The Americans: Nothing is Sexier Than Innocence

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If you thought last week’s amateur dental surgery was hard to take, wait ’til you see Philip as a sleazy-geezer enticing a teenager with real fake IDs and quality weed


Our tale of baiting the jail-bait starts with Elizabeth in what looks like her own hair—frizzed out and streaked—wearing tinted glasses and smoking a cigarette, hanging out at a park and watching three teenage girls buying a quarter ounce of what we used to call grass for $30. Them were the daze!

One of the girls is Kimmi, the daughter of the CIA’s Afghanistan chief, the sometimes babysitter who likes her men all growed up.

Like, gag me with a spoon! Or whatever it is 80s teens say.

Like, gag me with a spoon! Or whatever it is 80s teens say.

Back home, Elizabeth and Philip discuss making her an asset. Philip has doubts (of conscience possibly). “We’ve never used anyone that young before.”

Elizabeth, ever the pragmatist, reminds him, “The CIA’s a hard target.”

Speaking of teenagers who prefer the company of adults, Paige comes home and they ask her whom she wants to invite to her upcoming birthday dinner. She picks Pastor Tim and his wife. Then she goes into her room and closes the door on her lying, spying parents before they can discuss the matter.

Over in Soviet prison, Nina gets an offer she has no intention of refusing: Get her cellmate Evi to talk and get a lighter sentence. What’s Evi’s story? She’s made a drop, but claims to know nothing. There was a boyfriend involved. Isn’t there always? He’s no longer in the USSR and left her holding the bag.

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Orange Is the New Black, Soviet Edition

At Casa Jennings, Philip is discussing Martha’s baby obsession. Elizabeth asks, “Who wears the pants in that family?” It’s funny because Philip does not wear the pants in either of his fake marriages. Meantime, a truly bizarre REAL commercial from the time period is playing. It features a pretty lady in a baby dress, licking a large lollypop, while a male narrator says, “Nothing is sexier than innocence.” And it’s for—get ready—BABY SHAMPOO and BABY POWDER.

Stan has dragged his best friend in the world, Philip (who, a couple of seasons back, killed his previous best friend), to another EST event, but this time Stan is totally ready to throw Philip under the bus and offer him up as an alternative when the EST leader picks Stan to come on down and participate in some old-timey psychodrama. But the EST-man won’t take no for answer, naturally, and forces Stan to get real with his feelings in front of an audience. He is applauded for his efforts. Afterward, a nice lady invites Stan out to get liquored up with her and her friends, but Stan declines. Philip asks him if he’s crazy, given that he’s single. Stan says, “No, I’m not.”

Right, Stan—you and your wife are just taking a break while she and the boyfriend she lives with plan their honeymoon.

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Sorry, I only slept with other women while my wife was still speaking to me.

Later, Philip approaches Kimmi and her crew in a line at some club. He wants to inspect their fake IDs and claims to know a guy at the DMV who can get them mo’ betta ones. He gives Kimmi his card. This is not the world’s worst come on. There is a reason some teenage girls like older men. Usually it has to do with their ability to get stuff like good drugs, alcohol and fake IDs. Solid planning, Philip!

While Philip is with the girls, who is Elizabeth pretending to be? She’s Michelle from AA. She shows up at her sponsor’s door. Her sponsor, Lisa, works at Northrup—the military contractor involved with supplying Afghanistan. Lisa’s husband, Maurice, has been out of work for months and is none to pleased with a drunk showing up. Of course, Lisa lets Michelle crash there. So how does Elizabeth explain her absence to her kids? Forget about the FBI, it’s a miracle Children’s Services hasn’t busted them!

Stan’s spidey-sense is kicking in around rooskie defectrix Zanaida. He thinks she’s trying too hard—telling everybody what they want to hear. They’re at a diner together. When she goes to use the restroom, he gets antsy and goes to look around. He notices a vending machine and brings her back a Milky Way bar. Later that day, he comes back to the diner and takes apart the ladies’ room, in case she used it as a drop. Nothing behind the sink or under the toilet tank or in the ceiling. But he doesn’t check the candy machine. Didn’t Chekov say if a Milky Way is featured in every episode it must be a secret spy signal? Or is this just some amazing product placement?

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Favorite chocolate bar of double-agents everywhere

It’s a new day, and Philip is meeting Kimmi to collect her photo for the ID. He listens to Yaz on her walkman, and I will just puke if he winds up giving Paige a Yaz album, which he does in the next scene. What’s his cover? He’s Jim, a lawyer and lobbyist for the beer companies. He’s trying to keep Congress from passing a national drinking age. That was a real historical thing. The beer companies lost that battle, but on the plus side, more prisons were built and strict drug laws were passed, so Big Alcohol won the war.

Um, different Yaz.

Different Yaz, but still likely to lead to a fight with your wife if you buy it for your daughter’s birthday. 

