Time to break out the liquor, gather your friends, and prepare yourselves for Claire Danes' crying face: "Homeland" is officially back.
Last time we saw Carrie, she was recovering from getting her world turned on its damn head. It was four months after her baby daddy was hanged before her eyes (RIP Brody) and she was getting shipped off to Istanbul to become the youngest station chief in Agency history. After getting fired by Lockhart, Saul's sitting pretty with a big fat salary in the private sector. He and Carrie will hopefully reunite this season because, my god, "Homeland," we need you to get good again.
ANYWAY. The season kicks off with (a no longer preggers!) Carrie and her team driving around Kabul and the mood is pretty chill until she gets a phone call. *Insert dramatic music.*
After jetting back to the office, Carrie receives intel from an agent named Sandy (Peter Russo, I've missed you!), that a high value target has been cornered and has to make a fast decision on whether or not they should take him out. Though hesitant, Carrie weighs her options and goes forward with the go-ahead to let the drone strike happen. The bombs are dropped and as the large monitor showing the explosions dulls to black, everyone sings to Carrie to celebrate her birthday. Bombs, birthdays, and chocolate -- Kabul sounds like a great time.
Taking a note from Olivia Pope's book, Carrie pops a bottle of wine (and an Ambien) to end her day. Video-chatting with her sister, it's revealed that Carrie has had a baby girl (named Franny... why.) whom she has left behind in the States under her sister's care. Carries curls into bed, equipped with earplugs, a face mask, and a mouth guard (????) as the shot pans over to the scene of the post-explosion aftermath.
Locals are frantic as they rife through the rubble and there is no shortage of screaming, particularly as they attempt to remove a young man from the wreckage. *Insert sympathy pains here.*
Finally, we see Saul and his salt-and-pepper beard for the first time. He looks utterly unenthused and disinterested in discussing the "force multiplier effect" to the army generals he's meeting with. As such, he goes rogue and delivers a poignant statement on the way the war in Afghanistan has been handled the past fourteen years. Saul is clearly still stuck in his CIA mindset, rightfully so, and it isn't until the bossman outright says to him, "It's not your job anymore to have a say in the matter," that the gravity of what he's lost shows in his face. Damn you, Mandy Patinkin, for being so likable. I just want to hug you.
Back at the CIA, Carrie watches a news channel report on the strike that verifies Haissam Haqqani -- the intended victim -- has indeed been killed but so have 40 innocent members of his family because the bombing occurred at a wedding. Eeek. Not good. Carrie is not pleased.
Unsurprisingly, picketing has begun in full force outside the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. A meeting convenes with Sandy (Stoll), Quinn (hi bb!), and a US ambassador to discuss the picketing and what information should be given to the foreign minister about the strike. Sandy gets on his soapbox to justify that the civilians died by their own volition, as they knew Haqqani was a marked man. There's an undeniable feeling in the air that Sandy's a shady, shady dude.
The young man (named Aayan) rescued from the wreckage has been nursed back to consciousness and after finding out his family is dead, he surveys the bodies at the scene of the attack in a moment that can only be described as heart-wrenching. Homeland is not afraid of tugging at those heartstrings, y'all.
In Carrie's office, she also surveys the damage at the wedding scene on a monitor and sees Aayan with his family. Aayan makes angry-face with the sky-camera that sending the feed Carrie's watching from and there's a great this-will-become-something-bigger-later-on moment. Carrie breaks away from the monitor and gets a call from Quinn. Carrie's confident that the post-strike drama will die down quickly because they're "bulletproof," Quinn doesn't share that sentiment.
We get another another rip-your-heart-out-and-step-on-it inducing moment when we watch Aayan as he heads back the Ommaya College of Medicine, where he's a student. He watches a super sad iPhone video of the wedding pre-bombing and talks to his roommate about all he's lost. Later, he tries to get back in the school groove by studying and his roommate is livid at how the media is denying that there was ever a wedding. The roommate pushes Aayan to release the wedding video to the press but he is too overcome by grief and stress to want to fight. Someone get this kid a Xanax prescription and a lifetime supply of ice cream because he needs it.
Panning back over to Carrie, she gets approached mid-booze sesh by First Lieutenant J.G. Edgars. Edgars becomes the second person (Quinn being the first) this episode to berate and/or guilt Carrie for the mission. The next morning Carrie is awoken by a phone call from Lockhart saying that the video we saw earlier on Aayan's phone is all over the Internet and he needs Carrie to do damage control, like, two hours ago.
Aayan confronts his roommate about the video's appearance online and is livid. He demands the video be taken down but, let's be real: once something hits the light of the Internet, there's no going back in the dark.
Quinn tells Sandy of Carrie's imminent arrival to Islamabad and we see Sandy receive a sketchy text indicating that he's meeting someone in 90 minutes. We then follow Sandy through a convoluted back route out of the embassy and on to the street. Carrie arrives in Pakistan and Quinn gives her the rundown. They discuss Sandy's sketchiness, the fact that both of their jobs require them to kill people constantly, and why Quinn didn't go with Carrie to Kabul. Their chat is interrupted by an image of Sandy on the TV screen.
We then see Sandy powering down the street until he enters an apartment building and attempts to pick the lock of an apartment. The lock picking fails and while he texts the mystery person he was supposed to meet, Quinn calls him to tell him that his cover has been blown. Seeing that he's about to get attacked, Sandy makes a break for it and ends up getting caught in full-fledged ambush by a mob of locals. Despite Carrie and Quinn's efforts to save him, Sandy is taken from the getaway car Quinn's driving and bludgeoned. Carrie attempts to jump out to help him, but Quinn insists that there's nothing they can do and they barely escape from the madness. R.I.P. sketchy Sandy.
Quinn and Carrie drive back to the embassy in silence. Carrie is all business and ready to dive in to brief the ambassador. Quinn, proving again to be the most human of all characters on the show, needs a minute to gather himself after the chaos. Carrie refuses to stop for anything and the episode ends with her robotically wiping a stranger's blood from her cheek. Welcome back, "Homeland," you've come in with a literal bang.
Keep up with "Homeland" recaps here every week. "Homeland" airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.