The Americans Review: Dinner for Seven

They’re animals. You have no idea. – Stan Beeman

Pastor Tim’s stare seems to get longer and more pronounced by the episode, doesn’t it? That’s not the way you’d expect me to begin a review of The Americans, but when he glared a hole through Elizabeth at the food pantry, I just couldn’t shake the off kilter nature of it all. And, on this night, The Americans itself was a bit off kilter, but in the best possible way.

Who knew the racquetball game would be for more than just friendly bragging rights? It turns out Philip including Gaad’s Thailand trip on his report may well have put Frank on the chopping block. And that was just one of two interesting callbacks to the past, with the other potentially explaining that poor old woman’s death last season in one of the more tragic scenes the show has ever produced. The mail robot also helped bring Martha’s name back up inside the Bureau, this time external of her father’s search for answers.

This was an episode that was busy, with virtually no room for filler. It’s clear we’re speeding toward the finale, which is just two weeks away, and the writers are ramping up the drama, which will likely hit a fever pitch next week. But, how it tops Dinner for Seven I have absolutely no clue.

You cannot have this baby. That would destroy everything. – Don Seong

Don never had a chance. Elizabeth doesn’t half-ass anything, and after Gabriel gives her the bad news, the very next sequence brings Patty to Young Hee’s door (after she leaves), for the sole purpose of lying about a pregnancy and subsequently guilt tripping this sad, manipulated, innocent man. I’m half-expecting to find out that the husband actually DOES commit suicide after hearing that Patty “killed herself,” but the irony of that moment is something other, less clever shows do. The Americans wouldn’t go that route, because it’s almost too easy. Instead, we may just never see either Young Hee or her terrified beau ever again.

Keri Russell was exquisite tonight, in particular as she sold despair and disappointment at what her country was asking of her. The growth in Elizabeth to at least include the possibility of a “friend” in America is a dramatic shift. It led to several key scenes with Pastor Tim, where it appeared as if Elizabeth might have been looking for answers from a man she could actually believe to be decent, except for all that pesky religion stuff. Notice the qualifiers in that previous sentence, because there’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding the curious relationship between Mrs. Jennings and Paige’s spiritual advisor.

You know, you are safe here, Elizabeth. You can talk to me. – Pastor Tim

While he apologized in the episode’s opening moments, Tim was all over tonight’s episode, but each appearance seemed to be a necessity. Elizabeth is an emotional wreck and she seems to be ready to find answers. As for Liz, with all of the stress she was under, not only did Don not have a chance a few weeks ago, the two hoodlums had absolutely zero prayers against her in that parking lot. What a ridiculously cool finish to the hour, and it gave Paige a chance – for the first time – to see her mother in action. The ramifications of that violence could shake the foundation of the show and send things in a wild direction. Paige isn’t going to forget that assault, though hopefully she also realized her mother protected her at all costs. Elizabeth Jennings never hesitated, not for a microsecond.

We believe in social justice, with a healthy dollop of Jesus in the mix. – Pastor Tim

Now for that dinner, which has to win every award imaginable for a figurative Most Awkward category. Holy cow was that fascinating. Think about an FBI agent eating dinner with two Soviet spies and an activist minister who likely can’t stand the national security and counterintelligence apparatus. And, of course, Tim and Alice also know who and what Philip and Elizabeth are (or they understand it to a certain extent), so the pastor’s reaction when he finds out what Stan does for a living is priceless. I wish that scene had gone a little longer, but I’m not sure everyone at the table wouldn’t have spontaneously combusted attempting not just to walk on eggshells, but to breathe on them as well.

The only thing more problematic than the seven individuals collectively enjoying that meal was Henry Jennings’ sweater. Seriously bro, not even in the early 80’s was that okay. I’m surprised he was able to eat anything. He should have been itching the entire time. That joint was THICK.

I don’t want you on my conscience too. This is the last time we’re going to see each other. – Stan

Stan, just like Elizabeth, is increasingly finding himself at a crossroads. The meeting with Burov was extremely important, because it totally illustrated the mindset of this man. He actually has come to like and respect Oleg, who he sees as a mirror image of Beeman himself. As he lists off Chris Amador, Nina, and Frank Gaad, then includes the decomposition of his marriage, it all hits home. While Stan Beeman has been a secondary father figure as well as a friend to Henry Jennings, his life is dangerously empty. Not only is it desolate, it’s comprised of misery and loss. Considering that truth, his willingness to inform Burov of his superiors’ plans and then walking away from the man is consistent with his psychological state.

Stan Beeman despises the Russians, because in addition to the Cold War, he believes they’ve taken everything from him, which should drive him to be a better agent. However, he seems to be retreating a bit into a facade, using wit at work and a phony smile everywhere else, unless he’s around one of the few people he trusts. Gaad’s death was the last straw, though we have yet to see him fully embrace an internal need for vengeance or closure.

However, all of what he’s gone through wasn’t half as bad as that roast in the oven joke. I know why Sandra moved on.

You killed her. You killed my beautiful girl, you bastard. – Gabriel

When “John” and Patty’s “father” and “stepmother” finish the Don-con, we again witnessed The Americans at its best. Rhys in disguise, looking like a bargain basement Kurt Cobain fresh out of Lens Crafters, and coughing, belligerent Gabriel and his “wife.” It was so painful to watch Don so efficiently worked, but it was also a thing of beauty. These people are good. When it has to get done, it gets done. Foster Medical Research Group was the goal, and even though we don’t yet know if they retrieved all of the codes, they did cross the finish line of the scheme.

We know how the Cold War ends, but there are moments where I admit, I’m fearful for the future of the United States in the sphere of The Americans. Two episodes left this season and so many futures are in doubt. Another week without William, but we’ll see him again before the show heads out for the rest of 2016. He’ll be bringing death with him. Pastor Tim and Alice are still in a precarious spot, but because of Paige and the tape (if it exists), I now believe those two are safe for the rest of the season.

I’ve given myself a headache attempting to figure out what the cliffhanger will be or what story won’t be tied up in two weeks. That discomfort has led me to stop trying. I’m just going to watch. So are you. But if you do have thoughts, find me on Twitter and lay them on me. I leave you with a question to ponder over the next few days:

Does Paige have more respect for her mother after the parking lot massacre…or less?

I’m on Twitter @GuyNamedJason. Follow me there. Bring a copy of Silver Streak with you. I hear it’s a good one.

Written by Jason Martin