This week Homeland finds itself trapped with Brody about 300 yards away from advancing the plot in Iran. The story of Season 3’s life. Irony aside, I will from this point on attempt to avoid comparing this season to Homeland’s previous glory years of days past. Instead, the question is whether this episode is a worthy hour of entertainment in its own right. And the answer to that is yes. Built entirely around the enjoyable premise of whether the CIA and U.S. military can smuggle Brody into Iran to perpetrate Phase 2 in their Manchurian Javadi scheme, the episode was intelligence heavy while also being soap opera-lite. This is a win for fans of the show’s original premise. And, not so surprisingly, the best bits were at Langley thanks to one Saul Bereson. During my state of the series deconstruction last week, I overlooked just how delicious Saul’s politking has been as of late. Having learned that Senator Lockhart (formerly Senator McSnooty until possibly tonight) was financing an Israeli spook to have an affair with his wife, Saul took the lightest revenge possible for the time being by having the senator delay his confirmation hearing as the new CIA Director for about a month, allowing Saul’s wife the dignity of a scandal-free retribution, and giving Saul enough time to make Brody mission ready to assassinate the head of Iranian intelligence. Obviously, neither of those outcomes would truly be the end of it. Lockhart is still set for Saul’s job, Saul still needs vindication against Lockhart and his likeminded politicians, and of course Brody still needs to actually carry through on the mission. The first part of that tonight not-so-shockingly hit a snafu somewhere between the lands of Iraq and Iran. It would appear the most dangerous aspect of carrying out Brody’s assignment was getting him in the country of Iran to demand asylum. Coming through the backdoor of Iraq, Brody is allowed to revisit the country that ten years ago swallowed him up and honestly never let him go. It is also the first episode of the season that allowed Damian Lewis to finally explore Brody in an interesting way. While he has appeared in three previous episodes, it has been mostly about him throwing a pity party for himself and returning to old, well-worn plot threads. Yet, this is him returning to his story arc’s genesis….Iraq. It is about him facing his war wounds head-on in a way that he likely has never attempted before. Indeed, when the Sepcial Ops Team that’s babysitting him to the border has to assassinate three Kurdish police officers, it triggers in Brody his old fears. Ones that he miraculously keeps suppressed. Nicely done, Nicholas. Can we go for two times in the future? But again, the more interesting aspect now is the ramifications in the actual homeland. To get Brody into Iran, the U.S. government murdered three Kurdish police officers who were likely even trained by armed American forces several years prior during American occupation. The irony is not lost on all those watching from drones in the sky. In a very telling moment for the opinions of Homeland writers (or perhaps simply an honest assessment?) the reaction of the White House Chief of Staff, the sitting CIA Director, and a U.S. general on standby is not to inform the president, but to do everything in their power to ensure the POTUS DOES NOT KNOW what is going on. In this case, it is the White House inviting Lockhart into the situation room at Langley. And for all of his incompetence, he is at least the supposed heir to the CIA in only a few days. The point is clear: Spy games and national security is a stage meant for professionals, not elected public officials. Anything but that! Even Lockhart begrudgingly bows to Saul’s supremacy in this moment, as the goal is for this operation to run as smoothly as possible. Unfortunately, that is not the case when Brody’s convoy hits a precariously placed mine 300 yards from the Iranian border. Truly, this operation should be redubbed Murphy’s Detour. In the line of heavy fire, Brody proves himself to be the U.S. marine that the Special Ops guys doubted when he pulls an injured American from the convoy and holds out against Iraqi police fire while the drone rains hell from above. And it again raises interesting questions, as the Chief of Staff’s first impulse is to bomb them all in hopes of avoiding this operational embarrassment from going public or creating bad blood with the Iraqi government. At this point, it is all so FUBAR that Saul aborts the mission and leaves the military in charge when…Brody strikes out on his own? Despite having his intended escape plan go up in smoke, Brody is convinced that Carrie will find a way to save him, stating as much when she begs for him to retreat. This is his one shot, and he knows that she will have his back. Quite the change of heart from a week ago when he all but asked her to let him die. He thus runs smack dab right into an Iranian patrol, sending himself and a fellow American Special Ops guy (the one who was really nice and revealed he had a family last week) into the belly of the beast. Overall, the most tantalizing aspects were what the on-the-ground conditions mean for the state of play at home. It speaks volumes that the characters on the show, nor the series itself, need to explain that Iraq is absent from this operation’s planning and execution. In fact, our supposed newly minted ally is so inconsequential that the murder of their law enforcement is not only a necessity to achieve this mission, but its only repercussion is to figure out how best to keep the president from knowing. Sure, Saul has his limits, such as when he balks at the idea of firing a drone on his own men to cover his ass like the White House suggests. However, the line from earlier in the season by the D.C. police about what good can they be must be echoing in fly-on-the-wall Peter Quinn’s ears. Carrie only gets a few nice moments. The first is when she is ready to curse out the Chief of Staff before Saul hisses for her to bite her tongue. If there is one time to do so, this is it. But she is amusingly liberated when Brody ignores her pleas to retreat. “Fuck!” she cries to the entire intelligence apparatus of the United States after he hangs up. It is a superb scene for Claire Danes, but we must disagree with her assessment. Finally, Brody is contributing something. Carrie attempts to help her sometime-terrorist lover by trying to recruit Fara Sherazi’s family into assets on the mission. It is a pretty sleazy thing to do, as she pretends it will not be dangerous for Fara’s uncle, especially given how things are playing out in Iran. Once captured, Brody and American Nice Guy with Kids are taken to Javadi who promptly kills American Nice Guy with Kids. Shocking, says no one. He also then tells Brody they are headed to Tehran. It is a moment worth considering, because it appears that Javadi is very much his own man. Exactly how is the CIA going to keep up daily correspondence or control over all his actions? And even if he does put Brody in a place to murder his boss, would Javadi really listen to Saul? How many eyes or ears will be handling him? It is a conundrum that may ultimately prove Lockhart right, as repellent as it is to write down such a thought. But it also keeps this episode entertaining on a basic spooks-and-guns level. Is it enough to bother comparing to previous seasons? Definitely not. But it keeps me interested for coming back next week. Like Brody crossing the border without back up, that will have to be enough. Den of Geek Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!