Homeland "Shalwar Kameez" Review: Now We're Really Getting Somewhere

Homeland S04E03: "Shalwar Kameez"


After last week's two-hour semi-rebootHomeland got right down to business this week. More specifically, Carrie made her way to Islamabad to try to determine what the heck happened with Sandy's death, his secret contact, and the possibility of some full-scale treason. While "Shalwar Kameez" didn't contain the same kind of thrills as "The Drone Queen" or the disturbing emotional needling of "Trylon and Perisphere," it continued Homeland's nice resurgence with a measured, propulsive episode that made great use of nearly everyone in the cast. I said it last week and I'll say it again now: This is the kind of start the show needed.

Whereas in Season 3, Homeland bumbled around, trying to find something to do while Brody was off in a drug den or whatever the hell he was doing, the show's creative team has clearly made it a priority to give its principal cast members good material as early as possible. I'm not sure the show will ever fully move on from Damian Lewis and Brody—and he was great—but the Carrie-Quinn-Saul trio has been very successful in Season 4's opening three hours. Most impressively, it feels like each of three characters has his or her own things going on—and not the same old stuff we've seen before. Carrie isn't just a lovesick nutbar, Quinn isn't just an odd sidekick, and Saul isn't just consumed with his failing marriage or how much Lockhart sucks. And this makes the scenes where they have to come together, from Carrie and Saul's breakfast conversation to Carrie and Quinn's phone call in the final moments of the episode, even better. 

Let's start with Carrie because this was a great hour for her if you care, like I do, about Homeland presenting her as competent at her job. Much of the action centered on Carrie trying to hit the ground running in Islamabad while navigating the bureaucratic and political barriers you might expect to see in the aftermath of such a tumultuous event like Sandy's public beating. Carrie faced off with John Redmond (Michael O'Keefe), the man who was supposed to get the station chief job before she blackmailed Lockhart, and tried to maneuver her way around a campus lockdown and Ambassador Boyd's uneasiness with the entire situation, showing real maturity and efficiency. There were no freakouts, no stupid decisions—just precise actions. Additionally, she put in a little extra time on the side to set up a second base with the returning Fara (because okay) and Max in the hopes of contacting Aayan. Even when Saul showed up at the embassy to flirt with Boyd (his former fiancée, we learned) and Fara botched her opening meet with Aayan, Carrie handled everything with aplomb. She gracefully accepted advice from Saul but made it clear that she's running the show, she impressed the ambassador, and she sought Aayan out on her own.


I don't want to belabor this point too much, but it's really important. To be plausible in any way, Homeland requires that we at least somewhat believe that Carrie can do her job effectively, yet it's mostly forgotten how to tell stories that illustrate that point. "Shalwar Kameez" went a long way in rectifying that for me. It doesn't make up for sloppy storytelling in previous seasons, nor does it forgive the fact that the show seems satisfied to let the baby-abandoning thing go for now so that it can focus on the stories it's more interested in telling. But this is a promising step forward for both Carrie and the series. We can now start to see why people think she's talented, and consider that she might have a real shot at solving this Sandy-related mystery by using her tactical skills—as opposed to through some fated love connection. Claire Danes had a couple of "big" moments to work with last week, but she was very good here, too, portraying the more TCB version of Carrie. And the more we see the character in this light, the more we see her acting relatively sane and doing her job, the more destabilizing and powerful her likely eventual breakdown might be, right?

While I enjoyed watching Carrie slog through the professional muck, I loved seeing Quinn deal with a much more personal mess here in the States. "Shalwar Kameez" overplayed the "Quinn loves Carrie" card a bit too much for my liking, but Rupert Friend turned in a fine performance as Quinn further buckled under the weight of what happened in Islamabad and his previous 12 years on the job. After a disastrous psych eval where questions about Carrie set him off, Quinn hit the bottle even harder, eventually pushing away his landlord and temporary lover. And even though I'll be the first to admit that I like Quinn and Carrie together, romantically or otherwise, it did seem like the episode was pressing that issue exceptionally hard, in that people at the agency were convinced that Quinn's feelings for Carrie were the reason Sandy died. I don't particularly buy that, given that Quinn killed a couple of dudes who were trying to pull Sandy from the car before making the judgment call to zoom out of the area. Did that call save Carrie and leave Sandy to die? Sure. But it didn't feel like Quinn choosing Carrie's safety over Sandy's was the singular reason. 


Nevertheless, that slightly forced turn of events clicked by the end of the episode, once Quinn's repeated and drunken YouTube viewing of Sandy's murder revealed that someone had coordinated the attack—which is probably why Carrie couldn't find the gun Quinn kept mentioning was in the car. This of course led to Carrie convincing Quinn to get his somber mess of a self to Islamabad to help her solve the mystery of who's responsible, but also produced the great, "I fucking loving you Quinn, you know that don't you?" line from Carrie. Quinn couldn't help but say yes, though he almost certainly knows that Carrie knows how he feels, which means Carrie is mostly using that kind of plea to get him to do what she wants. She might feel something, but that doesn't change the fact that it was manipulative beyond belief (while also illustrating how great Carrie can be at her job). It was one of those situations where we knew that Quinn would eventually join Carrie anyway, so the protesting was all pretense, and the show couldn't've done much better with that set-up. It's reestablished the dynamics between Carrie and Quinn, but there's also this thing that Quinn is carrying around that's bound to impact both their relationship and the job. Good stuff. 

While Saul's presence this week was less integral, "Shalwar Kameez" was one of his best episodes in a long time. It's amusing that, of all of Homeland's characters, he's the one who seems to get stuck in the most romance-related stories, but thankfully his history with Ambassador Boyd wasn't a major part of the hour. His sudden arrival in Islamabad signaled just how desperate he is to get back into the intelligence game full-stop, and it was key that he wasn't much of a jerk to Carrie despite that out-of-the-wordwork appearance. It felt like Homeland was acknowledging that it lost the thread between Saul and Carrie, and I'm fine with the writers weaving that distance back into the story as Carrie tries to assert herself in a new, hostile location. And yet, the scene between the two of them at breakfast was an awesome reminder of what their relationship can be, and how good Mandy Patinkin and Danes are together. It was great to see Saul list off the things he suspected Carrie needed to do, only to realize she'd already done them. That was a cool teacher-student moment, even if it wasn't entirely earned due to the messiness the two have experienced over the past couple. I'm sure Saul will make his way back to Islamabad sooner rather than later, and when he does, I hope he acts like he did in "Shalwar Kameez."


Fara's reintroduction was less successful, I guess, and I only say that because the character made no real impact on me last year; she was a poor plot device who didn't really go anywhere. It made me laugh that Homeland couldn't help but throw in a nod to that dumb plot with her father, but again, it was nice to see Carrie teaching her how to work a potential asset, even if she failed miserably. Nazanin Boniadi is an interesting actress, so I hope the show can do more right by her this season. At least she seems better integrated into the plot. Also: Max is not Virgil. We need Virgil. 

With Carrie now empowered a bit in Islamabad and Quinn on the way, Homeland seems to have completed some of its early rounds of musical chairs and cross-country flights. There's a good story here, with some well-developed character stuff underneath. I could get used to this version of the show; how about you?



NOTES

– Tracy Letts is a boss, and the Lockhart character still has potential, but I have to say that I did not miss him this week. He's super negative, and he often brings out the worst in the other characters. We'll need to keep an eye on that. 

– Quinn and Carrie seem to think that the guy in the YouTube video who was orchestrating the attack on the car was Pakistani intelligence, which would suggest a much bigger thing between two countries whose relationship is tenuous at best. 

– Speaking of the YouTube video, I would really appreciate it if someone would edit Quinn's drunken viewing of it so that he was watching something different. "Quinn's Drunken Response to the Latest Cool/Dumb Viral Video" would be a great web series. 

– Although Islamabad is much more dangerous, I will say that Carrie ended up with a big upgrade in housing. That's a pretty nice place, right?

– The title sequence is back, and fairly different for the first time in a while. The jazz is still there, but it sounded somewhat different to me, at least on the screener that Showtime made available to press. Let me know what you guys saw on the actual episode. 


What'd you think of "Shalwar Kameez"? Still into this new season?


Comments (50)
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Feb 27, 2015
I find Rupert Friend (he has a name like some lewd uncle LOL) smoking hot on Homeland.. And I didn't like him in Pride&Prejudice at all LOL
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Oct 18, 2014
So far, so hokey, nothing has changed.

