Homeland: The Lying Game

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"The Good Soldier" marked the midway point of Homeland's first season and continued the series' steady progression toward television's top tier. The show is leapfrogging others as its twists and turns play a psychological mind game with viewers, and even though 90 percent of television is incredibly predictable, Homeland has surprised me each and every week.

When Carrie met Brody at the bar on Sunday, she told him about how she played chicken with trains when she was younger, and that she was the best (read: craziest) of her friends, staying on the tracks even longer than the so-called tough boys in her neighborhood. And really, what did we expect to hear, that she spent her childhood playing with dolls? This is Carrie Mathison we're talking about. She probably spent her middle school years playing Spin the Bottle, making out with someone, then smashing the bottle across his forehead and crying in the corner.

Anyway, Carrie talked about being attracted to the "heightened" sense of life, the thrill of the dangerous, unknown, and unpredictable. And that's exactly the same sense we get from watching Homeland. I'm not sure "fun" is a good word to describe the show, but holy crap "The Good Soldier" was one entertaining ride.

Last week's episode used an interrogation to great effect, resulting in increased tension and slight cracks in the shells of several characters. This week, everyone was on the other side of the two-way glass after Carrie requested that polygraph tests be administered to anyone who'd come into contact with Brody's lone surviving guard—she's determined to find out who slipped him the razor blade he used to kill himself. This was Homeland's equivalent of putting someone on the shrink's couch and digging around his brain. Think In Treatment, but you know, not boring. Just kidding, In Treatment! Sort of!

And what we learned while hanging out in the observation room is that Carrie isn't the only one in the CIA whose cannon needs some tightening. The CIA is full of seriously screwed up people, whether it's Estes and his broken personal relationships, Saul and his broken personal relationships, or Carrie and her broken personal relationships. Hmmm, it appears we've discovered a trend. We're dealing with a group of "the job comes first" people restrained by bureaucratic red tape that fits like a straight jacket. There's no hero, and that's one thing that makes Homeland so fascinating.

But enough about themes and television devices, let's get to some details. The most interesting polygraph test among the CIA agents was Saul's, by far. Just last week I mentioned in passing that Saul might have passed the razor blade to the prisoner—I forget what it was that made me think of it—something that seemed implausible not too long ago. But his first go with the lie detector was a massive 8.9 on the polygraph Richter Scale fail. He stormed out, came back a day later, and passed. Could he actually have done it and used the extra day to practice beating the test? Is there any real scenario where Saul could be in on whatever terrorism plot that might be in progress? I know he said he flubs it all the time, but isn't that what someone who failed the test would say? The fact that I'm even asking this question is a testament to how much Homeland has infiltrated my brain and is constantly kicking whatever part of it controls paranoia. The show is brilliantly designed to remain open to interpretation, and does a real number on those of us who over-interpret. Homeland, you're killing me. And it's fun.

And still there's so much more to talk about: Brody wailing on Mike's face? Aileen going from Raqim's accomplice to America's Most Wanted? Raqim getting shot to death in the hotel? They're all fine and interesting occurrences, but really, I think we all want to talk about BRODY AND CARRIE IN THE CAR WTF!? Everything fell into place perfectly. Brody's marriage is a mess, Carrie has some creepy stalker fantasy about banging the people she's supposed to haul in, and the two spent an evening engaging in college rugby team levels of drinking. Now that's how you whip up a five-pump romance in the backseat of a practical sedan. The best part of the whole thing? Neither of them acknowledges it was a mistake.

Their liaison set up the incredible finale sequence, with Brody being hooked up to the polygraph and Carrie chomping at the bit to pull the string that's tied to the stick that's propping the box up to set the trap. Only Brody didn't fail the test. In fact, he pranced through it without a blip from the needle, answering the question about the razor blade three times with no discernible change. Carrie, who by this point was freaking out, made Larry the Polygraph Man (played by James Urbaniak) ask him Brody if he'd ever been unfaithful to his wife. Whoa! Carrie! Larry asked the question, and Brody didn't just say, "no"—he looked right into the camera that's connected to Carrie's monitor and said, "F*ck you." Well, he actually said "no," but he meant "f*ck you."

Carrie was obviously frustrated, and later we saw her walking outside of the building. She was on her way to her car when Brody pulled up in his own car and said, "Get in." Carrie did, obviously, because that's exactly the kind of thing Carrie does, and they drove off and oh my god I need more Homeland NOW.

Notes:
Damian Lewis and Claire Danes are fantastic actors. But I wouldn't write too many scenes that involve their characters being drunk. Drunk acting is not their forte.

– We've always suspected that Brody knew about Mike and Jessica, so why did he wait until the party to bring out the fists of pain on Mike? Was it the drink? Was it the public defamation of his character? Did the appropriate time to kick Mike's ass finally present itself? Is there a chance that Brody knew about the affair the whole time, perhaps even while he was still a prisoner of war?

– I'm still wrapping my head around Brody's decision to do a Marine roll call during Walker's memorial. It was kind of awkward, yet kind of touching as a way to honor Walker's duty. I would've loved to see how the rest of that moment played out. Did someone in the back eventually just say "present!" under his breath?

– How great were those polygraph tests? Each one was either heart-wrenching or heart-pounding. Saul just about broke my heart when he talked about his wife. I'm really hoping Mandy Patinkin gets an Emmy nomination for this show.

Homeland is doing great things with female characters. Aileen Morgan is a champ! She's badass!

– Hey Brody, I hear that thinking about baseball helps your little bedroom problem. The Nationals have a promising future!

– CONFIRMED: Morena Baccarin looks hotter with short hair.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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