THE UPSHOT
When peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban crumble, Saul sends a partially-recovered Carrie to Afghanistan. Meanwhile Max pulls off a tricky mission of his own in Afghanistan.

Director: Lesli Linka Glatter
Writers: Gideon Raff (original Israeli series Prisoners Of War), Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Debora Cahn
Cast: Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Maury Sterling, Nimrat Kaur
Streaming on: Hotstar Premium
Season: 8
Episode: 1 – Deception Indicated

Carrie recovers in Germany

In the finale of season seven, we saw CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) being returned after she was held captive in a Russian gulag for over 200 days. She had been deprived of her medication, which caused her to go into a “florid psychosis”. We now see her recuperating at a facility in Germany. While she seems to be in good shape physically, she’s battling PTSD and is prone to frequent flashbacks. Her memory is slowly recovering but she doesn’t remember the events that took place over 180 of the 200 days. This is a cause of concern for the CIA, who fear that she may have given up secrets to the Russians during interrogation. Carrie, however, is confident that she hasn’t revealed any assets or locations apart from a defunct safe-house in Beirut, Lebanon. It doesn’t help Carrie’s cause when she fails her polygraph test, whose result shows “deception indicated”. Has Carrie been turned by the Russians?

A lot is happening in Afghanistan

The United States wants to pull its troops out of Afghanistan, and is therefore brokering peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar. Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), the US president’s National Security Advisor, is at the helm of things there. Things go kaput when the Afghan vice-president Abdul Qadir G’ulom (Mohammad Bakri) contradicts his government and declares on television that he will not release Talib prisoners as promised. The Taliban stages a walkout, but Saul manages to buy a week’s time from the Taliban chief to make things right. Saul suspects Pakistan has a hand in disrupting the peace talks. Nimrat Kaur returns for the first time since season four as ISI agent Tasneem Qureishi. When confronted, she denies the allegation and instead tells Saul that the United States has never cared about peace in the region.

Meanwhile, Carrie’s old accomplice Max Piotrowski (Maury Sterling) lands at the US military base in Afghanistan for a special mission. He, along with a group of soldiers, must enter Taliban-dominated territory and fix a surveillance device that will give the Americans ears over Talibani activity across the border, in Pakistan. The designated group of soldiers aren’t thrilled about having to risk their lives for Max, but warm up to him once they learn about the importance of his task and his history with the Taliban. Max’s mission gives us one of the most gripping moments of the episode.

Carrie plunges right into the troubled country

Saul must get the Afghan vice-president G’ulom to take back his words for peace talks to resume. G’ulom has a history of working with Carrie against the Taliban, and Saul knows that he trusts her. Saul puts Carrie on the next plane to Kabul to deal with G’ulom, ignoring the failed polygraph test and strong disapproval from her doctors. In Kabul, Carrie meets station chief Mike Dunn (Cliff Chamberlain) and his assistant Jenna Bragg (Andrea Deck). Dunn is wary about the prospect of having a Russian mole in his station, and has set up surveillance on Carrie. Jenna, meanwhile, is frustrated about being confined to the headquarters and not being given the opportunity to do any field work.

Carrie wastes no time upon reaching Kabul. In true Carrie style, she sneaks out in the middle of the night to reconnect with one of her assets in Ghazni, hoping that he might provide her with some intel on G’ulom. However, on reaching his house, she is told by his wife and son that he was executed by the Taliban after they discovered he was working for the Americans. Carrie’s shocked as she was the only person who ever knew about this asset. When she returns to the station, she’s confronted by Mike over her whereabouts. She asks Mike whether the whispers of Russian cooperation with the Taliban hold any substance, to which he replies in the affirmative. This makes Carrie uneasy and she wonders whether she gave up information to the Russians during her time at the gulag. Is she responsible for her asset’s death?

The episode ends with Carrie waiting outside vice-president G’ulom’s office, when she sees Yevgeny Gromov (Costa Ronin), a Russian spy and her tormentor-in-chief at the gulag.

Episode 2 of season 8 of Homeland will be out on Monday, February 17.