The Americans: March 8, 1983

... in which Elizabeth and Paige take a trip, Stan tries to play his trump card, and Philip struggles to reconcile his conscience with his work.

This season goes out in surprisingly quiet fashion, but still strong thematically, as it continues to reflect on the cumulative weight of the difficult things the spy game asks of its players.“Was it worth it?” Yousaf asks Philip at the beginning of the episode, referring to Annalise’s death, and that question hangs over the entire hour. Did getting the CIA weapons out of the hands of the mujahedeen make Annalise getting strangled to death and stuffed in a suitcase count for something? Can Philip carry the stain of what happened to her because he was able to turn it to his country’s benefit? Can he carry the weight of hanging the tech support guy to protect Martha? Will Martha be able to live with the guilt of an innocent man dying to cover up her crimes? Can Stan let Nina suffer in prison or a labor camp because of the situation he put her in? Is it worth it to him to throw his career away as long as he can save her? Can Nina keep paying for her sins by worming her way into someone’s trust for the sole purpose of betraying them? Can Paige live with lying to nearly everyone she cares about, giving up herself and her ideals to protect her parents?

The episode draws powerful parallels between Philip and Paige as they struggle the hardest to figure out how to cope with the terrible things being asked of them. “I’ve been having a really hard time, and I’m hurting. I don’t know what to do.” Gabriel refers to Philip as a child --- an interesting inversion of Pastor Tim’s earlier suggestion that Paige should be treated as an adult --- telling him he needs to stop pouting about not getting his way and grow up. But Philip’s behavior isn’t really about childish petulance, it’s more akin to a teenager wrestling with identity. Philip’s identity was basically given to him when he actually was a teenager, so he never got to figure it out for himself. And now he’s struggling to do that as his country asks more and more difficult things from him. Is he a father and a husband? Or a soulless killer? Is he a good man or monster? Philip desperately needs some indication that the things he’s doing are making the world a better place and not just destroying lives.

At the very least, Philip needs someone with whom he can share his turmoil. He tries reaching out to Elizabeth, but she turns away from him in his moment of vulnerability, and towards Cause and country. She can’t understand what he’s trying to say because she doesn’t see the world the way he sees it. Philip’s first loyalty is to his family, but Elizabeth’s is and always has been the Cause. Her own mother gave her up to the Cause, because that’s how high she believed the stakes were. The pain of their separation was worth it to her mother, and so it has to be worth it for Elizabeth. Killing Mrs. Turner in the warehouse may have given her momentary pause, but seeing her mother one last time, no doubt only reinforced her core beliefs and made her more determined to live up to her mother’s example. If it didn’t, seeing President Reagan calling her country out as evil certainly seemed to solidify her dedication to the Cause.

Paige is also struggling to define who she is in the wake of her parents’ revelations. The truth she begged for has stripped away nearly every belief about who she thought she was, making her even more desperate to hang on to the identity she had started to carve for herself. She wants to be a good, honest person, who honors God and Christ’s teachings. She clings to her cross and desperately prays for guidance. She, too, tries reaching out to Elizabeth, to make her understand that she’s asking too much. “I don’t know if I can do this, Mom. I don’t think I can do it. […] To lie for the rest of my life. That’s not … who I am.” But Elizabeth essentially turns away from her, too. Pushing aside her concerns, and telling her she’ll get through it. Ironically, even as Elizabeth calls Philip out for not being able to recognize that Martha likely wouldn’t be able to live with an innocent man’s death on her conscience, she seems completely blind to the severity of Paige’s crisis of conscience. She simply doesn’t understand that by asking Paige to give herself to the Cause, thus betraying everything she believes makes her a good person, she basically is saying “goodbye forever” to her daughter. Either by forcing her to give up the person she is, or by inadvertently pushing her to betray them and their secrets when she can’t live with carrying them.

Other Thoughts

Yousaf: “Was it worth it?”
Philip: “I don’t think like that. I know a lot of young men who won’t be blown out of the sky because of what I did --- what Annalise did. What we did. A lot of young men who ... [deep sigh] Yousaf, I feel like shit all the time.”

Gabriel (to Philip): “You’re acting like a child. [...] You can’t see ten feet in front of you. I’ve done nothing but try to take care of you, and because you’re not getting what you want, you think I’m the enemy. And when Elizabeth doesn’t see everything exactly the way you see it, you think there’s something wrong with her. You know who there’s something wrong with? Grow up.”

Stan: “If this is the end of my career, it’s the end of my career. But Nina was our agent. We owe our agents anything we can do to help them, if they get caught. That’s how it works, right?”

Looks like Oleg’s dad was right about trying to get him home. I always felt like Arkady was doing the right thing by putting his neck out for Oleg to stay, but that’s sure going to bite him in the ass now, huh?

The reunion between Elizabeth and her mother was incredibly moving. It is rare to see Elizabeth so vulnerable and childlike, and it left me pretty teary.

Philip (faking a suicide note): “I had no choice ... I’m sorry.”
Gold stars for Matthew Rhys in this scene. The look on his face as Philip stared at that message and the body hanging from the ceiling were incredibly powerful.

Nina: “I --- I can’t keep doing this. Buying back my life. It’s not --- I don’t know if it’s worth it.”
As always with Nina, I can’t tell if this is another play or a genuine crisis of conscience.

I hope this EST meeting stuff isn’t leading to Philip and Sandra having some sort of sexual affair.

Great use of the overhead camera perspective for Paige and Philip near the end to draw the parallel between them, their pain, and their crises of conscience. Being watched from above --- and feeling the weight of moral judgment. (I don't believe a similar angle was used for Nina, perhaps an indication that her “confessions” are merely her latest play.)

So my Henry suspicions have thus far turned out to be nothing. But, as others have suggested, perhaps his growing connection to Stan will become something down the line.

Reagan: “They are the focus of evil in the modern world.”

Final Analysis: An unexpected, but reasonably satisfying season finale. I’m certainly intrigued to see where things are headed.

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

2 comments:

Scott Riggan said...

The Americans Season 4 is incredible - and it's killing me to not be able to read about it here! Please, O highly esteemed Agents of DOUX, I beg you - start reviewing this show again!

Billie Doux said...

Hi, Scott -- sadly, our reviewer Jess is no longer with the Agents of DOUX and we don't have anyone else to cover this season. The Americans is definitely on our "want" list of shows, though. I do apologize!