Homeland returned to spy games, interrogations, and oh-my-God-I-can't-believe-that-happened moments with last night's "Representative Brody." This shouldn't come as a surprise, but Homeland is more fun when Carrie is grilling someone, Brody and Carrie are in full-on will-they-or-won't-they mode, and things explode, instead of when Brody is teaching a kid how to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." "Representative Brody" returned the series to awesome after last week's well-intentioned-but-slightly-off episode by making the professional and personal lives of the "good guys" pretty crummy, and putting the "bad guys" in the perfect position to make things a lot worse.
Last week we saw Carrie and Saul inch closer to exposing Saudi diplomat Al Zahrani and his connection to Tom Walker, and this week they laid the trap and snared him thanks to the cooperation of a bank that Al Zahrani's almost a million dollars in the hole to. If Homeland consisted solely of interrogations, I'd still watch. Every time the show puts two people on opposite sides of a table, great things happen. Carrie taking Al Zahrani to school was no exception as the CIA used nefarious means and snoopy intelligence (He's in debt! He's gay!) to get him to crack. But Al Zahrani didn't cave in the face of those two upper hands like you see on other shows. This doggy showed some bite, forcing Carrie to dig deep and dive into don't-go-there territory by threatening his daughter. Just more evidence of what this job forces people to do. Even Al Zahrani isn't enough of a slimeball to let his terrible political ethics get in the way of his kid's good fortune. He may be a Saudi diplomat, but he's totally West-washed and can't live with the thought of his daughter swapping Yale sweatshirts for burkas. Oh, the irony!
With Al Zahrani blackmailed into working for the CIA, it was time to catch Marine-turned-terrorist Tom Walker, like NOW. And thus began a scene as thrilling as anything the thrilling Homeland has given us, with the added bite of a giant explosion that literally ripped Americans apart. Walker sent in a body double with a strange briefcase (red flag), and Carrie sniffed out that something was amiss, but it was too late. Walker remotely detonated the bombcase, ensuring that Al Zahrani's secrets, gay and otherwise, would never come to light. Terrorism on domestic soil raises the bar of this storyline tenfold. If it wasn't plain before, it is now: Abu Nazir has someone working on the inside (more on that later).
Brody got the official boost to run for Congress in the wake of Dick Johnson's scandal from none other than the Almost President himself, Veep Walden. Walden didn't sugarcoat anything, telling Brody that appearances are everything and to get poster-girl-for-loving-wives Jessica on-board with his political pursuits. Jessica showed resistance, fearing that their extra-marital affairs would surface, but Brody convinced Mike to nudge her in the right direction. In the final scene, Brody announced his run for Congress on television. And when it comes to a war hero running against a man who posted a picture of his penis on the internet, American voters tend to vote for the former. Sorry Dick Johnson, Anthony Wiener and any other politician with a synonym for "wang" in your name! Also: When will Chesty McBreasts be running for Senate?
But who is the mole who spoiled the CIA sting? I'll let you sort out your own suspects before voicing mine. Saul? Estes? Carrie's not-yet-exposed split personality? If there's one thing I learned from watching The Event, it was, "Never ever watch The Event again." But if there are two things I learned from that pathetic (yet oddly entertaining) series, it's that Vice Presidents should never be trusted. Bold prediction: Walden is the mole. VP Walden is the target of Nazir, you say? All staged by the one-step-ahead Nazir, I say! Why else was Walden in the room when Estes and the CIA were monitoring Al Zahrani's meet-up with Walker? To make sure Walker knew what was going on and that things didn't get botched! Walden's already playing puppetmaster by recruiting Brody to join him in Congress, creating a secret group of terrorist spies at the highest level of government. And in the most damning evidence, he just looks like a jerk, doesn't he?
All this is great and fascinating, but Homeland is about more than catching terrorists and saving the world blah blah blah. It's about one psychotic woman's schoolgirl crush on a possible monster, as well as lonely CIA agents, and that's where the show gets its mileage. When Brody asked to see her at her apartment, Carrie had her night all planned out: a bottle of wine, 20 minutes of Love Actually, and booty time. But Brody just had business to discuss, and he left with a rather permanent sounding "Goodbye," whereas she threw out a see-you-later "Good night." Then came the frowny face and tears, and my heart broke. Look, we know that Brody is one moustache-twirl away from being a full-fledged terrorist, but am I crazy for still wanting him and Carrie to get together? What is this show doing to me to make want to see a terrorist and a CIA agent get married and have little side-swapping freedom-fighter babies? And things with Saul are about as depressing as they can get. Peanut butter on Saltines for dinner? Even starving children would say, "That's all you got?"
The delicate dance Homeland is conducting with its characters' personal and professional lives is the heart of the show. In Homeland's universe, seeing Carrie misinterpret a booty call, dressing up for sex, and getting shot down by Brody is just as compelling as Air Force One getting shot down by RPGs.
– Fact: Anyone who is a fan of jazz is insane and brilliant. Okay I'm mostly joking, but seriously, you jazz fans tend to be a little cuckoo!
– Saul: "Fuck the charter." Estes: "He doesn't mean that." Saul: "Yes I do." Saul is 50 kinds of awesome. Also 50 kinds of awesome, Al Zahrani: "I suck cock and I love it! Yummy yummy yummy!"
– I'm really loving the political tangling going on with the show now. Watching the CIA work with the State Department and banks, seeing Brody step into a race for a congressional seat, this is Homeland moving into Phase 2.
– Another great performance by Damian Lewis as he begins to show us another side of his character. A side that gives off lots of creepy looks when he's alone.
– How did Jessica find out about Brody and Carrie? Was that just woman's intuition?
– Nice chat between Brody and Mike in the gym, but how should Mike feel about things moving forward? From where I was, it looked pretty plain that Brody was only telling him these things to get him to convince Jessica to agree with the plan to run for office.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom