Jon Stewart returned to "The Daily Show" on Tuesday night after a three-month hiatus. And, except for the color on his face acquired under the blazing sun in Jordan, where he directed the film "Rosewater" this summer, it was as if he'd never left at all.
The homecoming episode began with a gag in which John Oliver, Stewart's fill-in and "Daily Show" heir apparent, summoned the host from his dressing room, only to find him, well, transformed by his time in the Middle East. With help from correspondent Jessica Williams, a defibrillator hooked up to two Big Macs and, eventually, Stephen Colbert, Oliver was able to return Stewart to his good ol' American self.
Then it was time for the show proper. Stewart kissed and lovingly patted his desk, clearly thrilled to be back in front of an audience for the first time in 12 weeks.
"I've missed you so much," he said. "You don't know what it's like out there, nobody applauds every little stupid thing you do."
Stewart reflected briefly on his time in the Middle East, which gave him an appreciation for the local culture but also reassured him of his own American-ness.
"For all that I appreciate and learned about the culture that I was immersed in, boy, I'm Western, in all its glorious, decadent imperfections," he said. "I recall driving back to New York City thinking, 'Hello dildo shop near a school.'"
His other realizations this summer? "I have the finest staff and crew in all of television" and "John Oliver has dimples you can lose yourself in." Can't argue with that.
Stewart then invited "the man of the summer" on stage to debrief him on everything he missed during his leave: "Sharknado," the royal baby, Paula Deen, Carlos Danger, and so on.
But for all the ridiculous, easily mocked events of the summer, Stewart had to tackle much heavier news in his first night back on the air: the possibility of military action in Syria following a chemical weapons attack by Bashar Al-Assad.
And if that weren't bad enough, Oliver had even worse news for his boss: "'Crossfire' returns to CNN next Monday." (Stewart, as you may recall, was not exactly a fan of that show the first time around.)
The host took it in stride, however, delivering a vintage "Daily Show' segment about the "idiot parade" of so-called experts pushing for intervention in Syria and capping it all off with an in-depth interview with Andrew Harper, head of the United Nations refugee agency in Jordan, about the ongoing humanitarian crisis along the Syrian border.
No, it wasn't exactly fun, but it was worthwhile television. Welcome back, Jon.