You should’ve asked. – Elizabeth Jennings
Last week, I received a few tweets from readers in a quandary over this season of The Americans. The point was uniform, namely that it’s been a bit of a slow start and the first two episodes haven’t packed as much of a punch as in previous years. While I don’t entirely disagree, I still found much to like about the opener, particularly it’s closing scene. Last week wasn’t the strongest, but not every at bat is going to be a home run. It was a single, legged out to a double because Weisberg and Fields are so good at what they do with this show.
And then we got to this week.
This is The Americans as we’ve come to know it, and it arrived at the perfect time. From the exceptional to the dramatic, from the good to the tedious, it’s always about pacing and focus. We don’t see the Rezidentura anymore, because Arkady is no more, Burov is in Moscow, and Nina is in heaven…hopefully. Much of the time we spent there bordered on boring, but never uninteresting. Usually, it was a plethora of subtitles and fairly dry dialogue, with a few important tidbits sprinkled into the sauce.
Through all of it, we knew what took place inside that building would matter. These were not false, throwaway stories. These would tie in to the Jennings family, to the FBI, and potentially even into the upper echelon of the United States government. The feeling was never that our time was being wasted at the Rezidentura, and our patience was both appreciated and rewarded.
What replaces it in Season 5? Two things actually. First we have Oleg Burov’s new assignment in Russia, which takes him to the grocery store. He’s being harassed by the CIA as he’s given an audio tape that seems to imply blackmail due to recorded audio of him with Stan Beeman from Washington. All the while, Burov is forced to frighten and harangue store managers. Second, we have Misha in Yugoslavia attempting to find his father. Admittedly, Misha’s story isn’t my favorite, but in the back of my mind, I know it’s going to lead to this incredible moment where he meets Philip, or at the very worst, he dies before he can do it and his father gets the message through Gabriel.
But let’s get back to the Ruprechtian Reveal. Before you look that term up, I made it up. We’re in a Russian supermarket. David Ruprecht was the host of Supermarket Sweep. I loved Supermarket Sweep. Thus I used the word to take us into the produce section. Burov puts pressure on the department manager to admit she’s involved in payments to producers to ensure her store receives the best food. He’s impressed with her tangerines, which isn’t as filthy as it sounds.
(Aside: The next – and hopefully last – new woman I’m with, I will be complimenting her tangerines. We’ll see how it goes. I hope she’s a TV fan).
She doesn’t give up the goods (also not supposed to be sexual, but if you want to take it there, knock yourself out) but clearly shows in her face the expression of a woman who knows she could be in for a difficult few months. Burov really has no interest in being the jerk, but it’s his job, and he’s talented at what he does.
Why did we see the store in the first place? I’ll tell you why, but you’re intelligent and already have the answer. Watching Burov in interrogation mode was fun, but the purpose was for the single woman in the sad, understocked aisle attempting to shop for herself. She’s wearing a head scarf, and before we ever saw her face, we all knew. Holy shitballs! Martha’s alive, and she’s doing a Kate McKinnon Weekend Update impression. I immediately flashed back to her last few weeks in America, and then remembered just how unbelievably great Alison Wright was last season.
The prospects of Martha in Season 5 are appetizing, to say the least, but think of what could come from this for the future. Worlds could easily collide. We now know Burov and Martha are in the same place, and are close enough in proximity that they could run into each other. Both of them know Stan Beeman and have history with him. While the two may not know each other directly, it won’t take that much of a leap to put them in a situation where the past bubbles to the surface. What that would mean for Stan is cloudy, but also remember the CIA has people attempting to turn Oleg into an agent, so there’s another connection to Stan.
Also, Martha is a connection to Philip and Elizabeth, as is Stan. It just seems like we’re building some kind of long path of yarn, with pushpins riddling a conspiracy theory poster on a cork board. Somebody get Lester Freamon on the case. It could easily all end up tumbling down onto the faces of our pro (an) tagonists. This is utterly fascinating, and now I really care what’s happening in Moscow. Before Martha showed her mug to the camera, I was struggling to give a damn, to be frank.
Paige used the technique to lie to Matthew Beeman’s face at dinner, and said she felt “gross” after doing so, to which her mother retorted with a reminder that telling Matthew anything would put him in a terrible position. You don’t want to know too much on this show. You really don’t. In many respects, the happiest person BY FAR on The Americans is Henry Jennings. While everyone laments how neglected he is in weekly joke tweets, don’t forget his life is school, food, hanging out with friends and neighbors, and playing Space Invaders. Hey, that was also my life. It was fucking awesome.
I never knew mom and dad were Russian spies, hung out at an activist church, or learned to rub my thumb and forefinger together. Those two digits were already busy gripping a controller attempting to take Bowser, Ganon, and Mother Brain to their final resting place. Ignorance is bliss; just ask Randy Chilton.
Poor Randy, he just showed up to work. He had no idea he was walking into a room with a two-person Dallas Buyers Club cosplay exhibit on hand. How horrific to die at the “office” with no one else there, and one of the last two faces you will ever see is Philip in that damn hat. Are we to assume Elizabeth went cowgirl with him at the hotel after the make-out session? The hat moved between the two, but it would have been quite the obstacle during coitus. Not saying a hot woman in a cowboy hat isn’t a good thing on occasion, especially when it’s the only part of her outfit.
The super-strain of midges was enough to soften Paige and put her on her parents’ side before they visited Oklahoma City, and it was also enough to lead Randy into Philip’s dragon sleeper of death. Chilton was just doing what he was told, working to breed insects of destruction for Agricorp, a shady sounding firm that appears to be trying to cripple Russian harvests and also corrupt grain and crop shipments. Well, shady if you’re pro-Jennings. It’s always a fine line. It does seem cruel though.
Benjamin Stobert in Topeka, Kansas will be the next to get a visit from the comrades, but we’ll see if the Russians go with the slow play, try to get intel, or get what they can quickly before dismembering him. Agricorp will no doubt have multiple levels and a chain of command, so it’s probably going to require several weeks to really absorb everything appropriately. Maybe Philip will get a new job for a few episodes.
Tuan goes gutter ball to bond with Pasha, a person he despises almost as much as the boy’s father, who he would like to cut up into tiny pieces and feed to the motherland. And as for dad, he apparently didn’t tell his wife or child they were all about to defect, something that is putting a lot of pressure on the marriage. Lucky for the wife, he’s going to be very dead…very soon. Misha looks for Luka, and ends up losing a good bit of money in the process. Stan and Dennis are accosting and confronting dudes in restaurants and restrooms, but nothing has proven fruitful as of yet.
I wrote all those things at once to make one final point this week. This week’s episode was strong, but there were really two or three major story elements to pay attention to, surrounded by a bunch of other stuff. It’s all related, but there’s no lasting imprint for me with it yet, so I just kind of threw it in at the end as if it’s all in a sack of “to be determined.”
The bigger news is after Philip and Elizabeth killed a guy, we got Roxy Music’s “More Than This,” which keeps up the tradition of The Americans utilizing 80s music whenever it feels like it, but particularly after something harrowing or emotionally draining. Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” from last year is still my favorite, but this was pretty good.
Martha presumably made it home from the market, and what she’s up to when we next see her is at the top of my interest list for the moment, along with the upcoming trek to Topeka to visit Agricorp. It was a good episode this week that moved the story along and kept our characters progressing nicely, plus the welcome return of Alison Wright. I don’t like insects, but I dug The Midges.
I’m @JMartOutkick. I’m just a lab technician.