6:00pm PT by Danielle Turchiano
'Hart of Dixie' Postmortem: EP Leila Gerstein Breaks Down Zoe's Big Surprise
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season-four premiere of The CW's Hart of Dixie.]
After a season in which fan-favorite couple Zoe (Rachel Bilson) and Wade (Wilson Bethel) were pulled apart, The CW's Hart of Dixie came back strong on the couple front during its fourth-season premiere.
Executive producer Leila Gerstein previously told The Hollywood Reporter that the show was taking a "full-steam ahead" approach to rekindling their relationship — and she delivered during "Kablang": Zoe tried winning Wade back through his heart and his stomach but ultimately found success with seduction. Her plans, however, didn't come without unexpected complications. Wade gave into the physical aspect of the relationship — not a romantic one and Zoe found herself pregnant.
"It was certainly not in my [original] plan to write a pregnancy, but I think that the fact that Rachel was pregnant is the luckiest thing that happened," Gerstein tells THR. "It gave us a whole new way to tell this romantic comedy. It opened up this clear path for what the season was going to be [for Wade and Zoe]."
Season three saw Gerstein coming up with creative ways to hide Jaime King's pregnancy, which included keeping her off-screen for large chunks of episodes. Such an approach could not have been taken with Bilson, though Gerstein admitted that writing her star's pregnancy into the storyline was actually exciting for her writers' room, the characters and, she hope, for the fans.
"Once I made the decision to write in Rachel's pregnancy, it was clear that this was going to expedite Zoe and Wade being together," she says. "It was going to put their relationship on the fast track because [things] happen in life, and this was something that happened, and now they are going to have to figure it out. They don't have time for the back and forth anymore; they have to figure it out. I thought that was a very exciting way to tell that story."
Bilson's pregnancy also helped the season's timeline fall place. As the exec producer tells it, Zoe "hadn't had sex with anyone," so that indicated that the episode had to start soon enough after the third season finale left off.
"We could have done it in flashback, but it felt like we would be missing that big moment where she and Wade had sex for the first time in a year, and so I wanted it to be earned and we understood how that happened," Gerstein said.
It also set up some very clear tent pole moments for the on-again, off-again, now sort of on-again couple. Zoe may have realized she was pregnant at the end of the premiere episode, but she won't tell Wade immediately.
The fact that she's pregnant takes her for a large loop," Gerstein said. “And so, episode two is all about her dealing with this extremely large bit of information.”
Once Zoe does that, she clues in the father-to-be. Of course, then he has to have his moment of freak out over the news, just as she did.
“Episode three is about the two of them kind of overreacting to the news in complete opposite ways. By the end of episode three, they will have figured out what their game plan is,” Gerstein said.
And what it all adds up to is a season-long theme of growth and maturity and trying to figure out how to make things work and be together — despite their complex history and any new complications that may arise.
“It is a story about two people who are having a baby,” Gerstein said of season four.
“The majority of this season is they're in a happy, good relationship. They are dealing with, 'Oh my God, we're going to be parents,' but they're going to get together," she says.
Hart of Dixie returns in its new time slot Jan. 9 at 8 p.m. on The CW.