SPOILER ALERT: This recap contains storyline and character spoilers.
Phew! It was almost like being back in those final eight episodes of “Breaking Bad” with “Big Man in Tehran,” the penultimate “Homeland” episode of Season 3.
All those installments that were completely sans Brody earlier this season were well worth the wait for this, in which the former American hero and politician finally chose which side he’s on. A twisty, turn-filled adventure that found him seemingly flip-flopping between the plan the CIA set out for him and a newfound hero status in Tehran ended with Brody doing exactly what he’d been ordered to do: kill Iranian intelligence head Danesh Akbari, so Akbari’s number two, Javadi, could be installed as the new head of the IRGC and puppeted by the CIA.
But Brody isn’t out of the woods yet. An initial planned rendezvous with Akbari — egged on and facilitated by Javadi — didn’t get him close enough to carry out the killing. To keep his cover, Brody had to continue playing the political asylum card, and Saul, Dar Adal, and Sen. Lockhart believed he may have actually switched his allegiance again once the people of Tehran became aware of his presence and started praising him as a hero (hence the episode title, when a guard tells Brody he’s a “big man in Tehran” now).
Carrie, in Tehran to help the risky plot succeed, became aware that Saul and company had lost faith in Brody and had ordered two hit men to pick him up. Brody ignored her pleas to flee the city with her and ran to his friend, Abu Nazir’s widow, begging for a face-to-face with Akbari. He had important information about Javadi, he said, and Akbari needed to hear it.
At this point, we were as uncertain as the CIA what Brody planned to do, but since he’d already destroyed the cyanide needle he’d been given as a murder weapon earlier, an assassination attempt on Akbari seemed unlikely. But we, like Saul and company (and probably even Carrie), underestimated Brody. He did go to Akbari, he did tell the general Javadi had been blackmailed into working against Akbari, and he told Akbari he had originally been sent to Tehran as part of the CIA plan to kill him.
Then he picked up an ashtray from Akbari’s desk and smashed him over the head with it and, alone in the general’s office, plucked a pillow from his couch and finished the job by smothering him with it. He used Akbari’s cell phone to call Carrie.
“I killed him… now get me out of here,” an understandably shaken and exhausted Brody said, standing over Akbari’s dead body.
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But can she? Can she do it by herself, after Saul ordered her to return home, aware she’d warned Brody of the hit Saul ordered? Or can Carrie get this info on Akbari to Saul in time for Saul to call in help for Carrie to get Brody out of Akbari’s office — an office which is surrounded by armed gunmen?
And what about Javadi? He’s in the building, panicking that Brody was about to blow his cover with Akbari. Can Javadi be called into action to help Brody, to usher him past the guards before they discover their leader has been murdered?
All fine questions for a season finale that has a tough act to follow with this: the most intense, best episode of Season 3.
* Not that Saul’s been our favorite guy this season, as he’s played with a lot of lives to get to Akbari’s demise, but it was satisfying to see him confront Alain Bernard, using him to get contacts in Tehran, and then calling him the “greaseball who f--ked my wife.” After that humiliation courtesy of Mira, Mr. Berenson deserved the chance to slag the smug creep.
* While standing on the balcony of her hotel room in Tehran, the pregnant Carrie caught a glimpse of herself in the glass door and realized she’s now showing. Will everyone/anyone besides Quinn find out about the pregnancy in the finale? Will Brody at least find out before… whatever happens to him?
* And about that: Assuming Carrie and/or the CIA can get Brody out of Akbari’s office alive, what then? He was already assumed to be the Langley bomber in America before he went to Tehran and gave TV interviews claiming responsibility for the attack. Can he return to his country and be cleared of the terrorist act now? How would Saul and the CIA explain the many machinations that led to Akbari’s death?
And Brody obviously won’t be welcome in Tehran if his assassination of Akbari becomes public knowledge there. Is Brody truly the invincible cockroach that Tower of David doctor told him he was? Or has he already used up way more than his fair share of narrow escapes?
"Homeland" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime.