Colleen Hayes/NBC
Erika Berlin
December 09, 2014 AT 08:33 AM EST

State of Affairs (and Katherine Heigl!) saw signs of life that have been missing in the past couple of weeks. Somehow, the primary question mark of the series—who killed Charlie’s fiance, Aaron?—remains the least interesting plot point. But, some intriguing character development (finally, some insight on President Payton’s past!) and advancements on the connections between major players is starting to make for an interesting story map. Honestly though, if NBC could just give Syd a spin-off prequel right this minute, I could overlook any slight qualms I have with the show.

This week, we start in Colon, Panama, where American aid workers from the World Health Organization are trying in vain to pass out malaria vaccines among the sick in a slum hospital. Some armed thugs come in demanding drugs (pain killers), which the Americans say have already been stolen. Street gangs want their oxy, man! An earthquake hits mid-robbery though, and as everyone recovers from the scare, the camera pans to the hospital’s basement. A long-abandoned metal cabinet has broken vials lying all around. Variola major. Smallpox.

Back in D.C., Charlie tosses and turns. She’s having flashbacks to Midnight City, that black ops ship that doesn’t exist where she met Nick and Fatah. She enters the cage that Fatah is chained to, swollen and bloodied from Nick’s version of interrogation. Playing the good cop, she switches between English and fluent Arabic. “I know everything about you,” she tells him. “I want to kill people, too.” Uh, okay, Charlie. “Despite our differences, the desire to hunt, and hurt and kill is just as alive in me as it is in you.” Wait, who exactly is she talking about here? Is she just being manipulative, or did she have a kill-trigger long before her fiance’s murder?

Anyway, she’s interrupted from her reminiscing by a text: a picture of a black handgun with the words “Bang, Bang.” Well, then. First thought: Doesn’t that gun look suspiciously like the carefully wrapped one Nick pulled from his bedside table at the end of last week’s episode?

Of course, Charlie heads straight over to Nick’s on her way into the office (props to whomever chose David Bowie’s “Bang Bang” to soundtrack her walk here… I was afraid it was going to venture into the obvious Nancy Sinatra/Kill Bill territory). Development: Turns out, Nick got the same text! “I’m exceedingly good at this stuff,” Charlie humblebrags, “and I can’t see the angle.” Don’t worry, Nick tells her. He’s working a lead. And also, they have half the equation solved! They might not know the purpose or the players, but they know the targets: them.

NEXT: Who do you think is responsible for that little smallpox problem?

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