Now that's more like it, Homeland.
When you compare this episode with last week's, it's easy to see what the series' strengths are: Carrie, watercooler moments, and character development. Tonight's hour highlighted all three -- along with zero Dana, which by now, can always be considered a plus -- beginning with Carrie, who stays true to her character in a gripping plot that helps her realize Saul's odd behavior, and ending with a watercooler moment that pushes the plot forward instead of simply grabbing our attention. The plot is finally steadying itself instead of introducing new twists that have been making the show feel nonsensical for the past few weeks.
We begin with Saul, whose victory last week has made him the most confident man in the CIA, despite 99 percent of the agency being kept in the dark and despising him for it. No matter; Saul delicately arranges breakfast in bed for Mira and the two lovingly reminisce about a trip to the Philippines as if nothing ever came between them.
Saul heads to a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Mike Higgins (William Sadler, last seen during the geese-hunting trip), which Lockhart has crashed. The senator, unsurprisingly, is incensed over the entire Javadi affair (and probably over being locked in a conference room like a disobedient child) and has tattled on Saul to Higgins. Though Higgins' reaction is apt -- "Jesus f--king Christ, Saul," he says -- Saul looks indifferent to his panic. "We didn't just let [Javadi] go, Mike, we debriefed him, turned him, and sent him back to Iran," Saul says matter-of-factly. Higgins is confused, asking Saul the same questions Fara and Carrie had last week: How can the CIA trust that Javadi will help them? "Because I know the man," Saul replies.
Lockhart interrupts to make the same arguments he's made before (poor Tracy Letts -- having to play the same scene over and over again must be exhausting), and tells Higgins they need to send the Iranians a "clear message" instead of playing the spy game. Saul, though, insists that Javadi is the highest-placed source the agency has ever gotten, and nonchalantly dismisses Lockhart, telling him he called for a one-on-one meeting with Higgins. Lockhart leaves the room in a huff, but only after Higgins tells him to do so.
Higgins immediately turns to Saul. "Goddamn it, Saul, I spent the last month and a half arranging a marriage between you two," he warily tells him. Saul knows this, but again, he tells Higgins that Javadi was a worthwhile goal, and he couldn't cooperate with Lockhart until the agency won Javadi.
Left with no other choice, Higgins asks Saul to give him a summary of the second phase of the Javadi op: Let Javadi move naturally up the chain of command as the Iranians will believe he has added Carrie as an asset, then use him to instigate a regime change. As far as how that will happen, Saul just commands Higgins to keep reading his report.
Satisfied, Saul leaves the meeting and fills Dar Adal in on the plan. "Saul, it's f--king genius," Dar says, telling him exactly what he wants to hear. The two join Carrie and Quinn, who have been poring through intel for possible candidates for the Langley bombing. Quinn is skeptical they'll find anyone they can target -- "Are we even sure the guy who made the bomb moved Brody's car?" he asks -- but Carrie believes what Javadi said. Harried, she shoots Quinn an exasperated look, and then watches as he looks down at the files of victims of the Langley bombing, including David Estes. "I still can't believe all these people are gone," Quinn says.
By the time Saul enters the room, Carrie and Quinn are no closer to finding a suspect. Instead, Carrie's confused about Saul's account of what Javadi told him. Saul is oddly defensive, answering Carrie's questions with more questions: When Carrie asks why Javadi would answer the two of them differently for the same question ("Was Brody behind the bombing?"), Saul looks frustrated and asks, "Is that a question or an accusation?" Her mentor's behavior throws Carrie off-guard, but she stands her ground. "I'm angry because you seem indifferent to catching the actual bomber," she says.
Saul reassures her that he'll do anything it takes to help her apprehend the bomber alive, and Dar volunteers (or at least is "comfortable enough") to talk to Leland Bennett, the lawyer who put Carrie in contact with Javadi, and who Javadi pinpointed as the man who knows the bomber's identity.
NEXT: No more secrets