I want to love this season of The Americans, but it keeps falling short of expectations.
Any other episode, I would have been delighted at the sight of all these amazing guest stars returning for an hour jam-packed with callbacks and references, but IHOP throws everything onto the table and hopes something will stick. First, it’s completely implausible to believe that the Kimmy operation is still ongoing because not only have we not seen Julia Garner (Kimberley Breland) since early last season, but she also hasn’t even been mentioned for a very long time. There’s nothing wrong with continuity or giving characters storylines off-screen, but her return this week felt like a forced, annoying plot contrivance that frankly no one asked for.
Sadly, Tuan’s storyline has been a hit and miss all season as well. Philip and Elizabeth spending the entire hour spying on their faux-son, following him to Harrisburg, and confronting him about his late night trips was neither thrilling nor interesting. The boy is obviously feeling lonely and sad, but he’s still hiding something despite that seemingly true and heartbreaking revelation at the end. At least I hope he is; otherwise, what a waste of time.
Luckily, seeing Martha again made this entire episode worthwhile. Alison Wright was undoubtedly one of the best things about the show’s perfect fourth season, so watching her return this week was cheer-worthy. She’s playing a completely different Martha this time—while the character was often weak and oblivious in the past, Martha seems stronger now after having been through the absolute worst. The fact that she shares the screen with none other than the incredible Frank Langella (Gabriel) completely turned this episode around for me. Please, show, no more messing around after this.
Bits in Disguise
– I don’t remember ever seeing anyone else from Philip and Elizabeth’s workplace or any room inside the travel agency besides their office. This week, however, we get a glimpse of the main hall and a coworker. Weird.
– Maybe now that Stan is being asked to use Oleg to help the FBI, he can save him from whatever hell he’s about to go through.
– Anyone else notice the fake family portrait of Elizabeth, Philip and Tuan? The show’s art department never ceases to impress.
– Brilliant detail: Elizabeth measuring the open gap in Tuan’s closet so she can leave it at that exact measurement when she’s done snooping. Amazing.
– There’s a constant sense of spy fatigue this season, especially this week as Philip tells the undercover priest they can’t meet with him on a regular basis like they did with Gabriel. Or maybe he just misses his father figure?
– Mrs. Gaad telling Stan that Frank would want revenge can only mean more trouble for Oleg (and possibly Stan). Also: loved the Nina reference.
– Henry wants to go to a boarding school in New Hampshire, which really sounds more like a cry for attention, no matter how legit this school seems. Did the show drop the ball with this character and just decided to kill him off this way instead of having to give excuses for his whereabouts?
– Heartbreaking scene as Oleg’s father tells him how much Yelena changed after she returned from the camps.
– Stunning visual inside Dmitri’s cell with Oleg’s apple shining in color juxtaposed by the greyish setting.
– No Paige at all this week? Unacceptable, writers!
Quips from the Motherland
Philip: On the tape, a group of Mujahideen died of a hemorrhagic fever. So maybe it wasn’t about protecting us after a nuclear attack. Maybe they just wanted to use it in Afghanistan.
Elizabeth: We don’t know it’s the same virus we gave them.
Philip: It’s a hell of a coincidence if it isn’t.
Philip: You look at it? It’s like an Ivy League college.
Elizabeth: It’s like a country club.
Philip: It’s like a fancy orphanage.
Gabriel: Clark thinks about you, Martha. He wanted to send you a letter, but it’s not allowed. He’s the reason I talked to your parents. He insisted. He wants what’s best for you. We all do.
Martha: What’s best for me? I understand everything now, Gabriel. All of it. You can go. And please don’t come back again.
The return of some fan-favorites is the saving grace of this underwhelming, overcrowded episode.