'Homeland' - 'The Smile' recap: Carrie turns her frown upside down

claire-danes-mandy-patinkin-homeland.jpgCompared to its explosive (or not explosive, if you ask Brody's suicide vest) freshman finale, "Homeland" launched its second season with relatively little action -- but plenty of emotional tension and a huge shocker.

Months after receiving ECT following her mental breakdown, Carrie ( Claire Danes) is living with her family, gardening, cooking and teaching English to Arabic students.

The CIA rudely interrupts this tranquility when one of her assets comes forward with intelligence about an attack on America -- refusing to speak to anyone but Carrie. We see just how fragile Carrie's state of mind really is when Saul ( Mandy Patinkin, holla!) and David Estes ( David Harewood) ask her to fly to Beirut for a three-day undercover mission. Her face crumples and she begs Saul to back off, but there is too much at stake. But as she protests to Estes about "the unceremonious, humiliating way" the CIA treated her, she can't help preening about her skill in recruiting the wife of a Hezbollah commander. It foreshadows her triumphant grin at the end of episode -- and the reason it's titled "The Smile."

Meanwhile, Brody's ( Damian Lewis) own idyll is disrupted by an agent of Abu Nazir ( Navid Negahban). Now a congressman and the vice president's first choice as running mate, Brody is settling into his new role as a "nonviolent" agent of change.

So he is understandably rattled when a journalist named Roya ( Zuleikha Robinson) approaches him with a request from Nazir -- to break into CIA chief Estes' safe to get some security target codes. Brody protests that he "will not be a part of killing innocent civilians," but Roya reminds him of his bond with Nazir's son Issa (who would've been 13 if he'd survived the U.S. drone strike) and insists that he must obtain the codes to prove his allegiance.

Vice President Walden makes it slightly easier on Brody's conscience when he reveals the U.S. military has 8,000 drones over Baghdad -- thousands more than when Issa was alive. While Roya distracts Estes (and even makes a dinner date with him -- the CIA boss, who once had an affair with Carrie, certainly doesn't exercise the best judgment when it comes to romance), Brody fulfills his assignment.

Although that scene was a nail-biter, the night's biggest shocker comes from the most unlikely source: Brody's teenage daughter Dana ( Morgan Saylor). Repulsed by her new schoolmates' anti-Arab ignorance during a morning meeting, she blurts out, "What if I told you my dad's a Muslim?" (What if I told you my dinner ended up on my lap? No more eating during "Homeland.")

Jessica ( Morena Baccarin), who is enjoying her new role as the star politician's wife, is furious about the incident. "I want to know why you would say such an insane thing" she screams at Dana, prompting Brody to come to his daughter's defense.

"Because it's true," he says quietly, admitting that she saw him pray. Jessica, outwardly enraged about his deceit but likely terrified inside, ransacks the garage. In another gasp-worthy moment, he yells, "That's not supposed to touch the floor!" when she throws down his Koran.

Jess finally concludes her rant by asking whether Carrie knows he's a Muslim -- "because she stood on our lawn and said a bunch of things I'm remembering all of a sudden." Uh-oh. Even though Brody reminds her "that woman was fired by the CIA and locked up in a mental institution," we have a feeling Jess might believe Carrie is more sane than her husband right about now.

danes-homeland-smile.jpgAnd after a shaky start, Carrie is proving her mettle in Beirut. Although Saul warns her that she's "been made," she successfully eludes her pursuers and celebrates with that smile. Girl has got her swagger back!

The episode concludes on Brody's home turf, which he is literally digging up in the dark of night. When Dana catches him, he explains that he is burying his Koran "out of respect" because her mother desecrated it. Dana kneels down to help, carefully scooping the soil over the sacred text with her bare hands. It should be a poignant and heartwarming scene, except for the terrifying undercurrents.

How much does Dana -- who, remember, talked him out of detonating his suicide vest -- really know or suspect about her father? How far is she willing to go to support him?

We're almost afraid to find out.
Photo/Video credit: Showtime