Previously on The Americans: Henry really likes video games, Lucia is being a little stubborn, Oleg is straight up blackmailing Stan, and the world is finally finding out about the internet (sort of).
Two of my favorite shows on television last year were The Americans and Homeland. As many Homeland watchers know, this third season wasted so much time on Dana, they might as well have named her the main character for a few episodes. The reason that I bring up Homeland’s mistake is that I see something The Americans has done extremely well. The writers want to remind us that Paige and Henry still exist and are therefore forced to write in story lines that can’t be over the top filled with action, but also can’t be so ridiculously sitcom-ish that half the audience turns the TV off. While I complained a few weeks back about too much time spent on Paige’s newfound holiness, this week’s episode thrives in its ability to use just enough, but not too much, screen time for Henry. Even more entertaining was the writers’ ability to use Henry’s wish for a video game as a symbol for American commercialism. Elizabeth’s obvious disagreements with the new car and the video game make for extremely compelling TV. By the end of the episode, Henry continually says, “I’m a good person.” Henry’s plea for his parents to recognize this, parallels extremely well with Phillip and Elizabeth constantly doing bad things, but still trying to be good people.
My favorite part of this episode came when Phillip and Elizabeth’s new handler told them of the submarine crash that killed so many people back in the Soviet Union. As Phillip walks back to his car (his brand new car), he stares at the car and in one powerful scene the writers let us into Phillip’s head. He’s thinking about the wonderful life that he has in the United States, but also about his comrades back home. Is his acceptance of American life a betrayal or is he still really working undercover. There have been times where it seems like he does his job reluctantly, but none as much as in this episode. By the end, Phillip is willing to risk his operation for the life of an innocent bystander. While Phillip continues to be a tad reluctant in his duties, Elizabeth is a 100 percent steadfast communist. As this series progresses it’s going to be fun watching how the American way of life affects her children and as a result, affects her. (Also, what a great job the writers and Keri Russel did for the scene with Elizabeth staring hatefully at Ronald Reagan. It’s amazing when writers can take the perspective of a Soviet and make one of my personal favorite Presidents look totally evil. These writers have just done a fantastic job.)
Stan’s life isn’t going much better to be honest though. Stan has an “incredible” (Please tell me someone else gets this Pixar reference) experience in his garage. Even worse than his car trouble, Stan has hit a brick wall at work. He is quietly being shut out of the real work at the FBI and it’s incredibly frustrating for him. Last season, he had his greatest friend killed and his marriage is dissolving before his eyes. While I don’t think he really cares all that much about his wife, it only adds to the stress of Stan’s life. Fortunately for Stan, he knows how to climb the food chain and go above other people’s heads. As we see at the end of this episode, Stan knows people and he knows how to make a logical argument. I suspect that by the end of this season, Stan should be back to position of some relevance where he can get back to chasing Phillip and Elizabeth a little.
There wasn’t a whole lot of Martha action this week, but she continues to try to work her way out of Gaad’s office. I was honestly saddened that Phillip decided against showing her the edited recording. That’s probably very bad to say, but it is extremely entertaining to watch “Clark” manipulate Martha. I can’t help but laugh every time Phillip puts on that ridiculous wig. As fun as it is now, I don’t think the Martha position is exactly viable for very long. Whether she transfers to another office, they divorce, or she just decides to quit, I honestly doubt that Phillip and Elizabeth are going to be able to continue the Clark charade for much longer.