Elizabeth is mad about the Yaz album because they agreed to buy Paige a necklace and she doesn’t like Phil going behind her back with her asset their daughter. Things escalate quickly as they always do when the thing you are fighting about is completely different than the thing you are talking about, and Elizabeth yells, “Yes, Philip, I am doing it with or without you!”

“It” being recruiting Paige.

Over in Soviet jail, Nina is opening up with some version of her past to Evi, but hasn’t gotten Evi to tell her anything. Finally, Nina fakes a nightmare, and Evi runs to her bed to comfort her, touching her cheek, and telling her, “It’s okay. It’s okay.” Depending on where the writers go with this, they might be getting a whole new fan-base.

americans 3.4 prison poster

It’s time for Paige’s extra-special birthday dinner! Pastor Tim seems to have almost forgotten that time Philip told him to stay away from his daughter and threatened to kill him. Good thing he brought the wife, because otherwise the admiration in Paige’s eyes would be totally creepy as she listens to him telling stories about standing up to the police and protesting the war for Jesus. Given the Jennings’ feelings about Vietnam, it’s almost friendly until Paige’s big reveal. What does she really want for her birthday? To get baptized. Before Philip can punch him in the mouth, Pastor Tim blurts out, “It’s Paige’s idea.”

“You wash away your old self and make yourself clean for Jesus Christ!” Paige explains.

I want Pastor Tim to get me wet... with holy water.

I want Pastor Tim to get me wet… with holy water.

She set them up! She totally set up her parents! But at least it strengthens Philip’s position. Later he tells Elizabeth, “If you tell her now, this will all blow up.” While Philip may not believe in either the KGB or Jesus, it’s pretty clear he’ll take whichever option is least likely to involve his daughter’s body someday being packed into a suitcase.

Even if it means hanging out with this guy

Even if it means hanging out with this guy

Stan shows up at Sandra’s house. She comes out to the porch to talk to him. Seems like the EST thing was a kind of breakthrough. He finally confesses his affair, that he loved Nina, but it’s over with her, and he feels like shit and is really, really, really, really sorry. Sandra says nothing and walks back into the house because in the world of The Americans, the truth never gets you what you want.

Philip gets a call from the Center that it’s time to meet with Kimmi to give her the ID. Kimmi offers to get him high and breaks out the very weed the episode opened with. He comments that her pot sucks—and that dealers often sell crappy pot to kids. She counters that she’s not a kid. He offers to roll the joint while she turns on her boom box, which is not a euphemism. He brings up something she said about her father: “So your dad hates lobbyists.”

She starts to dance and invites him to join her, but he tells her he’s too old. (HE IS, LITTLE GIRL, HE IS!) So she sits next to him, leans into his arms, and they smoke together. Yeech! Oh man, this is much worse than the CIA cougar on that other show that also had a teenage asset! At least that kid was in college! Plus, Philip is only one man—how will he balance two wives AND a teenage girlfriend while still running a travel agency?

I wonder if America’s water pressure went down after that final scene because everyone who watched it needed take an immediate shower. And where does this leave us? At least Paige may have bought herself some time! Makes sense that Stan is right about Zenaida, given that we haven’t heard any chatter from the Reizidentura about taking her out. No Martha, so who knows what she’ll be up to next time we see her. What do you think? Feel free to scroll down to the comments and make with the theories.

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

TV Show: The Americans

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  • sealiagh

    A profile of Kelly Aucoin who plays Pastor Tim in the Washington Post (he is the son of former Cong. Les Aucoin so grew up in D.C.) got to me to thinking: what if Pastor Tim and maybe his wife are also deep deep cover Russian spies who have have also been given the task of recruiting Paige? Just, like, as a back up in case the Jennings fail? And also Love’s Baby Soft was a product for adult women. But, yes, the commercial is still weird and icky.

    • It’s an idea that’s been floated. (I’ve floated it myself elsewhere.) Dramatically, it might work, but I’d hate it politically. It would be the second time the show implied that a great American movement was really — as the right wing suspected all along — a Soviet plot. The first time the show did this was in Season One when it was revealed Elizabeth turned Gregory in the SCLC and that his cover was a drug dealer. Expect me to RANT if they go there. Also, yes you are right about the commercial and it’s even ickier — than again it was a time of “baby doll” pajamas as adult lingerie, and all sorts of infantilization of woman. ICKY is right!

      • sealiagh

        Very good points. And I do believe that the anti-war, anti-nuke movement of the time on the part of liberal, left wing Christians was a genuine movement. In the ’80s a friend of mine was very involved with the movement led by the Berrigans (former Catholic priests and nuns) – don’t think there was a Soviet plot involved there. Although, Elizabeth is more than willing to use her daughter’s genuine, heartfelt anti-war/anti-nuke feelings to further (a fictional) Soviet plot.