Homeland, Ep. 1.03: “Clean Skin”

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Homeland Review, Season 1, Episode 3: “Clean Skin”
Written by Chip Johannessen
Directed by Dan Attias
Airs Sundays at 10pm (ET) on Showtime

With the third episode of its first season, Homeland has clearly found a groove. While the terrorist conspiracy plot is obviously the main driving force of the narrative, what makes the show great is its sharp eye on character. As we learn more about Abu Nasir’s potential plot against America, the most fascinating developments are all found within the emotionally tumultuous lives of our protagonists.

Take, for example, Sgt. Brody. He’s been held in captivity, away from his world for eight years. Last week we saw that he was still having a difficult time dealing with his return to semi-normalcy, but he decides to make a go of it at the end. At the start of this episode, he seems almost too normal, too well adjusted. He sits for breakfast with his wife, reads a magazine, tries his hand at parenting and actually seems pretty successful at it. Of course, it’s all a façade. While he is trying desperately to get back to that normal place, he is still haunted by visions of his captivity. He also has a chat with his daughter—who’s been giving Jessica a difficult time for because of her relationship with Mike—in which he very honestly expresses the difficulty he’s having in coming to terms with the fact that all the things he held on to for eight years have now changed. This is something he can’t reveal publicly, especially not in a huge interview for MSNBC. He has come home, but it’s not really the home he knew. That, and YouTube exists now.

Then there’s Brody’s relationship with Jessica. He obviously knows that something had been going on between her and Mike, but he seems to be letting it slide for now. Why stir up a fight if it’s only going to mean a more drastic departure from what his life once was? Is it worth risking the marriage? And Jessica is stuck seeing him in the bedroom, where all sense of a normal life is out the window. He’s sleeping on the floor and he barely talks to her. When she tries to have sex with him, he ends up having her sit there, naked, as he pleasures himself instead. It’s a sad scene; one that’s indicative of the mental trouble Brody is trying to hide. But there is someone else who sees it: Carrie is watching the whole time on her monitor.

Carrie gets quite a bit more to do in this episode, which is a good thing considering the quality of Danes’ performance. She’s basically gotten herself in over her head at this point. Though there are little idiosyncrasies she’s studying in the Brody household, it amount to nothing more than a “reality show,” as she calls it at one point. What’s big and emotional for us as an audience is not helping her piece together this mystery. Back at the CIA she isn’t getting much help from Saul. Her deceit has caused him to go cold toward her. In one really wonderful scene, Saul lays out for her just how deeply that betrayal of his trust hurt him. Carrie is essentially alone in her task. She’s relying on her escort-turned-informant to get her the data off a cell phone belonging Saudi prince who she suspects is doing business with Abu Nasir.

She gets that data, but the escort seems to have already been made. She is killed in an alley behind a nightclub as Carrie races to try and protect her. The devastation Carrie feels is palpable. She’s gone too far. She lied to Saul, who is now avoiding her, and she also lied to her informant, telling her that she had people watching her at all times, protecting her. Carrie might not have actually been able to do anything to stop what happened, but she feels responsible. As much as she is married to her job, she clearly cares very much about the people she deals with. This kind of emotional investment in people and in her job makes her something of a loose cannon, both at work and emotionally. The farther she pushes herself, the more tragic the outcome.

Luckily, at the end of the episode, Saul sees her pain and comforts her. He may not have fully forgiven her, but he is at least there for her again. Not only that, but he might just have figured out another lead. The prince was likely not Nasir’s contact. Instead, he was there to smuggle money to someone else in the form of an extravagant diamond necklace, the very necklace that was stolen off the escort when she was killed. The episode ends with an Arab man and his American wife buying a house. There is definitely something cooking, and Nasir is definitely one of the people behind it. We’ll just have to wait and see if and how Sgt. Brody connects to all of this.

So what did you think about the new episode? Are you also taken by the human drama unfolding, or are you waiting for the meat of the terrorist plot to kick in? Leave a comment below and tell me what you think!

Corey Atad

2 Comments
  1. tmack says

    Excellent recap! I’m enjoying Homeland in a couple of ways–the political thriller dimension that focuses on whether there is a Nasir plot afoot that involves Brody. On this level, we also get a good view of how today’s cia (I’m taking their word for it) works. I find some things disturbing, however. I can’t approve of the cia spying on people whom they think might have a terrorist connection. Now of course this is set up by first showing Carrie as a rogue agent, then justified after Carrie detects evidence. Of course Saul goes to a corrupt judge to get this done (all absolving the cia from these kinds of Official Techniques). But who can look at this and not feel appalled that the Government can set up cameras and mike’s in every space of your house and watch you 24/7? I mean to watch people having sex or masturbating? Watch out Occupiers! I’d move the furniture and look behind the pictures on a daily basis.

    I’m also curious about Carrie’s malady. Taking anti-psychotics is serious business–when will we she freak out, be unable to distinguish illusion from reality? She must feel some empathy for Brody since it’s obvious he has mental issues as well.

    The couple paying cash for a house would seem to be the kind of red flag that the Patriot Act was designed to scrutinize, particularly with its approval to profile all middle easterners. Why is it good terrorist strategy to buy a house with cash? Why not keep everything on the QT and get a mortgage with a banker you can trust?

    Good show and I’m glad you’re recapping it.

  2. Carson J Gallo says

    Yeah that sex scene was probably was of The Most Awkward moments I’ve ever seen in a show.

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