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The Americans – S3E9 – Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?

Previously on The Americans, ‘Divestment’


It’s a busy day at the travel agency. Philip breaks the news to Elizabeth – the pen bug has been discovered and Martha knows Philip-Clark isn’t the man he claims to be. But she hasn’t talked. He trusts her. Elizabeth seems to find this last bit of news the most unsettling.

MarthabotSpeaking of Martha, she is cooking as if her life hasn’t been turned upside down. Philip-Clark is startled by this female robot in Martha’s form, but tastes her sauce, anyway. The phone rings and he takes over stirring as she goes to answer it. It’s Children Services, but Martha-bot is off the baby train. It’s not the right time. Philip-Clark loses his spoon upon hearing this, but Clone Martha assures him that it’s okay. They sit down to eat and toast to turning the page. Turning the Paige? Very cute, writers. Martha Drone proceeds to fill in Philip-Clark about her day. The Mail Robot was seriously injured in a Gaad-related accident and requires the attention of an outside specialist. Philip’s ears perk up. Is this Martha-shaped android playing the long con, here?

“‘Emigrate or Degenerate! The Choice is Yours!’”*

It’s another meeting of the Beanpole Club. Oleg and Stan, both dressed in black, discuss Zinaida. Oleg hasn’t been able to find out anything about her, but he has a plan. It’s risky. Lucky for him, he’s talking to Stan Risky Beeman.

The Jennings apprise Gabriel of the Martha situation. The Center wants Philip to bug the Mail Robot (as if it didn’t have enough problems). Philp doesn’t want to put Martha in a position of having to switch out the tapes and Gabriel assures them there are a bevy of low level FBI infiltrators who can handle this. He tells them they should trust The Organization.

Zinaida is done with a briefing and, as usual, is hungry. Stan says she can order room service and she drools over the thought of a BLT.


…the Empathic Gift Blurred the Boundaries between Hunter and Victim

The Jennings break into the service center and find the ailing Mail Robot. While Philip starts in on planting the bug, Elizabeth says she understands how he could have developed feelings for Martha. Their conversation is interrupted by a sound. Elizabeth goes to investigate. In the office upstairs, she finds an older woman, Betty. Elizabeth, sans any kind of disguise, makes little pretense about why she’s there. The lack of a wig was our first sign that this was not going to go down well.

Philip is still working away downstairs and Elizabeth and Betty are talking. The woman says she feels close to her husband when she’s working late at night. She tells Elizabeth about her life, referencing many framed photos around office. Elizabeth seems disarmed and genuinely interested in this woman’s life. As the Betty talks, Elizabeth’s face gets sadder. The woman asks for a glass of water and Elizabeth leaves to check up on Philip. She anxiously (well, anxiously for Elizabeth) asks how long he’ll be and tells him about Betty. He seems a little confused as to why she’s telling him this and answers curtly.

The Woman

Zinaida and Stan are back in her room. Stan perfunctorily checks the room and tells her he’ll be outside, waiting for her food delivery.

Elizabeth brings Betty a glass of water. The older woman takes her heart medication and asks Elizabeth’s name. Elizabeth answers her honestly. In fact, she answers all the women’s questions honestly. About her parents. About her nationality. About this woman’s fate. She tells Betty she can’t let her leave. Betty comes to peace with her impending death. Elizabeth pours Betty’s medication on the desk. The woman starts to take the pills, one by one.

Zinaida hears something in her room and goes to investigate. Mustachioed Oleg is sitting in the dark with a gun. He tells her he wants her to recant everything she’s said in public. If she does this, she’ll be returned to Russia as a hero. Outside, a BLT-bearing Stan looks at his watch and enters the room. Oleg jumps him and runs out.

You Will be Required to Do Wrong No Matter Where You Go

LizBotBetty and Elizabeth continue to talk as the older woman intermittently swallows pills. She and her husband, Gil, were married twice. The second time, they were more realistic and were happy. Betty is getting more delusional from the pills and asks if Gil sent Elizabeth. Elizabeth says yes. Elizabeth reassures her and says nothing will happen to her son. Betty asks if Elizabeth has kids. When Elizabeth says yes, the woman asks why she’s doing this. Elizabeth tells Betty that it will make the world a better place. “That’s what evil people tell themselves when they do evil things,” are Betty’s last words. Elizabeth wipes away tears (Tears? Elizabeth? Does not compute) goes downstairs to get Philip and the two leave. Operation Mail Robot complete. Female Robot is on the fritz

Gaad, Beeman and Aderholt are in Gaad’s office. Stan tells them of Zinaida’s intruder, but fails to mention he knew anything about it. Aderholt advises Stan to take aspirin with beer.

Oleg and Stan meet in a car. Zinaida didn’t break or beg, so they are back to square one. Stan takes Dr. Aderholt’s advice, swigging pills with beer. The two exchange wry comments about Oleg beaming Beeman. Hm. Lots of pill-popping in this episode. Stan was taking pills even before the Oleg altercation.

Gabriel and Philip are playing Scrabble. They start talking of love and marriage and Philip tells Gabriel he never felt anything like what he felt the first time he saw Elizabeth. Gabriel tells him Elizabeth rejected the first “husband” they tried to match her with. Philip is unmoved. He says he doesn’t trust Gabriel. That his job was to look out for Philp and now Philip’s job is to look out for his family because no one else will.


The Electric Things Have Their Life Too

Elizabeth tells Hans that Todd might have seen him as they left the factory. A spy with a potentially blown cover can no longer be of use in this position. Hans is upset and decides to take matters into his own hands. Todd is shelving supplies. Hans walks up and shoots him in the eye. He tries to shoot him again, but his gun jams. Hans chases a screaming and wounded Todd and strangles him to death. When he tells Elizabeth about what he’s done, she seems a little…impressed (?) about his commitment to the cause. To her.

Yes, Elizabeth Dreams of Electric Sheep

Philip and Elizabeth seem to be moving closer in their discontent with The Center. The scenes with Betty went a far way into pushing Elizabeth in this direction. Elizabeth, not the most emotional character, was visibly affected. This woman most certainly reminds her of her mother and of Elizabeth, herself. Betty mentions Helen, her husband’s other wife. This hits very close to home for Elizabeth, as she contemplates Philip’s relationship with Martha. Betty also comments on how the war changed Gil and what he saw stayed with him. This is reminiscent of what Ncgobo’s comment to Philip – war and marriage didn’t always go together. We are reminded again that war has consequences and lasting effects on all it touches. The Jennings, Ncgobo, and Hans are all a testament to this. It also makes me wonder what we’ll see of Mischa as his presence has been felt through Philip over the past few episodes.

The scenes in the service center could very easily not have worked in another show with less talent. They were quiet and slow moving. On paper, this storyline could read as a little heavy-handed (Gil had a second wife) and contrived (the Jennings rarely go anywhere without a disguise). But the performances by Kerri Russell and Lois Smith elevated the tension and emotion resonance and the direction allowed these subtle performances to come through.

*Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K. Dick

About Mallika Chakravarti (99 Articles)
Mallika is a digital marketer, yoga teacher and nutritionist. She spends her fun time writing, podcasting, consuming vast amounts of media and wishing she could fly. Mallika can currently be found thinking of something else.
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2 Comments on The Americans – S3E9 – Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?

  1. That scene with Betty was tough. I’ve always liked that actor. You knew it was a wrap when Elizabeth heard the noise and turned that corner. Everyone involved knew how that story was going to end.

  2. Awesome post one again. Malika is a top writer and one of my faves along with Sarah.

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