“False Friends” provides confirmation that Yevgeny is a flesh-and-blood presence, not a figment of Carrie’s information; the meeting pictured above definitely happens and is observed (though not heard) by Dunne and his team. That’s about all we know for sure in an episode steeped in traitorous behavior and rampant paranoia. There’s so much suspicion cast in so many directions, the prospect of peace is more fragile and tentative than ever.
Let’s start with Yevgeny, who confirms he left the note directing Carrie to Samira by delivering a similar note setting up a meeting time and place. Carrie believes Yevgeny is recruitable, or at least that’s what she tells Dunne when he’s ready to send her back to Germany. Not even Carrie can know for sure what she thinks Yevgeny is up to, given that so much of their time together is clouded in her memory. Already suspicious that Carrie may have been turned by the Russians, Dunne approves the meeting in hopes of either confirming or disproving his doubts about her. All the buddy-buddy stuff from the bar the previous night is now revealed to be part of a plan to convince Carrie that Jenna is her new bestie.
Jenna is still new at this spy game, however, and Carrie quickly picks up on her intentions while sharing a smoke on the roof. Complicating matters further is the suggestion that Yevgeny may be staging the event to throw even more suspicion on Carrie. The meeting itself doesn’t clear up much—certainly not for the observers who can’t hear most of it thanks to Yevgeny scheduling the meeting during the call to prayer at a mosque. And not for Carrie either, given that Yevgeny may be manipulating her foggy memories of captivity. Did he really save her from a suicide attempt? Surely no one else could have told him that Carrie once considered drowning her own daughter, right? If she opened up about that, what else did she spill?
False friends come in many guises, and although it’s hard to imagine a mass-murdering terrorist turning against his son and siding with Saul, Haqqani is able to sniff out the betrayal that led to last week’s attack on his convoy. That Tasneem was behind it is no surprise, but that she promised Jalal he would take his father’s place at the head of the Taliban in exchange for his cooperation in Haqqani’s assassination is a factor complicated by the inconvenient fact that Haqqani isn’t dead. Saul manages to convince Haqqani that the U.S. wasn’t behind the attack and that he has a traitor in his camp. Suspecting Jalal, Haqqani sets up a sting operation that parallels Dunne’s surveillance of Carrie, except that he’s actually able to listen in on the crucial conversation that gives away the game. For such a deadly terrorist, Haqqani proves to be an old softie by releasing his son, a move that will undoubtedly come back to haunt him as Jalal is quickly rescued from exile by Tasneem.
Our first look of the season at the homeland finds President Warner (Beau Bridges) surrounded by his own set of false friends and potential traitors. Sam Trammell (True Blood) joins the cast as Vice President Ben Hayes, a member of the opposing party brought aboard as a unity gesture. (Are we even supposed to remember which party Warner belongs to? Could it possibly matter?) Hayes comes off as oily from the start, suggesting that they simply cut the captured Saul loose since he’s a Keane holdover anyway. David Wellington, himself a political survivor, warns the president that Hayes may take a run at him in the upcoming election. An old saying about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer comes to mind. As this final season of Homeland heats up, it’s getting harder to tell the difference.
- Does life imitate art, or do they imitate each other? Here’s a New York Times editorial from Thursday entitled “What We, The Taliban, Want,” written by the group’s deputy leader Haqqani, concerning the very sort of peace talks and negotiation of terms discussed in this episode. Such talks have been going on for some time without much to show, but if there has been a recent breakthrough, it’s fortuitous timing for Homeland.
- Max isn’t just the mascot of the Army unit he’s embedded with; he’s a good luck Buddha, and much to his chagrin, they don’t want to let him go. Luck is still on their side, as air traffic is grounded due to a storm, preventing Max from making his getaway.
- Haqqani sums up nearly two decades of war: “We’re just strong enough never to lose, and just weak enough never to win.”