The Americans: Born Again

... in which Paige’s baptism spurs Elizabeth to action and provides inspiration for Philip in his work with Kimberly.

Another absorbing look at the ways in which “real life” provides useful fuel for the spycraft and “fake life” can provide an outlet for the spies to deal with their personal issues. We’ve gotten tastes of this before, when seeing Clark with Martha sometimes, or Elizabeth talking to her “AA sponsor” about her family and marriage issues, or when she used her actual rape experience to manipulate the naval officer. But in this episode the “half truths” technique was really front and center, between Elizabeth’s play with Paige, Philip’s approach with Kimberly, and Nina’s tactics with Evie. Watching them foster closeness by sharing small pieces of their real lived experience was fascinating, as were the resulting effects. Not just on their targets, but on themselves.

Elizabeth is setting the stage for turning Paige, but she also seemed genuinely happy and hopeful to finally be sharing this part of herself with her daughter. She wants the closeness to be real, and for Paige to understand that they aren’t that different, even as she attempts to redirect Paige’s desire to do work “for the greater good” away from the church and toward the Cause. Given that Paige also seems to want to share a bond with her mother --- trying to get her to pray and be open to faith --- it will be interesting to see where this all goes from here. Certainly, the show has been driving home the parallels between mother and daughter, this week with the shot of Paige under water recalling the shot of Elizabeth in the tub from the season premiere, and with both of them attempting to recruit the other to their beliefs. Will their similarities bring them into alignment or set them at odds when things come to a head?

Interestingly, even though Paige has absolutely no shot at converting Elizabeth to her faith, she may have inadvertently made her dad more open to it. While drawing on his current life experience to avoid having sex with his underage target, Philip may have had a genuine spiritual moment. He seemed surprised and yet truly “amazed” after praying together with Kimmy about his son. What’s not clear is whether it was the connection to Kimmy in that moment that felt amazing, or a connection to something else. After struggling to effectively express himself to both his wife and daughter throughout the episode, here he was finally able to open up about his pain and regrets and desire to be a better man, and it clearly had a powerful effect on him. Did Paige’s “prayer helps” experience also hold true for her dad? I don’t know if that’s what going on or not, but I’d kind of love the irony of Philip actually finding himself drawn to God at the same moment Elizabeth is trying to lure Paige away from that life.

And then there’s Nina. As per usual, it is difficult to tell what Nina is really feeling in any given situation. Did it provide her some measure of comfort to talk in a roundabout way about what had happened with Oleg and Stan? Did she feel badly for betraying Evie the way she herself was betrayed? Or rather was she pleased with how effectively she’d done the task required of her? I sort of lean towards the latter based on her impassiveness toward Evie as she was taken away screaming. Oh, Nina. What did you do? This development makes me rather sad, even as I’m simultaneously pleased that Nina still has a measure of agency and isn’t just waiting around for a man to save her. This show leaves me so conflicted.

Other Thoughts

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell were terrific in the opening sequence. They beautiful sold how deeply difficult it was for Elizabeth and Philip to try to appear happy and supportive of their daughter while watching her give herself over to something that is the absolute antithesis of what they believe in.

Elizabeth: “Paige. She thinks I should start praying.”
Philip: “I would like to see that.”

Elizabeth and Philip toking up together and laughing about Philip using religion to keep Kimmy at bay was pretty amusing.

Gabriel: “How’s Kimberly?”
Philip (sarcastically): “I think she’s nervous about a math test she has coming up.”

Gabriel plays some seriously dirty pool. Telling Philip that his probable son was in the line of fire in Afghanistan to pressure him into having sex with a child was disgusting (I think that’s where he said the son was stationed). And then bringing Philip’s conflict back around to push Elizabeth into moving forward with Paige … That man is a piece of work. He’s possibly even more devilish than Claudia (may she please return soon).

I loved the show bringing back the memories of both Philip’s and Elizabeth’s former loves, as they struggle to maintain their connection with each other in the face of all this Paige and Kimmy business.

So the Mail Robot is no longer bringing the classified files. That’s a big problem for Martha and Clark. You were just full of bad news this week, New Agent.

Meanwhile, at the Beeman house … Stan gets some action, pines for Sandra, and interacts awkwardly with his son.

Elizabeth: “We didn’t just sing songs and march. We fought other ways.”
Paige: “What other ways? Mom?”
Elizabeth: “It wasn’t always legal, but it was right. It was right for the greater good. […] Sometimes doing good is harder than going to rallies and signing petitions.”

Final Analysis: Another episode with some troubling developments along the way and a really intriguing final sequence.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.

1 comment:

Gavrielle said...

Way behind watching this, but never mind....

One of the things I loved about this episode was seeing the Russians wanting to help the anti-apartheid people. Some of the things Elizabeth and Philip do make them hard to like (to say the least) and it's nice to sometimes feel sympathy for what they're doing. It makes it easier to remember how passionately they believe that they're doing good.