We need to talk about Mandy Patinkin.
“The Clearing” was Patinkin’s (and Saul’s) episode. And it wasn’t a big, exploding fireworks kind of episode, rather it focussed on the tedium of extracting one tiny piece of information from jailed terrorist, Aileen Morgan (Marin Ireland). In Season One, Aileen’s partner Raqim Faisel was connected by an email address to one of Brody’s Afghan captors—Afsal Hamid (who killed himself with a piece of razor while in CIA custody). Looking back, that was one of the few times we wondered about the possibility of Saul being a mole, when he had difficulty with the first polygraph he was given. During a raid on their hotel room, Faisel was killed and Aileen jailed, placed into solitary confinement twenty-three hours daily. When Saul visits Aileen to see if she can identify Roya’s new contact (head of the strike team at Gettysburg), the prisoner wants nothing more than a place in the sun. Frustrated by Aileen’s inability to trust him and hampered by the “sadistic,” “bastard” prison warden, Saul does what he has to, but he also spends time trying to make Aileen feel like a cared about human being, bringing her bread, cheese and wine and engaging her in conversation. Do his tears fall because of the feelings she stirs up about Saul’s broken marriage, or because Aileen so easily duped him? Patinkin brings strength and vulnerability to every onscreen moment; his disgust at the warden’s comment about Saul’s “Heaven may care grooming…” evident in Patinkin’s physicality, without the SNL-mockable emoting Danes and Lewis provide. Patinkin is a beautiful and subtle giant among his powerhouse peers and this episode let him shine.
Aileen’s physical captivity is juxtaposed with Brody’s confinement. He’s consistently being kept in line by the CIA or Roya, and trapped in his own network of lies to his family, himself and others—he has little control over his own actions, held back by a forced commitment to Walden (as both a running mate and possible target) and peoples’ misconceptions of who he is. While we may not know where Brody’s true loyalties lie, we’re able to see the man’s disappointment in himself. Aileen lamented to Saul over the person she had become, and Brody, forced to see himself through the eyes of a fellow “hero,” feels disillusioned over “…the man I could have been.” While Aileen basked—and died—in the sun’s bathing light, Brody tried to wash away his self-loathing with a solitary nighttime swim. He emerged with good intentions, thinking he could at least have moral parental control. Carrie quickly stepped in and showed him otherwise. While Brody’s thoughts and actions often seem ambiguous, here we clearly saw his desire and intentions to do the right thing, though he was unable.
Carrie exerted control over both Brody and Mike (did she reveal too much when she spoke to Mike?), yet she was still herself a part of this group of people who are not in charge of their own lives. Jessica wanted reassurance from Brody that their family ethics wouldn’t be determined by their political involvement; Finn knew he and Dana would have no say over their own actions and as Carrie warned Mike, she reminded herself; “It’s hard wanting something or someone you just can’t have.” In “The Clearing,” no one can have (or be) what they really want.
Notes: Though his recovery was crazy-quick, it’s a relief to see Quinn right back in action. Rupert Friend is such a great cast addition.
I hope the Carrie/Brody make-out scene was meant to be as awkward as it came off.
Roya is clearly suspicious about Brody now. Will she purposely misdirect him?