Homeland, Season 1, Episode 7: “The Weekend”
Written by Meredith Stiehm
Directed by Michael Cuesta
Airs Sundays at 10pm ET on Showtime
Most good drama involves characters keeping secrets and telling lies. It’s practically necessary for good storytelling. If every character were open and honest with every other character there would hardly be any meaningful conflict. Homeland operates on a different plane when it comes to deceit. We are constantly let in on the fact that characters are lying to each other, but the show also keeps crucial information from the audience. It’s never entirely clear what the characters actually know or don’t know, or exactly what secrets they’re keeping, or what their general motivations are. On the surface “The Weekend” changes that dynamic, but only on the surface.
The episode is structured around two storylines, each involving two characters getting to know each other. The CIA tracks Aileen down to a bus in Mexico and Saul goes to pick her up. Instead of turning her directly over to the FBI, Saul decides to drive the distance to Virginia with Aileen in the passenger seat. Over the course of a very long drive, Saul hopes to break her down into cooperation by getting know her more personally. All this plays out as expected, with Saul softening her until she eventually cracks, but the journey is incredibly fulfilling. First of all, a lot is learned about Aileen, and how her anti-American sympathies stem primarily from her childhood love for Faisel. By the same token, Saul reveals a lot about his own past and his childhood. He grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community, with parents who forbid him from properly assimilating with the gentile kids around him. After the suspicions from last week, this week only muddies the waters. On the one hand, maybe Saul just revealed why he might be a mole; on the other hand, maybe he’s just shown his humanity and why he could never be working with the terrorists.
Meanwhile, things heat up between Brody and Carrie. She just can’t help herself. Every move she makes takes her furthers down the road of self-destruction. After briefly getting into a drunken fight with some neo-Nazis at a bar, the two head over to Carrie’s family cabin by the lake. There they have some sex and start really getting to know each other. The two have great chemistry and seeing them emotionally connect is very satisfying, but the underlying tension of Carrie’s suspicions makes everything that much more fascinating to watch. Lo and behold, after a night of lovemaking, Carrie gives herself away by mysteriously knowing Brody’s favourite tea. He puts two and two together about her spying and then confronts her. The ensuing scene, maybe the best of the series so far, has Carrie reveal everything to him. She tells him about the spying and also that she suspects him of working for al-Qaeda. Then she sits him down and begins asking him questions, all of which he seems to answer honestly.
Brody admits having converted to Islam. He admits to killing Tom under coercion. He even admits to having come to love Abu Nazir, the big man behind al-Qaeda, primarily because Nasir was kind. He rejects the idea that he is a terrorist, but it’s still hard to say whether that’s true. Brody is so good at lying that even when being completely honest it’s possible he’s keeping some crucial facts off the table.
Those suspicions are cast aside momentarily when it’s revealed that the man who came to visit Aileen and Faisel, the man who was apparently going to aim a sniper at the President of the United States, was none other than the brother in arms Brody says he killed, Tom Walker. This is a massive reveal for the show, and it adds to the change in dynamic that had already occurred between Carrie and Brody. How Walker can still be alive is a complete mystery, but the episode that led to this revelation was an extremely well written, well directed, and well acted emotional journey. I can’t wait for more secrets to be revealed in the remaining five episodes this season, especially if Homeland continues to combine all this great spy drama with the kind of effective and emotional character work we got in “The Weekend.”
Do you still suspect Brody? Is Saul off the hook? How will Carrie’s self-destructive streak go? Leave a comment below and tell me what you think!