Charlie and President Payton head to Qatar on a diplomatic trip, and Kurt receives an interesting offer.
Credit: Chris Haston/NBC
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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?

In D.C., Kurt receives a call from a Baltimore safe house where there’s a woman claiming to have found a backdoor into some very valuable communications. The walk-in asked for Charlie, but since she’s not there, Kurt is being sent to handle the situation. Kurt heads to the safe house, and we find out that the walk-in is none other than Melissa Anchez, Syd’s techie friend who helped Charlie out a few weeks back. While hacking into the secure comm satellite for reasons of corporate espionage, she found a program that had a significant amount of data on several nefarious groups the CIA has been failing to capture. And Melissa isn’t screwing around: Once the CIA verifies the information on the hard drive she supplies them, she expects it to deposit a significant amount of money into an offshore account for her. Ever awkward around women, Kurt is rather thrown off by Melissa’s brazenness.

Meanwhile in Qatar, things are still rather cold between Charlie and POTUS. Charlie explains to POTUS that Kamal is caught in what they in the spy biz call a “false flag:” someone pretending to be CIA manipulated into giving them intel. With this new information, POTUS is ready to turn Kamal over to Qatari officials. But Charlie insists that they hold off until they verify the information. According to Kamal, the Qatari government is selling American weapons to Fatah’s network.

Naturally, President Payton is not happy to hear this because the Prime Minister has just criticized her for spying on Qatar—country that’s supposed to be a U.S. ally. At this point, David has come in and isn’t doing anything to calm down the President. Based on her training, instinct, and faith, Charlie advises that the President retrieve the intel from Kamal’s brother. President Payton’s patience with Charlie is definitely wearing thin, and she coldly asks, “So, once again, I should just take your word?”

Unfortunately for them, collecting the information from Kamal’s brother, who works in a heavily populated mall, won’t be easy because Qatari police are stationed outside of the embassy. To distract the police and give Charlie an easy way out with Kamal, Maureen borrows a car, breaks through the embassy’s gate, and leas the police on a wild goose chase.

Thanks to Maureen’s diversion, Charlie and Kamal safely make it to the mall. As they’re heading towards the brother’s store, Kamal opens up to Charlie about why he decided to help the CIA. While he isn’t a fan of America’s drone policy, he also believes that selling weapons to Fatah and Sheik Hakam is not the answer because they’re evil incarnate. He hopes that helping out America will allow him and his family to flee to Canada, a country that doesn’t crowd Qatari skies with drones. Eventually, they arrive at the brother’s store and the brother hands over the evidence. As their leaving the mall through a service elevator, Kamal’s fake CIA handler Ben shows up—but Charlie kills him before he has a chance to shoot them. The sound of gunfire sets off an alarm and the police storm the mall.

Back in D.C., Kurt and a very sweaty and pissy Lucas continue to clash. Based on evidence from last week’s interview, Kurt believes that Bullwinkle recently had surgery and that they’ll be able to find him with that knowledge. Lucas quickly shoots down this seemingly ridiculous idea, which prompts Kurt to quickly leave the office and return with a bottle of alcohol. He tells Lucas, a recovering alcoholic, that now’s not the time to go cold turkey, and that if he needs to have a few drinks to think clearly, then he should do so. As Kurt leaves the office, Lucas grabs the bottle. If there’s one thing we learned tonight, it’s that Kurt has a bit of a mouth on him and isn’t afraid to talk back.

Later on, Lucas tells Kurt that he was right about Bullwinkle’s surgery. The plan now is to find him by tracking shipments of his post-surgery medication. With that out of the way, Lucas admits to Kurt that he’s been sober for eight years, but had “fallen off the wagon” a few days earlier. Kurt, who’s all about Maureen doesn’t care, but makes it clear that he’ll only keep Lucas’ alcoholism on the DL if Lucas promises to stay away from Maureen.

NEXT: What does Emily want? And, most importantly, who actually shot Aaron?

Charlie and Kamal make it back to the U.S. embassy unscathed. She quickly finds out from Dash that the evidence Kamal gave them was fake, which sucks for her because she’s already let the president down once. In her meeting with POTUS and David, Charlie explains that the guy she shot at the mall was a former member of the Royal Guard Brigade and was working with a rogue faction of in Qatari military intelligence that wants to ruin the deal. The President’s ready to turn Kamal over to the Prime Minister and rescue the deal, but Charlie asks her not to. David tells Charlie to get her priorities straight; her duty isn’t to this Qatari national, it’s to the President and the United States. A now angry Charlie firmly says to David, “I don’t tell you how to be the Chief of Staff, David. Don’t tell me how to do my job.”

President Payton asks David to leave, because it’s time for some real talk with Charlie. “The presidency is only good as the people whos serve it. I’m only as good as the people I can trust,” POTUS says to Charlie. She then demands that Charlie tell what happened in Kabul. This puts Charlie in a tough position, because she actually can’t remember everything that happened. Constance doesn’t believe her, and dismisses Charlie as her briefer—effective immediately. There was so much acting going on in this scene, I didn’t even know what to do.

As Kurt is leaving the gym, he’s approached by Melissa. Throughout the episode, Kurt’s been very suspicious of her intel because it conveniently showed up right when the agency needed it. As she violates Kurt’s personal boundaries, Melissa informs him this definitely wasn’t a coincidence. She says that although the CIA might not be the be all and end all, her company definitely is—and they want Kurt. Before leaving, she gives Kurt an envelope full of money—a “finder’s fee”—and tells him to use it to take the hottie on the 7th floor—Maureen—out to dinner. Who wants to bet Melissa works for the Creig Group, a.k.a. State of Affairs’ B613-like organization?

Following the dismissal, Charlie is even more determined to figure out if she actually killed Aaron. Using a cocktail of drugs called HJ-7, Maureen chemically interrogates Charlie about the events in Kabul. It’s a trippy sequence in which we flash back to the night of the attack as present-day Charlie is zip tied to the bathtub. On the night the convoy was attacked, Omar Fatah pulled Charlie from the wreckage. Unfortunately, Aaron saw him do so and, misinterpreting the situation, pointed his gun at Fatah. Fatah stole Charlie’s gun—the one she got from Nick—and shot Aaron. Obviously, Charlie feels much better because for the longest time she’s thought that she killed Aaron. And there’s even better news: That night, Fatah also killed a terrorist who tried to kill Charlie and, before taking his leave, told her “The Pegasus still flies.” Present-day Charlie realizes that Fatah is still her asset.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

— If you’re a fan of the show, you should definitely follow showrunner Joe Carnahan on twitter. He live tweets almost episode, and provides a lot of insight into not only the plot, but also the filming process.

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State of Affairs
Katherine Heigl makes a return to prime time in this NBC political/espionage thriller.
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