'Homeland' is firing on all cylinders this week in "I'll Fly Away," an episode that narrowly escapes becoming a parody of itself and remains a compelling, claustrophobic hour of television.

I've had issues with this Dana hit and run plot -- mostly because it often takes you out of the plot at the most interesting moments to serve up another hot plate of suburban melodrama. Even the stuff with Jessica at times feels grating, like this week's episode, where she shrieks at Brody relentlessly in the kitchen. But like Dana's plot thread, Jessica's serves a deeper purpose. We should be annoyed with her bickering with and constant harping on Brody because we need to feel as suffocated as he does.

Dana's arc is something different though, and it finally crystallizes into something recognizing poignancy in "I'll Fly Away." In Dana we see the way we leave things for the next generation -- the lessons we teach them about life either through our own mistakes or our actions, but more importantly, what we teach them about the world. Dana is beginning to understand that life is much more complicated than just right and wrong, and that those with money and power and authority will always pull rank over any moral compassing. The CIA paying off the daughter of the woman she hit makes things more complex because if Dana does what she thinks is right (going to the police), then she effectively makes life much harder for the one person with whom she wishes to make things right -- or as right as they can be.

That's not to say that Dana's plot isn't still problematic -- watching Brody get hauled off into that helicopter with Roya and her dangerous terrorist companion (the one who offed an entire crew of agents at the pawn shop) in a dark field in the middle of nowhere was one of the series' more striking images, akin to watching that black hood being slipped over Brody's head a few episodes back. And Carrie screaming into the phone to Saul and Quinn that Brody is gone was chill-inducing, and further proof of how much Claire Danes can do if you just put a phone in her hand and make her worry about someone. But when the action cuts back to Dana crying about her bad day to Jessica, that tension almost evaporates entirely.

Backtracking a bit -- Brody almost loses it entirely this week, feeling that claustrophobia that's been building for the last few weeks. With Jessica, the CIA, Roya and his political duties all forming thick walls around him, it's too much pressure, and something filled with that much pressure needs a release. Just a tiny pin prick with a sharp object to act as a pressure release. And then he almost blows everything with Roya by quitting just when she's about to introduce him to a new contact who will likely lead the CIA to the information necessary to bring down Abu Nazir and stop the imminent terrorist attack. Naturally, Carrie's on the job, whisking him away to a motel room where she knows Saul will find them. And what better way to blow off steam than sex?

This is where 'Homeland' almost becomes a parody of itself. How many times will we watch Quinn try to stop Carrie from doing something he doesn't think is okay? And how many times will Saul reassure him, even as the surveillance crew is listening to Carrie and Brody having sex with each other, that she knows what she is doing and she's in control? The sequence is damn near laughable in its absurdity, but it also does something very clever by using Saul as the audience proxy. We know, like he does, that Carrie's instincts are usually on-point, and that she does know what she's doing. And just like Saul, we too have a kernel of doubt considering her personal feelings toward Brody. Though these scenes border on humorous, they're also surprisingly layered. Saul is just as compelled by Carrie's actions as we are, and like Saul, we just want to watch it all play out.

Speaking of Carrie's actions, 'Homeland' is still doing an excellent job making us wonder if she's really still in love with Brody and being genuine with him when they're alone, or if this is all one long con to keep him in the CIA's pocket. Carrie is drawn so well and so deep that neither avenue is unlikely. Sure, she could be using her access to Brody via the mission to carry on with a relationship she knows is horrible for her, or she could be playing into Brody's ideas about her feelings for him while exploiting his for her in order to keep him in her hand.

It seems to be a bit of both, but not knowing where this relationship will lead is almost as suspenseful as watching Brody being escorted to a warehouse -- stripped of his phone and any connection to the CIA -- by Roya and her associate, and finding himself face to face with Abu Nazir.

I wonder what they'll have to talk about next week.