There is one important character that I have not spoken about very much this season. Without this character, a lot of important work could get lost in the shuffle, making it difficult for other characters we obviously depend on. I am speaking of the mail robot, of course, as this week’s episode features a lot of time spent on just what happens when the mail robot is sick. Perhaps I should be a little more caring, given what goes down in this week’s brilliantly titled episode, “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep,” given the standout middle portion of the episode devoted to an unlucky woman caught in the middle of a Jennings spy mission, but it is too sad for me to react accordingly just yet. For now, just know that I wish luck to the mail robot, as we are all counting on it.
We actually get a taste of Elizabeth being cold right away at the beginning of the episode, as she essentially dumps Hans. Hans may be burned based on a split-second chance that the released and most likely reformed terrorist-in-training, Thomas, spotted Hans while being taken away. There is obviously something deeper going on in Elizabeth’s mind, but that does not make things any easier later in this episode, as Hans botches his attempt to kill Thomas, despite being able to finish the job.
Philip is dealing with issues as well, with Martha basically reassessing her relationship with “Clarke”, now that some beans have been spilled and she has some perspective on some possibly fraudulent aspects in her very unconventional relationship. Unfortunately, this means Poor Martha is forced to stop activity on taking in a foster child, as she explains to Clarke that the idea was ultimately unrealistic. Along with information about the mail robot, this is the only real area explored with Martha this week, but Alison Wright’s performance and current standing, based on last week’s episode, have certainly given her some more interesting beats to play, which makes it just good enough for now, as far as keeping us up to speed on where our characters are at.
Speaking of which, this episode has us checking in on the “Stan and Oleg team up to save Nina” plot that began a few episodes back with the possibility of finding some greater truths about the Russian defector, Zinaida. This ultimately leads to a scene that felt like watching True Lies at first, given Oleg’s decision to threaten Zinaida, while masked by darkness. That said, while Zinaida’s true nature still needs to play out in some way, seeing Stan deal with the plan, which involved him taking a bit of a beating, followed by his “beer and Asprin” cure led to some minor fun between him and Oleg. These two are the ultimate odd couple…well really, it’s like a far more serious Man From U.N.C.L.E. set in the 80s, but regardless, I just like these scenes that allow these two to interact for the sake of a woman, who would likely not want to deal with either at this point (no Nina this week, by the way).
Getting to the main portion of the episode, with the mail robot on the fritz, Elizabeth and Philip head to the site where it is being repaired in order to plant a bug in the machine. While Philip tends to the bugging process, Elizabeth checks in on a noise and discovers Lois, an elderly woman who apparently helps sort out the bills for her husband’s shop at night, when it is quieter. This is the most unfortunate situation possible, as Elizabeth is not about leaving loose ends out there and knows she has to kill this woman. Unfortunately for Lois, she is well aware of her impending death as well. What follows is a strongly acted series of scenes, which is made up of dialogue focused on who Lois is, who Elizabeth is, what memories can do, what an understanding of marriage can really mean, and what Elizabeth’s ultimate goal appears to be.
Something The Americans has skirted around in the past is the nature of the ultimate goal for the Jennings, given our own understanding of history. We know the Soviets are not going to win out in the long run. With that in mind, this is a series about the Jennings’ marriage, more than being about their role as covert Soviet spies. Hearing Elizabeth say she wants to make the world a better place is fittingly vague enough for us to know that part of her does not even really know what that means. Unfortunately, those words only allow for Lois to spit back, “That’s what evil people tell themselves, when they do evil things,” before she dies. Elizabeth being the colder of the two Jennings does not show too much of a reaction to this sort of statement, but we know she is internalizing a lot of grief, when it comes to harming those caught in the crossfire, especially when it comes to trying to comfort them, before their time expires.
As Elizabeth is forced to deal with what to say when it comes to explaining what her purpose is, the end of this episode finds Philip challenged by Gabriel, when he is asked what his problem is. Philip, who has been distraught since the end of last season, when it comes to what everything seems to boil down to (Paige) and responds pretty easily. Despite his frustration, he makes it clear that he is looking out for his family, even if he believes himself to be the only one doing it.
This is a fine episode in a strong season of this show. I say that weekly it seems, but The Americans is very consistent, which is great to consider when realizing how tough that must be for a series that can be a slow-burn for many weeks at a time. Of course, what separates this episode is the tremendous work done in the face off between Elizabeth and poor Lois, but once again this show knows how to play the other characters just right, as we see them dealing with their current standing, regardless of whether or not tension plays a role. Things are continuing to boil, but at least mail robot can get back to work.
Other Things Behind The Red Curtain:
- This Week In Henry: He needs his sleep, because we all know how he gets…
- The assassination attempt via Hans was shot in such a terrifically sad way, given how brutal the murder ended up being.
- Zinaida explains a BLT to Stan, but he knows what the damn thing stands for!
- That’s Betty Smith as Lois, known for her roles on True Blood and other performances as a generally wise grandma character, my favorite, of course, is her work in Twister.
- “It’s felt better.” – Seriously, the Oleg and Stan spin-off show could be so much fun.