The woman who was interviewing the kid and spooked him. Carrie asks: exactly what did he say? Didn't she listen to the audio. The woman didn't offer up the fact that he said: if you are who you say you are. Important? I would think so. I call bullshit.

Saul didn't ask, not once, how is your baby. Boy, girl, I don't even know what it is. I call bullshit.

The woman runs out to the kid having tea, coffee, whateverthefuck, and says there is a WOMAN sick, NOT an ENGLISH woman. So the kid (he's a doctor?) runs up and bangs on the door and asks how she is IN ENGLISH. I call bullshit.

SO, the show is still bullshit, and yes, that was fat slamming on the landlady, and sadly, I'll watch. As long as there are no more near drownings of said baby or fake kid hanging.
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Oct 18, 2014
Okay, they pulled me back in. I figured starting with Episode 3 I'd miss her potential baby killing self. Sorry I saw the fake kid hanging on The Affair, wish I'd been warned about that.

Looks like Carrie has her mo-jo back, but I don't know who Sandy is. Doesn't matter. Saul is apparently coming back, and that's excellent. Hope he's got his shit together this season. It'd be nice if Brody were a ghost, a la SFU.

One burning question: she's still in Islamabad, why the hell doesn't she cut her hair off and dye it brown? She stands out like a sore thumb.

Guess after B/E goes still uninterestingly off the air, and, sadly, Manhattan finishes for the season, I'll have to start again with Homeland. Oh well, could be worse, I could have been a fan of The Pathetic Knick, or worse yet, been born without a brain, and watched reality television. Or, been a reviewer who ignored Manhattan and instead paid attention to the rest of the shit on this season.
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Oct 17, 2014
How about that subtle nod to Brody when Carrie first went through the embassy's security!? Great directing.
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Oct 17, 2014
Wow. I thought that was just me, but that marine looked a lot like Brody didn't he!
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Oct 14, 2014
I much prefer this season opening sequence though I am still irritated by the excerpts of speeches.

I am liking season four and they should have done this earlier. I am also liking competent Carrie which makes her promotion more believable. She clearly have learnt a lot from Saul. It is exciting to see the old team back as well - Fara and Max and yes we need Virgil.

I would totally watch another spin-off which tells us the story of Saul's earlier spy stories. It would be so interesting. We would probably need a younger actor to play Mandy Patinkin. It would be difficult to find one as good as him.

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Oct 14, 2014
When they hanged Brody, did the hang the people responsible for Season 3 as well?
I mean, damn, this is looking like the Homeland that blew us away in Season 1. The writing, acting, and direction are all on a level that after Season 3 I didn't think they even cared to achieve anymore.

I was totally pessimistic about a new season of Homeland but now I can't wait for the next episode. Excellent turnaround and way to bravo for recommitting to some amazing television!
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Oct 14, 2014
I agree. Although I'd include a lot of season 2 as not in the same league as 1 also.

My only fear is that it will be too much Carrie, I have no interest in another breakdown, or the lead-up to one. I want to continue to see the competent agent season 1 told us she was.
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Oct 15, 2014
I agree.
But if her "seduction" of Aayan is any precursor, I think we are in for a MUCH better version of Agent Mathison.
That scene alone might win her another (and this time, deserving) Golden Globe.

No baby, no breakdowns!

I am completely willing to believe that her self medication of pills and alcohol is working and that her sister is more than happy to throw away her life to raise the half spy, half terrorist devil's spawn...
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Oct 14, 2014
"The title sequence is back, and fairly different for the first time in a while. The jazz is still there, but it sounded somewhat different to me, at least on the screener that Showtime made available to press. Let me know what you guys saw on the actual episode."

Title sequence is indeed different from previous seasons. Main music theme is still pretty much the same but speeches and dialogue excerpts are different and so are the scenes.
For example there is no president Obama, they put Hillary Clinton and John Kerry in there...
Small part from the last call between Brody and Carrie is also in there at the end...
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Oct 14, 2014
This show is Homeland...again. To put it simply; I shouted "NO!" when this episode ended - I then realized I was in my room, and that somehow, the previous 3 seasons involved a Brody character. For a show to make me completely forget about a main character/storyline and redeem itself after a very mediocre season...that takes amazing writers, or magicians.
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Oct 17, 2014
Ha! I do that every week. I love this show.
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Oct 13, 2014
Great episode which makes me hopeful for this season with this larger conspiracy already being taunted... Also great review and totally agree that it was already obvious enough that Quinn has feelings for Carrie from the talk with the FBI shrink and it was overkill to have Dar Adal be so explicit about it. I think the whole plot would have been more effective without that scene.

