Homeland "State of Independence" Review: Nicholas Brody's Series of Unfortunate Events

Homeland S02E03: "State of Independence"

Last week, I wrote something to the effect of, "In case you forgot, the team behind Homeland was also involved in Fox's 24" in reference to the incredible action sequence in "Beirut is Back." Carrie's narrow escape from Abu Nazir's men was responsible for a noticeable percentage increase in America's collective blood pressure, a heart-pounder that was executed with competent precision. Similar moments were certainly a totem of 24, but they usually ended with Jack Bauer strangling a terrorist and shoving an American flag down the bad guy's throat.

I wasn't a regular viewer of 24, but one other frequent trademark of the series I've learned of from those who did was that 24 occasionally made less sense than a rabbit with a pancake on its head. I've heard complaints from those viewers about storylines dealing with amnesia, soccer-mom rape, and a mountain lion, as well as anything else to do with Elisha Cuthbert's Kim. Sometimes the worst enemy for a show is the show itself, as it attempts to one-up previous episodes to keep the shock value up. It's kind of like when Duracell comes out with a new type of battery and brags about it on its packaging by bashing its old batteries. "Those batteries? SUCKY! Now these batteries, they're the tits! (Buy Duracell)"

So where am I going with this? I'm not saying Homeland is following in 24's footsteps, but it's at least trying on the same pair of shoes. Some things that happened in "State of Independence," one of the more bizarre episodes of the series to date, felt like they were pressured into topping what had come before, plausibility be damned. And maybe for you they weren't so extreme, but to me, I think they unnecessarily skipped a step in the OMFG meter. Brody accidentally/purposefully MURDERED someone he wasn't supposed to, mostly because his wife called him at an inconvenient time. And Carrie tried to MURDER herself, mostly because all the progress she made living outside the CIA was undone with one quick trip to Beirut. Murder and suicide? Those are some extreme things! That's like Season 3 or 4 stories to tell right there, not early Season 2 (RIGHT, Friday Night Lights Season 2 Landry?). Yet they were still a ton of fun to watch.

Let's take Brody's murder first. Brody, still a lapdog for Nazir, was assigned the task of taking the vest-bomb-maker to a safe house because the heat was on him after Carrie took intel from Beirut. Nazir chose Brody because it made half-sense; he knows him and vice versa, and Brody should take an interest in his safety because he's one of the few people who can identify Brody as a turncoat. But is Brody–a very valuable asset inside the den of the infidel American government–the best choice for this? It seems like Nazir's web of sleeper agents and undercover terrorists should have a, eager beaver who can do this, rather than risk Brody's cover with these mundane chores of giving a guy a ride to a house. And Allah forbid if something goes wrong.

And boy did it go wrong! The string of unfortunate events that led to Brody accidentally impaling Mr. Bomb Maker was borderline comical. A cranky hostage, a flat tire, a car without a jack, Jess' annoying phone calls... that's right up there with the worst days ever. We've all had crazy days that make no sense unless you were there to witness it, but (hopefully) they didn't end with a terror suspect in your custody dead. And the whole time, Mr. Bomb Maker had thoughts of cracking Brody over the head with a crowbar, rock, and SUV! But as ludicrous as it was, it was still absolutely compelling to watch! Damian Lewis polished off his Emmy and used his acting powers to really convey the sense that Brody couldn't believe what was happening either, and that went a long way towards making us forget just how far into space this story went.

But seriously, Brody. Why oh why did you pick up the phone when Jess called that final time? And why would you try and shut up your dying prisoner while on the phone with your wife who can hear the whole thing? When Brody snapped his neck, I'm surprised Jess didn't ask if he just bit into a fresh carrot. There are times when it's necessary to be shocking, but if we're going to take a show seriously, these characters need to do basic things at a 4th-grade level. And that means just letting your phone go to voicemail like the rest of us when we're in the middle of trying to save the life of a suspected terrorist that we just tackled onto a sharp object.

That was followed shortly after by Carrie's attempted suicide by white wine spritzer (hold the soda, add a handful of prescription pills and heavy contemplation). Carrie has always been unstable and has engaged in dangerous behavior before (her first thought was to go find some lonely men at a jazz bar for impersonal sex, I presume), but she's had low points lower than just not being invited to the CIA's debriefing parties so the suicide attempt felt more like a game of Chicken between writers to see how far they could push things.

But again, the scene is sold on the actor's performance and director's eye. Clare Danes took herself to a really dark, deep place in that sequence, making that scene as uncomfortable to watch as anything this uncomfortable series has offered. The eerie calm Carrie displayed after guzzling that second glass of vino and slowly ascending the stairs was downright chilling. To see someone so accepting of what they just did... aye aye aye! And her sudden realization of what she had done was the counterpoint to that, eyes wide in a final live-saving gasp as she booked it to the bathroom to unswallow her death serum. (I love gore and violence, but people vomiting make me squirm.)

These bad days for Brody and Carrie aren't just for show and without purpose, though. Last season, these two found their way to each other when they were at low points, Brody fighting with Jessica after suspecting her of banging Mike and Carrie feeling rejected by her peers for that crazy idea that Brody might be a sleeper agent for Abu Nazir. It made sense at that point for these two to come together, and that opened up the story to a whole new level. We just didn't know how Homeland would bring Carrie and Brody back together in Season 2 in a believable way. Answer: pretty much the same way the show did in Season 1.

There's just one thing. This time around, Carrie's low point was followed by a high point: confirmation that she was right about Brody being a no-good terrorizin' turncoat. Definitely in the Top 10 of "I told you so!"s in history, right up there with Copernicus and that person who warned me about Miracle Whip. But knowing Carrie, she'll use this information as an excuse to get even closer to Brody.

The real question is how Saul will use this information. Will he tell Estes and the CIA, or will he keep it between him and Carrie? And does he now encourage Carrie to get closer to Brody to find out information? Twenty bucks says it's the latter with Saul stuck precariously between an agent that pushes the limits and pressure from the CIA.

"State of Independence" was either a sign that we should strap ourselves in and get used to some borderline craziness as we move forward, or a blip in a series that otherwise pushed extremes yet still kept a foot in believability. But even if we're starting 24: Day Nine, it's hard to pry our eyes from the talents of actors Danes and Lewis and people behind the camera. This is good, crazy stuff.


NOTES


Doo-bee-doo-bee-doo-wop-bop-bop!

– Am I the only one who is incredibly tickled when Carrie is driving around town listening to jazz?

– Was there more of a purpose to Saul being harassed by the security in the airport other than to show his sneaky sly ways? Will that memory card switcheroo come back to haunt him?

– Mike was totally gonna bang Jessica again, wasn't he? And Jessica was going to let it happen in HER HOUSE, where Dana wakes up at the slightest BOING from a bed spring. This after almost getting caught by Dana doing it on the kitchen counter with Brody. Are she purposefully trying to traumatize her children?

– Once again, Morena Baccarin put in a strong performance. Maybe it's contagious?

– Who here HASN'T taken a car wash shower?

Comments (47)
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Wow, this one was probably one of the craziest episode I've ever seen (including Californication). It was pretty close to being unbelievable, but fortunately just close, which made it pretty mind-blowing to watch. Although I really really believed this sick thing Brody did, (which is mainly because Damian Lewis is fantastic at playing crazy), I did struggle with the suicide scene. That one now, I did not believe.
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I have to say, getting to watch the look on Carrie's face when she finally found out she was right all along was really one of the great moments in television. Despite the fact that I find it hard to believe Abu Nazir would let that recording out of his sight. Still, seeing Carrie vindicated, and Saul basically apologize, really was wonderful. I can't wait to see what happens next!
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I may be stating the obvious here but I have a feeling this could be the last season with Brody, if I remember correctly he was supposed to die off last year. But the actor was doing so well they kept him. With Carrie having that proof now how long can he last?
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I loved this episode! My heart was pounding from start to finish.



