The last five minutes of “The Yoga Play” go out of their way to make Carrie Mathison seem like an impossibly clever and awesome badass spy, using every trick in the book they can think of to get us back on the side of this woman being the hero of this story. Never mind that the rest of the episode is already doing its best to assure us that the emotional distress we saw in the first handful of episodes was real, even if Carrie knew she was being committed for a good cause. The last five minutes just send that into overdrive. Carrie’s taken at gunpoint by men working for Javadi, so that she might meet with the mysterious man who entered the U.S. at the Canadian border (who is presumably that selfsame Magician). She’s forced to strip naked and thrown against a wall, all to make sure she’s not wearing a wire. It’s all a little much, but it’s building to the moment where Quinn breaks orders and finds out that she’s no longer in her house.
He gives Saul a call to let him know what’s happened. Saul seems pleased as punch. Even if they don’t have eyes on Carrie, they know who has her, and that makes their jobs slightly easier. “She’s on her own!” Quinn says, righteous anger creeping back into his voice. I don’t know precisely how to describe the shot that next frames Saul while he’s on the phone, except to say that it clearly means to make him look like a fucking bear or something. “She’s always been on her own,” he says, and then the music goes, “BWAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” and we cut to blurry, out of focus lights and Carrie being led to her meeting, very much against her will, and the whole thing feels like it has a momentum that works really well. It’s a good ending!
And it’s a good thing it’s a good ending, because the bulk of the rest of the episode is about looking for Dana Brody.
Before we get to that, though, let’s call some shenanigans on the show. “The Yoga Play” does a somewhat adequate job of convincing me that everything this whole season so far has a.) been a ploy on the part of Saul and Carrie to draw out Javadi and company and b.) managed to still get under Carrie’s skin in the way an actual committal would have. I buy the twist, insofar as I think it doesn’t completely undermine the first three episodes of the season on an emotional level. (I do wonder if it wouldn’t have been better for us to know from the first, which might have made how emotionally devastating this was to Carrie feel more potent and less like a trick she was playing, no matter how unfounded that is.) The events of last week—in which Carrie had to escape being recaptured by the CIA—also make slightly more sense, as Saul and Carrie want her being tailed by the agency (and I’m still assuming this is somehow a plot to draw out Dar Adal until the show tells me otherwise).
Where I’m calling shenanigans is in the idea that Saul and Carrie would have any real thought that this ploy would somehow draw out Javadi. I get that one of the themes of this season is the value of human spy work in an increasingly mechanized world, and this is the ultimate expression of that. (It also goes along nicely with Homeland’s general suspicion of using drones to do anything.) But the idea that Saul and Carrie would come up with this crazy, dangerous scheme that relied entirely on one person half a world away behaving exactly as they expected him to, and then actually implement it, just makes no sense to me. I get that desperate times call for desperate measures, and I also buy that Saul still has a good sense of who Javadi is from the time he spent on the Javadi beat in the ‘70s. But this all seems like a lot of risk for only the very slight possibility of reward, and I don’t believe that Saul would put Carrie through that unless he was omniscient. More and more, it seems like there was a twist to have a twist and get people talking about the show again. It certainly worked, but I found myself hoping we’d have some sort of flashback to the planning and execution of the plot, with Saul saying it was too risky and Carrie insisting it was their only shot, or something that would let me get on board with the idea that the characters can now effectively predict the behaviors of antagonists continents away.
Last week, a bunch of you in comments called me out for not talking about Mike’s discovery that Leo may have murdered his brother. At the time, I said that the show wouldn’t be that stupid, and you correctly suggested that the show still wants us to worry about it, so that we’re in Jessica’s head space. This is more or less correct, but I still think it’s really stupid. If this story arc is going to be about the independence of Dana Brody, about her realization that she wants to live, regardless of whether she’s so in love, then having her briefly worry that her boyfriend is a murderer doesn’t strike me as a good way to push the two apart. It’s just a little too convenient, almost as if the writers realized Leo wasn’t a very good character and panicked about how to get him out of the show. And it turns out he isn’t a murderer, at least if we take him at face value in the moment where he admits that he and his brother were just playing a game with that loaded gun. (I more or less do, because I think the show is fairly desperate to move on to something else, but just watch when next week’s episode is all about Leo being introduced as Javadi’s long-lost son and the entirety of the show was a plot hatched by Javadi and Saul in 1978 to reunite a father with a son who wouldn’t even be born yet.)
There are some fun things in the “let’s find Dana!” storyline. I enjoyed seeing what the yoga play was, as I generally do every time the show displays some especially mundane spycraft. Having Jessica turn up at Carrie’s house was kind of a fun jolt for roughly 30 seconds (in that I was pretty sure these two storylines would never intersect again), and I liked hearing the FBI agent say that the two kids were just off on a fuckfest, because fuckfest is a word that should be on TV more often. But in general, this whole storyline (by which I mean the Dana and Leo roadtrip and not Dana’s storyline as a whole) has been a bust. Morgan Saylor’s a very good actress, and her crying is technically solid, but when Sean Callery’s score is overworking as much as it is here, you know that somebody somewhere in post-production realized that the whole thing needed a shot in the arm. (Callery’s score is trying too hard to make the emotional moments land in this episode in general, though that ends up being kind of amazing in those final minutes.) In this episode, Dana practically turns into Poochie from The Simpsons: When she isn't on screen, the characters are all asking, “Where's Dana?”
