The Americans: Anticipation

Henry’s narrating the “previously on.” Does that mean he’ll finally be important in the story? Probably not because this is a show that loves to lead you down a path, which inevitably turns out to be a dead end.

We open with a couple of CIA types discussing recent photos from Afghanistan. Mujaheddin (you know the “good guys” America was supporting like Osama Bin Laden) seem to be dying of some kind of fever that makes bleed from every orifice. Could it be from that virus sample Elizabeth and Philip took off of poor dead William? Yeah, maybe it could be on The Americans, but in real life it was a tic borne disease long known in the region. Fun fact: The disease used to be called Congo-Crimean Fever but during the Cold War the Russians insisted on changing it to Crimean-Congo Fever. They wanted top-billing!


Sleazy Jimmy is still hanging but not sleeping with Kimmie. Sure he brings her great pot, but hasn’t she outgrown him by now? Graduated college? Gotten married?  Nope. She’s just turned 17, and this has only been going on for two years. It just feels like an eternity. She’s getting along better with her dad these days. She asks Jimmy if he misses his son. Oh, the irony! Which son – the one he doesn’t know, the one he never sees, or the fake “mission” son he probably should be monitoring more closely?

Over at the travel agency Philip and Elizabeth talk about the kids.They’re still getting used to the idea that Henry is the smart one. Then there’s Tuan. Elizabeth wonders if he’s lonely and decides to go to see and or check up on him. Philip takes a call from the nice lady who works for the Center and never ever leaves her post. He has to meet one of Gabriel’s contacts.

The Munchkin tells Stan  there’s evidence of KGB involvement in John-boy’s death. He asks him to think again about protecting Oleg as the KGB could be planning to take any of them out next. If that’s meant to get we the viewers thinking about whether Renee is a cold hard Soviet assassin, it might be a good time for a reminder that the KGB never meant to kill John-boy.

Elizabeth enters an empty house in Illinois. After checking to see if he’s at Pasha’s, she goes through Tuan’s stuff because this doesn’t seem right. We get some good tips for spying or helicopter parenting: Use a ruler to measure the exact amount the closet door is open and make sure to return it to that precise measurement! Tuan is suspiciously tidy for an adolescent boy and is probably great at hiding things. She can’t even find his nasty socks and special lotion.

Tip #1: Always wear double thick latex gloves when going through a teenage boy’s things. It’s not about the fingerprints.

Meantime, Philip listens to the tapes from Kimmie’s house which includes the conversation about Afghanistan we saw in the opener. Elizabeth calls Philip and they decide to set up some surveillance on Tuan with Norm and Marilyn because if you can’t trust your fake-son, who can you trust? She comes home and he tells her about the fever. He does not think this is a coincidence. Then to kill another few minutes, we watch him meet with Gabriel’s contact, an orthodox priest who really does seem to be an orthodox priest. He suggests Philip might pray once in a while. It couldn’t hurt. Point of this scene? It’ll probably be clear several episodes from now.

Stan meets with the Widow John-boy Gaad. It’s awkward. No one from the FBI writes or calls or stops by. He tells her what a great boss John-boy was, which directly contradicts history. He tells her in those vague terms he’s good at about the situation with Oleg, stating that he doesn’t think John-boy would want revenge. She tells him he’s wrong. John-boy would LOVE revenge. He would love some supersized revenge with a jumbo coke and a side of fries, please. He’d like red wedding style revenge.

“Maybe they could drop a nuke on Moscow. My husband would’ve liked that.”

Henry tells his parents he wants to go to some fancy boarding school in New Hampshire with his friend Chris. He’s already applied and can probably get a scholarship. He mentions what a great opportunity it would be. Sons and daughters of the American elite all go there – senators, millionaires, movie stars. “Don’t we want to capitalize on that?” His parents don’t really see it, but wouldn’t being school chums with future leaders and having an entry into their homes be something the Center might be interested in? They’ve been recruiting the wrong kid. This is exactly why Russia lost the Cold War.

Future PRESIDENTS go to schools like this. How else could Russia possibly control the White House?

OMIGOD it’s Martha! And how shitty is her life? The good news is she doesn’t have to share a kitchen and might even have a private bathroom. The bad news is she can hear her neighbors playing Russian patriotic music all the time. It’s probably just because the walls are thin and it drowns out the sounds of their sexytimes which she’d find even more depressing. Martha cooks herself a potato and onions, probably all she could find on the empty shelves, and answers the door in Russian. She has a visitor. It’s Gabriel. She isn’t thrilled to see him. It’s clear he’s lonely and is offering her his friendship, but she tells him she’s figured out “everything” and she’d like him to leave and not come back. Sure it takes a lot of energy to be married to a man you know is leading a weird double life, but disillusionment sucks even worse. She’s not in prison, but she might as well be. Then again, as we heard back at some EST seminar, we’re all prisoners.

She was hoping he’d ask for tea with sugar so he wouldn’t taste the rat poison.

Oleg gets taken away from work for a little chat with some gentlemen. They ask him some questions about Stan Beeman, which leads to a discussion of the unfortunate Nina. They ask him if he was angry about what happened to her. He admits he was. They ask if he did anything about it. He asks them, “What could I do?” That’s one cool customer our Oleg. Passing thought: If Renee is a Soviet agent, is it possible their interested in Oleg, not because they suspect him of being a traitor, but because they want to get into Stan’s head?

“Hey, it’s not like I was going to concoct a scheme to out a major KGB defector/double agent so we could get Nina back to the US in an exchange. That would have been nuts!”

When he gets home, he tells his dad that his mother told him about the camp. His father tells him that she was never the same, not the girl he married, and other men in his position left their wives. Oleg asks his father why he never told him. His father says it was so he could have this life. And yes, we are meant to feel all the parallels with the Jennings and all they keep from their kids and all that was kept from them, and if this show started out as a metaphor for “marriage” maybe now it’s moved on to being a metaphor for “family” or just life in general.

Tuan takes a bus to Harrisburg, PA, which according to Google maps is about 10 hours from anywhere in Illinois, so that’s quite a trek. He’s being tailed of course. Elizabeth in last week’s wig is nearby as is Marilyn who has mastered the art of signaling with walkie-talkie. Where does he go? To an IHOP. Sure they make good pancakes, but isn’t there one closer to home?

Oleg brings his prisoner a nice shiny apple. The prisoner tells him again how strong “these people” who control “everything” are. They’re stronger than the KGB and the party. Oleg tells him who his dad is, and about his brother who died in Afghanistan anyway, even though his dad could have gotten him out of it. He tells him he’s been worried about the wrong things. He should be thinking about his wife and son. Oleg tells him “We are stronger than you think.” Who is this “we” exactly? The Russian spirit? The people who united shall never be defeated? Maybe he put something in the apple because the prisoner finally gives up a name. That’s a relief! Now maybe communism will be saved, the state will wither away like Marx said, and we’ll all live happily ever after in a worker’s paradise. Then again his wife could get pushed in front of a bus the next episode because snitches get stitches.

Tuan comes home where his faux parental units are waiting to grab him. Elizabeth pulls a gun as she and Philip start yelling questions. What’s his story? He had a little “brother” in the foster family he ran away from. The kid has leukemia and Tuan feels bad, so he calls to check in and he does it two states away to be safe, but he didn’t this time because he “caught” surveillance. He begs them not to put it in their report. Do they have a faux-family heart to heart to discuss appropriate and inappropriate behavior? Nope. They leave soon afterward.

They really should have taught them some parenting skills back in spy school.

So lets look at this a second. He’s a kid who was in foster care or maybe adopted who one day just ran away to be a spy? And his face isn’t on a milk carton? Nobody is looking for him? What kind of crazy spy plan is this?

In the car Philip and Elizabeth discuss what to do. Philip wonders whether Tuan wanted to get caught, so he could be pulled out of “this shit.” Elizabeth insists that’s not who he is, and clearly they’re really talking about Paige again. Speaking of whom, this was a 100% Paige free episode.

Four more episodes left in a season that’s as slow as a half empty ketchup bottle at a diner. Something’s got to give. Doesn’t it?

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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