“Useful Idiot” | Directed by Nelson McCormick
The first stop on Yevgeny’s BMW-sponsored trip through the mid-Atlantic is the airport hanger. This scene gave Gail “Long Time Coming” vibes and it gave Sara “Super Powers” vibes. People on this show sure do fly private a lot!
It’s here where the Yevgeny/Carrie parallels start. Committed to the mission, willing to leave behind Simone (with whom just a few minutes ago he was daydreaming about a month-long sex-filled getaway) but not willing to leave behind “his guy.” There are many echoes not only of late-season four Carrie, unwilling to leave Islamabad before she can find Quinn, but also of all seasons Carrie. Yevgeny is the most evenly-matched adversary Carrie has ever known (although, ironically, she’s never actually met him), created in her own image of “mission over man.” And this episode gives a laundry list of reasons why. At the end of the scene, he says, “I can’t!”–a familiar refrain to all of us who have followed Carrie’s journey.
Sara had a slight panic attack when she saw this moment. One of the most disturbing moments of “A False Glimmer” (and there are many) was Carrie digging her fingernails into her palm in the hospital chapel. Here she is, doing it again, underlining the similarities between the situation she found herself in at the end of season five with Quinn, and the one she stands in now with Dante.
Dante’s BMW Journey continues. Look at how focused he is. He is all about the 10 and 2, ain’t he? Real talk, you can really tell a lot about a person by the way he drives.
While Carrie and Yevgeny are evenly matched and remarkably similar, their approaches to dealing with Dante couldn’t be more different. Let’s start with body language. Carrie stands over Dante, looking down at him, just after he’s woken up. She is incredulous and forceful and passionate. She practically wills him into flipping.
Oishk. First, Carrie, please find a hobby that is not this. You just sociopathically lied to the dude you POISONED and now you’re smiling in your car about it??? Girl, please. Also, the music that played over this was stripped-down, season one-era Homeland theme. You know the one. This is like the old school Carrie smile so I guess it fits.
(Sara would also like to point out that she was right on Sunday about Carrie smiling meaning that everything was about to go to shit.)
(Sara would additionally like to point out that, removed from context, Carrie certainly does look like a little button here, doesn’t she?)
This goob is also smiling like it’s 75 degrees outside for the first time in six months. Saul and Carrie, please find NEW HOBBIES. Preferably separate ones.
We will hand it to Saul. We didn’t think he’d be able to create a Power Point presentation on such short notice and with such neatly organized graphics. He even did a gradient background! We call BS on Wellington not being labeled a “UI,” but everything else looks pretty nice. (Wasn’t O’Keefe a UI, too?)
So many facial expressions this episode! Here is Max looking from Carrie (on his left) to Sandy (on his right), who are sparring about whether to use the burn code. Some men just know when to keep their mouths shut.
The set decoration of Paley’s office is really something. We spy:
- Not one but two American flags
- Possibly a Dilbert cartoon on the bottom right corner of his bookshelf?
- A Washington monument replica
- A bust of someone
- A set of bullhorns
- A cowboy hat
The decoration here is verging on caricature, but we also don’t doubt that Paley wants everyone who walks into his office to know he is a ~maverick.
Ok, so we skipped forward from Yevgeny’s BMW road trip (we don’t have much to say except homeboy should invest in a Bluetooth). We want to note how similarly he’s dressed to Carrie here, again really underlining the parallels the show is drawing between them. He’s got the black coat, leather jacket, dark pants, and boots. This is the Official Carrie Mathison Uniform. He’s also got the “surreptitiously looking around corners” look down pat so we’d say he’s well on his way.
We touched on this a bit on the podcast, but the scene as Carrie is leaving Maggie and Bill’s house is filmed with a handheld camera (after being steady when she arrives home). The ensuing shakiness here amplifies the instability of the situation and seems to precipitate Carrie’s loss of a grip on reality.
While we’re at it, we’ve also been thinking about the stained glass in Maggie’s entryway. Gail is convinced it’s intentional, a kind of marker of the sanctity of that household and just how much Carrie has disrupted order there.
Is this the moment Yevgeny decides to shoot Clayton? Look at the calculation going on there behind the scenes. The plot of this season has been successful in a lot of ways, but Costa Ronin deserves all kinds of credit for bringing Yevgeny to life in such vivid, dynamic, unpredictable detail.
In an episode in which Carrie is shown later with blood on her hands, it should come as no surprise that her foil wipes blood on his own. The “hands dirty” motif has weaved itself throughout many seasons of the show. Back in season two, Dar accused Saul of not wanting to get his own hands messy; he’d rather have others do his bidding. Carrie, meanwhile, try as she might, can’t help but get her hands dirty. And here we have Yevgeny, practically volunteering for the task.
After once again sneaking into a locked ward in the hospital (sometimes our most powerful enemies are hidden in plain sight; Yevgeny–and Russia IRL–has proven that to be just the case this season), Yevgeny takes a seat in Dante’s room. His posture and demeanor here is identical to how he’s been several other times this season, whether it was with Ivan or Simone’s lawyer. He’s casual, (now clean) hands folded demurely in front of him, feet out in front. He wants you to know he’s got nothing to hide. Contrast this of course with the way Carrie approaches Dante earlier in the episode. She was hovering, loud, and lying. Yevgeny is calm, quiet, and completely honest.
Sara’s note here was “if we are talking Carrie/Yevgeny parallels, he does what we all thought Carrie might have done at the end of ‘A False Glimmer’ by smothering Quinn.” Gail’s response was “WHOA, mind blown.”
The last three minutes of the episode play like a nauseating horror movie. This shot of Franny ushers in that feeling. Seriously, this is creepy as hell. Actors looking directly into the camera make us deeply uncomfortable.
Can’t get much more literal than this. She runs the stop sign, of course, but its message is blaring nonetheless. It’s what the audience is feeling and what everyone around Carrie has been trying to tell her since the season started.
There were a few shots in this sequence of Carrie squinting her eyes at the blaring sun. We’re not sure if this is a reference to Quinn’s light, her “beacon,” but in an episode that evoked his memory in more ways than one (and the fact that we hear those words at the beginning of every episode), it’s hard to feel like it was completely coincidental.
The sound editing during the sequence of Carrie walking through the hospital is impossible to capture visually, but we just want to note it anyway. It was impeccable. We hear the din of the crowd at Brody’s hanging slowly build, then her cries as she climbs the fence. While the flashbacks move to Aayan, we can still hear those crowds. And then the hail of bullets come in. It was unsettling (to say the least), but technically remarkable. They really throw you into Carrie’s head here, and the cacophony of her own memories replaying in her head is such an integral part of that.
That sensory immersion is visual, too, though. Once Carrie’s flashbacks start, she walks through hard, vivid overhead light (contrast with the shot above, right before the flashbacks start). This is remarkably similar to the lighting we saw in “Marine One” when Brody was in the bunker. Then, it was meant to evoke the stress and instability of the situation, and it accomplishes a similar feat here.
….And, here’s the blood on the hands. Interestingly, our focus here is mostly on Carrie’s face, as she stares directly into the camera (again, gosh, that’s so unsettling). Contrasted to Yevgeny, whose bloody hands took up the entire frame, it’s almost easy to miss. Then again, maybe that’s the entire point.
The episode ends, of course, with another sequence that also belongs in a horror movie. The slow push onto Carrie, backed up against the wall. The shaky cam, rendering her face blurry and unfocused. And her screams, sharp and high-pitched and seared into your memory, eventually indistinguishable from the flatline of Dante’s pulse.