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Homeland Watch: Season 1, Episode 4 - Semper I

For all those worried about some kind of The Killing situation - yes, I re-purposed the show title as a verb for series squandering promise - rest easy because Showtime's Homeland once again delivers. The fourth episode of the season, called "Semper I" (a play on the U.S. Marine motto 'Semper Fidelis' or more commonly 'Semper Fi,' which translates to 'Always Faithful'), strayed a little more James Bond-ish spy side of the international spy/terror genre and to great effect. Yes. Mathison, Carrie Mathison. Wait. Thinker Traitor Soldier Spy.

This week was once again structured with a Carrie - Brody narrative divide, and the divide only growing even wider with the removal of certain surveillance equipment. There have been more and more scenes without the two as the series progresses and the world opens, however, this episode opens with our two leads in a sequence that does its best to highlight just how much time they have been spending together even if Brody's not aware of it, Carrie's watchful eye and, uh, her Stranger Than Fiction life narration.

He's off to do both the hero and family man thing (one he does quite well, the other uh) and she's got to keep tabs on Brody and follow-up on the latest lead supplied by her once beautiful but now dead asset. First, our hero.

"How closely the public image matches the man?"

Prepping for his televised appearance, Brody gets a nasty visit in the form of an Abu Nazir hallucination. Shrugging that off, he gives a speech to a graduating class of soldiers that, along with his previous on-air engagements, helped pique Ms. Gaines, chief adviser to the Vice President, political interest. How very Manchurian Candidate. On the way home from the event, Brody asks Mike why he hasn't been over lately but the conversation quickly devolves from genuine friendliness to nasty undertones. The nastiness follows Brody out back when he interrupts his wife and son, Jess and Chris, watching a deer play in the backyard only to bitch that it'll stomp on her flowers. However, when he heads to the garage for 'more propane' (prayer) he has two flashbacks that are very different than those we've seen before, nice memories of him and Jess hinting at something more inside him than merely turmoil and torture.

The political interest in Brody intensifies since they happen to belong to the right religion and go to church (if only Ms. Gaines could see the 'blind spot' in his garage). Therefore, he's suitable for a meeting and lunch with the heavyweight adviser and while this all conspires inside the house of God, outside Mike is concerned about Jess and she almost cracks her 'tough wife' mold. Baccarin is the understated star of the show, as Lewis and Danes get the flashy parts, she shines in her subtlety. There's a great scene between her and her daughter Dana, at first she inquires (interrogates) about whether her kid spilled the adultery but it soon sits somberly on the bed, aching for someone to talk to but unable to speak, definitely not to further upset her children. Good thing they are hosting a party.

Actually, the party is the first time we see Jess open up, telling another Marine-wife how "it's been tough, I'm not going to lie." Uh, tough is an understatement after the emotional and sometimes just weird shit she's had to go through since her husband's return. Brody spends most of the time playing creep, watching from the garage and fiddling with his handgun. Oh, sorry, and that's before he kills a deer (yes, kills a deer and maybe his political career) in the middle of the party. The show's so clever that it even sets it up so we think, even if only for a second, that Brody may have just killed Mike or himself. Either way, the deer is the catalyst for Jess to finally speak up and force Brody to seek help. Shockingly, he accepts but what he finds at his first meeting, well, it's a familiar face and maybe some comfort but not what it seems.

"That doesn't mean I'm wrong. It just means he may be laying low for a while. Turned and trained but a sleeper."

After Carrie see's Brody off to his TV appearance, she has to get to the office for her own debriefing. It's been three weeks since Lynne (the 'asset') was killed and they have tracked Sinister Baldy - who apparently has a name, Latif - and the necklace to a local laundry-mat that Carrie believes to be a huwala, which as I understand it means a place for people to transfer funds internationally, no questions asked. Only this time, the huwala-mat is being used as a drop for Abu Nazir's funds and Estes (in a surprisingly nice, and assuredly not ulteriorly motivated, move) allows the team - Carrie - to investigate. But quietly, they don't want to spook Abu Nazir before they know how many others he's activated (wink wink, Brody?).

Speaking of Saul's sound advice (and by the way, just how connected is this guy, calling the VP's top adviser 'Lizzie?'), he tells Carrie her time has expired and she better roll up the surveillance operation on Brody's house - despite her best objections. Saul's reasoning is sound, the old 'if you love it, set it free' argument in that say Brody really is connected to the money, then if they follow it, it should lead back to him. After grasping at straws with Virgil and even asking if Max thinks Brody's dirty (oddly enough, Max isn't as stupid as he looks, since he thinks 'the wife is hot' which is absolutely correct) she agrees to let go. In a great reverse shot, we watch from the other side of the monitor as the screen goes fuzzy, all this occurring during and exceptionally edited to the Brody family's day at church. Is she finally going to let the man alone? Of course not, she just starts watching (stalking) him in person, both on and off duty.

Back at the office and on the trail of the huwala-mat drop, Estes gets in close with Carrie's temporary partner, Danny Galvez, only to 'request' that he tail her to see if she's got anything going on the side. Galvez doesn't seem to keen but he has wanted to be a field agent for some time and this is his ticket. Hm. We don't know where his allegiances lie just yet but guess who shows up as one of the 51 patrons of the laundry? One half of our recent homeowners by the airport, Mr. Raqim Faisel. They decide to tail him and when he starts heading toward the airport home and not the one where he's registered they got him right? Nope, at the last second someone calls in a warning to Raqim's scary wife and he's able to lead them astray. Perfect timing, since the two agents have to get to a work related birthday party where Estes and Carrie flirt and/or con each other. That is, before she ducks out to head home and get back to work. Only, it's Carrie and she doesn't stay home for long. I wonder where her late night excursion may lead her?

"Maybe we can hold our own private meeting out here? How's that sound?."

Tempting? I'll say. What a way to end the show. The last time our two leads met face to face was in the pilot episode and I remember commenting on the electricity then. This though, this has so many layers going on and adds so many questions that my mind can't comprehend what exactly I saw. What is Carrie's endgame here? What is Brody's? One thing is for sure, despite what he says her secrets are most definitely not safe with him nor vice versa even if it seemed like there was some real chemistry between them. Like I said, who's playing who or even more baffling, what if they're not playing? Cue those ambiguous smiles. One of the great parts of this slightly less intense episode was that they exchanged disturbing or visceral moments for those of heightened intrigue and misdirection. I don't know what's going on, or what's going to happen but I do know that I like it. Every minute. Wait. Back to that call.

Homeland airs on Showtime, Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT. It stars Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin and Morena Baccarin.