Emmy episode analysis: Mandy Patinkin (‘Homeland’) assembles a team to investigate Russians in ‘Species Jump’

Mandy Patinkin has this year earned his fourth Best Drama Supporting Actor Emmy nomination for portraying CIA operative Saul Berenson on Showtime’s “Homeland.” This marks the actor’s seventh career nomination, having previously been recognized for “Chicago Hope” (1995 and 1999), winning on the first occasion, and “The Larry Sanders Show” (1992). Patinkin, also a Tony Award winner (Best Musical Featured Actor for “Evita” in 1980), has submitted for voters’ consideration the sixth episode of the season, “Species Jump.”

In the episode, Saul gathers a team, including ex-CIA Russian expert Sandy (Catherine Curtin) and tech specialist Clint (Peter Vack), to investigate how Russian national Yevgeny Gromov (Costa Ronin) was involved in the Lucasville Massacre, a violent standoff between the FBI and followers of right-wing radio personality Brett O’Keefe (Jake Weber) that resulted in several casualties.

While Saul’s team begins to make some headway, he is visited by old friend Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes). She’s been struggling to keep it together, restless in her mission to figure out who took out a hit on General Jamie McClendon (Robert Knepper). Saul is outraged when Carrie reveals she has been illegally spying on David Wellington (Linus Roache), the White House Chief of Staff who may or may not be involved. To her horror, Saul suspects Carrie’s friend Dante Allen (Morgan Spector) is not to be trusted in her investigation.

Meanwhile, Saul is also keeping tabs on his Russian spy contact Ivan Krupin (Mark Ivanir), whose interest in bringing down Yevgeny tragically leads him to his watery grave. Will “Species Jump” score Patinkin his first Emmy for the series? Let’s dive into the pros and cons.

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Patinkin is an esteemed veteran of the stage and screen, so respected among his peers that he has managed to hold on in Best Drama Supporting Actor, even as “Homeland” and co-star Danes were dropped from Best Drama Series and Best Drama Actress. As he’s yet to earn an Emmy for his iconic turn as Saul Berenson and his “Chicago Hope” triumph went down more than two decades ago, voters may view Patinkin as due for a win.

While Patinkin’s screen time in “Species Jump” is modest (about 16 minutes), he leaves a powerful impression, particularly in his fiery scene opposite Danes. Both actors are operating at the very top of their game.

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“Homeland” has largely fallen off the map with the Emmys, this year claiming just three nominations – a significant dip since the second season’s series-high of 11. Making matters all the more daunting for Patinkin is the show’s failure to score a single Emmy win since that sophomore season in 2013.

Patinkin can take some solace in knowing this category has seen its fair share of upsets, including Ben Mendelsohn (“Bloodline”) just two years ago, but besting the likes of Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”) and David Harbour (“Stranger Things”) is destined to be a tough task.

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