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Shortly before this week’s episode of “Homeland” aired, Showtime tweeted a teaser that, unknowingly to viewers, served as a double entendre. “Is Carrie in trouble?” the tweet asked.
Based on where we saw her last week — whisked away in the dead of night by Majid Javadi and his people, right under the nose of Quinn, her CIA minder — she certainly seemed to be in some danger. What we didn’t realize is that she was actually in that other kind of trouble, and apparently has been all season long.
Look, I know there are other things to discuss about this week’s episode, including Saul’s suddenly revealed personal connection to Javadi, as well as Jess’s incomprehensible decision to allow the Daughter Formerly Known as Dana Brody to move out of the house. But I must focus on the real surprise of the hour, yet another game changer that forces us to mentally rewind some of the things we’ve seen on this season of “Homeland” and view them through an adjusted lens. That shocker is this: Carrie Mathison is pregnant. Really pregnant. As in, hoarding weeks-of-Clear-Blue-Easy-plus-signs pregnant. In case you didn’t catch it, the title of this episode — “Still Positive” — was a double entendre, too.
To the credit of the “Homeland” writers, this important piece of information about Carrie wasn’t revealed in some over-dramatic announcement or an emotional letter penned by Carrie as she quiver-chin-wept in front of the muted turquoise brick wall in her apartment. We simply saw her take a pregnancy test, which immediately read as positive, then add it to a bathroom drawer filled with what looked like nearly a trimester’s worth of similarly positive tests. Based on the responses on Twitter, a number of fans reacted to this development much the same way they reacted to the dramatic reveal of the Carrie/Saul long con: Wait, what? Well, that, and they also complained about the fact that Carrie and Quinn aren’t making babies together. (Apparently a number of women on social media really want Rupert Friend to impregnate someone.)
In any case, the Carrie-with-child story line raises a number of questions, which shall be addressed below in a Q&A format. Call it “What to Expect When Carrie’s Expecting.”
How long has Carrie been pregnant?
By my best estimate, she’s either near the end or just out of her first trimester. I’m basing that on the number of tests housed in that drawer, and the fact that it’s pretty clear that the baby is Brody’s. The writers made a point of showing how long she’s been testing positive, so they clearly wanted to convey that this has been the case for a while, long enough that Brody is likely the father. (In the making-of featurette that aired immediately after the episode, show runner Alex Gansa also said outright that Carrie has been pregnant for a long time.)
We know that the last Brody and Carrie last trysted at the cabin, a day or two before the 12/12 bombing. We also know, per Carrie’s lie detector responses to Javadi, that it’s currently March in the “Homeland” timeline. So roughly three months, or a trimester’s worth of time, has passed.
Why the hell is Carrie hoarding her pregnancy tests?
It’s entirely possible that the hoarding is just more classic, obsessive-compulsive Carrie behavior. It’s also possible that she can’t come to grips with becoming a mother, so she’s saving all the tests as hard, irrefutable evidence of the facts, sort of the pregnancy version of her “map of Brody’s whereabouts” wall. Part of me also wonders whether she’s thinking that Brody might miraculously pop up one of these days, so she’s therefore prepared to show him, via Clear Blue Easy visual aids, that the baby is definitely his. There are certainly more definitive ways to prove his paternity, though, so I’m thinking the drawer full of peed-upon sticks is more a combination of her mentally addled state, and the fact that the writers needed some way to immediately telegraph that Carrie’s been with child for several months.
Hold on … isn’t it possible that the baby-daddy could be that redheaded dude Carrie slept with a couple of times?
No, because she was pregnant already when she slept with that guy. But the redheaded guy is interesting. Carrie’s a strategic person. If she knew she was pregnant with Brody’s baby, the minute she saw that nice ginger at the liquor store, she probably thought: Bingo. There’s my cover story. Going to his place again after she was released from the hospital — at a time when she knew she may have been tailed — was even more strategic. If a sweet little redheaded cherub eventually results from her pregnancy, she can argue that he’s the result of her sacred hookup with some guy she met while buying alcohol. It’s a terrible story, but it’s better than, “I fathered this baby with the guy accused of blowing up a major national agency and most of my co-workers.” Yeah, liquor store guy sounds better.
