Saul Berenson, played ever so gruffly yet affectionately by Mandy Patinkin—like the perfect inspirational professor you never had—articulated this point when he begins the episode practically choking on the hoarseness of these thoughts:
“The vice president just said it doesn’t matter what actually happened,” Saul croaks. When Carrie tries to assuage his fears, he fires back, “It fucking matters. It determines what we do next. You want realistic? We’ve been through this before after 9/11. We did everything wrong.”
What Saul is correctly asserting is that we don’t actually know why President Warner’s helicopter crashed, nor did we even know at that point in the episode if he was alive. I made a rushed assumption last week just like Vice President Ben Hayes, a dithering war hawk, and such assumptions can steer nations toward disasters: like running toward a war in Iraq even though the nation had nothing to do with 9/11, all while neglecting Afghanistan for years.
We’d like to think we know better now, but the current American government is run by a man who actively tries to subvert facts and blur the truth. In the last week, the real-world President of the United States tried to haggle with the World Health Organization about the mortality rate among those infected by COVID-19, as if this was a price point in negotiating a beauty pageant’s marketing budget. But facts, as Saul notes, do fucking matter, and if you ignore them, you court calamity. It happened to America at the beginning of the 21st century and it can happen again… it’s certainly happening on Homeland.
We get to speculate as much while watching Vice President Hayes effectively become president. At the beginning of the episode, he is as aghast as everyone else to learn that President Warner’s helicopter crashed. He also uses it as an opportunity to berate Saul (setting up Saul realizing he just became powerless under the new regime inside of a minute) and bemoan the current situation. His kneejerk reaction is to believe Warner was shot down, which is a fair assumption to begin working off one set of options from. However, he thinks that is the only option, saying Haqqani and perhaps all of Afghanistan are uneducated bad faith actors. One almost suspects he’d like to use the word “savage.”