The more I think about the story of Dana and Leo’s epic love, the more I wonder if this shouldn’t have been Jessica’s story. So far, we’ve seen the aftereffects of Dana’s suicide attempt mostly from her point-of-view, which largely makes sense. But we’ve gotten little hints here and there of how Jessica is bearing up in the wake of everything that’s happened to her, and they’re often fascinating. The show obviously kept all of these characters around for a reason, and even if it’s just a thematic tie to the Carrie storyline (as I suspect will be the case), it would be good to have a better idea how Jessica and Chris feel about what Brody did, as opposed to just Dana. And what better way to do that than to stay with Jessica during her panic over trying to find the daughter who just tried to kill herself? Morena Baccarin would have knocked that out of the park, and the show could have even let us know that Dana and Leo were just off being dumb teenagers to increase the dramatic irony and maybe even the suspense once Mike dropped by with his news. I don’t know that I would have been raving about the storyline in that case, but at least it wouldn’t have had to work as hard as this one did to make us almost but not really care.
The Dana stuff being such a bore—though at least there’s less of it—is even more of a disappointment yet again because the CIA stuff is pretty good. I’ve already talked about how Carrie gets the big hero ending that works surprisingly well, but I also more or less enjoyed Saul playing Duck Hunt (okay, Goose Hunt, but Tracy Letts should have popped up from some bushes to snicker at Saul). Senator Lockhart sort of feels like a villain from one of the X-Men movies, but having him become the next director of the CIA was an unexpected twist—at least to me—and it sets him up as an antagonist, but less in terms of trying to stop or destroy the protagonists and more in terms of philosophical differences. World-weary Saul has never worn the mantle of CIA director all that comfortably, but now that he’s going to lose it to a man he’s convinced has no idea how this shit works, he seems ready to go to war to protect the agency he loves. It’s all a bit sudden, particularly since Lockhart just turns up again this week after a few episodes away, but it’s a development I’m intrigued to see play out. Plus, we get the bonus points of seeing Saul in hunting gear, which is good for a smirk or two.
Meanwhile, Peter Quinn, the nicest cold-blooded assassin in the CIA, is following Carrie around and spying on her and trying to keep her deep cover intact. (He’s the third person Saul and Carrie bring in on the mission, so she has a lifeline should she need one.) The relationship between Carrie and Quinn is the one thing this season that feels as if it’s building nicely from things established in season two, rather than wandering around and trying to find the trail again. The scene where the two of them talk on the phone while they wait for the CIA surveillance team to reappear and hope she didn’t get made, destroying a complicated operation in one quick moment, features some nice character beats for the both of them. Quinn’s the one character I haven’t had a “Really?!” moment this season with, and I’m hopeful that he can join Carrie and Saul closer to the show’s center.
But it all comes back to that ending, which washed away some of the dumb stuff in the episode for me (as did an appearance by Virgil and Max, who should just be added to all television programs exactly as they are). I don’t wholly know what Javadi means with his final line about yoga. It’s probably just that he’s been following her around a lot, but maybe he knows she never really flipped and is intimating that to her right now. Either way, his presence—and the bits throughout the hour when he wanders around the countryside, spying on women with children and making sure the preparations are in hand—gives the episode a little bit of a jolt. If you look at the spy storyline this season removed from everything else, it’s doing things in really different, jumpy ways, and that’s fascinating to me. “The Yoga Play” was, overall, a bit of a bland episode with too much of a focus on a storyline that just didn’t work, but in those final moments, it finds a jolt of excitement that will hopefully carry through into next week.
- I’m not sure I buy Saul giving that big speech in front of everybody about how Lockhart’s priorities for the agency will be the wrong ones. In fact, I’m not sure I buy a great many things Saul is doing this season. But that’s all me thinking about the episode several hours after I watched it. Mandy Patinkin is definitely selling the hell out of everything he’s asked to do in the moment.
- Also, Mira had a friend she knew from Bombay over. The friend was male and was over late enough that Carrie had already been in bed and Quinn’s sweep through her house was nice and dark like a Rescue 911 reenactment. I hope the show didn’t just bring back Mira to have her cheat on Saul, but at least we know it will be exquisitely acted if that is, indeed, the case.
- Virgil and Max have apparently just become the Goliath to Carrie’s Davey. “I dunno, Carrie. We’d better get back to the yoga studio, so you don’t get made!”
- How many people work at the CIA this week?: A surprising amount. Quinn, Carrie, and Saul are the central trio, of course, but then you’ve also got all of the agents tasked with following Carrie around. The post-Langley bombing hiring is going well, it would seem.
- The episodes this season are so short. Remove the titles and extra-long previously on, and this could be an episode of a network drama.
- So that woman with that baby will almost certainly be the thing that the CIA uses to take down Javadi eventually, huh?
- The Adventures Of Chris Brody: “Hello, Chris!” said the man with the eyepatch. “I’ve heard you can do some… wonderful things. Like frown a little bit when your sister returns from an unlikely soujourn.” He smiled broadly, then nodded at the young man to sit down next to him at the bar. “Excuse me, sir,” said Chris, “but I’m not old enough to drink yet.” The man laughed. “Oh, Christopher. There are no drinking ages in the Avengers Initiative!"