Speaking of liquor … hasn’t Carrie done a lot of things to jeopardize this pregnancy?
She’s consumed excessive amounts of alcohol. She’s taken a variety of strong medications. She voluntarily put herself under extreme duress by agreeing to have herself committed. You don’t have to be an OB/GYN to know that none of that is good for a pregnancy. That said, her reasons for going off her meds now contain multiple layers: She did it to bolster the impression that she was losing her mind, for the purposes of her plot with Saul. But maybe she also was trying to look after the baby.
But why drink so much, then? Well, Carrie’s probably in a certain level of denial about what’s going on, and without her drugs to stabilize her moods, she may have been prone to more reckless behavior. That’s the best answer I’ve got.
If Carrie’s super-pregnant, why wasn’t she showing when Javadi’s guys stripped her down?
At roughly three months into a first pregnancy, it wouldn’t be that weird for a woman not to be showing much yet, especially a woman as naturally thin as Carrie. That will start to be an issue soon, though.
Now that the facts are kind of, sort of straight, answer this: Is the Carrie pregnancy the dumbest thing that’s happened on “Homeland” since … well, since whatever Dana did five minutes ago? Or does this — along with the accelerating Javadi vs. Saul “Thrilla in the Safe House” showdown — mean that “Homeland” is really getting good this season?
At first, I thought the plot point was pretty stupid, too soap opera-ish even by “Homeland” standards, which, despite the show’s intelligence, have often dipped into some sudsy waters.
But as I thought about it more, I became increasingly intrigued by the narrative potential for this pregnancy. The audience has never wanted bad things to happen to Carrie, but knowing that she’s expecting makes the desire to protect her from harm even greater, a feeling that undoubtedly the writers will seize upon in upcoming episodes. The fact that the pregnancy is a secret — one Carrie clearly cannot keep for long — adds a certain frisson that was lacking in other episodes this season. (Read: the one about Brody in Venezuela.) It also opens the door to exploring a number of interesting issues — about motherhood, mental illness and gender politics — that, if handled smartly, could take “Homeland” to deeper places. Wanting to know what happens with Carrie and this baby makes me want to tune in to “Homeland” next week to a degree that Dana’s problems and Saul’s Javadi issues don’t, really. It also makes me want to buy a shower gift for Carrie, possibly a onesie that says “Keep calm and call Saul.”
Speaking of which, I was disappointed by the way the other two major plot lines were handled this week. It seems strange that until now, Saul never once mentioned his close relationship with Javadi, a man tied deeply and directly to Iranian terrorism for decades. I know Abu Nazir occupied a lot of his and the CIA’s mental energy in previous seasons, but it seems like Javadi would have come up in an, “Oh, hey, remember that major terrorist you know? Maybe we should try to track him down” kind of way.
I also found it ridiculous that Jess actually let Dana move in with Random Angela without putting up more of a fight. Under the best of circumstances, most parents wouldn’t allow their kids to live with another family for an indefinite period of time, especially a family they don’t know. Dana is still on unofficial suicide watch. Her dad could theoretically try to reach out to her at any moment. Having her away from home is a massive risk that makes no sense and was handled so poorly that it shakes one’s trust in the series as a whole.
Now, arguably, Carrie’s sudden pregnancy may have been just as unbelievable and just as indicative of the writers’ need to shock the audience without regard for little things like believability or clear explanations of back story. But it brings our focus back to where it belongs: on our primary protagonist. And it gives the show a beating heart again, in both literal and metaphorical terms.
Sure, it may have been a little heavy-handed when Carrie attempted to console Javadi’s little grandson after bursting in on his gruesome crime scene. At the same time, you couldn’t help thinking: oh, man, that poor kid. And as soon as you thought that, you realized you felt as badly for that crying baby who’s genetically connected to terrorists as you do for the one growing inside Carrie Mathison, completely unaware of the mad, mad world he or she may be about to enter.
Jen Chaney is a pop culture writer whose work appears regularly in The Washington Post, New York Magazine’s Vulture and The Dissolve. She’s currently working on a book about the movie “Clueless,” to be published next year by Touchstone.More Jen Chaney.
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