The Americans: You gotta believe

Which imaginary boyfriend will get Paige’s rose? Will it be Jesus or Karl Marx? Gabriel isn’t making it easy. In their long-awaited meeting, he love bombs her with a Karl Marx quote about sacrifice that sounds like something Jesus would say. Then he extols her courage and feeds her ego. Did the Center tell him exactly how to play a young idealist like a cello or is he just that good?

Jesus has long hair like Matthew, but Karl Marx wrote books and actually existed.

So why did they take her to see him? Was it just a nice thing they could do for an old man who was the closest thing to family they had? Was it as Philip said last week because he didn’t know anything about his own parents so it was simply part of sharing his life with at least one of his children? Or was it because both parents are now 100% on board with operation recruit Paige? It seems to be a combination of all those reasons, but it’s not clear to this viewer exactly when Philip accepted the inevitability of Paige’s joining the spy game.


Remember how Elizabeth had that simple assignment to steal some file from the psychiatrist’s office. There was some speculation in fan forums that maybe it wouldn’t be so easy, but it went like clockwork and we were treated to two minutes of realistic spycraft, as Norm (the blendy asset) steps up and distracts the guard by pretending to be hopelessly lost) so Elizabeth can beak into the office, which she does with her usual efficiency. Norm just helped save the guard’s life because you know Elizabeth would have killed the guard if he’d caught her. The file, labeled, The Committee on Human Rights, has names of people in the Soviet Union who will probably now be given a one-way ticket to the Gulag.

In spy school Elizabeth aced the class on holding stuff in your mouth.

Philip as whomever he is supposed to be continues to try to woo Deirdre but she tells him he’s too needy. She might be on to something that cuts across all his identities. Then she asks him if he wants to have sex. Unfortunately, he can’t say, “No, you are just using me!” because he needs her intel, but this can’t be easy for him.

She’s doesn’t have his right name, but she might have his number.

Oleg who didn’t jump off the roof at the end of the last episode tells his mother about the CIA not showing up – TWICE. She tells him not to worry about why, and looks visibly relieved.

Surviving five years in a prison camp teaches you to live for each day.

But then he sort of kills the mood by looking at a photo of his dead brother and saying he’d give anything to talk to him again. That certainly sounds like foreshadowing.

Ms. Kovalenko, the mom who works for TAS (the old-time Soviet news service) calls Aderholt and they arrange a meeting. Aderholt manages, without quite promising anything, to imply that her son will have a great future in the US of A and the FBI will give her plenty of cash.  Stan, however, doesn’t soft pedal the danger, and she walks away.

Stan is harshing Dennis’s mellow.

Stan tells Aderholt that if they’re honest, she’ll trust them, but Aderholt isn’t so sure.

The Henry report: Elizabeth and Paige are hanging out when Philip comes back from sexy times with Deirdre. Paige asks about the wheat, and when Philip looks around, and Paige just says, “He’s not home.” Do they even remember his name? Or how he’s related to them? As for the mission, when Paige asks her dad if they’ll be able to stop the sabotage and ensuing mass starvation, he looks at Elizabeth and they both seem to telepathically agree to lie to her and imply that the US is indeed trying to starve them. Paige comments that it’s hard to believe the US would stoop so low. Elizabeth warns her about the fake history she’s learning in school while giving her information she knows to be false. Paige wants to know why they don’t just go to the press – like with Watergate, but Elizabeth tells her that no one would believe them.

Do her parents feel a tad guilty about lying to their daughter? Nope. They don’t even notice what they did. As the poet said, they fuck you up, your mom and dad.

Paige is chatting with Pastor Tim. It looks like a counseling session or check in. She tells him things are getting better in that she now understands the there are “bigger things in the world” than her. Tim starts talking about Jesus and sacrifice in a way that absolutely mirrors what Gabriel said. Subtle this is not. Then he asks her if she’s been praying, and she tells him, “Yeah sometimes,” but it sounds like she’s lying.

He probably shouldn’t have given her that book.

Munchkin has some news for Stan. The CIA has backed off Oleg, but the Deputy AG wants him transferred out of counter-intelligence. Munchkin tells Stan he told the Deputy AG that Stan needs to stay to keep working on Ms Kovalenko. But is Munchkin playing Stan? Is something else going on here? Stan, however, seems relieved.

