May 25, 2018
The Americans: Immersion is a euphemism
Nobody gets killed or gets laid (except possibly off-screen), but the relentless sense of dread, burn-out, and general malaise continues. How much more of this can we take?
Philip gets back from saying good-bye to Gabriel, and chats with Elizabeth who is reading in bed because it is probably her scheduled time to read in bed. He tells her about the bombshell Gabriel dropped as he was literally going out the door – that Philip was right about keeping Paige out of the spy game. Elizabeth’s reacts by saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if nobody had to do this?” In other words, all discussion about this matter has been officially closed because we all know who wears the панталоны in this family.
Another day: Henry, the age-appropriate female Chris, and another friend, are playing video games in the living room of Dacha Jenningski. Elizabeth and Philip are trying to pump Stan for intel about Chris. And shouldn’t that strike Stan as weird right there? (He is no Hank Schrader is all I’m saying.)
They also ask him about Renee, whom he reports would like to take him skydiving. Why? Is she trying to kill him? And if so, once again, who sent her? (Given the old television trope that CIA is bad while the FBI isn’t as bad, could she be one of “ours”?) Or is she just your average girlfriend what likes jumping out of planes? And if so, will it all end tragically nevertheless, because Philip will be convinced she’s trying to kill Stan, and he’ll kill her first?
Oleg comes home from a moderately easy day at the office because no one works hard in communist Russia, and finds three men waiting for him in the building lobby. They want to search his apartment, but are being semi-polite about it because his father is a big shot. They wind up agreeing to search only his room. Dad who is at the dining room table drinking chai (which just means “tea” in Russian) is not so thrilled. Mom looks terrified. Before the men are done, Oleg goes to the kitchen to tell her not to worry.
Once they’re gone, Dad demands to know what’s going on. Oleg doesn’t mention the CIA’s pursuing him, looking up mom’s records, or his current investigation, but suggests maybe it’s routine as he was “abroad.” He talks Dad out of pursuing it further.
Over in Illinois, Pasha’s mom looks happier than we’ve ever seen her. She tells Elizabeth it’s her new job, and also Tuan – whose friendship is helping Pasha so much. She’s making muffins for Saturday, when they’ll be a special “immersion” class at one of her student’s homes.
Elizabeth and Philip go to the safe house to report on this momentous event. Who’s there? Why it’s Claudia, and it’s awkward. The apartment seems emptier and even less like a home than ever.
Elizabeth tells her they’ll get photos of the entire class. Claudia tells them to stay on Ben and Deirdre until they are sure they have what they need with the plant sample. After they leave, Philip wonders aloud what Claudia was doing in the bad old days when Gabriel was shooting people at home. Later at the travel agency, Elizabeth announces she’s putting off meeting with Ben because if the plants take, there’s no point, so why not wait and see? Philip decides to put off Deirdre as well. He looks relieved. Is it because screwing Deirdre is a chore or because he loves that Elizabeth would rather be with him?
Ms Kovalenko meets Stan and Aderholt at a museum . How much are they going to give her for risking her life and betraying her country? She’ll be getting a big $500 a month, which even back then, wouldn’t have been enough to save for a house and a college education for her son, though innocent little lamb to the slaughter that she is, she seems blissfully unaware of that. She’s still dangerously nervous, and not very good at the lying. What kind of information does she have for them so far? Nobody likes Yuri – the GRU officer at TASS who’s a big know-it-all and thinks he’s the boss of everyone.
Elizabeth calls Ben who is not with anyone else, probably because she got that wrong too, and there is no one else and he really is as good as he seems and his life is going to be completely ruined by her. She tells him she won’t be there for a few weeks due to some bullshit at work, but he asks if it’s anything he did because clearly he is Mr. Sensitive and detected a change in her false-persona.
Philip’s phone call doesn’t go so smoothly. Deirdre tells him they aren’t compatible because he’s not “assertive” enough, and she breaks it off.
Speaking of assertive, Paige and Elizabeth do more self-defense practice because that’s the easiest and maybe only way for Elizabeth to bond with her daughter. Paige admits that she’s still scared after the mugging, which leads to Elizabeth telling her that she was raped but it’s all good because she’s not afraid anymore and Paige isn’t going to be either. It’s not clear that Paige got the take-away her mom was looking for.
Oleg tells his boss about the raid. His boss has no insight into why. Oleg wonders if it could have been because of that unauthorized trip to the archives he took. His boss doesn’t think that was it. Then they talk about Oleg’s mother and how she was eventually pardoned, and “sabotage was different then.”
Elizabeth practices tai chi, which she tells Philip is very relaxing. Is it as relaxing as sexytimes with Ben? That she does not say.
