Week 14: Season 5 Episodes 5-8: Be Careful of What You Say

The middle four episodes of Season 5 of Homeland continued to provide some context to one of the main plots of the season, who is trying to kill Carrie?  While this plot is somewhat ridiculous (really is Carrie that important that the villainous Russians need to kill her?), it does provide the narrative that makes sense for Carrie to resume her action filled pre Berlin life.

However what intrigued me out of the four episodes I viewed (and it was also the episode I enjoyed most watching) was episode 8 “All About Allison”.  This episode spent a good portion of its time in flashback mode, where we saw a fresh-faced and newly appointed CIA agent Carrie (and seemingly with a spring in her step!) and a wary and jaded Allison Carr‘s first meeting back in 2005 Baghdad. Carrie had just arrived to relieve Allison of her post, with Allison positively itching for her vacation time at a St. Lucia beach side bar called Banana Joe’s.

While this may seem like such a mundane part of the narrative for this episode, this flashback was actually integral to the narrative because viewers found out how and why Allison became a spy for the Russians – she was caught by her now-handler Ivan Krupin when she was conspiring to run off with Ahmed Nazari, along with millions of dollars of stolen U.S. currency.  Ivan proposed that if Allison agrees to become a double agent for the SVR instead, he will offer her a hefty monetary compensation with mutual information exchange that will help her climb the ranks of the CIA (and avoid federal prison).

All the while in this season Carrie has slowly been solving the mystery of who wants her dead.  After combing through an exhaustive list of potential assassins, and coming up empty handed, it took a screen saver of a picture of Banana Joe’s (a bar Allison mentioned during the flashbacks of this episode) and confirmation from an internet search that unravels the mystery for Carrie.  I guess Allison is right, Ivan is underestimating Carrie.  What are the odds that such an insignificant utterance a decade or so ago will be the very thing to kick start your downfall and potentially lead you to prison or to get you killed?

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This episode really illustrates the characterization of Allison.  While putting someone’s name in the CIA’s kill box, and making it look like someone else put that name there (Saul) usually does not garner much sympathy for someone, it’s clear Allison is not some sociopathic cold blooded killer.  In fact, it’s clear she’s not heartless; she’s simply ambitious. She also knows she’s trapped, and that one day Carrie will somehow find out the truth and she is worried about that happening.  Clearly Allison has some empathy as she could have easily had Carrie killed by simply lighting her cigarette as a signal to the sniper nearby.  Instead she caves to Carrie’s anguished cry that she “had a life and wants it back”.

According to Aaron Riccio of Slant,  “All About Allison” provides a reasonable explanation for the way she’s let her loyalty to the United States lapse over the course of 10 years; she’s most recently helped the Russians disrupt American plans in Syria.  But there’s nothing in all of her present scenes to indicate why she’d continue to risk being exposed by leaving Carrie alive. If Homeland‘s writers are attempting to demonstrate that Allison is adrift, seeking to cling to a happier, less compromised moment in her past, then they’ve failed. If anything, Allison comes across as more bipolar than Carrie, constantly split between extremes.

This episode also imparts a feel that Allison has become the protagonist, while Carrie, Saul, and Quinn scurry off in the background to their own adventures, eventually fitting the puzzle pieces together that make up this season’s general plot line.  While it’s plainly obvious (at least by seeing previews of Season 6) that Carrie is not going anywhere, it remains to be seen how Allison will fully fit into Homeland’s world.  Will she be more than a one-season-wonder?  Could Allison become a villain to the likes of Abu Nazir, Javadi, or Haggani? She has an emotional connection with Saul and is a high ranking member of the CIA. Plus she given her connections, she may be able to evade Saul and Carrie for a while or become an asset herself (akin to Javadi) so they can take down the SVR.

Allison is a new character to Homeland this season and although she played an important part of Carrie’s professional life early on, a minor detail spoken a decade ago can be the thing to derail Allison.  With Saul and Quinn getting themselves into their own respective situations, the concluding four episodes of Season 5 are sure to be action packed and full of excitement.

 

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7 thoughts on “Week 14: Season 5 Episodes 5-8: Be Careful of What You Say

  1. That scene in the bathroom where Allison realizes she’s goosed and asks for a minute alone is pretty visceral. Allison doesn’t seem like an inherently evil person but she made a mistake and paid for it because other spies are also pretty damn good. I think that’s an understated theme of this season as well: foreign spies can be just as/if not more effective than their US counterparts. In short, we don’t always win.

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  2. Even though I haven’t felt much sympathy for Allison this season, once I realized that she was definitely one of the bad guys. Once I discovered that it was not by choice I almost felt sorry for her. Keyword: almost. At the end of the day Allison made her bed and must lie in it. Yet she was like many people, weak at the thought of riches and a handsome man that loved her. Do I blame her for falling for the bait? Yes and no. Yet Allison is the one villain that I hope does not get a deadly end.

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  3. I mentioned this on Marilyn’s blog– but I definitely liked that Allison was given a backstory that made her more complex than simply a cold-blooded killer. She seemed caught in a very difficult situation. I also will say (again,) that the Banana Joe’s thing was a bit ridiculous. I am interested to see how this all plays out. I think Miranda Otto is a great actress- and it’s nice to see other interesting female characters like Allison and Astrid, who have compelling characterization and add to the world of Homeland.

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  4. I’m not as sold on the Allison backstory. I feel the flashback scenes with Carrie felt forced, that the “past” felt more like people putting on a show (costuming and makeup didn’t convince me), and her motivations were not really great motivations to begin with. It actually didn’t make me feel sorry for her, it just made me feel like she wasn’t a great spy, having been duped by a bumbling, good looking spy with a briefcase full of cash. Hasn’t she seen any spy movies – briefcases full of cash are a bad sign!

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  5. Although Saul has been something of a miserable jerk for several episodes in this season, I kind of felt more sorry for him than I ever could for Allison. I think that she gets close to Saul only to try and sway him away from figuring out her secret (or to know more intimately what he is discussing with Dar Adal). I definitely did not read Saul and Allison’s interaction as an emotional connection, but rather, a contrived connection (on the part of Allison). I wonder if the show-runners meant for this to be reminiscent of the Carrie/Brody connection, only Allison is less successful in leveraging her sexuality/emotions than Carrie.

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  6. I agree with Marilyn about Allison and Saul. Before we knew about her backstory, I assumed it was a genuine (though maybe shallow or temporary) attraction. Now though, I feel bad for Saul as I think she has been playing him to gain his trust. It was also funny how, after all of the hacking and focus on computers and whatnot, a quick google search was all that was needed to find the answer to this particular puzzle. Additionally, after a quick google search of my own, I have been disappointed to discover that Banana Joe’s is not a real bar in St. Lucia.

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  7. I think that manic quality to Allison that you noted at the beginning was expressed in the shots where she seems to want to bail on the killing of Carrie–particularly at the cafe with the sniper. Is Alison’s fatal flaw that she’s just not ruthless enough? Does she have any feelings for Saul? What exactly does she feel about Ivan? All mysterious questions but we do know that her romantic ideal is sitting in a beach bar in St. Lucia–a softness that Carrie doesn’t share.

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