Kent Smith/Showtime
Adam B. Vary
May 28, 2015 AT 04:57 PM EDT

“Things are going to move very quickly now,” Roya Hammad told Brody at the top of this week’s episode. I guess by “now” she meant “maybe next week,” because this week Homeland felt somehow both overstuffed and uncharacteristically slack. It would be unfair to expect the show to sustain the electric pace of its first five episodes. But much like Mad Men‘s most recent season, after a series of superlative hours, Homeland‘s midsection is looking a wee bit flabby to me.

It’s understandable. Not every episode can contain an epochal storytelling twist; sometimes writers need to use an episode just to get their characters closer physically and emotionally to the next epochal storytelling twist. (By contrast, last year’s seventh episode of Homeland was “The Weekend,” in which Carrie and Brody boinked at her cabin — pretty much the definition of “epochal storytelling twist.”) Still, it’s jarring, after racing at breakneck speed on a bullet train for five hours, to find yourself at a posh pool party with roughly seven different intertwining plot strands leisurely vying for your attention. But even though this week’s episode restlessly jumped from Brody to Dana to Saul to Carrie to Jessica to Quinn to Mike to Vice President Walden to Mrs. Walden to Estes, the episode was ultimately only interested in accomplishing two things: Squeezing Brody, and reviving Saul. Let’s start with Saul first.

Ever since his escapades at the Beirut field office — and getting kicked out of Lebanon — Saul has largely skulked the background. That’s not to say he’s been invisible, but with Peter Quinn running the show, he hasn’t had all that much to do other than stand up for Carrie, reprimand Mike, and reprovingly stare at TV monitors. But with Roya Hammad announcing that whatever Abu Nazir is planning is ramping up fast(ish), the urgent need for helpful intel pushed Saul to back to the spotlight and paying a visit to his old car trip buddy, Aileen Morgan (the fabulous Marin Ireland).

Life had not been kind to Aileen since we last saw her explaining to Saul how love had driven her into joining Abu Nazir’s cause. Months spent confined in a supermax prison — 23 hours a day spent in a spare, antiseptic cell, with just one hour designated for supervised indoor exercise — had hollowed her out, transforming her into what the guard called “a spitter, a hitter, and a s—ter.”

“That doesn’t sound like her,” said Saul.

“Then you don’t know her too well,” replied the guard. Oh, Saul, had you only heeded this man’s sage words, you could have spared yourself so much needless heartache.

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