“Catch And Release” is a fairly typical second episode of a season for a serialized show like Homeland. The initial rush of plunging us back into the characters’ lives has passed, and now it’s time to lay the groundwork for what’s to unfold the rest of the way. The writers need to download a lot of information, and the immediate effect is that we’re mostly watching a series of meetings and phone calls, at least until things get percolating again toward episode’s end.
What’s different this time is that the machinations of Carrie, Saul, and the rest aren’t in service of stopping some master bad guy, but in an attempt to make sure a peace settlement doesn’t get derailed. Pursuing a more noble goal doesn’t mean their tactics have changed much, however. Carrie’s first meeting with G’ulom goes badly, in part because she’s still shaken after seeing Yevgeny leaving his own meeting with the veep. Her demand that he walk back his statement on refusing to release prisoners is met with a simple “Or what?” G’ulom says the Carrie he knew would never make such a demand without a gift or a gun to the head, a not so subtle insinuation that she’s lost a step since those days.
Carrie needs to get her groove back in a hurry, a process accelerated when she receives an anonymous note reading SAMIRA NOORA. Samira was working on anti-corruption probe into G’ulom until her husband was killed by a car bomb meant for her. Now laying low, she’s in need of a job, so Carrie hatches a plan to set up a fake job interview that will get Samira out of her house long enough for Carrie and her team to search it for evidence they can use to blackmail G’ulom. Despite his reservations about Jenna Bragg, station chief Dunne suggests letting her run the job interview. What could go wrong?
It’s not yet clear whether Homeland is setting Jenna up as a young Claire on the rise who will bumble and stumble before getting it together and perhaps launching her own spinoff (hey, it’s Showtime, don’t put it past them) or if she’ll be revealed as a mole in six episodes or so, but in any case, she fails to rise to the occasion here. When she slips up and reveals she knows more about Samira’s previous job than was described on her resume, the operation quickly falls apart, and by the time Carrie gets back with a USB drive she found, Samira is bound to a chair with a hood over her head. Not a great start, but Carrie is able to convince Samira that the only way of getting G’ulom out of power is to cooperate despite her poor treatment.
Saul’s part of the plan would make a lot more sense if he were still an agent in the field rather than the National Security Advisor, but they’re not paying Mandy Patinkin the big bucks to push papers around a desk. When Max picks up conversations that appear to confirm Haqqani’s sincerity about the peace talks, Saul has Haqqani’s cousin pulled off the prison transport plane from Guantanamo and loaded into an ambulance. Tanseem is there to see this not-at-all-suspicious transfer go down, and takes this information to another familiar face from season four (assuming you watched season four much more recently than I did), retired Pakistani general Bunny Latif. Together they sniff out Saul’s plan, which is for the POW to set up a face-to-face meeting with Haqqani in exchange for his own freedom.
Tanseem and Latif decide that Pakistan has to either control the peace or prevent it from happening at all, a stance that could have used a little more justification than we’re given. Then again, it’s been a while since anything blew up, and their decision appears to lead directly to an airstrike on Haqqani’s convoy outside the Pakistan hotel Saul definitely isn’t supposed to be staying in. Now it’s Saul with a bag over his head and his plan up in smoke, just when Carrie is being celebrated for doing her part back in Kabul. Her revelry is cut short when Yevgeny makes another unexpected, cryptic appearance, which gives us good reason to question whether he was at G’ulom’s office at all. This appearance feels so weird and off, it almost has to be a hallucinatory by-product of Carrie’s time in captivity—or part of an elaborate plot to make her think that’s the case. That old Homeland paranoia is settling in again.
- Jenna wonders whether Mike told Carrie she was a fuck-up or if she has her own reservations before proceeding to screw up the operation. But hey, all is forgiven at the bar.
- Max has reluctantly settled into his role as mascot for the Army unit he’s embedded with. Just don’t touch his head.