One of the fundamental tenets of any relationship is trust. As time passes, each side of a partnership comes to rely on the other, and as that dependence grows, we leave ourselves open to disappointment because we become vulnerable. The biggest complaint many of us had with the third season’s beginnings was that it felt like we could no longer trust the writing team to make the right decisions and give us a well-crafted story that made sense. Two weeks ago, for the first time, I was disappointed.
Thankfully, we’re moving past that now, and “Still Positive”—the halfway point of Homeland’s third season on Showtime—is an episode that is all about relationships and trust. How much can we really rely on anyone? How does it feel to be on either side of an unequal partnership? And what happens when one side asks difficult questions and the other provides insufficient answers?
The first pairing that’s going to be put to the test is Carrie and her new Iranian captors. We quickly learn that last week’s mystery man was in fact Mujeed Javadi, whose easy arrival from Canada last week was the third of a trilogy of surprisingly easy border crossings after Abu Nazir got in and Brody got out last year. Regardless, Javadi’s here, and he’s a pretty intimidating interrogator on the other side of the table.
Their tense face-off is high-stakes drama because we’re left back in the dark again, but in all the right ways. Carrie’s a spy—a good one, she reminds us—but we’re not sure if she’s going to be able to con her way past the polygraph machine. Ultimately, she can’t stay cool enough to beat it and she is forced to reveal just how much she and Saul know about Javadi’s involvement in the bombing. At first, I was very surprised that she’d blown her own cover so quickly, particularly after we’d all had to go through the first few weeks’ slog to get us here.
But as the episode played out, this started to make more sense, and her true intentions were revealed. She and Saul knew their evidence was damning enough all along; they just needed to get Javadi in a room to play the trump card. He knows it, too, and agrees to turn himself over to meet with his old buddy Mr. Berenson.
What’s fascinating is that even though the polygraph is turned off, Carrie’s confidence comes because she thinks Saul has everything taken care of. He, Quinn, Fara and Max have a drone patrolling the skies over the District, after all. Carrie is empowered to confront Javadi because she believes she has sufficient backup. But it turns out that back at the base, Saul’s actually scrambling to find her and she’s on her own. Once she finds out, Carrie realizes that Saul was willing put her in even more danger than she’d thought. It’s a small point, but it definitely represents a chink in the armor of the show’s strongest relationship.
Mira and Saul’s marriage is another pairing being forced to confront hard questions after Saul discovered her with another man last week. Theirs has been a failing partnership for some time, but as Saul explains to Fara, there were once happier days filled with undercover dinner parties with Javadi himself in Iran. Their past had long been hinted at, and now we learn that the two worked together before Javadi betrayed some of Saul’s informants to earn himself a place in the new Iranian regime.
As Senator Lockhart begins to take control of his own fiefdom at the CIA, Dar Adal meets with him in Saul’s stead. Though the two would seem to be simpatico (at least when it comes to enhanced interrogation techniques), Adal seems to be playing the good soldier and not drawing any undue suspicion to Saul’s black ops for now. I’m worried, though, that this is another relationship with an expiration date not too far off.
Another theme that seemed to run through the episode—a second straight strong writing job, this time by Alexander Cary and Barbara Hall—was the relationship between parents and children. After her father’s disappearance, Dana’s been branded by the Brody name, and her decision to change her surname to Jessica’s finally allows these two characters to see eye-to-eye on something for the first time in three years. Jessica also trusts her daughter’s intuition enough to let her go away to live with a friend. If I had to guess, I’d say this is probably the last major Brody family plotline for a while, at least until Dana and Chris’ even more absent parent makes his return (which is not too far off, I’m sure).
As if Carrie didn’t have enough to worry about, after adding another plus-sign-marked pregnancy test to a drawer, she is, in fact, “still positive.” I was very surprised because—honestly—it seems like Carrie (who one of our first images of back in the pilot involved her quickly cleaning between her legs) would prioritize her job and not allow such a scenario to occur. I guess she’s been kind of busy setting up meetings with terrorists, though.
I’m sure this is going to lead to a great deal of speculation over who the father is. Brody, of course, is the primary candidate, but I somehow hope that this moves in another direction rather than weakening the Carrie character by using a child as a representation of her feelings for her departed partner. If this turns out to be some twisted love child, it will skew things back toward the surrealism of the romance drama that often paced too much of last year’s plot. For now, though, we’re going to have to wait and see, but no matter what I somehow doubt that they’re going to wind up one big, happy, family.
The award for most messed-up parental dynamic, though, has to go to the Javadis. Last week, on his joyride down the East Coast, Javadi sat outside of a home watching a child and woman play in the yard. As he blows off his meeting with Carrie, the drone follows him back to the house, where he confronts his ex-wife (whom Saul snuck out of the Middle East 40 years prior) and daughter-in-law, brutally murdering them for their betrayal. Carrie and Quinn can’t get there in time, and once they finally arrive and take Javadi for questioning, his ghastly deed has been done.
Quinn’s right to call it a bloodbath—the only life spared is that of Javadi’s grandson, who screams even as Carrie (in a symbolic display lost on no one) picks him up. To stay, though, would be to compromise the whole mission, so they’re forced to leave the child alone in a room as blood pools around his family. Before Saul begins his interrogation back at the safehouse, though, he finally cracks as he…uh…cracks Javadi’s nose with his fist. There’s a relationship that’s beyond help.
Whether they’ll ever cop to it or not, the Homeland team took two years of good faith it had cultivated with its viewers for granted at the beginning of the season. Our belief in them—never before a question—was rattled. But a duet of excellent episodes over the last two weeks has begun to rebuild that relationship for me, at least. They’ve regained my trust, and as Season 3 hit its halfway mark and Quinn tells Carrie “this is just the beginning,” I’m a lot more excited to see the middle and the end.