Spoiler alert: Do not read unless you have seen “Homeland’s” Jan. 29 episode, “The Covenant.”

Carrie learns a hard lesson and finagles her way out of a jam as only she can. Saul bares down on a bad guy with fast-talking intensity, furrowed brow and formidable beard. And Quinn gets a good chunk of his groove back in the third episode of “Homeland’s” sixth season, “The Covenant.”

The episode written by Ron Nyswaner and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter finds our characters doing what they do best, albeit in a slightly different context than in past seasons. This episode felt like a table-setting for more dramatic developments to come. But it is always a pleasure to watch these great actors — Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin and Rupert Friend — bring to life telling moments big and small that add to depth to their characters.

Meanwhile, the episode also lays the track for renewed suspicion of F. Murray Abraham’s CIA operations director Dar Adal, and it drops a hint about whether President-elect Elizabeth Keane’s affection for Carrie is perhaps a touch more than professional.

We are also treated to a thought-provoking exchange about headline news, this time between Saul and his “crazy sister,” who is a proud and determined resident of the Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Saul is sent off by the CIA on a covert fact-finding mission to Abu Dhabi, where he intercepts an Iranian agent in search of “objective evidence” that Iran is cheating on the nuclear deal that has been so polarizing in real-life U.S. politics.

Saul brings a diplomat’s perspective on his sister’s refusal to cede an inch of the ground that she says was promised to the Jews via a “covenant with God made thousands of years ago,” as recorded in sacred texts. “Doesn’t that strike you as a form of insanity?” Saul retorts. If that weren’t enough to needle his sister, he adds in the next breath: “How can you live knowing that your very presence here makes peace less possible?”

The conversations around the Berenson family dinner table back in Indiana must’ve been quite intense, because she shoots back with a line that digs right into his heart, about his lack of a personal life compared to the richness of her world full of “faith and purpose.”

After the prickly reunion between the two, we learn that Saul’s visit to his sister wasn’t entirely driven by his guilt that he hasn’t seen her in a while. He’s still hunting for his evidence and trying to unravel another mystery about the Iranian agent, Farhad Nafisi, played with unctuous charm by Bernard White. Saul’s scenes throughout the episode have a kinetic quality to them — he’s always on the move, cutting through crowds with his ramrod straight gait.

In the first half of the episode, Carrie gets an education about what it means to operate in the real world of the legal system, as opposed to the shadowy environment of the CIA and international sleuthing. Her bull-headed decision to seek out the FBI informant who has dropped the dime on her client, Sekou, the angry young man who is the victim of an FBI agent’s crusade to convict him of fomenting terrorist activities.

Carrie’s contact with the informant prompts the federal prosecutors to pull the plea offer that would have spared Sekou a trial and the prospect of 15 years in jail. Give her credit — she comes clean and owns it in confessing her transgression to Sekou. She blabbers “I’m so, so sorry” and he shoots back “How could you do this to me?” 

Carrie is shocked to learn that there’s no legal remedy for her thumbing her nose at the judge’s order. So true to form, she reaches out to an old friend who presumably works for the National Security Administration, and he digs up the goods — on audio tape, no less — on the equally bull-headed FBI agent, Ray Conlin, played by Dominic Fumusa. Carrie sashays into his office and demands he drop all charges, and she’s got the leverage to make it happen.

Carrie and Conlin have a grim-faced exchange that also rings all too true in today’s political climate.

“When did we start arresting people for crimes they might commit?” Carrie demands. “Somewhere between 9/11 and Orlando,” Conlin fires back.

Interesting that in Carrie and Saul’s big confrontation scenes, both of their targets hiss the same line: “What do you want?”

Quinn, meanwhile, goes back into familiar territory of being Carrie’s silent protector. Despite his physical challenges, his Spidey sense is triggered when he realizes that Bad Guys are after Carrie again, going so far as to break into her house. He goes to great lengths to obtain a gun, in the process gaining sweet revenge on the dope-peddling cretin that smacked him in the head and robbed him in the season opener.

And despite the emotional trauma Quinn faces following the chemical weapons attack, he still has both a healthy libido, and a huge amount of heartbreak over not being able to fully embrace Carrie as a lover, unless she’s trying to soothe him when he wakes up screaming.

Some stray observations:

  • Accessorizing: Carrie carries an old-fashioned purse in the scene where she confesses her screw-up to Sekou. I can’t remember her toting anything but her utilitarian cross-body bags in the past.
  • Sober mom: Good for Carrie for passing up wine at her clandestine dinner with the President-elect, even as she admits she wants a glass. Another sign of Carrie’s mom-sense: she’s driving a Volvo.
  • Born to be a GIF: “The truth is, I love to shred.” Maybe this will be on Saul’s tombstone.
  • Line from “The Princess Bride” you didn’t expect to hear from a “Homeland” actor other than Patinkin: “As you wish” tumbles out of the mouth of Dar Adal in his slightly uneasy (and less than truthful) briefing with President-elect Keane. And just in case the reference to the beloved 1987 movie didn’t sink in, Keane follows it up with “I wish.” Hmmm, maybe next week, Quinn will have an excuse to issue the instruction: “Prepare to die.”