‘Homeland’: ‘Beirut Is Back’ – and tenser than ever

Sarah D. Bunting
Fall TV

Worry about Carrie's mental health if you want to, or that Brody's about to fall off his tightrope and get caught — but don't worry a bit about "Homeland," which returned to gripping form tonight as Carrie scored key intel, escaped yet another nail-biter of a chase, proved her instincts to Saul and Estes, and grabbed a copy of Brody's video suicide note, almost by accident. And that's not even mentioning Brody texting Abu Nazir from a situation room!

When Carrie gets back to the safe house, she's riding high — she had to stay out all night to avoid the militias, and Saul is livid that she didn't obey protocol, but her contact, Fatima, tipped her to a meeting between her husband and Abu Nazir the next day. Saul reports it to Estes, who doesn't want to authorize an operation to capture or kill Nazir with so much information unverified, and Saul and Estes play cover-your-butt hot potato. Carrie eavesdrops on their conversation and hyperventilates, then weeps to Saul that getting it wrong about Brody messed with her head: "I have never been so sure, and so wrong." She can't trust her own thoughts sometimes — but she trusts Fatima.

Saul "won't risk American lives on a hunch," but although he has doubts, he authorizes the op.

Power plays

Meanwhile, Brody is at a cocktail party, getting pressured by VP Walden to visit the Secretary of Defense and guilt him into giving bunker-busters to Israel. On the other side of the room, Jess is getting pressured by Mrs. Walden to guilt Brody into giving a keynote speech at a fundraiser for wounded veterans. Jess is flattered by the attention, and thrilled by her inclusion in the inner circle of Washington power wives. Dana is merely annoyed that she's dragged along to the vice-presidential residence, but winds up making friends with Finn Walden in spite of herself.

Then the Nazir mission is on. Carrie and Saul watch on a comms link in the safe house. When Saul asks whether she ever thought "we'd be doing this again," Carrie admits, "I hoped," then adds, "I know — 'don't get used to it.'" But of course she is getting used to it…or she never got un-used to it.

Estes and the CIA team are also watching from HQ — and so is Brody, who just happens to be at the Defense Department for his meeting, and gets invited to see the mission go down. The coincidence is mighty convenient, but the writing sets it up flawlessly. Brody sends a text to Nazir that lets Nazir duck back into his SUV and escape unharmed, of course.

The thrill of the chase

Leave it to Carrie to try to snatch defeat from victory's jaws, though. Fatima comes out of her apartment, ready to leave, but Carrie dashes back into the building, determined to find something in Fatima's husband's stuff. The sequence where Carrie rifles through the husband's office while, in the street, a crowd gathers around the SUV and begins rocking it, then smashing it with bats, is almost unbearably tense — and the bit that follows, Carrie dashing up and down staircases and dodging gunfire, is even more thrilling. Bullets kick up puffs of stucco near her head, she has to brain one of her pursuers with a brick…but she's completely focused, the calmest we've seen her in ages. She gets out safely; Saul is furious. Later, he's disappointed when the bag of documents and discs Carrie grabbed doesn't seem to contain worthwhile, but as he's packing up the docs to send to Langley, he feels a lump in the bag's lining. It's a microdisc, and it contains Brody's "if you're watching this, I'm dead" video — a major, and unexpected, plot leap so early in the season. Kudos to Mandy Patinkin, who turns physically green as Saul realizes what he's looking at.

Brody's not feeling much better. He blows up at his contact: "I cannot be texting secret messages when I am surrounded by the [freaking] Joint Chiefs." His contact basically tells him he doesn't get to decide. Then he has to go into a bar and tell his former company-mates a whole lot of nothing about Walker's death. Mike, suspicious of the report on Walker's murder, asked Brody to look into it — why did such an excellent sniper miss, three times? Why isn't anyone investigating who killed Walker? Their alcoholic brother in arms accuses Brody of not trying very hard to get answers, and Brody snaps that Walker's not who they thought; he claims Walker broke, and gave them all up. But he's probably talking about himself.

All in all, a solidly built and exciting episode that paid off the groundwork from the slowish premiere.

Double meanings

When Fatima notes that Carrie has changed her hair and eye color, Carrie mutters, "Contacts. Which are killing me right now." Love the play on the word "contacts," and the implication that Carrie can't trust her eyes.

Estes smacks a malfunctioning coffee machine, which sprays coffee and sweetener when there's no cup to hold them.

Carrie, dropped off at an empty house, sets her watch back to local time, and the ticking of the living-room clock is very loud. She's back to having nothing to fill the days.

Fill YOUR day with this clip of Damian Lewis bonding with Jimmy Fallon about the Emmys' best-dressed list: