Previously on The Looming Tower, “The General”
From intelligence conveyed from the FBI Langley office, agent Ali Soufan learns that while Quso was in Bangkok to give Khallad $36,000 presumably for a new prosthetic leg, he was in contact with al-Hada, a switch board for Al-Qaeda, in Yemen. Since al-Hada was the contact for the bomber of the Nairobi Embassy, Soufan sends a message back to Alec Station asking for any additional information on Khallad. In the meantime, Soufan questions Quso again and gets him to name Abu Jandel, “Father of death”, as another suspect. However, he is not allowed to interview Jandel by Captain Amin and even by General al-Qamish. To add insult to injury, Soufan is robbed in the marketplace by his fellow “brothers” simply because they take him for a rich American. Soufan gets away by holding the robbers at gun point and rightfully so requests for month rotation back to the United States.
In response to Soufan’s request, several of Alec Station’s employees question Diane Marsh about what information they should relay. Marsh very rudely informs them that only if Leonard Bliss requests for them to draft a response then and only then should they do so. Marsh additionally mentions that her and her “colleague” believe giving information to I-49 would jeopardize the CIA’s mission. (What mission exactly? To kill Osama Bin Laden?) Amazingly, one of the employees mentions that her so called “colleague” is Schmidt and does not even work at Alec Station anymore (What is his new position?) and should not be relied upon for reliable advice.
To appease the masses, conniving Marsh sends FBI agent Toni-Ann with pictures of Khallad and other terrorists to see if they recognize any of them to inquire exactly how much information they have. When she only has useless photographs to show them and no other helpful information, Robert Chesney and other I-49 agents become infuriated with Toni-Ann and report this behavior to Sanchez. Furthermore, this lack of action prompts Amy, a co-worker of Marsh, to confront Schmidt about her concerns about not sharing foreign intelligence with the FBI. Quite surprisingly, Schmidt agrees with Amy and even accompanies her to approach Marsh.
Amy asks Marsh the question that has been on the audience’s mind since episode one, “What is the downside in working with the FBI?”
In an erratic performance, Marsh proclaims the FBI must be in kept in dark in order to prevent them from arresting low-level operatives in Middle East countries that are allies to the USA, most of all Saudi Arabia. Fundamentalist will rise up against the royal family in Saudi Arabia, severing the United States/ “special relationship” with them, and will spread civil war across the Middle East.
“Saudi Araba must never go down.”
Perhaps this is why CIA director George Tenet performed a secret favor, presumably allowing Khalid into America, for the Saudi Arabia ambassador. Marsh crudely ends the conversation by “suggesting” Amy take a whole week of sick leave.
Back at the White House, Richard Clarke attempts to brief the new National Security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, on the imminent threat of the spread of Islamic terrorist cells. However, she informs him she and President George Bush is far too busy for intricate details and request only the highlights. Even she later meets with John O’Neal, Tenet, Clarke, Marsh, and other officials, she proclaims without specific names they are just swatting at flies in attempting to target al Qaeda. I wonder, however, if this portrayal is fully accurate, or if Rice is being thrown under the bus. In any case, this meeting only further fuels the audience’s frustration with Marsh as she sits idly by and does not convey any information to Rice at this opportune moment concerning Khalid being in America, any information on Khallad, al-Hada intel, etc.
The terror of this week’s episode is not about what was wrong with the episode but was actually terrifying. Mr. Atta, the al Qaeda terrorist sent by Dr. Zawahari to help with the mission in America, begins to take flying lessons via flight simulations. The imagery of him behind the control panel of a plane flying over a city sent an undeniable chill up my spine and a pit of dread in my stomach. Mr. Atta also teaches Khalid and his friend (Will he ever be named?) hand-to-hand combat to prepare for the mission.
Furthermore, something so simple yet still so bone chilling stood out this week. Khalid visits the beach and retrieves a blown away hat belonging to a woman and her three-year-old daughter. As he looks longingly at this parent and child, I can’t help but to think how complex this character is. Here he is in America planning to kill thousands of people but yet still has compassion enough to help out those very same people he claims to help. This scene is very reminiscent of the one where Walla waves to the U.S. soldiers on the U.S.S. Cole right before his boat loaded with a bomb plows into it. Maybe it is this contradiction of feelings that leads to Khalid and his friend fleeing from the apartment at the end of the episode. Have they backed out the of the terroristic plan or simply moved their base of operations?
Due to his flaws, O’Neal continues to be an interesting character. He admits to his priest that men screw everything up and he knows that he is a part of that narrative; however, he now wants to put things right. Immediately after, O’Neal is shown in a montage of loathsome behavior as he has sex with Shelia, then celebrates his daughters’ birthday with his wife, and finally sleeps with Liz as he cries about what a horrible man he is.
O’Neal’s professional life also proves to be a disaster when Sanchez first informs him that Ambassador Bodine has denied him reentry into Yemen and later forces him to resign. New York times has somehow wind of him losing his briefcase with confidential documents in Florida at that FBI retirement conference. Sanchez claims to not know how the story was leaked but my money is on him being the whistleblower.
- Mohammad al-Owhali, the suicide bomber of the Nairobi Embassy, is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Agent Chesney is applauded for this victory.
- Condoleezza Rice was the first African American woman to hold the office of National Security Advisor.
- There is a hint of possible marriage troubles for Schmidt when he very awkwardly asks Marsh how often a married couple should be making love after her tense conversation with Amy. Diane Marsh just rightfully looks bewildered at him. I also loved that Schmidt was a complete hypocrite in this scene by agreeing with Amy when he has been advising Marsh every episode practically to deny information to the FBI.
- Before he is robbed, Soufan and Heather have a huge fight over the phone when he calls her during work hours. When he returns to the USA, he convinces her to stay in a relationship with him. I would’ve been perfectly happy with them breaking up but ok I guess.
- When Chesney reports to Sanchez that Alec Station is having his own agents (Toni-Ann) turn against the bureau, Sanchez merely tells him to file a complaint. Chesney accuses him, unlike O’Neal, of not going to bat for his agents.
- The special relationship with Saudi Arabia was further demonstrated in the episode with the ambassador and his wife being invited to Texas by Laura Bush.
The Looming Tower S1E8 Review Score
"A Very Special Relationship"
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Tahar Rahim, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Nezar Alderazi, Sullivan Jones, Erica Cho, Katie Flahive