Was I the only one thinking after the last scene that Quinn's look was that of someone who knew he was embarking on some near-suicide mission by going to Islamabad and didn't even care about that? It was a bit like when Brody accepted the mission to go into Iran (also convinced by Carrie) and he knew he was never going to make it out alive... I hope this is not foreshadowing...

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Oct 13, 2014
I don't know? Maybe it just seems sort a sloppy, first Carrie blackmails Lockhart about him knowing Sandy was trading classified info in return for high value targets, and he allows her to go investigate that supposition. Seems to me Lockhart would want her a million miles away from proving it. I think the real head of the CIA would have thrown her ass in Leavenworth to keep company with Bradley Manning instead of making her station chief of Pakistan. Then she goes to a little café and pretends she needs a doctor to examine her in a restroom. This in a country where women have to stay covered up all the time and the café proprietor is yelling for a Dr. to help and sends a teenage MALE medical student to help her. I don't think in real life even a mature male Dr. would have gone in there alone. And then how did Saul, who is no longer at the CIA, except as an advisor to some military defense supplier, get to tag along with some embassy security personal all the way to Pakistan? Next is YOUTUBE???? We spend millions of dollars for satellite imagery and you KNOW Pakistan would be covered in closed circuit CCD camera's busy face-scanning the crowds for terrorists and Quinn finds his intel on YouTube. Gimme a break!
More+
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Oct 13, 2014
  • YouTube is the primary source of information for our security agencies
  • We do take the money for CCTV, but never install them; we buy BMWs with them
  • And I agree that getting a young male medical student to help out is ridiculous
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Oct 13, 2014
How awesome would it have been is this was season 3.
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Oct 14, 2014
I'll let u know after S4 ends. I'll go back and watch S1 and S2 on DVD then S4 on VOD and see how well it transitions :-)
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Staff
Oct 13, 2014
So awesome, frankly.
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Oct 13, 2014
Apparently Carrie is going to start drinking in casinos and introducing herself as Jane Bond, that is if she intends on wearing the same get up every journey and on being the only blonde, blue eyed white woman in the area. Well, that and jogging openly in the compound and ditching her guards on the outside and still not being photographed or kidnapped. Perhaps her lucky number is slevin. Anyone who listens to jazz needs taking out. Seriously.
Funny how Quinn was the only one, besides the agency's umpteen analysts/agents, to spot the guy with the oh so typically subtle earwig. I wonder how much YouPube paid for that sponsorship and found it interesting that they keep images of US agent's being beaten to death on their servers with impunity.
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Oct 20, 2014
"Anyone who listens to jazz needs taking out. Seriously."

(Shakes head) Kids :D
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Oct 22, 2014
I agree, if I had kids who liked Jazz I'd drown them too.
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Oct 18, 2014
and on being the only blonde, blue eyed white woman in the area.

I don't get that. At all.

Scissors. Clairol.

Problem solved, Carrie. Seriously.

despite that out-of-the-wordwork appearance.

Don't you mean woodwork, Cory?

Yeah, I'm, as long as they don't try the baby drowning again, or include any kid hanging, faked or not.
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Oct 17, 2014
Someone needs to tell Quinn he can watch videos in full screen.
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Oct 13, 2014
It seems that Quinn heard me, last week, when I said he should find himself a new career.
Too bad they won't let him.
Poor Quinn. He is just too good. Both at his job and as a person. They are never going to let him go and he will selfdestruct.

