HOMELAND (Season 3)
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland.

Photo courtesy Kent Smith/Showtime

This was a complex, bleak, psychologically acute episode about the current mental health of Saul Berenson. Carrie may be the “crazy” one, but as the season goes on it’s becoming clear that Saul’s current emotional state— I would politely describe it as detached megalomania— is the real problem. But of course, HOW CAN I FOCUS ON THE SUBTLE NUANCES OF SAUL BERENSON’S CHARACTER WHEN CARRIE MATHISON IS KNOCKED UP AND KEEPING 100 POSITIVE PREGNANCY TESTS IN A DRAWER, AS IF SHE IS STARRING IN HOARDERS: THE POSITIVE PREGNANCY TEST EDITION?

I cannot.

Carrie is pregnant. This storyline has just begun and I have no idea how it will play out, but I guess there is some possibility that it will not be the silliest, most extraneous, most melodramatic, most uncalled-for storyline in Homeland history. Like, that is possible. But I am not wildly optimistic! My first response is just: Whyyyyyyyy????!!!!! Is there not enough going on? What, Carrie needs a soap opera twist on top of everything else? Why is Homeland so dedicated to the outlandish, the ridiculous, the over-the-top?

My colleague June Thomas offered up one reasonable way to cope with this development when I started moaning to her about it on Gchat. “At this point I may have turned a corner,” June said. “If I assume they’re TRYING for an absurd vibe, there’s a chance they’re succeeding.” I would really like to adopt this optimistic position, but I’m finding it hard. For every ridiculous ploy—hit-and-run, homicidal teen, hacked pacemaker, accidental pregnancy—there is also a development like Majid Javadi taking a broken bottle to his ex-wife’s neck. I can’t find that absurd—I find it only grisly and disturbing. Homeland is betwixt and between, preposterous on the one hand and brutal on the other, continuing to assert a bleak thoughtfulness in some storylines and turning others over to the cuckoo committee. I could probably get on board with either type of show, but I’m having a hard time being on both at once.

Also, please, just give me Carrie the CIA agent! When Carrie turned the tables on Javadi during interrogation, I was reminded of the first episode of Season 2, “The Smile.” At the end of that episode, a despondent Carrie pulled off a mission—and she beamed. She got her groove back, and it was great. Briefly, that’s what the Javadi scene this week reminded me of. For just a second, there was fierce, hell-raising, efficient Carrie Mathison, CIA agent supreme. And then she went home and became the woman hoarding pee sticks.

And, of course, I have been avoiding the suspected terrorist in the room. Carrie’s ginger-haired sex partner Jared, or some conquest we haven’t seen, could be the baby daddy. But the sheer number of positive pregnancy tests in that drawer at least suggests the possibility that Carrie is, in fact, carrying the demon spawn of one Nicholas Brody. For the baby to be Brody’s, Homeland would really have to push the limits of logic, which has not stopped it before. Basically, if it’s Brody’s, Carrie would have been pregnant the entire time she was in the psych ward. Not only does that mean her fetus has had a very vodka and lithium-fueled time in utero, it makes it hard to understand how the pregnancy is a secret. They would have done a full medical workup in the asylum. Anyone reading Carrie’s medical file would have known she was with child. I think it is much more plausible that the baby is Jared’s, (which is different from believing it will, in fact, be Jared’s; Homeland already ignored the logical explanation for a crazy plot twist once this season). That would explain why she went off her meds just last week—it’s when she learned she was pregnant. And though I’m not sure enough time has lapsed since Carrie stole money from Jared’s wallet for her to know she’s pregnant, at least he’s not the star-crossed Romeo to her Juliet.

Anyway, since the pregnancy reveal took up just a minute of this episode and will surely be more central to future installments, I will now turn to the ostensible meat of this episode: Saul. Saul’s personal life is falling apart, and has been for some time. At the beginning of the season, Mira told Saul that he needed to be decisive, needed to come toward her, but he has been, in his own words, paralyzed by indecision. Upon finding out his wife is seeing someone else, he stays in his shell. “Stop this detached routine,” Mira says. “Get angry at something. Get angry at me.” But Saul refuses.

To counter his powerlessness and listlessness at home—and also his powerlessness when it comes to being made head of the CIA—Saul has started overcompensating at work by getting extremely bossy, didactic, and stubborn. (If you needed more evidence that Saul is not really equipped to run the CIA, how’s this: He doesn’t even comprehend that Dar Adal is a snake in the grass, even though Dar Adal pretty much has “snake in the grass” tattooed on his forehead.) Saul has yelled at Fara, been callous with Carrie—keeping her in the hospital, telling Quinn not to check on her, not apologizing for having lost her—and spends most of this mission being way overconfident.

He is sure that he “knows” exactly what Javadi will do, and how he will react. He does not. (Javadi may remember Saul more clearly: “Saul Berenson, still after all these years putting other peoples’ lives on the line.”) Because of Saul’s certitude, he gives Javadi enough time to murder his ex-wife and daughter-in-law before coming to see the CIA. Then robot Saul coldly orders his staff to leave a sobbing baby in a home with two corpses. In the episode’s last scene, Saul punches Javadi in the face. Javadi deserves it, and more. But so does Saul.