Homeland season five, episode nine recap – The Litvinov Ruse

It’s a testing time for Quinn, but Carrie and Saul get their hands on their quarry as Allison learns not to poke the Bear

SPOILER ALERT: This blog is for people watching the fifth series of Homeland at UK broadcast pace. Don’t read on if you haven’t seen episode nine – and if you’ve seen later episodes, please do not leave spoilers.

Catch up with previous episode blogposts

‘She wanted me dead, Saul’

With Carrie having rumbled Allison, we are back to that familiar Homeland stalwart, a messianic Carrie persuading a sceptical Saul. Carrie usually wins these tussles through brute persistence. She does go on a bit. They don’t call her the drone queen for nothing.

Once he is on board, their strategy is to persuade BND officers Astrid and Adler to do the heavy lifting to take Allison down. It is not an easy sell, and going in without the backing or knowledge of Langley doesn’t help. Still, Saul successfully argues that if Allison has spent the past 10 years working for the Russians, Germany is as damaged as anyone.

So it’s up to the German duo to pay a visit to Dar Adal and Allison. They spin a yarn about a defecting SVR boss with excellent knowledge of agent networks in the west, including Germany. The seed is planted.

‘I was asleep for 10 years. You woke me up’

It’s not enough to snare a formidable operator like Allison though. To get close enough, Saul has to exploit their special relationship. With his legendary honeypot skills to the fore, he shows up at Allison’s claiming to have been given political asylum in Israel and angles for one last glorious night together. Once they’ve done the nasty, Saul puts surveillance on her home, handbag and phone. Allison is set up for a mighty fall. She should have known – you never poke the Bear.

There’s a rapt audience at BND headquarters watching the surveillance feed from Allison’s home as a civilian contact visits her with an Italian takeout. They make sweet love on the kitchen surface and maybe that’s what Krupin meant about the “greatest penetration of American intelligence in fucking history”. This liaison seems just to be sex, though, none of which makes it any easier for Saul to watch, and he has to take a moment away. Once Carrie realises the intimate nature of his involvement with Allison, it’s all she can do to sympathise.

“I’ve been there Saul, as you well know.”

Oh, I think we all know that, Carrie.

‘Come on, baby. Time to move, time to run’

Allison being so cool after the meeting with BND is a big frustration for everyone. It’s time to crank up the pressure. Astrid arranges a private coffee meeting with Allison to tell her that the SVR defector is accelerating the timetable of his handover and claiming that he has proof that the CIA’s Berlin station has been compromised. They expect him to be safely ensconced in Hamburg by the next morning. This convinces Allison she’s burned beyond redemption. Once she dials in a call code to the Russians, the chase is on. With drones following her every move, she leads them straight to Krupin’s safe house.

And this is where you have to admire the ovaries on Allison. A lesser woman facing interrogation, rendition, treason charges and life imprisonment might crack and beg for mercy, but not her.

“I don’t want to be a cliche,” she says. “But do you mind telling me who’s responsible for this travesty?”

She boldly claims that Krupin is her asset and that it is she who has been working him for years. Dar Adal is given pause. Is this a claim so preposterous it must be true or just plain preposterous?

‘Terror is the necessary prologue to a caliphate’

If Quinn thought being a mercenary killer was the simple life, this week brought just the latest of several rude awakenings. It has not been easy to follow the jihadis’ motives for bringing Quinn all the way to the Balkans just to crack him over the head, but their plan is a lot clearer now. Quinn is merely a guinea pig to test the effectiveness of their sarin gas and he is to be the star of their propaganda snuff movie. The footage of his death will be released to strike terror into the heart of the infidel and warn of a wider chemical attack should their demands not be met.

Quinn is nothing if not resourceful though and he works on Qasim, the weak link in the chain, to persuade him that chemical warfare is a line he doesn’t want to cross. Qasim consults with Doctor Aziz, the diabolical scientist behind the testing chamber who is creepily proud of his work (“It’s my design. It’s beautiful, huh?”). He helpfully gives Qasim a rundown of the health-and-safety protocols he instituted, including the double-sealed chamber, gas masks and atropine antidotes. Just because you’re affiliated with a suicidal death cult doesn’t mean you can get slack with procedure.

When the time comes for Quinn’s execution, Qasim jabs him with the atropine pen right before the sarin is deployed but with Quinn convulsing, foaming at the mouth and quite possibly evacuating his bowels and bladder it still looks pretty grim for him. We have seen enough of Quinn to know that it takes more than a lethal dose of sarin to slow him down, though. Expect him back to his best in the next episode.

Notes and queries

  • We know that Carrie has Ahmed’s computer and surely there must be more evidence on it than his carelessly chosen screensaver?
  • Saul and Carrie’s embrace was a good moment for the show. Despite every disappointment and betrayal, they are in it together until the end.
  • Given how much of modern espionage is data analysis and hacking, there was something appealingly old-school about Saul nipping down in the middle of the night to stick a bug in a handbag. Never neglect the fundamentals.
  • Allison continues to be a very likeable heel. She’s ruthless, cool under pressure and her ability to construct a cover story on the fly is without peer.
  • “Bibi was planning on abducting a soldier or a Jew. Al-hamdu lillah, the American was found instead.” Doctor Aziz should be careful what he wishes for. If you don’t kill Quinn at the first attempt, then he’ll be coming for you.
  • Taking Quinn’s advice, I Googled Ghouta, Syria. I wish I hadn’t.


James Donaghy

The GuardianTramp

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