I thought carrie's storyline was very believable. She was at rock bottom, all the hope that she could maybe be reinstated had been taken away and therefor her reason for living at that point. It was just to much to handle for her.



The Brody storyline was more farfetched. It was almost slapstick that everything that could go wrong went wrong. I still feel that Brody and Jess are wrong for each other. I think Jess should start seeing Mike again, they are a much beter fit.
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I found it funny that Carrie's bipolar dad was telling her she has a disease, stressing the importance of sleep, etc... Meanwhile he himself was still up at 3:20 AM.



Only a matter of time until Carrie is reinstated as a CIA agent. She deserves the credit.
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Such an awkward moment, when Mike was about enter the house with Jessica, when Brody's SUV arrived on the driveway. Cockblocked! Entry Denied!
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OMG!! The series of unfortunate events, could they be more unbelievable??? Like the taylor going out from somewhere in the woods with a rock, when clearly Brody didn't have a clue of where he was?? He was screaming KILL ME!!!!
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I honestly feel it was one of the best episode of the show with the previous one. At least for once something happened in Homeland. Don't get me wrong, I like the show, I think season one was smart but I also think it was pretencious and a bit boring (and I think a lot of people felt that way but were scared to admit it considering how popular Homeland was). This second season might be less realistic but for the first time there is suspense in the show. For the first time I feel like we really don't know what Brody is capable of and what is going to do next. Having such a great character really makes Homeland more fascinating than ever.
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You have every right to insult a show if you want. But you don't get to tell the rest of us how we really felt about it. Oh, and I'm not trying to start anything here, but if you want to call something - anything, pretentious, you should probably spell it right.
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This episode was zany!
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hahaha Saul: 'you put it in, i'll only fuck it up'. that's what she said :')
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"I was right..."
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Oh, also, as someone who binge-watched every episode of 24 more than a year ago, I'll say that Homeland still has a LONG WAY to go to get as over-the-top or far-fetched or straight up crazy as 24 often did. It was fun television and provided for a lot of thrilling and entertaining moments, but compared to 24, Homeland is still significantly more timid and realistic. Brody's hectic road trip may seem a bit far-fetched for Homeland, but that would have been one of the most normal moments of 24.
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I don't agree with you about Carrie's story being too far-fetched. I can and do believe her reason(s) for her throwing it in and killing herself, then throwing up and saving herself.

I do kind of agree about Brody's story but coincidences and things just being untimely isn't new for the show -- it's happened more than a few times before. It's not the best tool to use, but it is effective for thrilling television.

With that said, this was certainly one of my least favorite episodes of the series. Maybe my least favorite overall. I don't particularly remember a scene or patch of time in any previous episode where I felt bored -- I felt bored for about 1/3 of this episode. Which is mind-blowing to me considering how much I love Homeland. Maybe part of it was due to the lack of plot on Saul and his discovery of Brody's confession -- I expected there to be a bigger focus on that this episode -- or maybe it's just because of the silent and quiet portrayals of a road trip and actions leading up to a suicide. Either way, kinda bored.
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I thought this episode was quite good. One of the best episodes of TV on this week. Homeland worst episodes are still better than most shows these days.

