Chris Haston/NBC
Chancellor Agard
December 23, 2014 AT 06:46 AM EST

Following last week’s episode easily forgettable episode, there was definitely reason to worry that  State of Affairs wouldn’t craft a cliffhanger compelling enough to convince viewers to come back after the winter break. Thankfully, “Masqeurade” managed to do just that. In fact, this may have been the show’s strongest episode to date. We finally gained some meaningful headway with regard to Aaron’s murder, and some of the show’s supporting players finally started to emerge from the wings and join the main plot.

Tonight, President Payton, with David, Charlie, and Maureen in tow, travel to Qatar to renegotiate America’s continued use of Qatari military bases. Unfortunately, all is not right in this little band of diplomats. The President still suspects Charlie isn’t being 100 percent honest with her and, as a result, is acting distant. Not helping matters is David, who takes it upon himself to rightly point out that Omar Fatah managed to build a huge terrorism network right under Charlie’s—their Fatah expert’s—nose. It’s been clear for awhile that David is not cool with Charlie and the President’s relationship, and he’s definitely using this situation to create some distance between them. And Charlie’s definitely aware that the President is slowly losing trust in her.

As POTUS’s convoy makes its way towards the embassy,  Rayst Kamal, a Qatari national,  speeds through the streets of Qatar on a motorcycle. He eventually catches up to the convoy right as it passes through the gates. The motorcyclist manages makes it through before they close, but receives third degree burns after the guards shoot at his motorcycle and cause it to catch on fire. As he thrashes about in pain on the embassy grounds, the man yells that he works for the CIA, which surprises everyone.

Meanwhile, back in Langley, the briefers are hard at work trying to track to down Al Moosari. Their first order of business is to rename Al Moosari “The Moose”  Bullwinkle. Because Charlie is out of town and he’s buddies with the Director of the CIA, Lucas is put in charge—which annoys Kurt, who’s still pissed about him flirting with Maureen last week. Honestly, the scene doesn’t really give us any new information apart from the revelation that it’s actually quite fun to watch these guys banter about. According to a tweet from Joe Carnahan, the showrunner, this scene featured some ad libbing.

Hasn’t it been a while since we’ve seen Nick? Well, turns out that he’s been chained up in a box somewhere, where he’s received a little taste of his own medicine: torture. His torture includes being beaten and forced to listen to death metal. Eventually, a guy in a mask enters the room to continue the interrogation. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly hard to take this guy seriously because he walks in wearing a fedora. (TV Rule #8: If you’re not Matt Bomer playing Neal Caffrey on White Collar, you absolutely shouldn’t wear a fedora). As the interrogation unfolds, the masked man asks Nick a series of questions: Did he kill Aaron? What was his relationship with Omar Fatah? Not one to let a little torture break his quippy super-spy exterior, Nick avoids each questions. Which causes the masked man to break out the blow torch to get some answers.

Back in Qatar, POTUS’s meeting with the Qatari Prime Minister doesn’t go well. The Prime Minister gives POTUS an ultimatum: either the U.S. hands over Rayst Kamal, or the military base deal is off. “Good luck making war on your enemies without them,” the Prime Minister says as he leaves.

Meanwhile, Charlie and Maureen start interrogating Kamal. Because there’s no record of him being a CIA asset, Charlie and Maureen ask him to explain how he met Ben, his supposed handler. Turns out they met at a bar, where they both went to watch a popular Turkish soap opera. While bonding over the soap opera’s strong female characters, Kamal opened up to Ben about his employer’s suspicious activities. Ben had Kamal steal evidence from his job for the CIA—but Kamal left the evidence with his brother, because Ben told him to never bring it to an official American location.

NEXT: What’s up with Lucas? What intel does Kamal have? 

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