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Saul & Carrie are back together but everything else is falling apart on ‘Homelan…

“Homeland” contains a paradox at its center: In spycraft circles, you’re only as good as your connections — but your connections are always subject to change, often and specifically without showing it, and you may find yourself holding onto nothing at the end of the day. When you work with liars, you get lied to for work.

In “Alt.Truth” (Mar. 12) quite a few working relationships aren’t, in fact, working any longer. And damn if we didn’t get a nasty scare at episode’s end.

RELATED: Face to face with ‘Homeland’s’ Biggest Bad, Majid Javadi (Shaun Toub)

We begin with bombastic and realistically off-putting conservative radio host Elliott O’Keeefe (Jake Weber) doing a Jackson Pollock-worthy smear job on President Elect Keane (Elizabeth Marvel)’s dead war veteran son, Andrew. And if Elliott has to manipulate a PTSD-addled war vet to do it — never mind get even more heinously creative with some video footage of Andrew later, with Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) looking on as Creative Director — well: Ratings. (And presumably misogyny about a woman in power, not that we have any real-life examples of that.)

There’s clearly a single plan here, even if we’re still slowly seeing the pieces revealed — anything, it seems, to run down attempts at Middle East peace and step down our own hawkish tendencies — but did you catch the possibility that even Dar might be a tad guilty (hesitant, inscrutable, almost faltering?) about throwing a war hero under the bus?

Elsewhere, Saul (Mandy Patinkin) pays Carrie a visit at home, only to be told by Max that the Black Dog beat him here. This metaphor for depression was used by Winston Churchill, who himself suffered from some form of bipolarity — and it draws a lovely parallel between the mercurial man who pulled Britain back from the Nazi-riddled brink in World War II, and Carrie, whose own bravery in the face of daunting obstacles, on behalf of a noble cause, is constantly challenged by that very same Black Dog trotting dutifully at her heels.

When Saul then finds Carrie in Franny’s room, she’s laid bare in her agony. Her “I swore to myself I’d be different here,” and her refrain of “unfit mother, unfit mother, unfit mother” is agonizing: We’re reminded exactly how much she means it every time she says something along these lines — and her sharing of this raw self-loathing with Saul cuts to the bone. His presence also reminds us how much we all need that friend in our lives: The rare one who will listen to the darkest of our dark and not judge. He’s the first person in eons whose concern for Carrie feels both real and powerful; he is once again her safe harbor. Yes, he’s also got a favor to ask — but only Saul could pull off such a delicate, almost improbable balancing act between genuine compassion and straightforward business.

RELATED: Season 6 keeps raising its game — by bringing ‘Homeland’ to the homefront

Saul can only do so much for Carrie and Franny, which Carrie knows — but he takes her to lurk outside the foster home where Franny’s been placed, and seeing her daughter playing happily in the yard will keep Carrie going, for now. In turn, we get around to Saul’s big ask: Getting Javadi (Shaun Toub) out of the soup kitchen he’s been stashed in, and into the personal space of President-elect Keane.

And as Javadi helpfully explains before his latest betrayal: Saul and Carrie have another thing in common, which is occasional (usually at just the wrong damn time) blinding optimism. They both learn the hard way that Javadi decided to bet on the other horse, namely Dar, when he delightedly tells Keane face-to-face that Iran actually isn’t such a friend to the US, and that all his assurances about the nuclear program to Saul were lies. Javadi got positively Javadian, suckers, and he’s clearly sorry not sorry.

Keane’s livid, despite Saul’s and Carrie’s desperate protests that this turnabout is a lie (which Javadi later admits comes direct from Dar) — but worse, Keane’s a “two strikes and you’re out” kinda person: Carrie’s ill-advised drunk dial, and now this? Dar has most definitely succeeded in laying a nearly complete waste to Carrie’s life… Nearly.

As Keane storms off, Carrie still has her old friend by her side. Although fat lot of good that will do her at the moment, because now dear Saul is also, just like Carrie, “f***ing miles away from alright.”

But Dar’s still got one more alliance to destroy, although we don’t see him do it directly: Sadly, after that unpalatable meeting with Peter (Rupert Friend) last episode — the one that put the awful feeling in the pits of all of our stomachs, the one that made it hard to still call him “Quinn,” because that sounds too grown-up, too detached now and less like the beautiful wounded kid that he is — Dar’s back squatting in Peter’s head, which plays out with deadly consequence.

nina hoss rupert friend nina peter quinn homeland 1 Saul & Carrie are back together but everything else is falling apart on Homeland

Peter starts to figure he can’t trust Astrid (Nina Hoss) either, seeing as how she came running so eagerly when beckoned by Dar — and when Peter spots the Mad Bomber (CJ Wilson) in the local (very rural) grocery store, he assumes Astrid is keeping that loaded gun in her car to take him out, not the baddie.

We, like Peter, learn just a tad too late (is there any other way to learn anything on this show?) that Astrid came running at Dar’s command, in fact, because it was Peter: She endures an ugly violent outburst, and sticks around, because she loves Peter. It’s heartbreaking from every angle — and in the end, she runs straight into her doom to protect Peter, who couldn’t begin to fathom that anyone would do anything out of love for him… Which is why he emptied her gun and left her stranded.

Gaaaaaahhhh! Saul and Carrie are clinging to each other in their respective moments of darkness. Peter could have been clinging to Astrid in his moment of darkness (or is that “life of darkness”?), had Dar not worked Peter’s (utterly justifiable) paranoia like a puppet… And now Astrid’s dead, and Peter came way too close himself, and can he be anything other than totally dead inside moving forward, since he just sabotaged the one person who loved him most?

The feels. The feels. Well: Also, the revenge, the revenge. Because you know Peter. And because at the end of the day, he’s still the Carrie this year: Convinced beyond all doubt that only he can solve the mystery, get the job done, save the world… And obstructed in seemingly every possible way, like a rat in a trap. After so many years it’s still the hardest part about this show: When the person knows they’re right, and we know they’re right, and none of that changes anything at all.

“Homeland” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.

Category: TelevisionTV Shows: HomelandCelebrities: Claire Danes F. Murray Abraham Mandy Patinkin Rupert FriendTV Network: ShowtimeCharacters: Carrie Mathison Dar Agal Majid Javadi Saul Berenson

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