Maybe don't compare it to a show you obviously haven't watched? It lacks all kinds of professionalism. Which you might want to show some of, considering they pay you for this. I don't want to sound like an ass (though I am sure I do) but a lot of your reviews sound like you watched it once and wrote a review up in a few minutes.
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The final "I was right" weep.... what can i say, it was one of the most satisfying weep i have seen for years.
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Solid episode but when Brody decided to stop and get gas and leave the tailor alone in the car when they were only 5 minutes from the safehouse i had to groan. Come on, Homeland, you're smarter than this. (drop off the fugitive and THEN get some gas. If it's only 5 minutes away, there's no reason not to...isn't brody in the marine corps?). There have been a couple of super-contrived moments like this so far this season and it's disappointing like, YEs! Let's get the U.S. senator (immediately before he's to give a speech at a high profile event) to do be a driver and do a job that any low level terrorist could have handled (and it was the same excuse when they sent a schizophrenic into the middle east: she/ he knows only you and will trust only you. I don't buy it ) but I still love the show because Danes, Lewis and Patinkin are so damned engaging to watch.
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Just a quick note: Carrie is NOT schizophrenic, she is bipolar. Those are completely different disorders.
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The saul and mike storylines were the only ones that brought be back fully to the episode. everything else felt and looked like filler.

saul being hassled in the airport had me going for sure. man I wanted to kill that guy going through his diplomatic bag. thank goodness saul is a smart man and had what was likely a copy if not a decoy. guy finds a hidden SD card and fof course he's going to think he outsmarted the other dude... fun stuff.
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I think the writers tried to make a link between Carrie and Brody suffer. They both were desperated for different reasons: Carrie seeing no more point in her life and Brody seeing his life falling apart in a mist of misfortunate events. All leading to murder. I totally understand Carrie suicide attempt: she couldn't go back to her old life as a CIA agent and fought to build a new life, but it was meanless, so... In a sick mind, knowing bipolar disorder, it makes sense that she would try to kill herself. And Brody... well, in desperation, you do stupid things, like answering the phone in a time like that.
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love this show.
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This episode definitely wasn't as good as the other two, but it was still an entertaining hour of television. Brody's story was definitely kinda out there, but it was hilarious. The car wash shower definitely had me cracking up.
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This was a great episode, but I feel that if you ranked every episode of the show ever to this point, this episode would be at the bottom of the list.



Very little out of Saul, Dana, or Estes (who seemed out of character for me a little bit with his concern over Carrie. It doesn't take a lot of thought to realize that Carrie would show up early to the debrief, and that inviting her to Langley to say thank you again was a terrible call on his part).



Also, Brody's insane day was just a little too comical, even despite Lewis's performance, which was of course fantastic. I was half expecting someone to come up to him at the carwash and ask why he smelled like shoe polish.
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I fully get the suicide attempt. Carrie's unstable; unstable people do irrational things; that's why they're called unstable.

Note to self: don't answer the phone when wrestling with wounded terrorists.

Jessica should have talked to Brody more about his conversion to Islam. That's not something one would let slide, under those circumstances. The Taliban imprison your hubby for eight years, and he comes back a Muslim? Hello, girl, wake up! There's something not right about that picture! - And yes, it's perfectly natural she turns to Mike again, after the events of that day. I'd encourage her, in fact.

In real life, Brody would be quietly pulled in, and the CIA would try to turn him (triple agent), to get Abu Nazir. If this show does anything else, they better have a bloody good reason, or I'm going to be seriously ticked off.

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I can't agree. Jessica played the typical self-preserving trick - if we don't talk about problem, problem disappears. At the verge of an important fund-raising dinner, she couldn't bear to think about all the consequences of Brody being a Muslim, so she preferred to get him to promise that "this thing is over" and that's all. It was quite truthful act, in my opinion and that's why this is great television. Even none of us is experienced such events, we somehow can relate to the characters.
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OK, fair enough, that's another way of seeing it.

It seems to me that Abu Nazir has got a lot of good info (where to find the codes, to search Saul in Beirut, that the bomb maker is about to get arrested). Points to a well placed mole in the CIA, doesn't it? It's not Brody, it's not Estes, it probably won't be an unknown new character, so who of the present personnel is it?
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Wonder if the mole is Danny? It could be anyone. Most of Nazir's people don't even know each other.
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I haven't seen the promo for next week's episode, but I wager that what happens next is that Saul presents the recording to Estes who in turn is left with no other choice but to rehire Carrie to the CIA to save face (maybe even pressured to by a very pissed-off vice president), and then Carrie is either encouraged to or decides on her own accord to rekindle her romance with Brody in order to get more information on his plans.

