We all know the term “Chekhov’s gun” refers to the presence of a loaded gun guaranteed to go off before the curtain falls in Act One, but it can also refer to any number of other dramatic threats. “Chekhov’s Mentos and Diet Coke,” for example, or “Chekhov’s rabid cat holding a switchblade in its paws.” Basically, don’t even introduce these things if they won’t pay off later. But while potential threats come in many forms (guns being the most tired and basic), one can argue the most ancient dramatic device is “Chekhov’s pregnant lady.” In this week’s Containment, it was the latter that finally exploded onstage. (Not literally.)
“A Time to Be Born…” was a remarkably on-the-nose title for this week’s episode. Ever since Teresa nervously rubbed her giant tum-tum during her first minutes onscreen in the pilot, we’ve been waiting for her to give birth already. It was finally time! As TV viewers, we’ve each seen roughly 100,000 childbirth scenes by now, certainly enough to declare birthing scenes mighty cheap and clichéd — yet Containment still made this one affecting. Aside from the lack of a proper hospital and the addition of a deadly virus, Teresa’s labor faced surprisingly few complications. A little bit of screaming, a little bit of panicking, but sometimes all you need to bring life into this world is a soothing indie-pop song and the comforting words of a dreamboat hunk in uniform. If Jake and Jana decided to open a midwifery business, I would probably watch a show about it.
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After last week’s long-promised riot, this was the week Containment was supposed to move in new and unexpected directions. Aside from a chilling final moment, alas, this episode ended up being more evidence that there simply isn’t enough story to fill 13 episodes. Teresa’s childbirth provided a momentary thrill, but the overall thrust of the episode involved Lex and Leo’s investigation into the conspiracy surrounding the outbreak. The big revelation was that Patient Zero placed a phone call to Nantucket shortly after his initial infection… and guess who owns a home in Nantucket? Dr. Sabine. So even though Lex and Dr. Sabine had spent enough quality time in isolation to forge a tentative friendship, the implication she was behind this outbreak (or was at least covering up its origins) was enough to send their delicate rapport out the window.
NEXT: A foreboding cough
Do any of us truly think Dr. Sabine will resign? She absolutely will not resign. Lex seemed proud when he handed her a manila folder containing a printout of her home on Google Maps, but the episode’s best takeaway was Dr. Sabine’s brilliance at public relations. In a break from her usual protocol, she openly invited reporters to film the infected National Guardsmen, and repeatedly claimed transparency was of paramount importance. And that’s when her possible motive becomes clear: If she was involved in the outbreak itself, surely it was because she would now look like a hero to a national audience. Is Dr. Sabine truly this ruthless? My guess is yes, if only because this show needs a villain bigger than a virus or a meth head on a moped. So no, she will not be resigning; if anything, Lex better start packing up his desk.
The more upsetting turn of events, however, was that just as Katie entered the final few hours of her quarantine — and was already brainstorming hypothetical hot-dog dates with Jake — she coughed up blood. A definite sinking feeling began to set in… Or at least would have, if Dr. Cannerts hadn’t already explained that he was close to finding a treatment for the virus’ symptoms. The connection between those two bits of information was so clear and linear that it robbed the episode’s final moment of most of its dramatic tension. But it does point us toward a satisfying ending, should the race to save Katie’s life also lead to a solution for the outbreak in general. We know Containment is over (forever) after this season, but wouldn’t it be nice if the story ended up being self-contained? (Pun never intended.) Either way, expect at least one or two episodes of Jake and Katie placing their hands on glass while staring at each other with tortured longing.
Ultimately, “A Time to Be Born…” didn’t hint at much of a future for this story, other than a possible cure and the potential exposure of Dr. Sabine’s involvement in the conspiracy. Again, as viewers we’ve been primed to view viral outbreaks as merely the first stage in a much larger nightmare (e.g. zombie-ism, societal downfall, apocalypse), but Containment has staked its claim in this first stage only. This lack of suspense is a violation of a the “Chekhov’s outbreak” principle, but at least the show has managed to distract us with cute relationships, compelling characters, and the occasional childbirth. Now that Teresa’s going to be able to walk upright again, what’s left to look forward to? An ending, one hopes, and a satisfying one.
Containment airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on The CW.