Spoiler Alert: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 3, Episode 3 of Showtime's "Homeland," titled "Tower of David."
Question: An injured American fugitive falls into your lap, with a $10 million bounty on his head. What do you do?
Answer: Heal him then imprison him in your slum in Caracas, Venezuela, for no clear reason other than a loose mutual connection to Carrie Mathison. But more on that later.
So began the third episode of "Homeland," which got a much-needed boost with the return of Brody (Damian Lewis), and -- thank god -- the total absence of Dana. In many respects, this was an episode about captivity -- the captivity of Brody and Carrie, certainly, but also the viewers' release from the captivity of the quietly suffocating tedium of the previous episode.
The episode didn't waste any time setting the stakes high: Brody, suddenly bald in the manner of every international fugitive who takes the trip from Canada to Latin America to "find himself," has been robbed and shot by what we are going to very presumptuously term Colombian brigands while trying to cross the border into Venezuela. He is pawned off to El Nino (Manny Perez), a gang leader who controls a dangerous slum in a crumbling, half-built housing complex in Caracas called the "Tower of David." The apartment buildings had once been the ambitious undertaking of a guy called David; once he died, and the economy collapsed, the squatters began to settle in, making way for a different hierarchy that appeared to be ruled by a gang of gun-toting dudes.
Other than a predilection for spider and scorpion tattoos (a sure sign in TV land that Something Must Be Up With These Dudes, although it could just be that they're Caracas hipsters), the gang members' identity and motivation are unclear. Are they drug lords? Are they planning to turn Brody in? Or turn him into one of them? Are they fattening him up for slaughter? Do they want to get him healthy again so that his hair will grow back and they can harvest it for commercial purposes? Some of these scenarios are more plausible than others.
More dubious is the mysterious doctor (Erik Dellums, from "The Wire") who initially treats Brody's gunshot wounds while making vague and campy small talk like "shit, what happened to him?" and "interesting question" when asked by Brody if he was a doctor. Almost comically, he keeps on popping up when Brody least wants him there. "We're here because the world outside can be judgmental and cruel. We're here because this is a place that accepts us. We're here because we belong here," he tells Brody while also trying to inject him with heroin. Is he trying to numb the pain or weaken Brody?
The doctor's accent sits somewhere between America, Britain, Cuba and France; in another context he might have the voice of a transatlantic supermodel, but in this context -- thick with international espionage, terrorism, the moral compromises that are born of extreme danger, and slicked-back hair -- he takes his place as the latest in a long line of shady, plum-tongued screen villains stretching back through Jeffrey Wright in "Source Code," Javier Bardem in "Skyfall" and Peter Lorre in pretty much every film he ever appeared in. Still, that prestigious lineage didn't stop us from thinking that the dialogue in most of the doctor's scenes could have doubled up as introductory filler talk in bad pornography ("Well well well, what do we have here?"; okay, maybe he didn't use those words exactly, but there was a lot of stuff along those lines).
The doctor positions himself and Brody in the same place, as outliers who have have found a home in a kind hellish new society. Brody -- who is deeply disturbed when the gang members push his robber off the building -- decides he doesn't belong, though. "If I stay here, I'll die," he tells El Nino's daughter, Esme (Martina Garcia), who looks like a Spanish Nina Dobrev. Esme has taken a liking to Brody, but their relationship can't end well. In the space of a single episode, she also goes from speaking no English at all to being passingly conversational. Either Brody is an exceptionally gifted language teacher, or the slum lords traffic in contraband Rosetta Stone packets.
Brody is constantly revived by and responds to his connection to Islam. In Season 1, he revealed how praying while in Iraq was the one thing that fueled him through his many years in captivity. In last night's episode, the first time Brody gets out of bed is in response to the call to prayer from a nearby mosque. He stares out into the distance, transfixed. Islam saved him once; maybe it will save him again. You can almost see him hatching together a plan.
We cringed at the implications Brody was making about being embraced by the mosque. Maybe he genuinely feels misunderstood; maybe he thought that the mosque would be happy to receive a wanted fugitive and terrorist. After all, his primary contact with Islam has been under the duress of terrorism, if he is hypocritical, it is because of the fanaticism that preceded his education. Anyway, Brody had it coming for him: The imam, after welcoming him into his home, turns him into the police. "You're not a Muslim. You're a terrorist," the imam tells him in disgust. In a messed-up scene that happens after, Brody is miraculously released again (seriously, this guy has more lives than Jason Bourne) -- and returned straight back into the captivity of the mysterious slum lords.
The other half of the episode is given over, less interestingly, to Carrie's stuttering recovery in the psych ward. We see her making a model house out of popsicle sticks, banging her head against a mirror, pleading with her carers to let her see Saul, and reassuring her main assessment physician that she has returned to health and should be released so she can start work again. Critically, she also acknowledges that Saul was right to have her committed for treatment once more; but as with so much in this season of "Homeland," it was hard not to be left with a feeling of indifference at the likely consequences. So Carrie gets released; then what? The cycle, no doubt, will simply be repeated: Carrie is obsessed with work. She really cares! She's good at her job. She cares too much! She's going over the top! Carrie is crazy!
The only glimmer of interest comes via the visit Carrie receives from a lawyer representing the partner of a local DC firm. He claims that the partner, who he declines to identify, wants to help Carrie get out of the hospital, reassuring her that "we're on your side." She smells a rat and storms out of the meeting, fearing that she is being recruited as an "asset" by a foreign intelligence service. This might be the dawn of Carrie's return to lucidity. Was she simply being tested by the CIA to gauge whether she is fit to return to work? Surely a return to the agency can't be in the cards. Or can it? We have no idea, although we're sure to see this tantalizing little sub-plot developed further next week.
The mirroring of the episode's last scene couldn't have been more clear: the image of Brody, sprawled out into his cell after injecting heroin, is directly followed by Carrie, hunched over in the corner of her hospital room, after herself having been injected by medication earlier. Both seek divine intervention: Brody, in Carrie; and Carrie, in Saul. The doctor's spectacular speech to Brody could be aptly applied to each of the former lovers: "Everywhere you go, other people die. But you always manage to survive. I've noticed that. You're like a cockroach. Still there after the nuclear bombs go off. You belong here. Am I right?"
Like Carrie's popsicle stick house, they are each living in their own versions of the Tower of David: ambitious dreams turned into crumbling structures, but each still survives.
Questions we have that were answered:
- What has Brody been doing for the past couple of months? Shaving his head, running from country to country in an Edward Snowden manner.
- What is Brody's plan? To "get to the next place." And ask about Carrie, repeatedly.
- Is Brody still a heartbreaker? Judging from Esme's response to him, we say yes.
- Is Carrie going to get out of the psych ward? From next week's preview, yes.
Questions we still have:
- What is El Nino's connection to Carrie Mathison?
- What is that accent of the doctor?
- How did Esme go from not speaking a lick of English ("walking," Brody had to explain) to conversing about the imam wanting to go with Brody in near perfect English?
- Um, maybe Carrie really is crazy? That scene of her hitting her head against the mirror is a classic playbook cray move.
- Who is the ominous "partner" at the law firm behind the lawyer visit to Carrie at the psych ward? What connection does he have to the CIA -- or Syria, as Carrie seemed to believe?
What did you think of "Homeland" season 3, episode 3? Share your thoughts and predictions below.
"Homeland" airs Sundays, 9 p.m. ET on Showtime. For more, click over here to read HuffPost TV's interview with Damian Lewis.