Philip tells her that Deirdre broke up with Gus. Elizabeth can’t believe a 45 year-old single logistics manager would kick him out of bed. He tells her that not everyone is as attractive as she is, and she tells him that he is, and then she sort of blames EST for making him too concerned about “feelings” and tells him she sure he can get her back. Aren’t they a sweet couple? Then she tells him about telling Paige that she was raped. Philip doesn’t ask if she told her the part about how he killed the rapist who’d been locked in the car trunk for days, and then dumped the body.
Back in Illinois, they’re following Pasha’s mom to her “immersion” class which it turns out only involves one student and is taking place in a seedy looking motel. How will they ruin this little bit of happiness that has finally put some color in Pasha’s mom’s cheeks?
Some time after the photo of Pasha’s mom and her side dish has been developed, Elizabeth meets with Claudia to discuss. The man is going to be the deputy chief of the Moscow station and he’s married, so if they can get Pasha’s mom to go back to the USSR they can use the affair against him. Wow that sounds complex! If they know that he’s a lying cheater couldn’t they just get him someone else? Also, why is the future station chief taking a Russian class in Illinois with Department of Agriculture personnel? Claudia talks about seeing her grand-kids back in the USSR, and how they didn’t even remember her. She asks about Paige and whether or not Elizabeth and Philip agree about the future career being chosen for her. Elisabeth confesses that she Philip will never see “eye to eye” on this. Then Claudia asks about things in general between them, and you’d think Elizabeth would know enough given HISTORY and all to tell Claudia to go screw herself at this point – or punch her maybe – but she doesn’t. She tells her things are good, but the very fact that she even answered the question, shows that Claudia has already gotten into Elizabeth’s head.
Philip as “Gus” calls Deirdre again. He gets the voice mail, and it doesn’t look like she’s going to pick up until he confesses that he’s actually a married man. Now she’s interested. Point Jennings!
Elizabeth and Philip are explaining the new plan to drive Pasha’s mom back home to Tuan, Tuan tells them there are some terrible kids who are mean to Pasha, but one of them likes Tuan. If he can get in with them and dump Pasha, and they can give Pasha a hard time, that should drive Pasha and his mom back to the USSR. Sounds like a plan a teenager might come up with it.
Philip isn’t convinced. They might just put him into another school. But Elizabeth feels it’s all they got, and Philip goes along, and Jesus these are parents of two adolescents. There is absolutely no excuse for them not seeing how badly this could go as in suicide, murder and/or murder followed by suicide, and yes school shootings were a thing before Columbine. Do we need some more foreshadowing? How about having Tuan telling them for the umpteenth time this season that he can’t do this all on his own and really needs them to be around more or there could be “problems”?
Back at Dacha Jenningski, Paige is watching television like a lump on the couch (or a typical American teenager) so Elizabeth tries to get her out for a walk. And here we might ask: Doesn’t Paige have ANY age-appropriate friends? Out they go for a stroll along some suburban walking path, and of course the subject turns once again to Elizabeth’s rape. She assures Paige that she got over it because of other priorities – like her kids and her neato job helping her country. Paige asks if she ever thought of what she’d like to have been if she wasn’t what she was. Elizabeth almost shyly confesses that she’d like to have been a doctor. Paige laughs because her mother has “no bedside manner.” Elizabeth admits it’s true, but she would have been a doctor in some third world country where it wouldn’t have mattered. And if this was another show, we might be gearing up for the alt-reality where Elizabeth is a doctor in Mozambique or some other Soviet client state, arguing with her own government about the need for more better medicines. But this is The Americans, where there’s no fantasy reprieve. There’s something even more elegiac than usual about the show’s theme music in the background, and one gets a feeling this is the calm immediately before the storm although much of the season has felt that way, and we might get faked out for another episode or two.
Anyone else missing last season right about now? You remember last season, right? Deadly virus. Death of Nina. Martha’s escape. Paige watching her mom murderize a homeless man. Ah, good times! Sure that South African kid died, and Philip killed the innocent lab guy, but these weren’t very high stakes deaths. Surely, there’s going to be some major tragedy or series of them within the next few episodes. We can speculate that one or more will involve Stan: Will a brokenhearted Matthew kill himself? Will Renee push Stan out of a plane? Will Philip push Renee out of a window? Or maybe Stan will be just fine and it’ll be the Mozovovs. Will Pasha quietly hang himself or will he take half the school down with him? (Yes, children, school shootings were a thing even before Columbine.) Will Alexei go Othello and slaughter his wife upon learning of her affair? Then there’s the possibility of something awful happening even closer to home: A follow-up visit by Mary Kay? Feel free to share your thoughts and theories in the comments below.