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The Americans: Salang Pass

... in which Elizabeth and Philip continue developing their assets, and Stan approaches Oleg with a plan to help Nina.

I spent the bulk of this hour really hating Philip and Elizabeth for the things they do.
Seeing Martha so happy and so full of love that she wants to share; watching Elizabeth pretend to offer the support and friendship that Lisa needs at this point in her life; and watching poor Kimmy, so lost and lonely, reaching out to Philip for connection; and knowing that it all based on heaping piles of lies just makes me sick. When Elizabeth coldly murdered the man with his car and then casually walked away, it somehow felt like a relief. Taking advantage of someone’s pain and misfortune or preying on their desire for love seems so much crueler than straight up ending someone’s life. And what Philip is doing with Kimmy is just beyond the pale. She’s a child, and he knows it is wrong, and yet it seems as though he “could almost do it, if it kept [her] on track.” I was utterly disgusted with both Philip and Elizabeth as the hour wound to its close.

And then we got that final sequence. Getting that small glimpse of what training entailed for Philip, and seeing how that kind of background affects their ability to actually have anything real for themselves ... in the end, I managed to once again find sympathy for them. It’s so clear that they’ve been as manipulated and damaged as the people they target. Just look at the way Gabriel acts as their fatherly ally, all the while smoothly pushing them to do what the Center wants and damn the human costs. “It’s difficult for all of us sometimes, to keep in mind that when people’s lives intersect with our operations, it’s the operation that’s crucial. […] Conscience can be dangerous.” They were recruited when they were just as young as Paige and Kimberly, and then taught that conscience is a liability and emotions (even your own) are merely something to manipulate. It’s grotesque. I still rather hate Philip and Elizabeth for what they are doing now, but I also can’t help feeling like they are victims themselves.

Other Thoughts

I can’t decide if Stan’s really on to something with Zinaida or if he’s letting his paranoia and desire to “make it right” for Nina get the better of him. I tend to think it’s the latter, but Tatiana was fairly cagey with Oleg, so there may actually be something to Stan’s theory. (And if there isn’t, hopefully he didn’t just put an intriguing idea in their heads!)

Yousaf: “You’re fighting barbarians.”
But are they really any better than the barbarians? In some respects, they may be worse.

Did we know that Stan had been undercover for three years? Three years is a long time to leave your kid. My heart broke a little bit for Stan as he talked about his non-reunion with his son. People just don’t seem to realize the important things they are choosing to give up when they sign up for this life.

Elizabeth suggesting that Kimmy’s “bad behavior” is the result of not knowing her dad is really CIA was a new low in her ever more desperate attempts to convince Philip they need to reveal the truth to Paige.

I do not understand the angle Elizabeth is working with Lisa regarding her “cone of silence” guy. Is she prepping Lisa to meet with Philip and answer questions about Northrop?

Gabriel: “It’s one of the ironies of this work, that so many lives depend upon one man’s relationship with an adolescent girl.”

The cowboy boots have to be a deliberate call back to the shopping trip back in Season 1 (in the pilot?). The trip that resulted in an older man making inappropriate overtures towards Paige, and we probably all remember how Philip responded to that. It just makes “this whole age thing” and what he’s doing with Kimmy even more unsettling. No doubt, as intended.

Philip: “They kept telling us we have to make it real. For ourselves.”

Final Analysis: Despite starting with some pretty horrifying material, the season has steadily managed to become even more disturbing.

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


  1. Jess, great review! I, too, am horribly disturbed by what's going on this season. Watching Philip be so fatherly with Kimmy was almost the worst part.

    I looked up the Salang Tunnel on Wikipedia. It was the site of a terrible, deadly car accident that killed almost 200 people. I can't quite see how it fits with the theme of this episode, though. Any thoughts?

  2. Thanks, Josie! The Salang tunnel was also the site of a major fire during the Soviet-Afghanistan war, killing a huge number of Soviet troops. If I'm remembering correctly, Philip may have been listening to the BBC news about the incident in this episode. (He listens to the news a lot, so I'm not necessarily sure what news turns up when.)

    I'm not sure if it has significance beyond marking the point in time (November 1982) and factoring into the environment that's creating Gabriel's push for Philip to create intimacy with Kimmy.


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