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THE AMERICANS: SEASON 6, EPISODE 3: URBAN TRANSPORT PLANNING
It’s better to feel bad and go through it than to pretend not to feel anything. I saw some bad things too. It’s hard to deal with it. – Philip Jennings
You know what? I’ve come to a revelation and it would be selfish not to share it with you. Prepare yourselves for this, because it’s going to shock you. Put your beverage down and read it slowly and carefully. Here we go.
The spy game, especially if you happened to be working for the Soviets in 1987, sucked. It wasn’t much fun at all, unless you’re just a huge fan of disguises. For every mustache or wig, you might have to kill about three people that might or might not be your enemies. Eventually, it has to wear on you. There, I’ve given away my big reveal.
Even when your soundtrack is as good as The Americans‘ often is, that gig stinks.
It’s finally starting to get to Elizabeth, who spends her time doing an internal balancing act. She fights between emotionally exploding as she did on Paige and even as she has with Philip this season and doing her job, and within herself, she struggles with the future of her cause and whether all the work she’s put in will even be worth it in a glasnost or perestroika society.
She’s also having to watch her only daughter go through the early stages of following in her footsteps, which includes mistakes like leaving her position last week and running directly into a meeting, potentially compromising herself or the larger operation in the process. Paige says she wants this life, and she’s giving it all she has, but one has to wonder two things after the conversation she had with her mother as the two walked together.
First, does she REALLY want this life? I talked about this last week, but I don’t think it’s as much about looking and feeling cool as it is wanting to believe in the Russian cause and wanting to embrace that portion of her heritage. However, more than anything, what have we always seen from Paige since her first days at Pastor Tim’s church? She wants to make a difference, and like many idealistic, but immature teenagers, deep inside her she wants to feel like she’s doing something special or selfless. The question is whether she actually is or not, and that would be up to her to determine.
Secondly, how difficult and taxing is Paige’s new life on Elizabeth, who explains to her, “For me, no matter how risky it is, it’s okay.” Because of her beliefs and her homeland, she’s able to fight away the fear, even if she doesn’t want to die. She’s a true warrior for the Soviets, but how much does she want that for her daughter? Even when it’s time for dinner at Miss Claudia’s place, there’s a look of both warmth and concern from mother to daughter. If she weren’t worried, she’d be a monster, and maybe she is anyway. But, add to it the increasing feeling that maybe the Cold War is about to end and the Soviet Union is going to lose, and then think just how much worse the recurring thoughts of Sisyphus, applied to Paige, are in her mind.
Now, Philip has made his choice. When he puts on the fake face and meets with Burov, we know what’s coming next. It’s laid out beautifully by Tracey Scott Wilson, who wrote this Americans episode, as before we get to this, we get Stan Beeman knocking on Oleg’s door. The American tells his foreign frenemy, “You are here without a diplomatic passport, Oleg. Whatever you’re doing here, don’t.” Burov didn’t listen, and Philip goes from trying to drum up business at the travel agency with the awkward motivational speech to his sales staff straight back to the life he knows.
You know the one. I talked about it off the jump. It’s the life that sucks.
Oleg didn’t buy that Beeman apology either did he? We know it was heartfelt, because we saw all sides, but based on what happened in Russia, you can’t blame Burov for being both bitter and skeptical. I still see these two working together in some capacity before all is said and done, because if you can’t at least turn someone now working in Criminal Investigations with another person now working as an Urban Transport Planner into a lasting friendship or partnership, what exactly CAN you do?
Stan’s situation is growing increasingly complicated, which matches everyone else on The Americans, but I’m starting to get worried about him. Let’s be real here. Renee cannot possibly be on the up and up. Her constant interest in his job isn’t good, and now she’s suggesting she wants to be an FBI agent as well, and loves how Philip and Elizabeth work together in addition to their marriage. What role she’s ultimately going to play, I have no idea, but there has been too much of a tease of questionable behavior for it not to pay off.
Also, Stan has to deal with the fallout from Sofia talking to Bogdan, potentially while neither of them happen to be wearing clothes, and a heartbroken, confused, sad sack Gennadi that appears to actually be in love with the woman that wants to divorce him. She’s out of control, which we’ve discussed before, but when she first got involved in the FBI operation, it wasn’t going to end well. Right now, Stan is stressed, and the smartest guy in the room may well be Dennis Aderholt, who at least has a home life we can trust.
The Sofia/Gennadi/Bogdan thing might be coming to a close, but it seems likely she said the wrong thing to the latter, and based on her saying she trusted him and that Russians keep secrets, I would be stunned if he’s not a numbskull that has already run his mouth or he’s a villainous genius that got the info he wanted from the lonely housewife and mother. Gennadi, well it’s hard not to feel sorry for him. He’s a bit of a dolt, but he seems innocent when he’s not drunk to the point he can’t stand upright.
For the first time, we officially hear that Henry has been at St. Edward’s for three years, letting us in on just how much time passed between the two seasons in more explicit fashion than ever before. Philip gets that restructuring on the payment, but here’s something to think about. He asked David Sato from the school to give him through the holidays and then he’ll be able to catch up. Is he going to be alive to make good on that promise?
Remember, the Arms Summit happens in mid-December, and if it’s the climax of The Americans, it’s at least possible Philip and/or Elizabeth don’t make it through to Christmas in 1987. They might survive, and it may even be probable that they do, as they’re the two keys and the focal crux to the story, but in the final season, especially in the last few episodes of a series, anyone can die.
“I’ll bet my girlfriend already knows about it. She works in security.” Oh you poor poor man. Maybe you get out of that room if you don’t let that slip, but it’s still doubtful. This guy was just incredibly unlucky, because not only had he not done anything wrong, he still wasn’t doing anything wrong when he was clipped. He gave the info he thought he was required to during a company audit, which gave away security vulnerabilities and places Elizabeth and her associates could breach the warehouse holding the radiation sensors, and that was all she wrote for him. He didn’t even get to marry that girl, and I’ll bet she was a heck of a woman.
We may find out. She’ll probably be dead in two weeks. If your name is Teresa Vasquez, might I suggest you keep your head on a swivel if you’re in the Washington D.C. area, regardless if it’s business or pleasure.
Perfect choice of song going with Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love,” as virtually every Cohen song somehow plays both hauntingly and passionately, especially the tunes from that era.
We’re down to seven remaining episodes, and we see Elizabeth vs. Philip, Stan vs. (then probably alongside) Oleg, Stan vs. Renee, Paige vs. Innocence and Normality, and at some point, Elizabeth and Philip vs. Stan all on the horizon. The Summit will be the backdrop for the various battles, but the players are already on the field. This season is unfolding like a slow building game of chess, but one that as you watch the two experts on either side of the table, you realize it’s going to be an amazing finish.
These are two world class players, and there’s no question Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields have something jaw dropping planned to end The Americans seven weeks from now.