That's what I would have gone with if I wrote the thing anyway...
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I didn't like this one as much as the previous two episodes (but then it is hard to top that last one, oh my!). It felt way too over the top for me that he just snapped the bomb makers neck while on the phone with Jess. I really felt bad for Carrie when she realized she was left out of the briefing, to get your hopes up and then be excluded - ouch. So I'm glad that she now knows that she was right about Brody, she could use a pick-me-up in the form of a video confession.
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i happened to watch the preview for the next episode and won't do it ever again. there's so much revealed in that 30 seconds that will make it anti-climactic.



the safe house arc wasn't terrible, but then the guy fell on some sort of shiv (really?), then brody got another inconvenient phone call (really??), then he actually answered the phone (really?!) and killed the guy while on the phone (really...). guess they had to find some excuse for brody to do away with that character, but i'd say it went too far.



i don't understand why the debriefing was held only an hour before estes told carrie to arrive. it's as if he wanted her to walk in and notice it herself, which is just a dick move. i think the effect of that on carrie would have been less than downing a bunch of pills (going out for sex would have at least saved the suicide card for something really traumatizing). i am not sure why saul didn't call either, considering the information he was packing was quite important to someone he knows doubted herself so much on the matter.
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-JAZZ!!!!! Will always love it. Always. Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk, Clifford Brown.... these are the people. Go listen to them NOW.

-I think that was probably it. Though I would love to see that being used again, too.

-I think so. I think Jess is a little crazy unsure of what on earth is happening. I think she's still freaking out from her husband lying to her, the fact that she loves what this new job of his means for her and the fact that he's converted religions on her.

-It is contagious, I mean that literally. I can't tell you how many music teachers I had that told me that just sitting next to good players could make you better. It sounds absurd but you pick up things that you don't even notice you're picking up. Plus, you see their focus and it helps you focus, and so on. Not saying that Morena Baccarin didn't have it in her to begin with, because I certainly think she's talented. But being surrounded by talent brings out your own (well... if you're actually trying, or have some talent to begin with. If you're a 6th grader who's just picked up a trumpet sitting next next to the principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra you can pick up things all day long and still stink pretty bad. That's not to say that you won't learn things for the future, but in the immediate time, there's only so much that someone can do. Also, if you don't care, you won't do well either, but usually then you get fired, or wouldn't have gotten hired in the first place.)

-I take one twice a week for sure.

-
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I just can't like Jazz, I see a lot of people talking good things about it, but nobody listening, the music just sound kinda... lame! It doesn't help that most of the time you see on a show or movie, it is used to displayed someone as intelligent and cult.
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I don't like that kind of jazz either, but it seems proper for Carrie - just listen to the improvisations, and how all sound like a big mess - wouldn't you choose that type of music for portraying someone with a mental issue, and not fall into "sinister strings in a film means something bad is going to happen". I think it perfectly suits Carrie.
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The Brody stuff was mostly nonsense (there is no way a low level handle couldn't have dealt with the tailor + the unlikely train of events during the move) but the murder was justifiable (in plot terms) as an act of desperation. Maybe doing it while on the phone was a bit much, but Brody was just about out of options, given that any attempt to move the tailor in the car would likely had him bleeding all over it.
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Tim, I completely disagree with your characterization of the circumstances of Carrie's suicide attempt. She had just suffered far more than a simple rebuff from a debriefing she was expecting to attend.



However unrealistic her hopes were--in the sense that they raised sky high by her recent re-engagement and resounding success in Beruit--she was clearly expecting to be let back into the fold at the CIA. Her suicide was the result of the finality of her old boss's rejection, and her realization that no matter what she did, she would never be allowed back.



