Homeland, Ep 1.06, “The Good Soldier”: Great show makes first misstep

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Homeland, Season 1, Episode 6: “The Good Soldier”
Written by Henry Bromell
Directed by Brad Turner
Airs Sundays at 10pm ET on Showtime

It had to happen eventually. Homeland has not been a perfect show, not really. As good as it is there have always been tiny little things that have threatened to derail the show. Finally, one of those nagging problems has become a potentially big problem. Last week there were some very subtle hints that it might have been Saul who passed Hamid the razor blade. This week, through the use of a polygraph test, the writers have officially made Saul into a suspect.

This is a problem on two fronts. The first is that having a mole in the CIA is quite the cliché. The worse problem is that as great a character as Saul is, we haven’t been given a single reason to suspect him, other than through the direction of the show. There is nothing about his character that would indicate terrorist sympathies and any revelation of such sympathies at this point would feel like an unfortunately ham-fisted twist. It’s the sort of twist that worked in Season 1 of 24, where it was known that CTU had a mole and the material was generally pulpier. Homeland is great spy drama, but it has managed to stay away from pulp. This could all just be misdirection, but even then it’s annoying. Here’s hoping misdirection is all it is.

Meanwhile, in safer territory, the rest of the episode was pretty darn great. The polygraph is Carrie’s latest ploy to try and catch Brody red-handed. Unfortunately for her, Brody gets into a fight with a couple of his Marine friends, including beating the crap out of Mike, and gives her a call to say he won’t be able to come in for his test. In another classic example of Carrie’s poor decision making, she decides to go meet him at the bar where he’s drinking away his sorrows. The only way this could have ended was sex in the back of her car. Really, it was plain to see from the start, and boy does this ever spell trouble.

But that isn’t Carrie’s only slip. She also makes the mistake of drunkenly telling Brody the reason for the polygraph. When he comes to take the test the next day, Brody passes with flying colours. Except Carrie can’t handle this news, so she gets the tester to ask whether Brody has ever been unfaithful to his wife. Brody says “no” without a blip on the test. If Saul was made into a serious suspect this week, Brody has been made into an even bigger one, only in this case Carrie can’t even confide in Saul. Instead, she leaves the office in a panicked fit only to walk by Brody in his car in the parking lot and have him tell her to get in. She does. What is going on???

These are the sorts of twists that make Homeland great TV. The drama comes not only from the stakes of the situation, but also from the way these characters find new and interesting ways to self-destruct. There is nothing about getting in that car that makes it a good idea, but Carrie does it anyway. Brody is leading himself down a troubling path by continuing to bury his emotions away and only letting them come out in sharp outbursts like the one with his friends, or on that night with Carrie. Even Saul manages to ignore the clear signs that his wife wants to leave him by asking if he can get transferred to Delhi so he can be with his wife if she takes her new job. The title “Homeland” clearly refers to the United States, but as the show goes on it takes on more and more meaning. The homeland of the title is just as easily a reference to the broken inner lives of these characters. And what’s more, it’s absolutely fascinating to watch them all unravel.

The last important thing to touch on is the story with Faisel and his wife, Aileen. Now that the CIA has found them out, their lives are under threat from whomever it is they work for. It’s also revealed that Aileen is the real motivator between the two. It’s a play on expectations, but frankly not totally unexpected. The couple is attacked at a motel and Faisel is killed. Aileen gets out. This should make for some great story in the next episode or two. One of the great side benefits of this storyline is that it has shown us just how great Carrie can be when it comes to piecing together intelligence. She somehow understands through the various details of Faisel and Aileen’s lives that Aileen is the more likely instigator. It’s a great bit of spy thinking, and it proves just how good Carrie is at her job. It also helps to lend credence to her theories about Brody. If she’s right about Aileen, what else is she right about?

Do you think Saul is a mole? How would you feel about it if he were? Do you think Carrie missed a big tell from Saul after he came back from his first polygraph? Where do you think the second half of the season is headed? So many questions! If you’ve got any thoughts on them, be sure to comment!

