HOMELAND 1.08 ‘Achilles Heel’

Carrie and Saul search for the real traitor as Brody learns an unsettling truth about his captivity.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Achilles Heel"

Writer: Chip Johannessen

Director: Tucker Gates

Previously on "Homeland":

Having run out of ways to spy on recently freed prisoner of war, U.S. Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) began an illicit affair with Brody when he had trouble at home with his wife, Jessica (Morena Baccarin). After Brody passed a lie detector test at the CIA headquarters, Carrie impulsively left with Brody for a weekend of drunken sex at her family's cabin in the woods. Meanwhile, Carrie's mentor, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) cornered domestic terrorist, Aileen Morgan (Marin Ireland) and slowly wore her down into cooperating with the CIA about the terror attack planned by Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban).

At the cabin, Carrie inadvertently gave away her surveillance of Brody and he angrily offered to answer any questions she had. Brody admitted to taking comfort from Abu Nazir and to killing his partner, Sgt. Tom Walker (Chris Chalk) in captivity. Brody even confessed that he converted to Islam to help save his sanity. Carrie didn't believe his story, but then she got a call from Saul telling her that Aileen Morgan had identified the American POW who had been turned: Tom Walker, who wasn't dead as Brody believed. But before Carrie could properly apologize to Brody, he sped off and rejoined his estranged family.


On a Washington D.C. street corner, Tom Walker begs for money with a "Homeless Vet" sign. A car with diplomatic plates pulls up and the Diplomat (Ramsey Faragallah) inside gives Walker a folded dollar bill which contains a storage locker key and an address. At CIA headquarters, David Estes (David Harewood) tries to get Walker's son, Lucas (Jaden Harmon) to identify Walker as the man he saw near his school playground. Outside, Carrie tries to calm Walker's wife, Helen (Afton Williamson) while relating the CIA's belief that Walker has been brainwashed.

Hours later, Brody is extremely annoyed to have been called into CIA headquarters to answer questions about Brody, whom he assumes is dead. Outside the conference room, Saul witnesses (but doesn't hear) Brody berating Carrie for betraying his confidence about Walker's death and Carrie's insistence that she wouldn't do that. Arriving at his home, Brody approaches his wife in a subdued manner and he apologizes for blowing up after learning that she was seeing his best friend, Mike Faber (Diego Klattenhoff). Jessica tells him that she waited six years for him to turn up alive and he understands. Brody also says that he doesn't want their marriage to collapse.

At the CIA, Saul shows Carrie that Walker has been calling his family's home phone when he knows that they're away just so he can hear their voices. David and FBI Special Agent Hall (Joe Urla) enter Saul's office and listen to Saul's plan to wait for Walker to call his wife and track him down that way. Hall ridicules the idea and David tells Saul and Carrie to get their recommendations to him ASAP. At Brody's home, he enjoys a family game night with Jessica and their children when they receive a phone call from political power broker, Elizabeth Gaines (Linda Purl) for a special party the next night.

That night, Saul receives an invitation to the same party and he convinces his estranged wife, Mira to go with him despite her plans to depart for India the following day. Saul is also exasperated when Carrie shows up on his door to announce that she's been placed in charge of the task force to catch Walker. Carrie apologizes for her behavior towards Saul and she confesses to having an inappropriate relationship with Brody. Saul chastises her, but they finally reconcile and he sends her home. The next day, Carrie stays at Helen's place and tries to coach her through what to say to Walker. But when Walker calls and Helen answers, he hangs up immediately.

Walker quickly dismantles his phone and takes out the key he was given earlier. Later that day, Brody's children note that he and his wife have been getting along without fighting. A limo takes Brody and Jessica to the party, where they are somewhat taken aback by Elizabeth's personal interest in them. Saul is also at the party when the attendees see Congressman Dick Johnson on TV claiming that his sexting scandal is a conspiracy against him. Elizabeth reveals to Saul that she wants Brody to run for Johnson's office. 

