THE UPSHOT
The vice-president makes a tough call. Carrie searches for clues. G’ulom seizes an opportunity. Max has his heroic moment, but will he survive?

Director: Alex Graves
Writers: Gideon Raff (original Israeli series Prisoners Of War), Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Patrick Harbinson, Chip Johannessen
Cast: Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Maury Sterling, Mohammad Bakri, Sam Trammell
Streaming on: Hotstar Premium
Season: 8
Episode: 5 – Chalk Two Down

Spoilers ahead!

To bomb or not to bomb?

In last week’s episode of Homeland, the helicopter carrying American president Ralph Warner (Beau Bridges) and Afghan president Daoud (Christopher Maleki) went down in the Korangal Valley region. A second helicopter, sent in search of the first one, is shot down by Talibani militants. The latest episode is all about the mayhem that ensues as a result of these events. It begins with US troops, including Max Piotrowski (Maury Sterling), arriving at the crash site. Both presidents are immediately identified as dead. Soon enough, the soldiers are engaged in a shootout with militants still in the area. The Americans are outnumbered and it’s unlikely that they can hold their line. With back-up still far away, they must retreat if they want to survive.

The soldiers get orders to retreat, but there’s one problem. If the Taliban get their hands on President Warner’s corpse, they’re likely to do some rather undesirable things to the dead body and put it all over the internet. There’s only one way to prevent this. Once the troop retreats, a bomb must be dropped in the area. Saul (Mandy Patinkin) is dead against this, because this would mean destroying every bit of evidence that could help them determine the cause of the helicopter crash. But it’s the White House’s call and they decide to go ahead with the bombing.

The crisis has an unsettling effect on vice-president Ben Hayes (Sam Trammell). So far the guy has been generally obnoxious and quick to spew criticism. Under pressure he’s a bundle of nerves. It’s clear Hayes, who was looking to challenge President Warner, is unprepared to lead the country. Thankfully he has the ever-reliable David Wellington (Linus Roache) by his side. Wellington basically makes the decision on the bombing for Hayes.

G’ulom pushes his agenda

The Afghan vice-president Abdul Qadir G’ulom (Mohammad Bakri) was never in favour of peace with the Taliban. Now, with both presidents dead, he has the chance to turn the tables in his favour. He announces to the world that the Taliban are responsible for the attack on the presidents’ chopper, and declares martial law in the country. G’ulom is aware that the Taliban chief Haissam Haqqani (Numan Acar) is in Kabul since he was slated to meet President Warner. All exit points from the city are blocked to prevent Haqqani from leaving. G’ulom wants Haqqani, dead or alive.

Meanwhile, Saul contacts Haqqani and asks him if he was behind the attack, which Haqqani denies. Saul believes him. He tells Haqqani that he must leave Kabul immediately to stay alive.

Carrie chases a lead

Saul sends Carrie (Claire Danes) to look for clues about the helicopter crash. Her first stop is Bagram air field, where she learns that the president’s chopper was swapped at the last minute. The mechanic who did the swap seems to have mysteriously disappeared.

Carrie and soldiers from the air field go hunting for the mechanic, only to hit a dead end. Turns out the mechanic wasn’t trying to hide or escape; he was only visiting his pregnant girlfriend. They learn that the helicopter swap was a routine operation given the unreliable equipment available in the region. Could the president’s helicopter have crashed simply because of a fault or glitch? The only way to ascertain this would be to examine the wreckage, but the crash site is about to be bombed.

What does fate have in store for Max?

The episode ends on a cliffhanger with Max coming face-to-face with a Talibani militant. At the crash site, while the two troops are exchanging fire, Max is instructed by Carrie to retrieve the flight recorder or the black box from the president’s helicopter. The recorder may contain important evidence about the crash. Max manages to get hold of it in the nick of time, before they make a run from the site. As they retreat, everyone is shot down by the Taliban except Max and another soldier. Soon the bomb comes down and the Talibani militants are eliminated, except one. The surviving militant hunts Max and his companion down and kills the other soldier. Max is now alone, unarmed and with the flight recorder when the militant closes in on him.

Considered a ‘lucky charm’ by the soldiers at his military base, Max was supposed to be on the second helicopter that went down in Korangal, until he decided he wasn’t going back home. Yet one gets a feeling Max is heading towards a tragic end. It remains to be seen whether Carrie will somehow save him.

Who was behind the attack?

It’s safe to assume that Haqqani had nothing to do with the attack on the helicopter. The usual suspects are G’ulom and ISI agent Tasneem Qureshi (Nimrat Kaur), both of whom have been wanting to sabotage the peace talks from the onset. Haqqani’s estranged son Jalal (Elham Ehsas), who we know is in cahoots with Tasneem, could also be involved. What’s most strange is the absence of Yevgeny Gromov (Costa Ronin) in the last two episodes. Does he have something to do with this? It still isn’t clear why the Russian spy is in Afghanistan, but his encounters with Carrie seem to indicate that he’s on the same side as her. Could that be a ruse?

Episode 6 of season 8 of Homeland will be released on Monday, March 16.

For recaps of previous episodes, see here.