The titular smile comes at the end of the episode, but it's an unexpected doozy: After Saul comes across an old asset of Carrie's in Beirut with information about an attack on the U.S., he and Estes manage to talk her into leaving her very healthy, very quiet life for one last mission. She's been living with her father and sister, teaching English and working in the garden, and seems to be doing great, but the second the CIA stuff comes anywhere near her, that old sparky weirdness comes back into her eyes and she just flails around looking for somebody to yell at. Eventually, thanks to Saul, she is convinced to strike out for Beirut for a very short mission to talk to this lady, the wife of a Hezbollah commander whom she really never got to use as a spy when she originally recruited her.
Prepping her cover story with a handler played by my fave, Valerie Cruz, Carrie starts realizing that probably just being a spy even a tiny bit is going to make her crazy again, but she eventually pulls through and heads out to meet with Saul. As luck would have it, this little reunion is interrupted by bad guys, so Carrie immediately goes rogue to save the mission, pulling out a few tricks and twists before leaving her shadow on the ground in the middle of a marketplace -- and that's when we see the Smile. Somehow I don't think this mission is going to end as quickly or as simply as she, and they, would have liked.
Back home, an oddly contrived moment develops in which Dana Brody, unhappy at having transferred to Sidwell Friends, lets everybody know her Congressman father is a Muslim. She's being pretty righteous when she does it, and it leads to some excellent places, but it's a rare misstep for this show in the way it all comes out. Nick is close to being named the Vice President's running mate in the next election, but he's got like a million other things going on, so when his wife flips out about Dana's behavior, he just sort of comes clean and tells Jessica that he's been a Muslim for a while now. She reacts... poorly. She also tosses his Koran on the floor, resulting in an episode-ending father/daughter bonding moment where they commit the desecrated book to the ground in a midnight burial. It's sweet. Jessica, of course, is still only redeemed by the actress playing her, but it seems like she'll get some good stuff to do soon.
Other things Nick Brody has going on, in addition to being a Congressman and future VP with an ambitious wife and a sassy daughter and all kinds of PTSD: This sexy reporter lady just happens to be connected to Abu Nazir's people, meaning she can pass on orders and information in the regular course of the day. Turns out Abu's not really as into Nick's plan to "change from within" as Nick (weirdly) believed, and would like to go back to doing terrorist violence. The first step? Crack Estes's office safe during a CIA briefing and steal information about upcoming terror targets. He flirts with the idea of letting Abu down, but of course he ends up stealing the data. I guess anything's better than a suicide vest, and frankly I like it when anybody pulls shit on Estes.
So Carrie's in Beirut and Nick's on the way to the White House, probably, as long as nobody notices that he is also crazy as hell. Jessica's ambitions have never come across quite so nakedly, although as she points out his dishonesty (about his faith; about the "CIA Woman") is really kind of shocking. "This can't happen, do you get this?" she says, about his religious secrets, and it's a compelling argument, but not one that will last. I think it's smart to at least start with Carrie and Nick on different continents -- taking bets on how long it takes them to find a reason to get Nick to Beirut -- but I will say it was a bit painful to come so close to a Carrie/Saul reunion and have it taken away again like that. For an episode built around tense setpieces, that one was probably the most stressful just because of how good it was almost about to feel.
Next Week: Carrie finally connects with Saul, giving in to a whole new meltdown; the VP and Reporter Roya pressure Nick in various convoluted ways; and Mike starts looking into that one lady that got assassinated so they'd herd everybody into the bunker so Nick could blow them up; at her wit's end, Jessica tries for the Hail Mary pass of being anything other than a total bitch to Dana. Oh, and Carrie hits somebody in the head with a giant rock.
Holding herself responsible for 9/11 did CIA operative Carrie Mathison's struggle with her hereditary bipolar disorder few favors, as she created a life of working overtime to keep us safe from further terrorist threats. After an asset on his way to execution warned her that an American soldier (or two) had been turned by terrorist leader Abu Nazir, she set her sights on the recently rescued Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody, MIA for seven years. Plagued by the disconnect between her infallible intuition and the evidence as presented, her obsession slid into attraction, and eventually became mutual. Needless to say, finding out the one person he'd formed any connection with was also under the assumption he's a Al-Qaeda spy was pretty hard on Nick... Especially since it's true.
After a bomb knocked her brain loose, Carrie slid off her meds and into the complicated hell of her own beautiful mind -- which gave her the clues to the mystery, but no way to communicate them to anybody else. A last-minute wild-ass visit to Nick's house spurred his daughter Dana into investigating her allegations, which in turn led to Dana talking her dad down from his ultimate mission: Suicide bombing the Vice President. In the wake of this missed chance, and encouraged by his ambitious wife Jessica, Nick has become a Congressman and he's offered to let Abu Nazir hitch a ride on his rising star, working to destroy the US from within.
On her way in the opposite direction, Carrie was fired from the CIA for her mental issues and dumped unceremoniously by Nick (whom she'd come to believe), and she eventually submitted to memory-obliterating EC therapy in a last-ditch attempt to get some control. Unluckily, her last thought was of proof that the whole thing was true all along: Nick's motivation for coming after the US government was his indoctrination at Abu Nazir's hands which brought him eventually into the Nazir household, and thence to a close personal relationship with Nazir's young son, who was killed in an American drone strike -- and whose name Nick still screams in his sleep.
Israel has copped to bombing five nuclear sites deep inside Iran, which killed at least 3000 people (according to Iran) and has caused the inevitable demonstrations outside various US embassies.
Maggie: "Dad, turn that off. You know how Carrie gets about international policy and bombings..."
Dad: "Your sister's in the garden digging up vegetables for lasagna, it's fine. Also, she's aware that the Middle East exists."
Maggie: "Still. Her mental health is very important to me. Because I am a loving sister, but mostly because she is a pain in the ass."
Dad: "Well, I think her lithium levels are too high. When mine were too high I couldn't even read for six months, just fucked around in that stupid garden like your mother used to. Like Carrie currently is."
Maggie: "The difference between me and her doctor, versus you, is that we are doctors."