Homeland: The Yoga Play Review

Carrie is kidnapped, Saul's career is in danger and the show has not been more riveting in over a year!

The title of last week’s Homeland was “Game On,” and tonight it’s “The Yoga Play.” For all these espionage euphemisms, one thing is certain: The hands they are dealing are high stakes and exceedingly filled with breathless bluffs, and that anticipation has finally made Homeland riveting again.  Not since Brody crumpled early in Season 2 have I been left hanging this much by a Homeland final minute tease. The rogue element in the Iranian government has kidnapped Carrie Mathison, and I am still wrapping my head around what could possibly be coming next. It was daring, unexpected and most of all interesting. Leading up to this great closer, the episode worked surprisingly well at proving there is life for the show after Brody. I say that because nearly halfway through the season, Brody has barely been featured, but for one episode. While he will inevitably play a bigger role in the second half of the season, the writers are at least tacitly accepting that the show must move on from the Carrie/Brody relationship. In retrospect, the previous four episodes were obviously a con about getting us to this point (which was at least one episode too many), but now, nearly halfway through the season, Homeland is laying down its cards to reveal the season is about Carrie infiltrating the Iranian terrorist banker’s (for lack of a better term) web. In doing so, the main plot is about her and Saul bringing Peter Quinn into their escapades. As the only apparent friend to Carrie for when she was locked up in the psych ward, Quinn is obviously the most trustworthy. Unfortunately, Carrie doesn’t feel that way. She repeatedly verbally shivers at the thought of Quinn peering over her shoulder. When she is told near the end that he will be watching her sleep (for all the good that it did her), her negativity towards him confirms that the show is probably going to be pushing these two crazy kids together for a romantic subplot in the near future. After all, nothing says romance for Carrie like life-threatening operations and international terrorism. But while they were getting acquainted as hook and bait for their prize, Saul discovered that he was being targeted himself during a weekend retreat of duck hunting. While meeting with the arrogant senator from earlier in the season, where he was like a dog with a bone in relation to Carrie Mathison, things got nasty. Saul’s trip which seemed to be in preparation for his groomed nomination to become the permanent CIA director. Instead, the “vacation” equaled little more than a double-cross when Senator Know-It-All revealed that HE will be nominated for the position. Saul would return to his old job with a bruised ego…if he plays ball.  This is key to the plot because its real world politicking is about to come back to bite Carrie hard. The senator and Saul have the obvious ideological disagreement on the role of the CIA in terms of spy games in the 21st century. Citing the success of military drone strikes, the soon-to-be new CIA director talked openly about wanting to roll back the need for actual on-the-ground spying, particularly after the embarrassment that was Nicholas Brody. Saul counters that drones are worthless without the intelligence gathering side that finds the targets or develops relationships with vulnerable assets. Obviously, this is a thinly veiled parable for the role of espionage in the post-9/11 world that constantly comes under extra-scrutiny following the WMD fiasco in Iraq. However, I would venture that position has changed some in public perception after the CIA landed bin Laden in 2011, but it is still nonetheless a timeless debate. However, it is crucial in the show right now because not only is Saul making a political enemy out of his new boss when he implies during a public “congratulations” that he is a green, limp-wristed idealist, but also because this is the man who is still gunning for Carrie. The political and media side of the beginning of the season is too good to completely drop, and I imagine that, as the politician who knows Carrie slept with Brody, and that she is also Saul’s protégé, Senator Fancy Pants will use Carrie as a chip in his next hand. Lastly, this episode finally found a reason for all the Dana shenanigans….kind of. In the most perfectly contrived moment of the night, Jessica comes to Carrie for help in locating runaway Dana. The moment of the wife asking the mistress for assistance in a family matter rang so false that neither actress, even the always pitch perfect Claire Danes, could find the authenticity in it. Yet, Jess’ awkward pleading did facilitate the vastly entertaining title. “The Yoga Play” involved Carrie teaming up with Virgil and his brother in an amusingly rushed operation where she goes to “yoga,” only to really confront the FBI handler of Dana. It is a tense, suspenseful moment that’s implications are still be felt in the cliffhanger. Plus, it had a great meta-shout out to Ms. Danes’ past, when the piggish fed shrugs about Dana disappearing, “It’s Romeo and Juliet.” Carrie’s eyes bulge with her response, “You do KNOW how Romeo and Juliet ends, don’t you? Not well.” No, but it was still a great scene for you Carrie once upon another life. Sorry, Homeland. Right. Carrie is able to get the FBI to seriously look for Dana, allowing her to conveniently learn that her boyfriend was in a suicide pact with his brother and go running home to the cops. Yawn. Whatever. The more important element is that Carrie was late getting back to the yoga class cover she’d been using, and she would have been flat out discovered as a deceiver if not for Peter Quinn delaying her Iranian-employed tail. Of course, it is vague whether the guy figured out Carrie really gave him the slip or not. Her tail disappeared that night, but it was obviously a ruse leading to them kidnapping her. I partially wonder if that means they knew Carrie was working against them, as they were hiding suspiciously well from Peter Quinn’s line of vision, and Quinn was in the same car when he served as a distraction earlier in the day. BUT if they really knew Carrie was a threat, they would simply kill her, as Quinn and Saul both eluded to tonight. Why go to the exacerbated effort of taking her to their boss who likely would have been peeved to learn that his newly acquired asset was an intended mole? Still, his crack about her being in good shape, stating, “It must be all that yoga,” caused a chill down the spine. I’m sure it provided more than a few for Carrie as well. Tonight is the first time that Homeland has returned to the level of thrills and shocks that I associate it for. It is still far and away removed from the glory of its earliest episodes set in our reality, but at least as the more we leave the Brody Problem, the more the show finds its new voice. Also, the episode deserves a special mention for Saul. When the threat of the mission being blown hangs over Saul’s head, and then that Carrie is kidnapped, he doesn’t care that he just lost his intended promotion or even that his wayward wife is apparently having an affair right under his nose, which he catches red handed when he comes home early and unexpectedly to spearhead the Carrie operation on his cell. There will be time later for accusations and crumbling marriages later, dammit! Right now, the CIA and Care-Bear are at stake! This is a man who knows how to prioritize. He even looked genuinely happy when he said they’re back in business. But what of Carrie being on her own? He shrugs, “She’s always been on her own.” He is so relieved and at ease with her in this situation that I imagine him cracking over a beer and putting on the World Series after he hangs up that phone. I can almost daresay that Season 3 is finally proving the story is worth continuing, but we will need a few more episodes for validation. At the very least, it is leaving me deeply anxious to see that continuation, so for the moment that is a big mission accomplished. Den of Geek Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


4 out of 5