A fantastic episode in a great many ways, but I must admit the scenes with Saul (Mandy Patinkin) and Aileen (Marin Ireland) began to test my patience slightly. I think it's because we haven't really grown to care for Aileen, as her storyline just suddenly exploded into life before we knew her as a three-dimensional character. But kudos to Homeland's writers for bravely demystifying most of the show's mystery in one scene here, despite there being five hours left to go, because I really wasn't expecting that...
"The Weekend" was coincidentally similar to this week's Dexter (which this show's partnered with on Sunday nights), as both stories involved road trips. Our attention was split into two strands here: the CIA catching terrorist Aileen on a bus to Mexico, with Saul transporting her away for questioning; and Brody (Damian Lewis) whisking Carrie (Claire Danes) away for an impromptu trip that eventually led them to a woodland cabin Carrie remembered staying in with her family. Both were very focused on characters and felt very stripped down, but that was perfectly fine. The strongest part of Homeland has been its characters and their lives, so it was great seeing Carrie and Brody continue to develop their unexpected relationship (playing pool in bars, beating up a Neo-Nazi, the usual).
Naturally, the big talking point of this episode was seeing Brody finally realize that Carrie's interested him for other reasons. I never quite expected Homeland to arrive at this moment in this way, but having Brody effectively lay his cards on the table to Carrie was pretty incredible. Even better, his explanations were matter-of-fact and surprisingly credible: he's a Muslim because he turned to the only religion available because of eight years spent in despair, he didn't want to admit to knowing infamous Al Qaeda bigwig Abu Nazir because Nazir was one of the few men who showed him kindness, and he beat his fellow POW to death. I especially liked the explanation for the "code" Carrie thought he was communicating with his finger movements on live TV, as they're just an absent-minded twitch when he doesn't have his prayer beads to hand.
After this episode, it's hard to believe that Nick Brody's guilty—especially after Aileen separately indicates that his "dead" partner Walker is the American soldier who's been "turned", but the possibility still exists for a double-bluff. Or am I just being too suspicious and paranoid? A part of me just can't imagine this show being as interesting, going forward, if Nick's indeed totally innocent of any wrong-doing? So, the next five episodes, and possibly another season of the show, will involve Nick helping Carrie find Walker and prevent a terrorist atrocity? I'm just not so sure. There must be another twist up the writers' sleeves, planned for the finale.
As I said, the parallel storyline with Saul and Aileen didn't interest me as much, although it was very nicely acted and I appreciated getting some insight into Saul's childhood and why someone like Aileen would turn to terrorism. The reveal that she bought a house in the flight path of an airport was also very satisfying (from the roof, a trained sniper could shoot the President on the mile-away helipad intended for "Marine One").
Overall, "The Weekend" was brilliantly bold storytelling and once again twists this show into a whole new shape. Can Nick Brody really be trusted, or is he a master tactician who knew the one way to put Carrie off his scent was to admit to some deeply troubling things? Is Walker acting alone out there somewhere, or is he merely Abu Nazir's "Plan B" if Brody's cover is blown? Or should we just accept things at face value and start treating Nick Brody as a troubled war hero, who simply reached out to a soul mate in the face of his marriage falling apart?
written by Meredith Stiehm / directed by Michael Cuesta / 13 November 2011 / Showtime