Damian Lewis as Nicholas "Nick" Brody in Homeland… (Kent Smith/SHOWTIME )
Do you remember the term "stress position?" It was part of the debate over the limits of interrogation in the war on terror. One such practice, apparently used by the KGB, leaves a prisoner forced to stand with no relief for up to a day. It's awful.
"Homeland" gives us a metaphorical reminder on the subject in Episode 8 of Season 2, as we see Brody restrained on all sides, held in a posture where both action and inaction mean agony. In the end, even a dramatic change in circumstance resolves nothing, as the imagery dissolves and he's literally taken prisoner by Abu Nazir's operatives.
Cliffhangers are always good, but the internal struggle that formed the core of the episode was better. Even Brody's daughter, Dana, was unable to move from an untenable position without making things worse.
The narrative effect of all this positioning? Look who seems to be holding the shackles: Carrie Mathison. In the eternal struggle to determine who's in control of this twisted affair, the arrow seems to be pointing back toward our heroine -- at least for a few minutes.
Carrie goes off the reservation, again, in order to keep the CIA's only asset in play (look, I'm using CIA words) as an attack on America approaches. She has sex with an apoplectic Brody while a bug on the window allows her colleagues to listen in. Then he does what she wants, restoring a contact with his terrorist handler that he had broken off a day before.
There's only one way out of this position, she coos, and that's with me, by defeating the enemies of our great country. Cue national anthem played with wah-wah pedal.
Her reception at the office is a little awkward after that, but again, she gets what she wants: a ride in a van to tail Roya and Brody. In a tense scene, Carrie refuses a direct order to stay back after spotting the two with Mr. Mystery Extremist (he of the Gettysburg coat shop massacre), and is witness as the congressman is pulled into a helicopter and out of range.
So she was right again. Next week, we'll find out if that really matters now that nobody in the CIA knows where Brody is. The episode closes with him face to face with Abu Nazir, who speaks only one word: "Nicholas."
(That's Brody's first name, if you forgot while his wife was referring to him like a high-school football player.)
It seems like he didn't really have any option but to wind up there, though. Throughout the episode, he appears to have no autonomy at all. Brody seems to want to do the right thing and follow his wife's directive that Dana report her deadly car accident to the police.
But Carrie has blocked that road. Brody can only delay, obfuscate and wait. He could report it, lose his CIA immunity deal and go to jail. And there still might be a huge terrorist attack. He could not report it, watch his family drift closer to Mike and try to ferret out how and why there's a terrorist attack coming, meanwhile betraying his former allies.
The big question going forward is, like you forgot: Who is Brody really working for? If he's playing the CIA, Carrie was wrong again, and we're all suckers for another subtle perceptive shift by "Homeland." Can't wait.
Meanwhile, Dana tries to save her honor, going to talk to the daughter of the woman who died in the crash. The girl says scram and shut up. Don't report it. We need the payoff money from Walden. Even the right thing is wrong. How can these characters sleep?
"We are supposed to be her examples of what's right and wrong," Jessica implores in an early scene about Dana's dilemma.
If only the choices were so simple.