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Review: ‘Homeland’ Season 5 Episode 9 ‘The Litvinov Ruse’ Isn’t Much of a Trick

Review: 'Homeland' Season 5 Episode 9 'The Litvinov Ruse' Isn't Much of a Trick

Immediate Reaction

“Maybe you will live.” So said the kind cousin of Quinn’s not-so-kind “friend” after jabbing him with an antidote (of sorts) for the sarin gas about to be tested on “the American.” Well, technically, he was right, but for our purposes we may as well drop the “maybe.” Quinn (Rupert Friend) might go down, but he’s not about to bow out without more merit behind his death. Quinn will survive, but boy oh boy will he be mad when he wakes up.

The same lack of surprise can be applied to this episode’s “A” story, as no one thought all the time we’ve devoted to Allison (Miranda Otto) would climax with her being arrested by German officials. Ivan (Mark Ivanir) may have panicked and admitted defeat, but even when he bluntly said, “We fucking lost,” audiences knew better. 

Progress was made in Episode 9, and seeing Saul and Carrie working together again was fairly satisfying — but not quite satisfying enough. Considering Etal Luskin’s (Allan Corduner) words of warning for Carrie to kick off “The Litvinov Ruse” — that Carrie “broke his heart” when lobbying against Saul’s bid for the directorship — I expected more of their personal beef to be dissected. Instead, we got a lot of cool spycraft (Saul carefully cutting and gluing the purse was oddly my favorite part) and a lot of plot — beat-by-beat, rather boring plot. It’s time to step it up “Homeland.” It’s not as exciting to watch Allison dance around being caught when we already know she’s guilty; oddly enough, it’s the opposite tactic as what hooked audiences to begin with, way back in Season 1, when we didn’t know whether to root for Brody or not. 

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: Review: ‘Homeland’ Season 5, Episode 8 ‘All About Allison’ Catches Everyone Up

Classic “Homeland” Twist

I refuse to believe that the good, intelligent people behind “Homeland” believed anything that went down in this episode to be an actual “twist.” Purposeful development with a slight edge would be how I’d (rather generously) describe it, meaning the classic “Homeland” moment was that there was no twist. Sure, Quinn getting a life-saving shot from his guilt-ridden new buddy was close, and Allison’s argument could be seen as surprising, but, really, “The Litvinov Ruse” wasn’t all that rousing.

Crazy Carrie Level: 1/10

There was a moment early in the episode when I thought Carrie might be in for a rough hour of television. Upon first seeing Saul, she broke down in tears, needing a hug from her father figure before launching into her thoroughly thought-out theory regarding Allison’s deceitful ways. Yet from that moment on it was smooth sailing. Yes, she had to have a rather difficult conversation with Saul about how his lover was currently banging some other dude on camera — and whether or not that was a personal “fuck you” to Saul — but that’s far from the most delicate matter she’s ever brought up. As went the episode in general, Carrie’s actions decreased significantly as the episode ran down. But hey — she certainly seems saner with every passing episode. 

MVP (Most Valuable Performer)

Time for a shout-out to Rupert Friend for some more top tier tortured acting. Quinn has been put through the wringer in Season 5: shot, lost a ton of blood, had an infected wound due to lacking medical treatment, almost committed suicide, knocked unconscious, left in the back of a truck and now subjected to sarin gas — a death he described in painful detail before being subjected to every element of it other than actually dying. While pretending to be in pain may not be as challenging as portraying the emotionally-crippled mind of Carrie Mathison, Friend has done a phenomenal job capturing the various stages and intensities of bodily distress. I may not be worried about Quinn dying, but I sure do feel his pain.

Quote of the Night

“I just don’t know who to be more disgusted with. Her or us.” – Dar Adal

Either the beauty or the frustration of “The Litvinov Ruse” lies in its tradecraft. Not only did director Tucker Gates and writer (and showrunner) Alex Gansa spend a huge chunk of the episode devoted to showing how meticulously sneaky spies must be when protecting themselves, but then, after all of those (very cool) shenanigans, it all seems to come down to trust. Allison is making the argument Ivan was reporting to her, not the other way around. In doing so, she’s trying to sell Dar the idea she had to be so unbelievably careful — switching trains, ditching her phone, fleeing to a bug-proofed Russian safehouse — because her “John’s” people needed to believe Allison was spooked about a mole in their operation.

It’s not a bad story, considered how quickly she came up with it, but it also feels a bit flimsy that this whole season could come down to a “he said/she said” debate. Trust has been a theme of the season, for sure — from the moment Carrie starting working with a questionable boss or asked her boyfriend to let her go off meds — but a more important trust must be maintained between the “Homeland” writers and their audience. They’ve earned quite a bit over the past four seasons, so very few people should be ready to bail on them now. But they still need to amp up the energy via action very soon.

Grade: B-

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