Corey Atad

8 Comments
  1. DUANE says

    CARRIE IS THE TRAITOR HAVEN’T GOT ME FOOLED. REMEMBER A BEUTIFULL MIND

  2. Mario in Philly says

    I think the cameras run only during the interrogation so it wouldn’t have captured the apparent suicide. At least that’s what I thought.
    And I thought the spike in Saul’s lie detector test was totally ambiguous. He was totally jacked up but at the same time it spiked during that particular question. It’s inconclusive.
    Lots of questions and what ifs. Would Brody still have passed the polygraph test if Carrie hadn’t told him what it was about? If Carrie didn’t screw Brody she might not have been able to trap him in a lie during his lie detector test. What is Aileen going to do next? I think Carrie is in trouble too.
    “These are the sorts of twists that make Homeland great TV.”

  3. Al says

    I have a question (sorry if it’s been answered before, but I’ve only just come across this site):
    Surely they were filming the terrorist they captured (sorry – I’m rubbish with names both on and off the screen!) all the time he was in custody, so why doesn’t Carrie (or anyone) watch the video at the point he committed suicide? Then they’ll know where he got the razor blade from! Fair enough, it might cut down on the amount of episodes in the first season, but surely that would more accurately reflect reality and if the writers were good enough (which I’m sure they are), they would be able to fatten out the story in a different direction.

  4. Dan says

    I have to disagree with you. The spike in Saul’s lie detector test was not intended to turn him into a suspect. He was simply excited about the break in the case and was all jacked up, he wanted to get back to work. Saul has nothing to hide. It was not a misstep, you just read too much into it.

    I loved when the marines were singing “Rabbit Run” after the funeral!

    1. Lena says

      Yes, Saul’s spike in the polygraph was obviously due to his impatience to get back and probably due to his thinking about his wife at the time and his anxiety over their marital problems. I didn’t think for a minute that he was a suspect. Come on, everybody.

  5. tmack says

    I, too, guffawed when Saul flagged positive for deception re the razor blade. However, last week, the writers put a big question mark over Saul by revealing more about his life. We know he did some dangerous covert work in the mideast before taking a desk job and that he speaks fluent Arabic. He must have some affinity toward eastern cultures–his wife is Indian. He’s also Jewish and speaks fluent Hebrew (I re-watched last week’s episode with close captioning on, which indicated that Saul was praying over Hamid’s dead body in Hebrew, not Arabic. So we must ask, does Saul have some religious motivation going on here?)

    I’m not sure yet how I feel about the Carrie/Brody relationship. Carrie’s poor judgement could be an outcome of her mental condition. Who wants to bet Saul will put it together; perhaps he even saw Carrie get into Brody’s car? Brody seemed very in charge when he told Carrie to get in, didn’t he?

    And you didn’t comment on the fist fight at Brody’s house following the lewd remarks about Jessica. Brody only jumped in when he spotted Jessica running to the scene–perhaps he didn’t want her to see that only Mike was avenging her honor?

    All in all, this was a set-up episode, a staging for the next display of pyrotechnic plot lines. In any case, I think Carrie’s in trouble. I don’t see how you can screw your target and turn him in as well. What happens when two really effed up people get it on? Can’t be pretty.

    1. Lena says

      Carrie isn’t using poor judgment, she knows exactly what she’s doing. She deliberately joined Brody’s therapy group (when she pretended to bump into him), she then set out to seduce him and she deliberately told him about the lie detector test the night before.

  6. Mario in Philly says

    I hate to think that Saul is a mole. But what if the reason he wanted to go back into the “field” wasn’t just to be closer to his wife? Perhaps he wants to get out of the confined space of the CIA offices to be closer to the action of whatever it is he’s working on. And is Estes as clean he appears to be? Just a thought.
    Carrie seems to have kept her perspective after her “connection” with Brody. Did they both act on instinct or is Brody playing Carrie and counting on her to lose her pespective? The outcome of this can’t be good.
    Her drug taking wasn’t mentioned but this could also come into play to discredit her.
    I like that Carrie is smart and at the same time flawed.

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