Kent Smith/Showtime
Shirley Li
May 28, 2015 AT 04:54 PM EDT

Welcome back, Homeland, and welcome back, recap readers. If you’re completely new to Carrie and Co., stop what you’re doing and catch up. (Here’s a handy binge-watching guide to help you out.) But if you’re a veteran, well, turn up that jazz music, tear your eyes away from that surveillance feed (sorry, Virgil) and read on for your first recap of the season.

But wait — before I get into the nitty gritty of the third season premiere, I need to chat with you, Homeland. Don’t worry, I don’t have a Q&A or any Peter Quinn hand-stabbing in mind; I just want to take a quick look back at your shaky sophomore season. Yes, shaky. Let’s see: You had Carrie playing Jack Bauer going after Abu Nazir, you had no grasp of how cell phone signals work and you had two teenagers involved in an unnecessary subplot about a hit-and-run, among other ridiculata. Look, show, it’s one thing to ask your audience to suspend disbelief, it’s another to throw it back in their faces and rub it in while insisting, “See how crazy things have gotten?! Isn’t this crazy?!”

I get it. You won an Emmy for your first season, so you were under a lot of pressure. But at your core, you’re not a show about shocking twists and turns. (That’s a job for Hostages.) You’re a show about characters struggling to reconcile their moral beliefs with the larger picture: Can Brody be trusted? Can Carrie trust Saul? Can she trust herself? Homeland, you’re at your best when you reveal Carrie, Brody and Saul for who they are; Carrie smiling at the end of “The Smile,” her admissions to Brody in “The Weekend” and the stripping down of Brody in “Q&A” — these are the moments that drive your show.

It’s a good thing your third season premiere understands that.

The characters of Homeland have always presented themselves under masks, to hide their demons. Carrie secretly took meds for her bipolar disorder, Saul avoided speaking with his wife about their crumbling marriage, and Brody — do I even need to explain why Brody’s not who he seems? These characters are used to hiding, but in Sunday’s “Tin Man is Down,” they’re finding it hard to keep those walls up as they deal with the aftermath of last season, which — if you need a refresher — ended with the CIA headquarters destroyed, Abu Nazir dead, and Carrie as the only person convinced of Brody’s innocence in the bombing. Unlike Dorothy from the premiere title’s eponymous Wizard of Oz, Carrie can’t click her heels and tell herself “There’s no place like home” to see the CIA magically return before her eyes.

And that’s where we begin.

NEXT: “What is it you’re smoking, Ms. Mathison?”

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