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Homeland Recap: Domain Management

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland

After having to watch Saul make a series of self-serving, wrong-headed decisions for the first three episodes of the season, it was a relief for many of us when this year’s twist was revealed. Because despite the fact that Carrie’s erratic behavior and poor life decisions may be weighing on us, we need Saul, her work dad, the steadiest influence on her life, to be on her side. “You’re amazing,” he told her two weeks ago. Yet here we are right back where we started. “Move on, please,” Saul tells Carrie gruffly when she finds out he lost track of her. Despite the gruesome fallout of Saul’s bad decision-making and worse father figuring this episode, we can’t really blame him for being off his game. After the day he had? But we can feel for Carrie, for all the abandoned children in this episode and for the kids yet to come. What kind of world is this to be born into?

More precisely, what kind of mother would Carrie Mathison make? Homeland is a show that is overly in love with its gasp-inducing cliff-hangers. Oftentimes, those twists come at the expense of logic. Last week’s episode ended with a classic “shocker that went absolutely nowhere.” The dapper Javadi sneered at Carrie, “You’re in good shape. Must be all that yoga” prompting us to think the jig was up and Carrie was in mortal peril. But the episode opened not with a gun to Carrie’s head but with a lie detector test, something she’s usually able to pass with steady pranayama. Just when you think she might be in trouble again, Carrie turns the tables on Javadi. Her mission, it seems, was not to infiltrate their organization for any long period of time but merely to lure him out of hiding and then immediately blackmail Javadi, the second-in-command of Iran’s intelligence. Though that plot is far from resolved, Carrie escapes from Javardi’s golf course compound without a scratch only to reveal that she’s carrying the biggest threat, a ticking time bomb, inside of her.

What are we to make of this highly implausible turn of events? In a show that asks us to suspend disbelief on a weekly basis about the workings of, say, vice-presidential security or the plausibility of anyone in Dana Brody’s life still being able to tolerate her, I find myself completely hung up on the logistics of this pregnancy. If the show’s timeline is to be believed, it’s been three or four months since Carrie last laid eyes on Brody. It’s fine if Carrie isn’t showing as much as you’d expect a woman in her second trimester to show. Claire Danes is a slender woman and I’ve known many of her build to stay very slim long into a pregnancy. (All that yoga.) But that drawer of used pregnancy tests was awfully full. If it is Brody’s baby, Carrie would have to have known when she willingly let herself be admitted into a psych ward and put on lithium. Speaking of which, there is no way the nurses in the psychiatric ward wouldn’t administer a pregnancy test. No. Way.

Okay, let’s say it’s not Brody’s baby. Let’s say the baby belongs to the other freckled ginger in Carrie’s life, the random drunken hookup Jared (Daniel Newman, a low-rent Damian Lewis if ever I saw one). Did Carrie take all those pregnancy tests in such a short time? Or, more disturbing, has Carrie been pregnant many times before? Are those the ghosts of pregnancies past? Either way, the notion of Carrie being pregnant is an interesting (if not very plausible) one. Carrie is not devoid of motherly instincts. We’ve seen her lovingly interact with her nieces and even deal quite effectively with Dana. I don’t doubt that she could, if properly medicated, be a wonderful, loving mother. But she couldn’t be that and bear the yoke of responsibility that comes with being involved in this world of terrorism and spying. I don’t mean that as an anti-feminist “lean out” message. One need look no further than the wreckage of the Berenson and Brody households (not to mention the tragedy of young Issa Nasir) to see how impossible family life becomes in the context of espionage.

Speaking of the broken Brody household, do we think this is the last we’ll see of Dana for a while? I doubt it. Despite the name change and reinvention (incidentally echoed in the new life Mira Berenson had started for herself in Mumbai with Alain), she’s still a Brody and there is, like it or not, a connective tissue that knits the Brody family and Carrie. As Quinn discovered via Carrie’s Big Wall O’ Crazy, the ghost of Nicholas Brody still haunts the Mathison household. (By the way, how lovely and diplomatic was Quinn’s reaction to Carrie playing Where in the World Is Nicholas Brody? He’s gradually become my favorite character.) Brody’s eventual, inevitable return will cause upheaval for all the women in his life. Chris, in his capacity as silent, background child, will be fine. But for now, we get to enjoy the best Dana and Jessica plot in weeks. Maybe years. Dana was headstrong without her usual teenaged petulance and the heart-wrenching way Jessica released her daughter was some of the best acting we’ve seen from Morena Baccarin.

But of course, the most tragic mother figures this episode are Fariba Javadi and her daughter-in-law. It’s unclear if Saul’s bad judgment this episode was entirely responsible for the brutal deaths of these two women. Javadi was menacingly eating a burger in their general direction just last week. They might have already been marked for death. But, at the very least, Saul’s lack of foresight and hubristic insistence that he knew how Javadi would operate will weigh heavily on him in the future. Just last week, Saul said to the shadowy Andrew Lockhart: “We’re not assassins. We’re spies. We don’t kill our targets if we don’t have to. We trawl for them, we develop them, and then we redirect them, against more important targets.” How crushing, then, how frustrating to lose these two women, one of whom Saul went to great lengths to rescue back in 1979? And how amateurish does it make the ragtag team of Max, Quinn, Fara, Saul, and Carrie look? They didn’t know Javadi’s family lived nearby? They didn’t think to check? The bloody tragedy of that crime scene was made all the more poignant by the knowledge of both Carrie’s pregnancy and Quinn’s accidental murder of a young boy earlier this season. The squalling of that 2-year-old they were forced to leave behind likely followed Carrie and Peter all the way back to the safe house.

So Saul’s plan to recruit and turn Javadi (just like they turned Brody before him) continues apace, but at what cost? This can no longer be a confident check in the “win” column. Not after that bloodbath. Which brings us back to Andrew Lockhart, the director-elect of the CIA. Let’s revisit that duck blind conversation between Lockhart and Saul about the future landscape of American espionage. Lockhart said to Saul, “The old games are proving less and less effective. Obsolete, even. Double agents, coat-trailing, stimulated defections.” Saul protested, “They’re the gold standards of intelligence,” and Lockhart insisted, “They’re also the most unreliable.”

This season, Lockhart was set up as the heavy, the bad guy who alienated our affection by attacking Carrie so brutally and so publicly. But after this week, we have to admit the truth of his view. We don’t have to agree with what he tells Dar Adal about reclaiming “respect and fear” with a “hard punch,” but we do have to admit that a change is in order. The espionage we’ve seen Berenson and Mathison engage in over the past two years has been very personality and emotion based. Carrie and Saul both have sharp instincts and can read people well. Reading people and assessing situations, in fact, are their best assets. But what happens when a spy has a bad day? When he finds out he didn’t get that promotion he wanted or that his wife was sharing a candlelight dinner with a frenchman? What happens when personal feelings or revenge toward Javadi or Abu Nasir or even stronger feelings of love toward Brody cloud otherwise sharp judgment? That’s when, as Lockhart argued, things get unreliable and innocent women end up getting brutally stabbed in the neck. A change is on order, without question. Is Lockhart the one to bring it about?

Photo: Kent Smith/Showtime