Paige breaks up with Matthew in a way that starts as passive-aggressive, and ends up as just aggressive.  She makes some announcements like “You don’t know me” and “This is hard.” Finally, when he keeps trying to be reasonable, she says, “I can’t be your girlfriend anymore.” He tries to grab her hand as she leaves, but she pushes him away full force in a move taught to her by her mother. That takes him aback.

That was NOT okay.

When she gets back to her lonely house with no adult supervision ever, does she console herself by reading the bible? Nope. She takes out her copy of Capital. Looks like breaking up with Matthew was her first step in breaking up with Jesus.

Elizabeth and Philip in all new disguises have followed Ben to Mississippi. They are both tailing him (with Marilyn’s help) and looking for some wheat samples that Gabriel will take with him to Russia. They watch Ben get out of a taxi at a jazz club where he meets a blonde, whom he starts kissing in a not-just-friends kind of way.

Philip asks, “Who’s she?” Elizabeth has no idea, but she looks shocked, and her being shocked that Ben is cheating on Brenda is pretty funny, but this show being this show they won’t go overboard on the humor.

Even Philip looks angry at Ben for cheating on his wife’s alter-ego.

Later, they go to a field to collect a sample, and she tells Philip that she thought Ben, “wasn’t like that.” Philip tells her it’s okay to like him. She insists she didn’t like him. He tells her it’s okay to care, but she tells him it isn’t, for her.

May we unpack this for a moment? In a grown-up world, what did Ben do wrong? Was there a conversation about exclusivity we missed? This is a man Brenda sees and screws on business trips to Kansas. In what world does his seeing other people, in other cities, whom he’s maybe known a lot longer, make him a man whore?

Elizabeth gives Gabriel the plant, and we can bet he’s relieved they aren’t asking him to take a virus sample home. He tells her he’s leaving that night and she should send “her husband” to say good-bye. Nice touch, his calling Philip her husband, like they were really married. When Elizabeth gets home, Paige tells her the news about Matthew. Elizabeth tries not to look happy about it, and tells Paige she’s proud of her.

Renee and Stan are watching Breaking Away on video like a real couple. What’s the meta here? In Breaking Away a boy from Indiana pretends to be an Italian exchange student to woo a girl, so there’s that. Is that a clue for us or a red herring?  Stan seems distracted, and she tries to talk to him about what’s going on – like any good girlfriend would. He replies in completely vague terms (that can’t possibly put Oleg in danger). Just talking even like that makes Stan feel better. She doesn’t push. Is she that good? Or is she just a good person?

Looks real, but on this show who can tell?

Philip comes home. Elizabeth tells him the news about Gabriel and about Paige. He goes to check in on Paige before going to see Gabriel. He tells Paige that “in time you’ll get used to these things.” but it’s not clear which things he’s talking about. Is he saying she’ll get used to being disappointed in love? That she’ll have to make sacrifices for the cause? That it will be easier to bear the burden of constantly living a lie?

Somewhere in Russia, Oleg takes a look at his own mother’s file. Thematically, it’s a nice touch given how much of what’s happening on the US side has to do with the bad old days.

Philip goes to say good-bye to Gabriel, but he’s still thinking about his own father and what he’s learned. Gabriel confesses that he too did some very bad things in a prison camp after the war, and he justified what he did by believing he was acting for a higher purpose.

How much does Philip take this in? How much does Philip think this might apply to him? While Philip has always been, as Claudia might say “shakier” than Elizabeth, both of them are pretty well-defended when it comes to questioning what they do. Does it occur to him how that list of names Elizabeth brought Gabriel might be used? And if it does, does that change anything? Then as Gabriel walks out the door, Philip blurts out a final question. He wants to know if Stan’s girlfriend is “one of us.”

Gabriel first replies by asking Philip if he’s nuts. Nuts because it’s a crazy idea or nuts because he thought Gabriel would tell him if the Center didn’t want him to know? But then he seems to think for a moment and says that she’s not as far as he knows, but maybe they wouldn’t have told him because they might have thought he’d tell Philip. If you think about it, it sounds  like something Claudia would cook up, not to get intel on Stan, , but to make sure that Philip wasn’t a double agent.

But then comes the real kicker — Gabriel’s parting words. As he goes out the door he tells Philip, “You were right about Paige. She should be kept out of all of this!” And that’s when Philip looks even more shocked than Matthew did when Paige pushed him away.

Shocked enough to maybe change course and save his daughter?

Your humble-recapper will be taking a couple of weeks off, so there won’t be any recaps of The Americans until May, but stay tuned to the Agony Booth for other good stuff.

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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