It is a rather big move to shuffle an apprehensive and scared Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) off to Beirut to meet with an asset she hasn’t seen or heard from in eight years, only to have said asset (the wife of a Hezbollah commander) basically place Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) right in the CIA’s collective lap – but it’s one that we’ve perhaps come to expect from Homeland.

Following last week’s premiere, which was essentially built around Carrie’s titular smile after dropping an armed pursuer inside a crowded marketplace, ‘Beirut is Back’ takes Carrie’s lifted spirits and basically dashes them.

Carrie is where Brody (Damian Lewis) has been during season 1: conflicted, isolated and completely at the mercy of those who are pulling the strings. The trip to Beirut was at once the best and worst that could have happened. Pulling her out of the drugged-up haze and doldrums of her daily existence certainly proved to have livened the former agent up, but look at how quickly her ambition and tenacity exceeded even the tolerance of Saul (Mandy Patinkin) – who, it is later revealed, never thought bringing a psychologically damaged individual into the middle of Beirut was an especially bright idea. It stands to reason just how believable this situation actually would be, but within the context of the series, and the real-world implications of Israel bombing Iranian nuclear facilities, Homeland again manages to pull the whole fiasco off.

More surprisingly, Carrie picks up as if she’d never left, spending a considerable amount of time on her own in Beirut, only to make contact with the asset without Saul’s supervision. Things look like a run-of-the-mill information grab until Fatima Ali (Clara Khoury) demands a $5 million reward and a one-way ticket to Detroit in exchange for the location of Abu Nazir the following day. (How bad must things be for someone to want to leave Beirut for Detroit?) Pleased as punch, Carrie announces her findings to Saul only to find out her word isn’t sufficient when it comes to launching a snatch and grab inside a city that’s not exactly thrilled to have Americans as guests. As such, David Estes (David Harewood) rests the decision squarely on Saul’s increasingly burdened shoulders.

The result is that Carrie’s not smiling any longer; the Carrie who successfully secured Fatima as an asset eight years ago had the right idea. Present-day Carrie, however, admittedly doesn’t see things quite so clearly. But she’s still determined to get her man – though in this case it would be Nazir, and not Brody – and if that means dodging a few bullets to secure a small bag and some worthless documents, then so be it.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., Brody finds being a congressman, and a favorite of Vice President William Walden (Jamey Sheridan), is a lot like being a sleeper agent for Nazir: he’s simply a tool for more powerful men to get what they want. In the case of Walden, Brody is a means by which the export of some bunker busters can be unblocked, allowing the Israeli military the chance to finish off a fifth Iranian nuclear facility. As Walden is courting Brody, Jessica (Morena Baccarin) falls more willingly into the clutches of the vice president’s wife, Cynthia (Talia Balsam), who is recruiting her to help with a fundraiser for wounded veterans. Of course, it’s yet another, less straightforward ploy to utilize the hype surrounding Brody as a means for someone to get their way.

All this attention backs Brody into a corner where saying no – even to his wife – is not going to be an option. He learned this in the season premiere when confronted by Roya (Zuleikha Robinson), and it’s become pretty clear his allegiances on both sides have placed Brody in a rather compromising position. And with each move seemingly raising his profile with Nazir as well as Walden, that position is going to become increasingly perilous.

But really, ‘Beirut is Back’ is all about two fairly shocking Brody developments.

Homeland does a superlative job in creating a sequence where its two leads play observers in an event that will have lasting ramifications for both of them. Carrie is listening intently as the mission to grab Nazir radically changes course and the only option left is to kill the man. Coincidentally (but not so much that it ruins the tension of the scene), Brody’s been invited to watch the whole operation with the vice president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As soon as it becomes clear that Nazir is in real danger of being killed, Brody frantically sends off a text message that solidifies his position with the terrorist leader. Although Carrie and Brody’s objectives have them on opposing sides, the entire sequence manages to reward both players by proving Carrie right, and granting Brody a win in warning Nazir.

But Carrie’s winning ways are far from over. As Saul packs up the documents she took off Fatima’s desk, he comes across a memory card that happens to have Brody’s taped confession, which was intended to air after he killed himself and a great deal of government officials. It’s a complete exoneration of Carrie; one that makes what she’s endured all the more tragic. But it also sets the CIA’s crosshairs firmly on Brody once more, and proves that his failure to detonate has set off a ripple effect that’s potentially far more damaging for him than the swift release of death and martyrdom. Brody is back to being an instrument and a puppet, but the question now is: Which side will be pulling the strings?

Homeland continues next Sunday with ‘State of Independence’ @10pm on Showtime. Check out a preview for the episode below: