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The Americans - The Committee on Human Rights - Review: "Poor Paige"



In the aftermath of Martha’s extraction, the phrase previously known as ‘Poor Martha’ can be applied, at times, to a number of characters still on the show: Philip, Oleg, Stan.

Perhaps most prominent, however, has become Paige. Her life has become far more difficult since learning her parents’ true lives, having to bear the weight of the secret while pretending all is normal to everyone, including Pastor Tim - who she is forced to spy on - and especially Matthew and Stan, who are a real danger should she ever slip up.

So perhaps it is best that, midway through “The Committee on Human Rights”, Paige breaks up with Matthew, citing the fact that he does not really know her as a reason to end things. In reality, she simply cannot handle the lies and false truths, and considers it unfair to him to continue a somewhat fa├žade of a relationship. Two weeks ago, she suggested that she was meant to be alone and although that was not brought up again here, it is difficult to imagine that her breakup is not at least partly down to that.

And yet that was not even the most monumental moment regarding Paige, with Gabriel’s final words before leaving a confession to Philip: “You were right about Paige. She should be kept out of all this.”

Season three revolved largely around the Jenningses’ dilemma over whether or not to adhere to the Centre’s wishes and bring their daughter into the fold, and Gabriel, introduced to viewers in that premiere, tried to push the topic. Though he was simply following the Centre’s wishes, the fact remains that while Philip was adamantly against it, Elizabeth’s belief in the idea was only further fuelled by Gabriel. So for him to now admit that it is and was a mistake to integrate Paige into the world of KGB is little short of stunning.

For all the problems Paige has had in the past year or so, and for all the problems she has caused through her knowledge - anything and everything to do with Pastor Tim last season - there was at least a sense of a greater purpose, an end goal. The KGB wanted second generation spies, agents whose background could withstand enormous scrutiny because it is not suspect. They may well have one in Paige, but what good is she if it breaks her? And, better yet, is it fair to put this much weight on her shoulders?

These are questions asked by all parties two seasons back, but not only do Gabriel’s final words revitalise the debate, they make the last year for Paige - and especially the past couple of months - seem unnecessarily rough. Having her relationship with Matthew questioned and doubting her own ability to be with anyone because she is already so screwed up is a lot of emotion for a 16-year-old to go through, especially when the stakes are so high. And it is not like she can really talk about it; only her parents can ever know the extent of her struggles, and they are the ones who caused all of this.

The Centre, presumably, still wants Paige groomed, even if Gabriel now sees how grave an error they made in adhering to that. It is worth wondering, then, whether meeting her was ultimately as much a final request as it was him now doubting his employers’ methods. Because while his commitment to the cause is great, and his service record long, Gabriel has reached a stage in his life where self-reflection is upon him and, as he recounts with Philip, he realises that things have often been incredibly bad and that he has done terrible things. Of all, Paige may well be one of the more heinous things he has done, certainly in a long time.

Yes, he worked in prison camps and killed people after the war, people who probably did not deserve what they got. But that was decades before, and Gabriel went along with it because he was “just scared”. His observations about Paige consisted mostly of that she has tremendous courage for wanting the truth and facing it, no matter how difficult it is. He sees her as the innocent girl that she is, not the faceless daughter of two of the KGB’s best spies. He knows the impact of this work, first-hand and second-hand. Paige does not deserve to be subjected to a life like that, and he just now realises it.

But they cannot possibly put the genie back in the bottle. From the instant Paige learnt the truth, that would have been implausible; now, knowing all she knows, it is a laughable impossibility. She is far too deep into it for regrets or concerns to matter much. What matters now is that Claudia, or whoever takes over as their handler, will not share those same doubts and want Paige’s role to grow. But if Philip has renewed scepticism and shares Gabriel’s with Elizabeth, how far are they willing to go to heed their old friend’s words?

Notes:

Philip is in desperate need of finding some sort of happiness to perk up his life. His daughter feels isolated from the world, his long-time friend is leaving forever, and he is forced to maintain a relationship with a woman so dull that she simply, randomly, and blandly asks if he wants to have sex. None of the characters on The Americans are particularly happy, and certainly not for long if they are, but Philip has felt in need of some positivity for a while.

Interesting admission from Elizabeth, with regards to Philip’s suggestion that it is okay to care: “No, it isn’t, Philip. Not for me.” We have seen her care in the past with Gregory and Young-Hee, and we have also seen how that impacts her. The memories of both still sting, and betraying Young-Hee came as close to breaking her as we have seen.

Holly Taylor is great in the breakup scene.

Stan and Aderholt have some success with Ms Kovalenko, who seems hesitant to work with them if they cannot guarantee her son’s safety, but it is at least a start. The subsequent back-and-forth discussion was hilarious, too: “If we're honest, she'll know she can trust us.” “Hey, do me a favour. When I'm on my deathbed, don't try and make me feel better.”

Putting his freedom on the line to save Oleg appears to be finally backfiring on Stan because, although the CIA backed off, the Assistant AG wants Stan out of counterintelligence. Webster munchkin Wolfe has prolonged his job at least until the end of the Kovalenko mission, but his future at the FBI looks bleak. Hey, at least Renee is not a KGB spy - as far as Gabriel knows, anyway.

Gabriel says he has to tend the crop like a baby, and that “You wouldn’t believe the instructions I have for this thing.” I would like to know some of those instructions.

I am certain I saw Mail Robot in the background of the opening shot at the FBI. This makes me very happy.

Apologies again for the belatedness of this review. I am trying not to make this a habit.

What did everyone think of “The Committee on Human Rights”? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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