Guest Review The Americans

The Americans 5×12 – The World Council of Churches

"The temptation is to put off making hard decisions, but then that becomes its own sort of decision."

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Boy, this season has been a big pile of mess, hasn’t it?

As much as I love the quieter, more character-centric moments of The Americans, this show has been building up to an explosive, game-changing event all year long. There’s no other reason to have to watch Mischa go through a painfully boring journey to America only to have him be shipped back if there wasn’t going to be a satisfying payoff in the end. Unfortunately, the only development we had has come weeks later, and it involves the reveal that Philip has a brother and he’s met Mischa. It’s still unclear how this connects to everything else (and I’m sure it will), but until then this was needlessly underwhelming.

The rest of the episode certainly more than made up for it with an increased focus on the Jennings’ family dynamics. I may sound like a broken record, but there’s no other show on television that knows how to write teenage kids like The Americans. Holly Taylor’s nuanced performance, whether in her reaction to Pastor Tim’s new job opportunity or her desire to learn more about her faux-family name, is one of the many compelling things about Paige. The fact that she was so willing to let go of her “religious phase” by throwing the cross in the trash proves just how far she has come since the show’s early seasons. Absolutely incredible.

Finally, the show gave Oleg some gripping material after having him separated from the rest of the cast. His discussion with his mother about her difficult times at the camps is a season highlight for me; both actors deliver powerhouse performances in this heart-wrenching scene, bringing more depth to these multi-layered characters than ever before. If the finale refuses to advance the plot in any shape or form, I would forgive them if they would give us at least one more bonding moment between Oleg and his parents.

Bits in Disguise

– This episode was written by creator Joseph Weisberg and producer Joel Fields, so excuse me for the less-than-stellar rating but I had high expectations for this one.

– Elizabeth grabbing the cross from the trash and telling Paige she still has to wear it until Pastor Tim is gone is shocking and so very Elizabeth.

– Who else was sad to hear Oleg say Stan was not his friend?

– The looks on Stan and Dennis’ faces when Sofia tells them about her engagement, followed by her fiancé asking for more money for Sofia’s “services”, was uncomfortably awkward and weird. Good lord, Stan can never catch a break.

– Loved the William callback. Who else misses Dylan Baker’s scenery chewing?

– Philip and Elizabeth’s visit to Pastor Tim was delightful and heartwarming.

– I never hated Tuan more than when he told Philip and Elizabeth that he taught Pascha how to slit his wrists. Sure, the Jennings have done worse things in the past (just look at what they did last week), but this is next-level cruel.

– Who was waiting in the car at the end when Philip, Elizabeth and Tuan are walking over to Pascha’s? #Mystery

– I sure hope Henry doesn’t end up dead next week.

Quips from the Motherland

Claudia: It takes two or three years to really adjust. Longer for the kids, of course. But people don’t usually regret coming home.
Philip: What about the kids?
Claudia: They have very interesting lives. I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I wouldn’t tell Henry until you’re there.

Pastor Tim: It’s hard to imagine all the problems that two American kids will have adjusting to life over there. But there’s a lot about life here that’s not so great. You can’t predict what a person’s life will be. And you can’t deny them the challenges that will shape them.

Paige: Where did our name come from? Jennings.
Elizabeth: Um, well, before we got here, our people worked it out.
Philip: What happens in these cases is you need a new name to fit in where you’re going. So they look for the name of someone who died. They’re not using it anymore. So that’s where it comes from.
Paige: Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are dead people?
Philip: Well, Philip Jennings is. Was.
Elizabeth: And Elizabeth Korman, who married him.
Paige: Do you know anything about them? Who they were, when they were born, where they’re from.
Elizabeth: Same as us.
Paige: So do you feel like those names are your real names now?
Elizabeth: Yes.
Philip: Yeah. But I miss my old name too.

Conclusion
While not the most exciting penultimate episode, this is still a solid hour with strong character moments.

Chris Rating
B+

2 comments

  1. My heart broke when Paige threw the cross in the garbage. It shows how much knowing her parents' secret is costing her. I fear if Philip and Elizabeth tell her about the plan to move to Russia, it will push her over the edge. No doubt, it will be the same for Henry after finding out that his parents are Russian spies. But I wonder if things ever get that far. Perhaps something happens in the finale that gets in the way of all of that.

    I thought the guy waiting in the car may have been assigned by the government to perform surveillance for or on Pascha and his family.

    I knew Tuan was going to do something drastic for the cause. I thought he was going to kill the family but that doesn't mean make what he did instead any less unsettling. I found his lack of remorse about it chilling. However this turns out, I believe there will be consequences.

  2. It did seem like the guy waiting in the car was from the KGB or something but I was surprised at how much the show wanted us to notice him.

    And Tuan doing what he did…I still can't stop thinking about it one week later. They better ship his ass back to Russia or something, I can't stand him anymore. Let's hope the finale is good.

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