Episode 308

Jason Butler Harner as Paul Franklin and Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in "Homeland." (Kent Smith / Showtime / August 22, 2013)

I have several friends who have given up on "Homeland." It’s true that Season 2 was clunky, overwrought, and loose with many details. We made fun of its many moments of melodramatic dialogue, terrible acting and difficult-to-believe plot twists. Brody’s romantic send-off into the woods, in particular, strained my own willingness to suspend disbelief.

But I want to tell these friends to come back! Join me! Season 3 has gradually turned up the heat and is now at a rolling boil. Episode 8 burned in a good way. Again, the action picks up exactly where it left off. These eight episodes haven’t spanned more than two or three weeks in Homelandia.

The episode contains three storylines. First, Fara receives some overdue character development. She is still reeling from the fact that Saul sent Javadi back to Iran rather than arresting him in the United States. She can’t bring herself to show up for work. Instead, she hangs around the house she shares with her ailing father.

A G-man knocks on the door, asking where she’s been and, more importantly, why she drove by the double-murder crime scene. She assures him she’ll be at work tomorrow.

Her father, who has been skeptical of her claims that she works for an investment bank, is apoplectic upon realizing that she’s handling secrets for the CIA. He reminds her that they have family still in Iran, whose safety will be jeopardized if Iranian authorities make the connection.

The second storyline concerns Saul’s marriage. Saul brings Mira breakfast in bed; she agrees to give the marriage another chance. Meera texts her French boyfriend, Alain, and breaks off the relationship at a café.

Alan is upset. His heart must be brea... Wait, what is he doing at Saul and Mira’s house? Why, it looks like he’s stealing data from their desktop and rushing out the door! Suddenly, this minor character gets a big promotion as we realize that his investment in their relationship went well beyond romance.

Classic "Homeland:" even your cute French journalist home-wrecker is actually a spy. (Sexism alert: if the gender roles were reversed, we would have seen that coming.)

The primary focus on episode eight is on the pursuit of the Langley bomber. Carrie trusts Javadi’s assertion that Bennett knows who placed the explosives, but Saul is more hesitant to go after the lead. Carrie accuses Saul of being cagey, but he shrugs her off.

Carrie, Quinn, and Dar Adal formulate a plan wherein Adal leaks info to Bennett (they are golf pals) that his firm is the target of a CIA investigation. Bennett plays it cool, but the move is effective: Carrie is summoned to meet with Bennett’s shady assistant, Franklin.

Carrie and Franklin meet at an Orthodox church. Franklin still assumes that Carrie has fed information to Javadi and will continue to serve as their asset. Playing the part well, Carrie fools Franklin (and, by association, Bennett) into believing that the CIA is close to arresting Bennett for his involvement in the bombing. She also indicates that they know the actual bomber is in the country.

Thinking that the CIA has information about the bomber’s identity and location, Bennett orders Franklin to “ex-fil” the bomber immediately (thankfully I’ve seen Argo, and know that means ex-filtrate, i.e. sneak someone out of the country). Franklin texts an unidentifiable number. The surveillance squad traces the recipient to a Virginia motel.

Eyes and ears follow Franklin to the motel. Carrie watches from a van parked nearby. Quinn is on the rooftop with binoculars and a rifle.

Carrie and Quinn see Franklin emerge from his car with a gun and silencer. Carrie realizes the Franklin has no intention of smuggling the terrified-looking gentleman out of the country; he’s there to kill him.

Carrie demands she and Quinn intervene so that the bomber can be detained alive. Dar Adal insists that she hold back, since blowing her cover would jeopardize Javadi’s standing in Iran. Carrie protests -- Saul promised she could arrest the bomber! And this is the only way to clear Brody’s name!

Ignoring Adal’s order to remain in her vehicle, she follows Franklin through the parking lot. Dar Adal orders Quinn to stop her, using force. Sniper Quinn takes his shot and hits Carrie in the arm. She goes down in the parking lot just as Franklin kills the man waiting for him in room 220.

Franklin drags the body to the tub. He’s been taking notes during Breaking Bad; he’s brought jugs of chemicals to destroy the body. Dar Adal and Quinn rush to bring Carrie to the hospital.

Carrie, once again on her way to the hospital in the name of spy-duty, smells something fishy -- and no, it’s not just her own blood shooting from her arm or the pregnancy hormones. Why isn’t Saul here, and why wouldn’t they want to arrest the man responsible for their colleagues’ deaths?

Saul is on a trip. He’ll be back in a day -- or a week. Whatever. He’s going somewhere. Somewhere is Caracas. Somewhere is the decrepit “Tower of David,” where he is greeted by Brody’s scary guard, to whom he has paid $10 million dollars for an unspecified service.

Hold on. So Brody’s jailers are working for Saul? Why has he kept Brody hidden in this terrible place? Why does he want Americans to blame Brody for the attacks, although presumably he knows better? Who was the man in room 220, and why did he look familiar? And what was with that cryptic William Carlos Williams reference that someone texted Carrie?

If you need me, I’ll be in my motel room on the edge of my seat. Just casually looking out for a red wheelbarrow and trying not to breathe the fumes!