Flashback time. Picture it, as Sophia Petrillo used to say. Baghdad, 2005. A keen young operative turns up at the CIA HQ. Carrie – for it is she – is there to take over from Allison, who has very clearly lost faith in the USA’s mission in Iraq: the dust ruins her clothes, and she wants to go to her favourite beach bar in St. Lucia, stat.
Allison introduces Carrie to her chief asset, Ahmed Nazari – the dude from last week who was thought dead but is in fact alive. Unhelpfully, Nazari will only work with Allison, with whom he’s in love. He wants the two of them to leave together, and Allison’s all, it’s not that I don’t like you, but this is a professional relationship, until Nazari reveals that he’s managed to help himself to $8m from the Iraqi Ministry of Justice. Allison turns on a dime – hell yeah, I totally want to leave with your lovely money, and you can come along as well – but it’s a trap, sprung by Krupin, the Russian agent we’ve seen her having some sort of affair with in the present day. I suppose you could argue that Allison’s taste in men isn’t all it might be. Krupin, however, makes her an interesting offer: half of the $8m, and a mutually beneficial sharing of information. Presumably she found that tempting.
Meantime, back in 2015, Carrie has arranged to meet Allison to ask for help. Allison tells Krupin, and to start with, Allison wonders – as did I – why Krupin doesn’t just have Carrie killed, for reasons aside from Claire Danes’s contract. Krupin’s answer, which is that there have been too many bodies already, is pretty mealy-mouthed for a ruthless intelligence agent. And it’s a position he reconsiders within a few minutes, when he sends a sniper to the Carrie/Allison summit meeting, with instructions to take Carrie out if Allison signals that it needs to be done.
All of this is reasonably interesting, if somewhat ponderous: we get to see that Allison’s treachery started out as something between a response to blackmail, and a desire for cash and status, rather than being ideologically driven, although if she later developed feelings for Krupin it’s possible the lines became even more blurred. And she could have dropped the hammer on Carrie, but chose not to. She probably isn’t evil; she’s just out of her moral and ethical depth, and I’m not expecting her to survive past the end of the season anyway. I’m not sure that Düring will either: this week, his sole contribution is to lie to Carrie when she asks him if Jonas has been in touch, which once again suggests that Düring is up to no good, either romantically or politically.
The unfortunate Quinn, meantime, remains trapped in the plot with the merry band of jihadis who just happened to stumble across him when he was trying to kill himself. They head for Syria, but have a quick comfort stop in Kosovo, where they pick up chemical weapons equipment, smack Quinn over the head with a length of piping – once again, why not just kill him? – and head back towards Berlin. The Quinn arc this season really doesn’t survive the merest scrutiny – it seems a long time ago that he was trying to kill himself, and that he had an infected bullet wound in his stomach, but in Homeland time I don’t think it is. And it’s becoming harder and harder to escape the conclusion that Rupert Friend’s schedule meant that he couldn’t spend as much time in Berlin as everyone else, so he’s been given some busywork to keep him in the show. Friend’s a fine and charismatic actor, and even though I don’t buy him and Carrie as a romantic couple it’s a dismal waste of his talents to separate him from the rest of the cast.
And Quinn has been joined in plot hell by Saul: it now looks as if he’s not part of a long con with Dar Adal – who has quickly worked out that Saul’s extraction was a Mossad job – so there isn’t much for him to do. Even though he doesn’t want to, you know, defect defect, he’s not being allowed to leave the Israeli embassy until someone called Tovah arrives. Tovah immediately negotiates with Dar to hand Saul back to the CIA, so Saul does a runner, presumably until Carrie can work out what’s going on with Allison.
Which, by the end of ‘All About Allison’, she’s started to do, although in a problematic way which really sums up what isn’t working with this season: the pacing is all over the place. After yet another episode of nothing much, the plot suddenly leaps forward with unnecessary speed, when Numan and Carrie hack into Nazari’s laptop and see his screensaver, which is a photo of him at what looks like a beach bar. Beach bar… St. Lucia… Allison… the penny drops. The optimistic view, I suppose, is that the first eight episodes of this less-than-spectacular season have been taking their time getting everything in place for a thrilling conclusion. We’ll see.