Brody and Jessica laugh about Dick's predicament and unfortunately fitting name before getting home late and settling down to watch "Ice Age" with their kids. Later that night, Walker calls Helen back and this time he doesn't hang up as she rambles about how much she loves him. Walker finally speaks, but Helen warns him that the CIA is closing in on him. Walker drops the phone moments before agents pull up at his location. Walker flees on foot and slips into a mosque. Despite Carrie's warning, the agents purse Walker inside and accidentally kill two men who were performing the morning prayer. Walker escapes before going to the storage unit as he was directed to. There he finds a disassembled sniper rifle waiting for him. 

David, Hall, Carrie and Saul briefly meet to discuss the nightmare PR situation. Hall suggests that the only way out is to publicly brand Walker as a terrorist to deflect from the shootings. Without another viable option, Saul and Carrie consent. Saul then races home, hours late to take his wife to the airport. He asks her once more not to go, but she does anyway. Meanwhile, Carrie calls Brody out of his house and tells him that Walker is alive. She also admits that their time at the cabin wasn't just her job, but she leaves when Jessica comes out to see what's going on.

Later, Carrie confides to Saul that she thinks that she will be alone her entire life. At a lush house, the Diplomat who slipped Walker the storage locker key enters and finds someone watching the news reports about Walker. The Diplomat assumes that its Walker himself, but instead its Brody… and he's pissed about the fate of his friend. Brody punches out the Diplomat and asks him why they lied about Walker. The Diplomat tells him that they need to talk to Abu Nazir, but Brody says that he's done with Abu Nazir and that his role in the operation is over.


"Homeland" followed its best episode of the season with an installment that was almost as good. And I have to admit that I was taken in by the implications that Brody wasn't a traitor until the end of this episode. And for that I blame Damian Lewis… he's just too damn likable as Sgt. Brody!

In all seriousness, Brody is a fairly complex and compelling character and Lewis has done some terrific work on this show. Even though Brody is clearly in league with Abu Nazir, I almost want to make excuses for his behavior.

However, there weren't a lot of options for the series if Brody wasn't a traitor and Walker was the only turned POW out there. After Walker inevitably goes down (before or after pulling off an attack), there just wouldn't have been an obvious way to continue "Homeland" into a second season without forcing the concept. The current set up is quite intriguing. This episode laid the groundwork for Brody's eventual assent to public office. And now that Carrie and Brody have already had an affair, her feelings towards him are always going to interfere with her natural suspicions, especially now that we know that Carrie has ultimately been proven to be correct.

Carrie's moment or realization about herself felt like a very true moment for her character. Carrie may very well end up alone for most of her life because she doesn't know how to make lasting relationships. The closest thing Carrie had to a real connection was with Brody and that's obviously not going to work out even if he wasn't a traitor.

The relationship between Brody and Jessica was also on display in this episode, and their rekindled affection towards each other felt genuine. I loved the way they kept laughing at the Anthony Weiner-like scandal of Congressman Dick Johnson. That name was kind of a cheap joke, but hilarious nevertheless.

I had a little bit more trouble buying Helen's loyalty to Walker even after she knew what happened to him. Some of what Helen said to Walker was actually touching, but for her to turn on a dime and ruin the operation seemed like a very "24" thing to do. That show had a tendency to artificially find ways for terrorists to get away on an episode-to-episode basis in order to extend the plot. And that's what Walker's escape felt like here.
Right now, the heart of this show is still Saul Berenson. Mandy Patinkin has made Saul into perhaps the most human character on "Homeland" by giving us a glimpse of what his devotion to the job has cost him. Saul clearly loves his wife — perhaps more than she loves him — however he is also keenly aware that his devotion to his job is his Achilles' heel. Saul may want to leave the agency behind and save his marriage, but he just can't. Whatever drives Saul to do what he does is stronger than his love for his wife.

Minor complaints aside, "Homeland" continues to be very entertaining. If the rest of the season can maintain this intensity, then "Homeland' may just be one of the best new shows of the year.

Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.