The Americans: Stingers

... in which changing conditions in the field force Elizabeth and Philip to act, and secrets begin to reveal themselves.

Wow. Just wow. This show. Wow. Sometimes it is hard to process all the painful goodness consistently delivered by The Americans, week in and week out. For several hours after watching this week’s momentous episode, pretty much all my brain could manage was a quietly awed “Wow.”

After weeks of slow, careful set up, ‘Stingers’ finally pushes several of this season’s threads to a head, with revelations coming on numerous fronts. In minor reveals, we had Nina’s revelation to her new mark about their mutual connection to America, Gabriel’s reveal to Philip that Elizabeth asked him to get Philip’s son off the front lines in Afghanistan, and Stan starting to wonder about Martha’s potential connection to the bug in Gaad’s office (perhaps as Walter Taffet is wondering about Stan’s own potential involvement in that treasonous act). In slightly more substantial news, we learned that Stan’s seemingly “out there” theory about Zinaida is, in fact, true. She’s an operative for the Rezidentura, and Tatiana is aware of her status. And, apparently, Oleg and Stan have stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest with their off-books op to threaten Zinaida.

But the centerpiece of the hour, obviously, was Philip and Elizabeth finally revealing the truth about themselves to Paige. Wow. Both the moment of the reveal and the aftermath were some of the best material of the season. Despite being the focus of so much of the season, the way things unfolded was entirely unexpected and completely riveting. I gasped in the moment Philip gave Elizabeth the pained nod to go ahead and may not have breathed again until the commercial break. The sequence in the kitchen was incredibly powerful and beautifully played by all involved, from the go ahead nod, to Elizabeth’s difficulty actually getting the words out and her look to Philip, to his still, matter-of-fact presentation of their status, to Elizabeth’s anxious attempts to try to sell what they do as a noble cause, to everyone’s fear, confusion, grief, and shock after it was done. The lack of musical scoring for the reveal and the morning after made it all the more powerful, leaving us caught in the tense, aching silences with Philip, Elizabeth, and Paige.

I absolutely love that Paige was the impetus for this massive reveal, not Elizabeth or the Centre forcing the issue. “I need to know the truth. I don’t care what it is, but … if you love me, if you really love me, then just please tell me.” I’m also relieved that moving forward was ultimately a choice that Philip and Elizabeth made together, out of love for their daughter and their recognition that what their child needed from them more than anything in that moment was the truth, no matter how painful.

I really don’t know what Paige will do now. They gave her the truth she begged for, but it was in no way something she was prepared to hear. Of all the possibilities she considered, the notion of her parents turning out to be enemies of the country she considers her own never entered her mind. Her decision not to tell Pastor Tim at this point made me think perhaps she won’t betray her parents, but she’s clearly torn. That look on her face as she looked at Stan … is he a threat, or her salvation? With her folks shooting her looks that could be deemed menacing, and sharpening knives in the background, it has to be hard for her to know who to trust or what to do now. “Be careful what you wish for” is a tough lesson to learn.

Other Thoughts

In other developments, the CIA is meeting with someone important from the ISI, and Philip and Elizabeth are hoping to get the drop on the meeting. Yousaf is en route to provide Philip with intel.

It’s funny that all the focus this season has been on bringing Paige into the spy game, when Henry is the one who potentially has the aptitude for it. He is, after all, the one that breaks into other people’s houses and keeps a secret hidey hole in his closet. I half think he went over to Stan’s so he could filch another photo of Sandra, and was just using the football game as cover.

Kimmy was back this week, but fortunately things didn’t get too squicky with Philip.

Paige: “Trying to turn me into a travel agent?”

I suspect that learning Elizabeth had tried to get his son out of Afghanistan is part of what pushed Philip to support her when Paige demanded the truth.

Philip: “We work for our country. Getting information. Information they couldn’t get in other ways.”
Paige: “You’re … spies?”
Elizabeth: “We serve our country. But we also serve the cause of peace around the world. We fight for people who can’t fight for themselves.”
Paige: “Stop.”

Elizabeth: “Knowing this … comes with a lot of responsibility.”
Philip: “You can’t tell anyone. Not now, not ever. Not Pastor Tim. And not Henry.”
Elizabeth: “No matter how much you trust someone, or think that you trust them, you can’t tell them.”

Philip: “You okay?”
Elizabeth: “I don’t know.”

Philip: “There’s no way around this. We go to work, we hold our breath. She won’t do anything stupid. She won’t.”

Final Analysis: Stellar. Just wow.

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


Scott Riggan said...

How is it that this isn't one of the most-watched shows on television?

Anonymous said...

Absolutely amazing episode complimented by a fantastic review! I didn't expect them to reveal themselves at this point of the season or series. So glad that it has been renewed for another season. More people definitely need to start watching!

Jess Lynde said...

I think the messiness of the "rooting sympathies" aspect turns a lot of people off. I love that the show forces us to both root for and against nearly all the characters at the same time, but a lot of folks just don't find that palatable viewing. I'm not sure why that doesn't seem to be a stumbling block for other "anti-hero" shows (e.g., Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad) --- perhaps in those cases it is easier to pick a "for" or "against" side --- but based on anecdotal comments, it seems to be a major issue for The Americans. Perhaps because the protagonists are Soviets, which puts them on the "wrong" side of history from the American perspective? (Although not in all situations, which has made this season even more complicated and fascinating.)

Or perhaps it is a distribution issue. If it was on Netflix, maybe more people would be binging it and catching up? It's on Amazon Prime, but I'm not sure that has the same level of market penetration.

Ah, well. I've got years of experience with the shows I love not being loved by the wider masses. :) At least the relative lack of love won't keep us from getting at least one more season for this show. Woot!

Gavrielle said...

I'm not American and I think that probably helps. (I really detest Stan, for example, which I imagine American viewers don't tend to. But ugh, the way he treated Nina.) This was a real shocker, but I couldn't help feeling they were doing the wrong thing by telling Paige. That's a hell of a lot to take in for someone so young, and burdening her with that seems to me one of the cruellest things Philip & Elizabeth have done. Especially given how things were then: I was around Paige's age at the time it's set in, and it's hard to convey to people born later how all-consumingly terrified everyone was of nuclear war and consequently of the Russians. They didn't exactly do a lot to prepare the ground about how great the Soviet side is IMO: they jumped right in there. Poor Paige. So happy to hear it's been renewed though! I was afraid the big reveal signalled the imminent end.