Homeland, ‘The Yoga Play’: The scenic route to Albany

“Dana’s in love, who knows what she’ll see.” 

In ‘The Yoga Play,’ all of us viewers were all duck hunting and we finally shot one down, our Leo “Romeo.” With him out of the way, showrunner Alex Gansa can finally move us along to the next place in the Homeland journey. Because he was the problem. We always knew the next place was the pursuit of Majid Javadi, but the teenage love story kept taking us out of the dark. We could only look at Javadi from 17,000 feet above, because that’s how high Dana and Leo were flying.

Mercifully, the showrunners decided to put that duck down and out of its misery this week. 

‘The Yoga Play’ was full of valuable life lessons, and most of them were for lovestruck teenagers that learned love really is like. They learned that one minute you may be listening to your Leo Romeo talk and looking deep into his eyes as you move along on the highway of life, and that the next he remembers he’s Sleeping Beauty and you’re both swiveling between lanes and coming this close of dying—even though you yourself haven’t actually moved from your seat.

The biggest lessons, however, came on what life is like. It’s weird. Sometimes, “you just say it” and sometimes you just need the help of a police officer, not needing to say anything. You wake up and you’re back in your own bedroom and it turns out that your parents had been right all along and you had been wrong. There are no more selfies. Only tears.

Look, at this point I almost feel bad rehashing my dislike of the Dana Brody (played by Morgan Saylor) storyline. It’s a bridge to nowhere; a relic of the past that hints at past failings of the show and that generally underwhelms every fiber of my body. It doesn’t work. And maybe, just maybe, it won’t have to work anymore because the powers that be at Showtime took aim and killed the lame duck that was Leo Carras (played by Sam Underwood).

(One “big boy” that the creators don’t want to kill appears to be Sgt. Nicolas Brody, but more on him in a minute.)

But there are lessons for others, too. For Majid Javadi (played by Shaun Toub)—one minute you’re eating your—what is it, a hamburger?—and watching some woman and her child on their front lawn, then the next you’ve made a hot mess on your dress shirt and you’re a little disappointed. That’s life, too.

Speaking of the man, ‘The Yoga Play’ opens with Javadi making his way to the USofA by taking “the scenic route” to Albany. The purpose of his visit is, surprise surprise, for “business.” Look, I make a point of coming up with references to The Wire for every episode, but these references here are basically writing themselves. Is Javadi like Avon Barksdale, for whom “it’s just business,” or is he like The Greek, for whom it’s “Business, always business”? (More to the point, who really cares—and I would agree.)

Perhaps most importantly, this episode marks the return of the legend that is Peter Quinn (played by Rupert Friend), and in his case he’s the one teaching everyone lessons.

But before I dive deeper into ‘The Yoga Play,’ a few words on last week’s tantalizing ‘Game On.’ Why did this ploy between the Beard and Carrie need to be a cover? Could this not have worked just as well if the viewers were in to some extent all along? This third season has very much been told from Carrie’s perspective and nothing that we had seen through her eyes suggested that she was anything but a hopeless victim. As it stood, the viewers believed the characters, because they had been given no reason not to believe them. They saw the cabin and looked for the trees, as they had been taught all along. But now Gansa pointed out the forest and said, “Ah! Gotcha!” It’s a cheap storytelling ploy.

Another life lesson to this episode is that, “Carrie’s a huge fucking draw.” For viewers, critics and Showtime alike. But you know who else is? Brody. And really, this third season is moving to the next place without him—especially now that Leo Romeo has been confined to the prison of his own thoughts. It’s telling that the best episode, as the season is set to reach the midway point next week, remains “Tower of David,” but what’s even more telling is how unrelated to the other episodes it is. “Tower of David” was simply Gansa et al. appeasing their audience. I predict that Homeland will revisit Brody’s greener reality at some point, but I don’t know that they should. Just leave him, and the Doc, be. “Tell the President not to worry. Morale is good. We’re moving forward.” Saul should tell that to the Beard at the head of the network, not to Senator Andrew Lockhart (played by Tracy Letts).

‘The Yoga Play’ also has a lesson for Saul Berenson (played by Mandy Patinkin).

Life is cold. One minute you’re in charge and, though you’ve never really wanted to be, you’ve grown into the role and the added responsibilities. You’ve grown to love having every other woman in your life come to depend on you for order and direction, and then the next minute you’re home early from a weekend of duck hunting and see that one of these women is having dinner with a work colleague. And you couldn’t care less. The one woman that you love most, the CIA, has a heart made of stone, and she’s spurned your advances.

Saul falls victim to a cold reveal too and now has only two weeks left as acting director of the CIA before Lockhart takes over. Can you really blame Lockhart? For all we know, he may have been put to the task of burning “away the cobwebs” by the President himself? But then can we blame Mr. President? Hardly. Saul basically sacrificed a reputable officer, regardless of what Carrie’s role was in the arrangement. The contrast is clear. You can’t kill ducks by mere thought, you need a rifle. That’s what Lockhart will do once he’s appointed. He’ll wait on a stoop, talk to old friends, and shoot the lame ducks that venture close enough to be within range. And ruthless, he’ll take down those ducks with no regard for who exactly they are. (Saul, on the other hand, thinks that he will hold “up his finger to see which way the wind’s blowing,” which would be quite the life.)

The struggle between “the gold standards of intelligence” and “the most unreliable” will continue for another two weeks, with Carrie at the heart of it all. ”She’s always been on her own,” and Saul has made damn sure that it stayed that way. He’s made a hot mess, right on the dress shirt of his woman that is the CIA. He has another agent looking over the surveillance team that is looking over Carrie. All of that? The President probably feels like Ervin H. Burrel. “Now I’ve got wiretaps sticking out of my ass,” he must think, because he just wanted the equivalent of the CIA “buy bust.” (There. That’s a much more deserving, and earned, reference to The Wire.)

There’s a lesson here for Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes) as well. Maybe a ploy has always worked, true, but all this really means is that it’s always worked until that one time that it does not work. And then when it doesn’t work, you’re stuck in the dark. In the jungle that is your apartment, “with bad information and unreliable partners.” Carrie is not taking her meds anymore, because that clouds her judgment. And because she’s not taking her meds, she can see clearly again. Except that darkness is the great equalizer, and no one sees in the dark. That’s the final lesson.