TV

Whoa. What The S**t Did You Just Do, Homeland?

Bloody carnage, unexpected twists, and edge of your seat viewing from the best episode of the season by far. [spoilers]

Welcome to our Homeland recaps. This week’s episode was ‘Still Positive’. Spoilers and SHOCKED EXCLAMATIONS IN ALL CAPS follow.

Among the bloody carnage, pregnancy twists, broken noses and reveals, the most surprising aspect of ‘Still Positive’ was the fact that it was edge of your seat, utterly riveting viewing. Too many times up to this, the midway point of Homeland’s third season, has the show sputtered along like Matthew Perry’s post-Friends career, but hey, there’s nothing like a dose of brutal inter-family domestic slaughter and a surprise pregnancy to give a TV show the kick in the pants it needs.

Either way, ‘Still Positive’ captured the kinetic energy of Homeland’s first season, shifting quickly and sharply from Carrie sitting in an anonymous room, hooked up to a lie detector to busting evil mastermind Javadi’s balls with the promise of being hunted down by his own government for embezzling $45 million from the Iranian Republican Guard (something you’d imagine they’d not take lightly). Meanwhile, Saul tried to exert some, any control over the impending end of both his marriage and his caretaker role as head of the CIA.

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“The day is better with him in it.” “Okay, but be straight with me… My beard is bigger, right?”

With Saul discovering that he’s been cuckolded (“The day is better with him in it.” — owwchhhhh), he demonstrates just why Senator Lockhart and Dar Adal are scheming to ouster the famously bearded and gruff one. His indecision and “detached routine” regarding his (terribly under-utilised) wife Mira sees him overcompensate when it comes to Javadi. And the consequences are dire.

Thus, Saul is holed up with Fara, Max and Quinn (where’s Virgil!?), trying to control his own destiny by clearing one more case off the board before Lockhart takes over. And, well, as much as we enjoy face time with Saul, the fact that he’s doing that instead of running one of the biggest intelligence agencies in the world, the fact that he’s so focused on getting back at an Iranian intelligence asset that wronged him in 1979 (WHO HE ALREADY EXACTED REVENGE ON) is proof that Saul’s probably not really suited to being head of the CIA after all.

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“Hey Saul, shouldn’t you, I dunno, be running the CIA or something?” “Shut up, you.”

As for Carrie, once she dramatically turns the tables on Javadi, prompting a terrific “thousand yard stare, for a couple of minutes”, she becomes the swagtastic, kick-arse CIA agent we remember. The back and forth between her and Javadi — on the terrorist mastermind’s McMansion balcony on the edge of a golf course, no less — is a captivating display of cat and mouse. Javadi’s tense cigarette-smoking as he realises that he’s just been (almost) completely screwed by Saul and Carrie makes the shortlist of the third season’s best scenes.

But even with that kicker, the first of the two big shoes this episode dropped was a typically bizarre Homeland move. Did Carrie administer a pregnancy test out of nowhere? Was the test positive? Did our favourite OCD bi-polar CIA agent then reveal an entire collection of pregnancy tests in her bathroom drawer?

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Oh shit!

YES, YES, AND OH MY GOD, A THOUSAND TIMES YES.

Because, holy shit, after a season where an entire viewing audience has been regularly screaming at their screens due to the unloading of six hours of Dana the Downer, what we need now is a SURPRISE PREGNANCY, cueing mind-bendingly awful propositions like: COULD THE BABY BE BRODY’S!? COULD THE FATHER BE THAT JOSH HOMME LOOKALIKE THAT SHE RANDOMLY BANGS? WHY DOES SHE HAVE AN ENTIRE DRAWER OF TESTS? DOES SHE NOT OWN A BIN? WILL SHE BE ON THE NEXT EPISODE OF HOARDERS?

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Oh shitty shit shit!

**trails off into a series of sobs, puts head in hands**

Ahem.