I could get used to the new version of "Homeland".
But I think, maybe, they should have changed the title. It has very little to do with the show we were all raving about in the first season. This seems more like a regular spy show, a potentially very good spy show, but whithout the 'Homeland' aspect that was introduced in season one.
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Oct 13, 2014
I do wonder how people are responding to this version of the show. I tend not to read other reviews of shows I'm reviewing, but the comments (in pure numbers) have dropped off significantly from last season. Maybe people are still watching, but watching later?
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Oct 14, 2014
I tend to watch on DVR a day or 2 after, but am feeling VERY positive about this season. I agree with your review.
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Oct 14, 2014
Oh, and I noticed that it dissappeared from the home page rather fast (cannot see it even in the tiny links below), which won't help much people that watched it later.
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Oct 14, 2014
There's a lot of stuff on Sunday nights at the moment, so I think it's probably what you say, that this is not first option for a lot of people and they watch it afterwards...
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Oct 13, 2014
I really enjoyed the last three episodes. Looking forward to seeing where this whole plot is heading. Hopefully it can maintain the same quality and momemtum.
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Oct 13, 2014
I agree that the agency's worries about Quinn's feelings for Carrie were a little odd. Despite that, it was a good episode. Crossing fingers for the rest of the season to follow.
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Staff
Oct 13, 2014
I get where the agency would come from in that situation, but I'm not sure the show has done enough to convince us that any of that story is actually there.
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Oct 13, 2014
This is once again very much on point. The only two things I have to add are:
'Carrie in a car running, listening to Jazz' is back! and the fact that in Homeland's world, apparently YouTube is LiveLeak. Quinn goes to the former to watch a video of a man getting brutally killed, does he therefore go to the latter to watch kitten videos?
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Oct 13, 2014
Glad someone else caught Carrie with the jazz; should have mentioned that.
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Oct 13, 2014
as Quinn further buckled under the weight of.... I swear I thought you were going to say his landlady...

Pretty solid episode overall
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Staff
Oct 13, 2014
Boooooooooo
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Oct 13, 2014
Not nice to fat-shame, man.
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Oct 15, 2014
Fat-shaming? Was I? Was I calling her names? Perhaps I was commenting on how skinny, unhealthy and fragile Quinn looked... Or am I now insulting skinny alcoholics with mental problems?
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Oct 18, 2014
Yes, you were. That was a smug slam at fat women.

At least own up to it.
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Oct 13, 2014
Don't take it the wrong way, but every time i see that obligatory scene where an overweight individual is mocked publicly by someone, and then that person is getting punched for it by the protagonist, i think: "who the hell are those imaginary douchebags that go around laughing out loud and pointing at fat people?",
well you sir have answered my question!
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Oct 13, 2014
Us in Pakistan are lamenting the fact that Islamabad is not at all what is portrayed. This is more like the rest of Pakistan with Rikshaws and the traffic madness, and what not. The US embassy here is only approachable via specialized buses zigzagging through mazes of cordoned off roads in the Diplomatic zone . Its utterly impossible for protesters to be outside the embassy. But, its not like they could actually shoot it there.

Also, Carrie's current residence however, is most probably deep within the embassy compound, and adorned with imported accessories and furniture.
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Oct 14, 2014
Try not to get too upset. It's all fictionalized and dramatized. They're making it look like they need it to for the plots, as well as working with what they've got in the S.A. locations and keeping costs down. I'm guessing of course ;-)
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Oct 13, 2014
Danes is terrific--her eyes, the turn of her face, her joy with authority, her march toward the truth--Quinn is stunning, powerful and weak at the same time--Brody, gone with the wind--and Saul, always there...


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Oct 13, 2014
Carrie's pride was very clear when Saul realized that she had already done what he was recommending. Well played by Danes.
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Oct 13, 2014
Agreed - she was giggly like an 8 year old who's told she did her doll's her right...
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Oct 13, 2014
Man I just love Homeland. And I love Quinn - Rupert Friend is doing such a great job. I don't even miss Brody with the storyline being so good and tense. Can't wait to see where this season goes.
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Oct 14, 2014
I agree with every word; honestly can't wait and can't even predict what will happen next. With all this focus on Quinn and Carrie, maybe it's intentional, maybe not, the danger is that we don't know who we can trust in her new team/location.
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Staff
Oct 13, 2014
I don't know if it's worth saying that Friend is better than Damian Lewis, but I kind of like Friend's performance better, TBH.
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Oct 19, 2014
I thought Brody's character brought more balance to Carrie. He was the unshakeable one. Quinn seems too much like her.
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Oct 14, 2014
Me too. I liked Damian Lewis but was not overly crazy about him..But I really, really like Rupert Friend, plus he is a hot. I think his Carrie and Quinn combo is way better than the Carrie Brody combo...
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