Previously on The Americans, “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears”
The Day After is a brutal film. It graphically depicts nuclear war and the aftermath. It is what happens if the delicate balance of the Cold War goes awry. It is what happens if either side gets William’s Choice too powerful, too nervous, too mistrustful. The Americans took time to linger on scenes from the movie and the faces as each major character watched. They all were affected, regardless of nationality. This was a real threat.
Big Decision to Make on Your Own
Oleg tells Tatiana his father heard a (true) story about a man who prevented a nuclear war. The Soviet’s missile detection system went off, but the man reported it as a false alarm. He rightly thought there was something wrong with their detection system. Had he made a different choice, we might have gotten a little too close for comfort with The Day After.
Choice Result: We live in a pre-apocalyptic world.
William’s Choice: William also has a choice to make. He’s not being watched as closely and there is a new virus in Level 4. It will literally melt your insides. He chooses not to tell Gabriel and The Center, but to confide in Philip (dressed like a child molester). It’s a big decision to give the Soviets access to such a virus and William doesn’t feel he can make the decision alone. We’re reminded William (like Gabriel, like Nina, and now like Martha) is very much isolated. What the Jennings has is truly unique. Of course, Elizabeth decides they should move forward with the plan. So it’s only William’s choice by proxy.
Result: The Soviets will try to keep up with the American Joneses by getting the organ melting virus.
Elizabeth’s Choice: Our hearts break. Elizabeth plays her hand with Young Hee. Young Hee, who felt guilty by involving Elizabeth/Patty in her makeup pyramid scheme. Young Hee, who makes Elizabeth (not just Elizabeth/Patty) giggle and act like a human being. Young Hee, the best friend Elizabeth/Patty didn’t want to admit she had. To give her the smallest bit of credit, she tried to find dirt on Don and came up with only pills, paper, and porn. So she roofies him, strips him naked, lubes him, and convinces the faithful Don he slept with her. We may have seen this coming. We may have feared it. We may have hoped against it. But it was true to Elizabeth’s character and they focused on the right thing – not the plot which was as expected – but her emotions dealing with losing a true friend for the cause she still believes in.
Result: Elizabeth says good-bye to her Martha, our hearts are broken for the second time in as many episodes
Aftermath: Philip had EST, but what does Elizabeth have to help her survive her loss? Not Mary Kay. Also, a happy Korean home is broken.
This scene was intercut with Paige driving while David Bowie’s Space Oddity played in the background. Odd choices, but it left me feeling anxious and heart-heavy, so I suppose mission accomplished.
Paige’s Choice: Paige is getting to be quite the little spy. She tells Philip they should show up to Pastor Tim’s going away party as a family. When Paige tells him this, she sounds exactly like Elizabeth. Philip looks like he sees her future and it’s filled with wigs. Pastor Tim tells Philip he can tell Paige is unhappy (as can everyone else). Philip tries to make Paige happy. I’m not sure if she planned it, but Paige got what she wanted.
Result: Paige upgrades to the Camaro.
Aftermath: Paige, for a short time seems and feels like a normal teenager playing video games with her brother and excited about her recent adventure. Then she sees her mother’s face and she instantly returns to being worried and tense.
- Martha is alive! Sigh. We miss you, Martha.
- Tatiana and Oleg get intimate. Interestingly, she takes the dominant position and he’s the one who gets too vocal.
- Philip has been getting more sleep and killing it at racquetball.
- Stan remains sad and alone. He misses Sandra. He misses Gaad. He’s worried about Director Webster and his munchkins.
- Yaz’s Winter Kills and Bowie’s Space Oddity are featured over two scenes of Elizabeth killing her friendship for the sake of her mission
The Americans S4E9
I was impressed with this episode. I was way too young when I saw parts of The Day After and it haunted me. I also remember hearing many years after it happened, about the duty officer who averted a nuclear crisis. This show had to bring these two historical facts into its storytelling as they were so relevant to its premise and they did it well. It focused, as it always does, on the human and relationship element.