A quick review of tonight's "Homeland" coming up just as soon as I send all the Marines...

I said earlier this season that I'd check back in on "Homeland" if it did something incredibly stupid (say, Quinn randomly being in love with Carrie), but also if it did something really good. So fair is fair: tonight's episode and last week's have been the two best episodes "Homeland" has done since "Q and A" midway through season 2.

When the show is dealing with the utter wreck that is Carrie's personal life, it's a mess. And even though her recent drug trip wasn't her fault, it was another reminder that the creative team finds Carrie behaving erratically much more interesting than I have in a long time. But when Gansa and company just stick to the basics — spycraft and suspense — they can still be pretty spectacular at it. Saul's failed escape last week, and the slow and agonizing prisoner transfer this week, crackled not only because of how well they were shot and edited, but because of how well the show had established Saul and Carrie's work relationship, so we would understand both why she would be reluctant to let him die(*) and why he would consider that such a huge betrayal. Just great work from Patinkin and Danes the past two weeks.

(*) I'm still irked by the sequence after Aayan's murder where Quinn overrode Carrie's order to launch the drone strike, which would have killed Saul in the bargain. "Homeland" has given us many moments in the past where we are meant to agree with Carrie, only to have her come across as absolutely wrong; this was a rare instance where I thought she was right, even as the show seemed to want us to view her as being too emotional to think rationally (therefore justifying a room full of male subordinates ignoring her orders). Given everything that's happened since then, and Saul's own request, everyone but Mira probably would have been much better off had Quinn not disobeyed her orders.

We'll see what happens with the bad guys invading the embassy through Sandy's secret tunnel — which is arguably no crazier than the terrorist plots from seasons 1 and 2 — but these last two episodes have been the strongest argument so far for the show's sustained existence post-Brody. I suspect we'll get something else ridiculous within the next few installments, but if nothing else, "Homeland" these days — when it's very bad or (lately) very good — sure ain't dull.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "TV (The Book)" about the 100 greatest shows of all time, is available now. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com