We have now gone through a complete reversal in this 3rd to last episode of a very strong season of The Americans. At the beginning of season 2, Philip and Elizabeth were hit hard by the murder of two of their friends and fellow spy comrades, the ‘other Americans’ Emmett and Leanne. They wanted revenge and thought they could get it, based on one of their missions. Now we have Larrick, who is seeking his own revenge, after some of his friends have been murdered, and this cat and mouse game is really raising the tensions. For an episode that is all about moving the pieces into position for the following episodes, the show continues to know how to really deliver.
Alas, while various characters were shifted around and setup for differing results, one was taken off the board. Kate is no more and though it is not as if we knew a ton about her or felt she had anything on Margo Martindale’s performance as Claudia, Kate’s days as a handler were very short-lived, despite the huge can of worms she manages to open up at the end of this episode, with the mysterious coded note she left inside a cardboard toilet paper tube. Even in death, Kate still manages to be just as important a puzzle piece as the others still in play.
Moving back to the beginning though, a lot of plot points and character situations are hit upon and re-emphasized, seemingly to keep everything clear, before moving forward. Paige is still forbidden from going to church summer camp. Stan’s life is coming close to crumbling around him completely. Nina is balancing three different men in her life, two of which she is intimate with. Then you have our Americans. Philip continues to show how tired and perhaps disillusioned with his assignment he is, while Elizabeth remains firm on her belief in the cause.
To circle back around to Philip in a bit, “Stealth” opens with a check-in on poor Anton, who has been shipped back to the Motherland and is working on developing stealth technology, based on information taken from the Americans. After hearing him continue to explain how this is not the life he wants, we learn that he needs certain knowledge, which leads to our latest Philip disguise, Ted. In Ted mode, Philip interacts with cancer-ridden John Skeevers (played by the great TV character actor Zeljko Ivanek) and gains the information he needs. The interesting thing is how Philip’s Ted character is a Vietnam vet with an attitude that is not far off from Philip’s actual thoughts on life. Given how much disguises play a role in this series, it is always interesting to see how the real personalities of Philip and Elizabeth tend to come out when they are trying to hide their true identities.
Speaking of identity, while Paige continues to be upset over her parent’s not only not allowing her to attend church camp, but not even having a good reason (in her eyes) as to why, she does get to a point where she receives a small victory. During this episode we see how Elizabeth will not bend for the camp thing, but once Paige brings up how she can’t be controlled for wanting to be who she believes herself to be and asks about going to a military protest, it is an easier concept to get on board with. Given that this is basically Paige voluntarily trying to weaken the U.S. military for church, it makes enough sense in Elizabeth’s eyes, but we also get some recognition of how closely Elizabeth finds her daughter to resemble herself at a young age. With all of the other side-plots and characters to keep track of, I continue to be impressed at how well-incorporated the ‘angry teenage daughter’ storyline seems to be. It provides emphasis on how the family is just as important as the spy stuff, but does not feel like overcrowding for the show.
The area that has suffered a bit is Stan’s plotline. Week after week I have talked about how much I enjoy what Noah Emmerich brings to the role as Agent Beeman, but even as he comes closer to being directly involved with our Americans, based on his interactions with Jared last week (which could possibly lead to a confrontation between him and Larrick), he continues to feel far away from the main action. With that said, he is put into another crazy position this week, as Nina is being pushed pretty hard, with the threat of being shipped back to Russia and tried for treason, unless she can get help from Stan. Pushing harder on Stan will lead to him making a big decision about where his allegiances lie, but given how rough things have gone for him, even after winning an award this week, I would like to hope he gets some kind of break.
Arkady has become quite the puppet master, as he has Nina worried and allows her fears to affect Oleg. While more work may be being done to keep Nina and Oleg separate, the fact that Arkady is constructing some elaborate setups to have Stan possibly fall into could make for some big changes by the time the season finale/season 3 roll around. I only hope this also leads to more Gaad/Arkady interactions, as these two have been quite effective in their supporting roles.
Saving the business between Kate and Larrick for last, after a well-constructed sequence of suspenseful events, Kate is captured by Larrick (though not without putting up a fight) and strung up on her ceiling fan. While The Americans is not necessarily a show that has needed some sort of ‘Big Bad’ to have its leads go up against, Lee Tergesen continues to be so damn effective in the role that he makes me genuinely fear for the fates of any of the other characters he may interact with. The way he simply understands that Kate is not going to reveal any information and then breaks her neck is just horrifying. He is not one for taunting his prey; he has his own sense of reasoning and simply wants revenge as soon as possible. Larrick easily has the advantage as of now, so I am very curious to see how it all goes.
But what about Jared? Kate’s coded note states, “Get Jared out.” What does that mean? The Americans has shifted a lot of people around in an effort to prepare us for the upcoming finale, but now we have a question with a ton of possible answers. We began the season watching this kid be mortified by finding his whole family dead and now he seems like an important piece in the puzzle. Given that the possible reveal could actually retroactively make Kate a more significant character, following her death, it is plenty intriguing to know that there is still more to discover during this already exciting time in FX’s Cold War-set series.
Other Things Behind The Red Curtain:
- I love the way the opening is very sensual and evocative in its presentation of Anton’s life, only to have him dictate how unhappy he is.
- The Ted costume is pretty great, from the beard to the inflections Philip uses to build this Vietnam vet-type character. Kudos to the acting that Philip is doing.
- I think Oleg still has more tricks up his sleeve that will be revealed soon enough.
- Susan Misner has been knocking it out of the park as Sandra Beeman, as understandably underused as she may be.
- “The FBI has comic books.” – In the realm of ‘Where’s Henry’, this homework subplot pretty much came out of nowhere, but I’ll allow it.
- So where’s Larrick hiding all of these bodies?