Homeland, ‘Game On’ review: Say hi to your mom for me.

“It’s up to you to draw the line you won’t cross.”

It turns out that the cabin in the woods that showrunner Alex Gansa had been building this season may have been made of straw or wood, but that it was by design. There are still plenty more trees in the forest—the key is for viewers to see it.

The “next place” in Homeland’s journey, after an excellent ‘Tower of David’ episode, is one that’s full of grass that’s green, but not greener.

But first, ‘Game On’ had ghosts. At the opening, it was Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes) who looked like she had seen one, but that wasn’t it. “I look like a ghost,” she tells her counselor. Only on that same day, she sees what she thinks may be a ghost when it’s actually F. Murray Abraham’s Dar Adal (not that this is any better, really). Saul, too, thinks that he sees a ghost when it’s only Carrie—out of the care centre and at his house. The ghost that Fara Sherazi (played by Nazanin Boniadi) sees is also just Dar Adal, proving once again that she’s Saul’s new Carrie.

But the biggest ghost remains that of Sergeant Nicolas Brody, which continues to haunt Gansa et al. While he wasn’t in ‘Game On,’ his presence was still felt immensely. In season 2, building up Brody turned against the CIA and led to 219 casualties. It’s been the same for Homeland showrunners—building up Brody the cockroach and allowing him to always survive has tangled Showtime with the Dana Brody (played by Morgan Saylor) storyline.

I asked last week if the Brody daughter had been watching The Notebook and taking selfies, but how could I have known that she was intent on listening to her “nice hormones” and “young love.” I fear Dar Adal may be wrong, and that Dana may be the “full-out contagion” that brings down Homeland when “it could die of a common cold.”

Dana has presumably been dreaming of white sheets and the appliances since the second episode of this season, but in ‘Game On’ she happily settles on a car for what turns out to be quite the road trip. They smoke, they kiss, they look deep in each other’s eyes, they laugh and generally do everything lovestruck teenagers will do when they see life through pink glasses. Yay!

Leo escapes with her from the psych ward, and together they revisit a place that is close to each of their heart—where her father was shipped to Iraq for Dana, and the tombstone of his younger brother for Leo. “He killed himself, with a gun. It’s hard to blame anyone but him,” Dana tells Leo. But it turns out her Sleeping Beauty may be a bit more Sleepy Hollow than she thinks.

Ghosts, too, were two favourites of A man must have a code, Peter Quinn and Doc Frazier.

I was ready for their greatness in ‘Game On’ and even said so on Twitter, but the only solace I found was in debuting a new hashtag.

Still though, not all was lost.

Soon enough, Carrie was ghost from the psychiatric centre where she had been detained. She had been taking her meds, but hadn’t been sleeping six hours per night. When she wasn’t “just lying there,” she was being kept awake by the screams of a fellow patient who, no, hadn’t seen a ghost but rather refused to take her meds. ”Tell him that I’ll do whatever he wants,” Carrie tells her dad to tell Saul Berenson (played by Mandy Patinkin). But in fact, she has already been doing all that he wants all along. It turns out that there’s no trip to Belize, or car ride to Atlantic City, or suicide by the doorknob done to her like D’Angelo Barksdale in season 2 of The Wire, and that’s the big reveal.

It turns out that the Beard also has a brain in that head of his. “Maybe I’m getting to the end of my career. Maybe I’m looking to retire in style,” he says, posing as Majid Javadi when he and Fara test their theory. But it’s oddly looking like he may as well have been talking about himself. The CIA is the woman that he loves most in his life, but maybe Saul is finally ready and willing to give her up. If Saul stalls Fara in her pursuit of Javadi, it’s because he wants a sit-down with the man but also, and especially, because he wants to give Carrie a chance at redemption.

The parallel lives of Carrie and Brody continue. Carrie, too, was detained but she’s now free and thus has provided the blueprint for Brody to follow. “Thank you’s all around. I can do that.” She’s further along than her Romeo, in that she already has made peace with her proverbial father. “It’s almost over,” Saul tells her. “Come on in. I’ll make you a nice cup of tea.” Dry those tears, in other words. Daddy’s here. “You’re an amazing person, Carrie Mathison. Amazing.”

Again, that was quite the reveal, but was it plausible? Was it earned? I’m not sure. It seems a whole lot like showrunners left a whole lot to the chance, much to Carrie’s dismay, that we’d eat it all up. It’s like all this time Gansa et al. had trained us viewers over two seasons to always see the cabin in the woods and look for the trees, and that it’s what we had done up to this point this season. Only in ‘Game On,’ Showtime revealed the forest.