If her recovery had been complete, it wouldn't have been such a blow, but remember, she has said on several occasions that her job was all she lived for, and when they dangled it under her nose again only to rip it away once more, it became too much to bear. Hence the suicide attempt.
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Dana's storyline, where is it going!? I was more annoyed at the plausibility that Carrie listens to Jazz. Nazir chose Brody because he was almost assassinated and was warned by Brody about the impending ambush. Thus Brody is the only sleeper cell he can truly trust. I enjoyed the quick road trip and Jessica's speech.
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Sorry, no car wash shower. Whore's bath, yes, car wash, no.



I think Jessica still feels betrayed with Brody hiding his religion, and obviously giving Carrie his hot beef injection. 8 years is a long time to be apart. Especially when one of you becomes a terrorist. So, yeah, I'm thinking that she felt justified in at least flirting with the idea of bringing Mike inside.



I think the purpose was to show his sneaky, sly ways, and just to make us tense. Or, in other words, for the writers to show us their sneaky, sly ways.



Great review Tim!
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I think Tim might be underestimating the effect of high stress situations on one's ability to think rationally. Though I do agree that Abu Nazir sending an asset as valuable Brody to perform such a relatively menial but high risk task is probably not the best idea, I don't see that brody's actions were particularly unbelievable
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I'm kinda irritated with Carrie listening to jazz al the time. i'm starting to think that it's music for bipolars) it's so crazy tunes at times no wonder she's so wired all the time. and I agree with some implausible things like make Brody help this hack for no reason and answering phone when wounded hack moans. it is just not right. I would run from someone's moans when my wife calling me. WTF! it's so easy to do. it's the first reaction not trying to shut him up and killing him in the result. it's just piled-up crazyness IMHO

and I don't wanna see Brody and Carrie together no way. it's fucked up thing. I know she's bipolar but she can be so annoying at times with her wired up impatience. i need more chilled episode next time. it's too much going on already for my psyche))
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It's getting more pulpy, but I don't think it feels like 24 yet. On 24 things just happened for the sake of shocking the audience. On Homeland things happens to move the plot or further the character development.



I thought this was one of the the better episodes of the series. Not quite as good as last week. But better than the premiere and better than some of the episodes Todd has given B+/A-'s to.



It successfully showed Carrie and Brody both on the brink with Brody falling off and Carrie pulling herself back just in time. The second half was some of the show's best work. It was very atmospheric, and the tension once again came from the decisions of Carrie and Brody. I did find Brody's journey in the bush darkly comedic. I think it works best if you view it that way. No, it didn't further the plot, but it did further Brody's desperation and displayed just how much anger he has inside. That neck crack was cathartic for him. I'm more about the mood and characters and the characters' reaction to the plot, rather than the plot itself, which means I probably enjoyed this episode more than people who spent the whole time thinking about Saul's information.



That final scene and Carrie's suicide attempt- just excellent stuff. This episode doesn't quite click with last week's, but it's a strong installment in its own right, and will probably be more appreciated in hindsight.

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I get the impression you get a kick out of negative criticism for the sake of negative criticism. It's getting old.
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o my god I love you right now sydraz
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We've already seen in next week's promo that he tells Estes...



I'm still getting a "Saul's gonna die" vibe from the show!
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I think this show is definitely going down the 24 path what with the unrealistic phone call from the situation room last week and "Brody's Big Adventure" this week. I loved the ep - it's great if you can accept that the show is not going for 100% accuracy and realism - can free them up to tell bigger, wilder stories. For a 24 type show - this was a great ep - 9/10.
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Pay attention, it wasn't a phone call, it was a text
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As satisfying as it was to watch Carrie learn she was right... I'm now terrified knowing that she's going to blow this by revealing that information in all the wrong ways and probably at all the wrong times.
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