The title of "Homeland"'s latest episode, 'New Car Smell,' refers to directly to Brody continuing to cover his tracks as his car still reeks of the ill-fated tailor's cigarette smoke from last week. However, it also seemed to spell out an overall theme for the fourth episode. While a couple of storylines came full-circle, it also reset the status quo to something all too familiar, setting the table for things to come. The pain-staking place-setting and set up that took place over the first 50-something minutes made the final twist all the more shocking and effective.
We begin with Saul passing along the revelatory confession video to Director Estes. Estes is of the mind to turn Brody in, but Saul reminds him that this would essentially be admittance to the Vice President that he failed to foil an assassination attempt and likely would cost Estes his job. The director's climb up the ladder is one of the more understated subplots of the series and has played a role a few times in the character's decisions, so it's nice to see it brought back here as a believable complication to draw out the intrigue.
Saul sees more value in keeping Brody in the game. Iran had previously vowed retaliation for the Israel missile strikes and Abu Nazir & Co are likely to be the minds and muscle behind that retaliation. Thus, the series comes full circle from the first season, which began with Carrie conducting surveillance on the Brody household without the consent of her CIA bosses. This time around, Carrie and her crew are working in league with the agency but officially under their radar, and with Estes' pointman in charge Peter Quinn. Kind of a dick this Quinn, but he seems to have a viable plan: have Carrie run into Brody at CIA headquarters, prompting him to think that the only person suspicious of his plans is back from the crazy house and inexplicably also back with the CIA.
The episode also lays the groundwork for a few romantic relationships. Dana begins to pull away from her boyfriend at her old school Xander and expresses interest in the VP's son Finn. With Brody and Jess' marriage in dire straits, Mike appears to be making his way back into the picture, this week picking up former Marine buddy, current drunk, and possible future Brody victim Lauder. The inebriated veteran shows up at Jess' house, intent on pursuing the fishiness behind sniper Walker's mysterious death and Brody's apparent involvement. This time around, instead of writing off Lauder's drunken ramblings, Mike listens.
The most hackneyed relationship set up is between Quinn and Carrie. The two butt heads over the former's abrupt questioning and overall dickishness, don't get along at all, and so of course it's leading somewhere eventually whether we want it to or not. It's one of the more forced subplots of the episode, the writers intent on shoehorning in this new character and wasting little time establishing the Sam and Diane dynamic.
Quinn and Carrie keep eyes on the traitorous Congressman, hoping the paranoia of their Langley meeting will cause him to call his Abu Nazir contact. Instead, Brody drunk-dials Carrie. The episode up until this point seemed like a whole lot of table setting, promising storyline developments with big potential payoffs down the line. Again, with the series seemingly coming full circle with Brody back under surveillance, it certainly wouldn't be unexpected to find the pair rekindle their tumultuous romance under the guise of extracting information on Nazir's plot.
And then, an a-bomb drops.
Carrie follows Brody to his room and all signs point to a CIA-sponsored porno, Brody and Carrie's unhealthy relationship back in black & white. But, in a sudden moment of catharsis, Carrie confronts Brody full-bore on his terrorist ties and the hell he put her through and his family through in order to protect them.
It's a scene that gave me chills, not only because it was an absolute jaw-dropping shocker but also because it seems to spell the end for Brody as we know him. Gone is Abu Nazir's errand boy, in his place... double-agent Brody? Quietly executed Brody? Tortured Brody? The field of play is pretty wide open, and it will no doubt be exciting to see where things head.
Final Grade: B+