Like many of you who are still watching Showtime’s Homeland, I am doing it out of a sense of loyalty to the greatness that was season one of the show. I am also doing it because it is my job. It’s not been particularly pleasant this season, and unlike Dexter, there is no end in the foreseeable future that we can look forward to. Season three has been a slow-moving mess.
One of the chief complaints of the season is how the show introduced Nicholas Brody back into the series in last week’s episode. We don’t know what happened to him between the time Carrie Mathison arranged for his escape at the end of season two and his reappearance last week in Caracas, Venezuela, nor do we know how he got a bullet in his stomach. To the latter question, we may never know. I forget where I read it, but Alex Gansa said in an interview earlier this week that they have no plans to explain how he got shot. They just thought it was a really good way to start the episode. Backstory not necessary! We can fill in the blanks ourselves! HOORAY.
Despite the fact that Homeland has no intention of visiting the shooting, they did for some reason decide to fill in the blanks otherwise. In a half-hour audiobook called Phantom Pain that you can listen to for free on Audible, you can hear Damian Lewis narrate the events between season two and season three. It’s written with a heavy hand, and it’s ponderous and dull, and I know that 99 percent of you will never listen to it, so I did it for you.
This, according to Phantom Pain, is what happened to Nicholas Brody in between seasons:
Basically, his whole escape was orchestrated by a former CIA Agent named June, who knew Carrie.
Brody was put in a metal shipping container on a boat, which he lived inside of for three weeks eating canned ravioli every six hours. He was very unhappy. He thought about Carrie Mathison all the time. “I could hear you. I could taste you.” He spent much of his time stewing about what a villain the media had made of him. All his eight years in a hole were for nothing, and now he’s equated with Nasir. “My life is being explained with maps of Iraq and Syria,” he says.
“Now I’m a pawn. A puppet. A twisted soul broken by war. I didn’t recognize that man. I wanted to scream at all those talking heads. MY CHILDREN ARE WATCHING THIS.” But, as he explains, “Everything I’ve done, I did for love.”
After the ship reaches shore, some guy named Philippe, who has a prosthetic hand and was “made of scars,” retrieved him from the storage container, after he’d sat in it for 2 days in 120 degree heat that threatened to melt his coffin. Philipe is the guy who would eventually shave Brody’s head.
Philipe took him to a brothel in Honduras. “A room and a bath where they don’t ask for papers.” He could be himself there because “whores don’t want to know you.” After that, he drove some more. The expressionless faces of the people in the country that he was in said, “Go on ahead and keep raping us. The jungle will eat you all.”
Before crossing the Nicaraguan border, he was given a vest with with packets of cash sewn in. He was stopped by customs, but he and Philipe bribed them with three packets of cash. Philipe then drove them to Panama, where Brody was put into a fishing boat. The captain of the fishing boat and his first mate grew suspicious, having seen Brody on the news. Philipe killed them and took the control of the fishing boat.
Philipe then asks Nicholas what message he would send to Carrie if he could say one thing. “This was a mistake, Carrie. A mistake. I’m coming home. Bring me home safe, so I can tell the truth,” he thinks. But then, after realizing that he’d be locked away on Guantanimo and eventually executed, Nicholas rethinks himself, “Run with me, Carrie.” He gives neither message to Philipe, however.
As the boat approaches Venezuela, he swims to shore. “There’s moonlight on the water, and stars in the sky, and there in between them, where I can’t see anything, is the rest of my life.”
Why is the short story called Phantom Pain, no one asks? Because after Philipe describes the phantom pain that he often feels where his arm used to be, Nicholas uses that as a heavy-handed metaphor to describe his relationship with Carrie.