The Americans Review: Pastor Tim

She told him…everything. — Elizabeth Jennings

Well, Pastor Tim is still with us, but if I were the good reverend, I’d lease, not buy. He gets a reprieve tonight simply because Paige had a crisis of conscience and spilled the beans to her mom. The secret is out, and it’s hard not to buy into the idea that Tim would be not a casualty of war, but a fatality of the spy game. With that said, it was pretty amusing to watch Elizabeth seem positively giddy at the prospect of this guy being out of the picture for good. It was almost uncomfortable, because there was a level of joy as she spoke.

We can get this miserable son of a bitch out of our lives. Paige will have no reason to suspect it’s us. — Elizabeth

The Americans does dread better than Stallone ever did. This entire episode was a slow downward spiral that put us on the road to some definite nastiness down the line, but didn’t pay anything major off, because perhaps on this show more than any other, patience is rewarded. But let’s talk about that bus scene, which was freaking astonishing.

Philip’s adventures with the Glanders virus are proving to be heavy entertainment, but it’s this sequence that defines so clearly why Matthew Rhys might be the best in the business at the present time. So much occurred during the scene, some verbal, some non-verbal, but I’m almost positive nobody but Weisberg and Fields could have pulled this off to such a high degree. And it’s nice to see Soft Cell making a comeback.

Tell me, anybody else out there have an immediate urge to go back and watch Patrick Bateman’s antics in American Psycho? Never before has Tainted Love left me snapping my fingers while Philip nearly snapped an airport security guard’s neck. This was magnificent stuff. From the antsy colleague who feared exposure to Philip’s desire to get that darn virus out of his house, out of his vehicle, and out of his jacket pocket, it all fit like the final few pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.

This poor security guard, just doing his job when he recognized the “distressed pilot,” had to get nosy when a covert Russian operative was making an exchange. I’m sure he had a family, and to call the entire situation a prime example of wrong place, wrong time, would be a massive understatement. But when you watch that slice of The Americans’ larger saga, you see why it’s arguably the best serial drama on television. I said last week we might not fully appreciate just how good it is until it’s gone, but I’m here to tell you, some of us already know.

How many programs would have moved too quickly, relied on gore or more action, rather than the careful steps we got tonight that led to a silent assassination on an airport bus shuttle on a weeknight? It’s quite possible we’ll look back at that few minutes and call it one of the best scenes of the year on television, but we’ve still got 11 more episodes to go, and I’m sure the best is still yet to come.

So let’s get back to Pastor Tim and his impending disappearance. Paige told him her secret, opened up her heart to him in the third season finale, but she didn’t realize that phone call would be monitored. We did, however, though I was a bit surprised we got to that reveal so quickly, but The Americans has a way of pacing its highlights in a way where it always catches us more off guard. And, because of the way it played out, I actually thought he might get clipped during the episode named for him. But, that would be awfully soon, and now we can build and build and finally arrive at the proper crescendo for his violent exit. Is it even possible he can survive? Sure, but it’s unlikely, and this is a series that generally delivers on any brand of expected doom.

The EST plot thickened as well, with Philip coming clean to Elizabeth about finishing a few seminars and admitting that the sessions have helped him learn to live with some of the mistakes or horrors of his past, including the incident we saw last week with him murdering a bully with a rock when he was ten years old. Those that might see EST as somewhat akin to Scientology aren’t far off, in terms of visualizing and reliving the past in order to put it to rest and move forward. In that way, it makes complete sense for this man, who has murdered several people and engages in highly stressful and morally questionable activities, to see EST as something positive and enlightening.

Elizabeth asks whether it’s something he would want her to attend with him, and he offers a genuine smile; because there’s no question she could use it to benefit her human side. On the other hand, her success as a Russian operative is based on the black and white approach to decision making. EST does require some level of regret, because the actions have to be wrong in order to be problematic within the mind. It will be most interesting if she does go to a seminar, and of course, she’s likely to run into Stan’s ex.