This all goes back to the idea of control — when it comes to family, the self, as well as dubious concepts like ‘respect’ and ‘trust’ — central to Homeland. It examines the consequences of America’s past six decades of trying to exert its control on the world, and what happens when specific elements of the world push back. It’s in everything that Homeland has shown so far — Brody in the first season, Abu Nasir in the second, and it’s a struggle that’s common to each of the main characters this season. Carrie is struggling with a loss of control when finding out she’s pregnant; Dana takes back control by changing her last name and moving out; Jessica loses control of Dana because, well, she’s a pretty shitty parent; and Brody lost control of his freedom in Caracas while trying to gain it.

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Yeah, we’re all pretty sad that Dana is going somewhere.

It shows that no matter which way you try to exert your influence, there are always drawbacks, loopholes, ways that control will be subverted. When overconfident in your powers — like, say, the US or Saul with his appraisal of Javadi’s movements and motivations — people surprise you by wresting back control of their situation in a way that suits them. In Javadi’s case, it was making Saul and the CIA complicit in the murder of Javadi’s family.

Oh. Did we not cover that yet? The most shocking moment of this season? Right. Best get to it then.

Javadi’s short-circuiting of Saul’s plan — whereby Javadi would have had Carrie prove herself useful, then allow himself to be taken to Saul — as a distraction was terrific. See, in response to Javadi turning coat on Saul and killing four hostages in Iran back in ’79 (in order to get onside with the new Iranian powers-that-be), Saul had spirited Javadi’s family to witness protection in the USA.

Smart, right?

Well, not so smart when Javadi delivers the most gruesome and shocking death of Homeland yet, via a broken glass bottle and set to the screams and cries of a distressed baby.

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Whoa.

That the episode finishes with the long-awaited confrontation between Saul and Javadi or, to be more precise, with a pissed off Saul towering over Javadi, clutching a freshly busted nose, almost exorcises Homeland’s season three demons. Saul finally — as Mirah pleaded earlier — got angry.

Hopefully, this is indicative of where Homeland goes for the rest of the season. Saul and his team are now complicit in two murders (Carrie and Quinn fled the scene with Javadi in tow, leaving the baby behind), and Homeland has unravelled a bunch of its random knots and re-tied them somewhat nicely together. The machinations to get Brody back into the series — and, it seems, to eventually meet his end (this season has prepped everyone for a Brody-less season four) — will be a test to see if Homeland’s writers can deliver on ‘Still Positive’’s promise (which, also sounds like the title of the next Hold Steady record).

And so, on to the mid-season:

Homeland: What’s Their Mental State Like?’ big board

Jessica Brody: Worried about how little of a shit she gave when her daughter changed her name and moved from home.
Dana Lazaro: Contemplating whether seminal Adelaide band Lazaro’s Dog would consider reforming to play ‘Home Entertainment System’ at her 17th birthday party at her and Angela’s new house.
Chris Brody: Hoping that Dana leaving means he’ll now get that big TV.
Quinn: Hoping that eventually Carrie will realise that his creepy always-there vibe means he digs her.
Carrie: Wondering why Quinn is always around… and how many false positives it’s possible to score on a pregnancy test. 
Javadi: Well, that went well.
Saul: Jesus, that went bad.
Brody: Who?

As for Carrie’s pregnancy? Well, who knows whose it is and what psychoactive drugs mean for the million of tests she’s taken. Also, wouldn’t the people at the mental hospital have picked up on THE FACT SHE WAS PREGNANT? Thanks for throwing us that load of questions, Homeland.

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“I know everyone wants us to get together, but I don’t really want to be Nicholas Brody’s baby-mama’s baby’s daddy.”

Catch-up on the latest episode of Homeland on Ten Play.

Jaymz is a New York-based writer (originally from Melbourne, and the former Editor of triple j magazine), super-yacht enthusiast, hi-tech jewel thief and Bengal tiger trainer. He enjoys wearing monocles, finely spiced rum, constructing pillow forts, and zip-lining from Hong Kong skyscrapers. You can find him on twitter via @jaymzclements

Follow the rest of his Homeland recaps here.