Poor Saul Berenson. He's been in a strange position all season; forced into leading the CIA due to a catastrophe, living with his wife but romantically in limbo, and carrying on a charade that leaves one of his best CIA agents in serious danger. There's no question he's more stressed than we've ever seen him — so on edge that he's not above a casual jibe about a head scarf.
Tonight's "The Yoga Play" delivers the harshest blow against him yet. Saul has led the disgraced CIA for months, diligent and loyal, and expects that the interim leadership will continue. The president has arranged a duck-hunting summit with Saul and top Senate Intelligence Committee members, including Sen. Andrew Lockhart, the man who grilled Saul and Carrie at the season's start. "It's good to meet in less adversarial circumstances, isn't it?" Lockhart murmurs to Saul as they enter a cabin filled with coffee and cocktails.
Unfortunately, just as Saul is trying to play Mujeed Javadi for a fool, the White House has played him. He goes into the duck-hunting trip assuming it's another step on the road to him becoming the permanent CIA director. No one warns him otherwise, and he chats with Lockhart with full confidence. "Morale is good," Saul tells Lockhart. "Moving forward." They debate CIA tactics, with Lockhart insisting "the old games are proving less and less effective" and recommending drones. Saul scoffs at the idea of tempering his views to help his Senate confirmation, which provokes Lockhart to break into a smile and correct him. Forget those CIA leadership dreams: The president is submitting CIA critic Lockhart's name to lead the agency. If anyone is going to temper his views, it'll have to be you, says Lockhart to Saul, if "you want a job in my CIA." Crushed, Saul carries on with the charade of a weekend and offers half-hearted congratulations before racing off early.
If that blow wasn't enough, Saul returns home early to find his wife eating a romantic dinner with another man, whom she tries to insist she knew from Mumbai. Saul is powerless to even debate her and retreats. When she comes upstairs later, he mutters, "Not now." His only passion left is hunting Iranian terrorist Mujeed Javadi, who arranged the killing of scores of intelligence officials at last season's end. Saul is a man of duty who finds his duties unrewarded.
Homeland is nearly halfway through its third season, but "The Yoga Play" largely treads water. It's a cool, calm episode after last week's game-changing revelation that Carrie and Saul concocted the season's first four weeks of narrative tension as a way to get Carrie pulled into the confidence of the CIA's enemies. That revelation was bold, thrilling, and raised plenty of questions about where the season was actually going — even it was utterly implausible (though that's hardly the first time Homeland has faced that problem).
This week, that Carrie espionage plot advances next to nowhere. At the end of "Game On," she was promised a one-on-one meeting with Mujeed Javadi, and this week, Carrie finally enters the same room as Javadi… in about the last 30 seconds of the episode.
Instead, we got a lot of Saul and Dana Brody. Homeland's ongoing focus on Dana has been controversial as the Brody family has remained detached from the rest of the narrative. Yes, it's good to remember how Nicholas Brody's actions have hurt the family we saw him deceive for the first two seasons. But every episode seems to include a pointless Dana showcase: Post-suicidal in a clinic, attracted to fellow inhabitant Leo — and in the last two episodes, on the run with Leo, who may or may not have killed his younger brother. The Dana sequences feel plucked from some other show, melodramatic without any real tension. And the dialogue is insufferable. ("Here and now, you and me," the grinning Leo tells Dana.)
Meanwhile, her mother and Mike fret and debate and worry about how they can get the authorities to really try to find her, as Homeland tries briefly to unite the storylines. Jessica Brody runs to Carrie early on in the episode pleading for help in finding Dana — the first time they've interacted all season. It's a strange encounter given Carrie's past trysts with Jessica's husband, but it's one of the more fascinating moments of "The Yoga Play." Carrie did once try to warn the Brody family, after all, as Jessica reminds Carrie.
The hunt for Dana Brody keeps Carrie busy all episode — rather meaninglessly, from a narrative perspective — as she enlists Max and Virgil to help track down other agents and get them on Dana's case. Carrie's racing around manages only to frustrate Saul, who worries she's blowing her cover.
And what's up with CIA agent Peter Quinn? Saul brings Quinn in on the Carrie deceptions, providing a little expository moment near the episode's start. "We dangled her to draw the Iranians out," Saul says. Quinn is dumbfounded: "You mean burning her in front of the Senate? Committing her to a mental institution?" Yes, Saul says, all an act and part of the plan because Carrie Mathison is such a "huge f--king draw." Quinn then ups his sneaky Batman antics and starts trailing Carrie, turning up in her parking garage and outside her building. He is breathless with admiration and sympathy for her, although even his watchfulness doesn't prevent Carrie from getting scooped up by Javadi's men.
One stand-alone scene raises some scary questions for the rest of the season — Carrie, alone in the bathroom, dumping her meds. Not only is she facing Javadi by the episode's end, but she's doing it without any of the lithium likely required to ground her. The madhouse antics may have been an act this season so far, but just how stable will Carrie prove going forward?
Read more Homeland recaps:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The 5 most important developments in climate change in 2014
- Why we can't educate racism away
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The real story of Christmas
- Oil prices have nosedived — why aren't airfares doing the same?
When Americans banned Christmas
- The dangerous message of The Hunger Games
- 10 things you need to know today: December 25, 2014
- How I lost all my money
Subscribe to the Week