Previously on The Americans, “Amber Waves”
We learn what the Americans have in mind for the Soviet crops. Why did it have to be bugs?
The Americans never fails to be squirm inducing. We’ve seen a woman get chopped up and put into a suitcase. We’ve seen a husband extract his wife’s teeth with a pair of pliers. We’ve seen a man get Necklaced (fitted with a tire and burned). This time, they had us itching and running to our showers.
“I thought there were things they wouldn’t do.”
I hear you, Philip.
This show is wonderful at taking its time and does not shy away from silence. Last episode, it leaned in a little too hard. This episode we have a much better example of their purpose in storytelling.
It starts with cars. It’s been awhile since we’ve had extended car surveillance and we’ve moved from urban to rural with Morozov’s trek to Illinois. We are shown bright and sunny fields of grain and well-kept farms, further emphasizing the America’s abundance. But we also see how involved the Centre has gotten and perhaps their hesitancy to rely on the Jennings. A couple of seasons ago, Philip and Elizabeth (ok, most probably just Elizabeth) would be on this convoy, alone. Here we see several agents involved in the mission.
However, Elizabeth does break into the greenhouse alone. Let the scratching commence. The sound begins well before she (or we) realize what’s happening. The faint buzzing. Then it’s a single bug on her skin. Quickly, it’s so much more. Both in number and implication.
Kerri Russel’s expressions of disgust, realization and horror were wonderfully nuanced. Distinct, yet as understated as we’d expect from the implacable Elizabeth. Any lesser agent would have run out of there screaming. The most we get from her is a markedly shocked and upset face as she showers hundreds of bugs down the drain. I had the same expression on my face.
Even more disturbing: Where is this shower and how exactly did she get there? I hope she didn’t drive her own car and walk through her own house with those bugs on her.
Speaking of facial expressions, Elizabeth gives Philip such a look when he naively expresses his disbelief the Americans would go so far as to tamper with the Soviet’s food. Elizabeth is not surprised. Unhappy and worried, but not surprised.
What is surprising is Philip’s casual comment about offing Alexei Morozov. And just as surprising is Elizabeth talking him down. This isn’t the first role reversal we’ve seen, this season. She’s now longing to move back to Russia while Philip seems at least resigned to stay. The Jennings have never seen eye to eye – part of what makes this show interesting — but this season the difference between them is not just in ideals. There is a heavy, weary distance between them. Very well conveyed through mostly body language.
For all that good, there were issues with annoying, repetitive scenes in a few storylines. Thankfully, they had moments that (almost) made them worth watching.
Whiny Russians: The Morozovs. Alexei hates Russia and will proclaim it to the (free) world while their son is surly and ungrateful for all his new life has to offer. Chalk it up to teenage angst but I can certainly feel Tuan’s disgust with the lot of them. The restaurant scene was superfluous as we just had a dinner kvetch session last episode.
Why it’s worth it: Alexei apologizes for speaking Russian and Elizabeth responds with a cool “we understand.”
Whiny Agent: Aside from Stan talking dating (his own and his son’s), Agent Beeman spent most of this episode in moral outrage. Well, as much outrage as Sad Sack Stan can muster. The CIA (upping the POC count to three this episode) has their eyes on Oleg and Stan leaps (as much as he can leap) to the Russian’s defense over and over, again. He can’t believe his government would stoop to threaten an innocent man for their own gain. Like his neighbor, he underestimates how down and dirty the US of A can get. Oh how their halcyon bubbles are about to get popped. I hope for your sakes you never see the Millennium.
Why it’s worth it:
- Oleg does his best Inspector Clouseau at the KGB.
- We’re left to wonder if Stan really sent a man to contact Oleg or is the CIA just name dropping to get an in? Knowing Stan’s love of Oleg, it’s likely the former. Knowing Stan’s goofiness, it’s likely the latter.
- This is good way to keep Oleg involved, on the show and close (in heart) to Stan while showing us Russia from the inside.
Whiny Time/Sex Bomb: Paige continues to have issues. Sure, I’m the daughter of Russian spies, I could be killed at any moment, my neighbor/surrogate father is an FBI agent, I’m not getting adequate nutrition, my brother is never around and I sleep in a closet. But my parents not liking my new boyfriend? The worst.
Snark aside, I understand Paige’s boy issues are probably emblematic of lack of freedom and ownership of her life. But despite what she says, her interest in Matthew seems lukewarm, making it seem like a case of teen angst meets forbidden fruit. Fair enough. We still don’t need multiple scenes of her whining. She mopes around so much, even Stan picks up on something amiss. We understand. Paige is American and emotional. In contrast, her Bizarro brother, Tuan is a Communist sympathizer and a cyborg. We will continue to be annoyed with her and impressed with him until he murders Pasha and Paige kicks some ass. Less whining, more hitting, Paige.
Why it’s worth it:
- Her parents accept her star-crossed relationship and teach her how to lie, instead.
- They are totally cool with her having sex if she zips it on the pillow talk
- Henry is at the library. Allegedly.
- Stan does have game and he’s dating Philip, in the body of Andrea from The Walking Dead.
- He never asked what she did. He might be surprised. If he saw Season 3, he may not be so impressed.
- While Elizabeth was getting infested, Philip is cleaning gutters. Typical.
The good in this episode far outweighed the beating-us-over-the-head scenes. Good direction and camera work made up for some slightly flabby writing. Perhaps it’s simply my impatience knowing this is the penultimate season of the show.