I don’t know about you, but as I watch this season of The Americans I feel like there’s a vice grip around me that gets tighter and tighter as the minutes pass by. The series has always had impossibly high stakes. But this season has a sense of impending doom that feels unprecedented. There is nowhere for the Jennings to turn as the walls are closing in. Now that the show has killed off Nina, we are reminded of the fact that any character can die at any time. My clearly false sense of security that perhaps fan favorite characters were safe has been obliterated. Queen’s often overused song “Under Pressure,” which closed out the episode, has never seemed so fitting.
Let’s start with Martha, who is indeed under pressure. Hans (who is back! I was wondering what happened to him…) thinks he spots someone following Martha. Has Martha been discovered? Or is Agent Aderholt asking Martha to dinner and Agent Gaad complaining about unaccounted copies just a coincidence? Philip has no way of knowing and Martha is beginning to crack. She had a panic attack after her dinner with Agent Aderholt and is prescribed valium by her doctor. “I can’t live like this, Clark. I need to be able to at least reach my husband,” she tells him. Philip gives her a number where she can always reach him—except she can only call from a pay phone.
Stan and Dennis are still suspicious. Martha dating a married man could explain the secrecy, but it could also be a good cover. Philip spends the majority of the episode looking like he’s literally sick with worry over Martha. What’s so fantastic about Matthew Rhys’ performance is I can’t tell if he’s worried that something will happen to Martha, or that he will have to do something to Martha to prevent their cover from being blown. It’s probably both. I still don’t know how this story line ends without Philip killing Martha, or having Martha killed. But that’s also fraught with problems since Martha’s parents have met Clark—and if Martha dies her parents are sure to meet Agents Beeman, Aderholt and Gaad. “We’ll do everything we can for her,” Elizabeth tells Philip. But really, what can they do for Martha at this point? She can’t relocate to the Soviet Union, can she?!
I don’t know if the scene of Philip and Elizabeth bringing a “priest” to meet Pastor Tim and Alice was supposed to offer some comic relief in this tense episode, but the whole thing made me giggle. The priest was so obviously not a priest. But Philip and Elizabeth seem to succeed in convincing Pastor Tim that they are basically doing humanitarian work. If humanitarian work involves stuffing dead bodies into suitcases and strangling people on airport buses, then yes. Humanitarians of the year.
Paige still wants more information from her parents, but Elizabeth wants to take a break from the information overload. Paige wants to know if her parents hurt people. They say they don’t. Telling her only the partial truth seems worse than when she had no idea they were spies. Plus, her parents are still grooming her and working her like they work one of their assets.
Paige also makes up with Pastor Tim. “I’m supposed to tell you I forgive you,” she tells him. “Apparently they like you. You’re a good guy. We’re on the same side.” Does Paige believe this? Is she just telling Pastor Tim what her parents wanted her to? I just want to pause and talk about Holly Taylor’s simply terrific performance this season. Her facial expressions say so much. Her look of anguish every time she talks to her parents is devastating.
Oleg’s father tells Oleg that Nina has been executed which makes Oleg the one who has to tell Arkady and Stan. Arkady is sad but also angry with Nina. “She got chance after chance,” he tells Oleg. Stan is sad, but perhaps less so than he would have been last season. Now he fully understands how much his relationship with Nina cost him. Stan says he was warned about this—losing someone—during his FBI training. “But Nina,” Oleg replies with great melancholy… saying so much with those two little words.
Matthew makes an appearance and learns that Henry has pretty much usurped his role. Philip makes up with Stan saying he should have told him about seeing Sandy at the EST meetings. “The idea that my friend was talking to my ex-wife,” Stan says, before declaring Philip to be a “good guy.” But does Stan trust Philip again?
Stan can’t stay and hang out with Matthew because he has to work. His work is tailing Martha who is “married” to Philip. Philip meets Agent Aderholt when he comes to pick up Stan and Elizabeth recognizes him as the one who she fought with. You can file all of that under the heading: NOT GOOD.
The episode ends with Elizabeth and Philip having sex (loudly, so let’s hope that poor Paige who has already been traumatized enough isn’t in the house.) Is Elizabeth comforting Philip? Jealous of his concern for Martha? Are they connecting at this base physical level because it’s their one true thing as the rest of their world is crumbling?
My guess is that it’s all of the above.
So it was Philip’s plan all along to have Martha say she was dating a married man.
Elizabeth laughing at Reagan was another small glimpse into how much she truly despises America.
“You still care about people. It’s what makes you good agents.”
Seriously are we never going to get back to the Kimmy story?
I remain very curious about why Elizabeth is working Young Hee.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal ®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and a regular contributor to Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.