wheel go round.

Unfortunately, the rest of the episode primarily appeared to be in a stop-go holding pattern. Saul Berenson finds out that his options appear to be accept disgrace and possible imprisonment in the U.S. or to defect to Israel for real, which he rejects wholeheartedly… even after the CIA likely won’t let him step foot in the door again (unless it’s in Langely’s black hole basement) after that little Mossad parking garage stunt last week. Ergo, Saul spends the hour pretty much treading water by convincing higher up members of Mossad that he should not be turned over to Langley for at least a day while his associate (Carrie) finds evidence about who blew up the Syrian general. And that’s pretty much it except for a tease at the end that Saul’s old buddy from the Israeli intelligence community is sneaking him out under the cover of nightfall.

Meanwhile, Peter Quinn’s story continues to sadly be the weak link of the season. Admittedly, there is some especially timely menace with the twist: the road to Raqqa is prematurely cut off when the masterminds of the group knock Quinn over the head and reveal they are traveling with weapons because they (likely) are planning to attack Berlin. But if that’s the case, why keep Peter Quinn alive? If they are about to horrifically rain death down on a major European city, why keep the American alive in the back with tape over his mouth?

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It’s the kind of leisured plotting that makes what was once the most riveting and breakneck series on television now one of the more belabored and obtuse ones. But hey, at least Peter Quinn is headed back into Berlin. Maybe now he can rejoin the series’ important plot threads? Dare to dream.

My predictions for next week: Carrie and Saul will meet up in the final minutes to exchange notes on Allison Carr, but there will be a lots of padded moments of introspection first. Meanwhile, Otto During’s nice guy act will come down, as I suspect he wants to leak anything Carrie is discovering (and without her consent) to the media. I could be wrong though. I hope so.



2.5 out of 5