There doesn’t appear to be a romance angle with Philip and Sandra, though we haven’t seen anything from her outside of scenes with him, so the focus hasn’t been there to delve into it. It also wasn’t entirely clear whether Elizabeth was displeased with the two spending time together after EST, but The Americans doesn’t seem like the show that would go down that path. Stan and Sandra’s break-up and the occasional complications within the Jennings marriage are handled to drive the larger plot. This isn’t Scandal, where everything exists as a catalyst to maneuver and change the Olivia-Fitz relationship. This is something altogether different, and thank god for that. We get the soap opera stuff — even when it’s done well — all the time on TV.

Dylan Baker was back for a few minutes and often times, because of how he can command a screen, his appearance in small doses sometimes works better to ensure balance. Another guy we haven’t talked much about is Frank Langella, who has been around for many years, from long before Brainscan to his tremendous portrayal of Richard Nixon, but he’s one of those guys that seems to fit just about any role. In similar fashion to Margo Martindale, we’ve got local handlers for Philip and Elizabeth that work effectively in the United States, but also look believably foreign.

Elizabeth, when you do what we do, it’s very easy to lose your bearings. I don’t want that to happen to you. — Gabriel

That’s just based on appearance, but both are also incredibly strong as actors, and Gabriel is a study in a father figure who also has to do the tough things in order to keep his job and keep his life. He sometimes says harsh things and scolds his people, but he simply executes his orders and offers advice. His segments with Keri and Matthew have become some of the most emotionally resonant of any on the show, and often, if you get lost in some of the plot details, Gabriel often illuminates things quite a bit.  

Finally, over in the Soviet gulag (or a reasonable facsimile), last week Nina demanded to see her husband, and this week we met him. The two had chemistry and of course, because she’s always torn between self-preservation and her compassion for others, she gives him a note to present to Anton Baklonov’s son that would let him know his father was still alive. Predictably, hubby gets caught and now Nina’s in big trouble, not to mention her former (possibly current) beau, as 1980’s Soviet punishments are generally not ideal.

In the scene with her husband, we saw Nina in one of her happiest moments, laughing a few times and clearly overjoyed to be in his presence. When asked why she would take such a risk when she was close to freedom, she simply responds by saying she’s not who she once was. There’s a black cloud over everything on the show and there always has been, but never a bigger, more foreboding, depressing storm cloud than the one that always hovers over Nina.

Close to the Nina angle, Oleg and Stan meet and Beeman has to tell his frenemy that the hopeful trade to free her fell through. He then offers condolences on the death of Oleg’s son, to which the grieving father asks, “So we’re friends now,” and then leaves the car. Stan at least appears to like Oleg more than Oleg likes Philip, although Stan and Frank Gaad continue to talk about leverage and pushing Oleg, so there’s a significant amount of manipulation going on, probably on both sides.

She told me. She admitted it. — Elizabeth

Paige confessing makes it impossible for her parents to kill Pastor Tim, because now they know she would immediately recognize it was their handiwork. So, for now, he’ll be able to write a few more sermons in that cabin.

As with every season, several external forces appear to be closing in on our two leads, and virtually never are they clueless to what’s going on. They escape because they’re aware and their rebelliousness and Philip’s flashes of morality often put them in troubling positions.

We’ve got Martha and Pastor Tim out there with dangerous quantities of knowledge, Paige as a complete wildcard, Stan and the Rezidentura in a tangled relationship, EST and how that might affect thought processes, and we’ve also got Stan giving much of his time to Henry Jennings. That’s also worth paying attention to, as there’s nothing nefarious about it, but it shows Beeman’s ability to relate and emote more deeply to his neighbor’s son than his own. It’s similar to how he opened himself up to Nina in so many ways that he couldn’t with his ex-wife.

And, what’s with the computer? That’s going to be trouble. Maybe not when the family is playing Breakout, but there are plenty of things to go wrong with the device. At least Philip and Elizabeth don’t have to worry about porn yet. Maybe a photo of Cindy Crawford in a bikini in a few years, but Henry would generally still have better luck with magazines.

This show is awesome. It’s a disclaimer or a statement I could use every single week, and maybe I will. There’s no better pure drama on television. That bus scene just left me in awe, and it’s not the first time.

I’m @GuyNamedJason on Twitter. I don’t own a heater. I also don’t spend times in cabins. So you’ll have to find another way to off me.

Written by Jason Martin

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