The Americans, Season 3 Episode 4: “Dimebag”

I like The Americans, but I can find it a difficult show to watch on a week to week basis. I have no idea why. The show is very deliberate in its pacing and balances the stresses of being an international spy and a good parent quite well. There wasn’t a lot of action this week, which is okay, because I don’t watch The Americans because of the action. That’s why I watch Strike Back. This week Phillip and Elizabeth are trying to turn Kimberley into an asset. It took me a couple of seconds to remember who she was, but her father is the head of the CIA Afghan Group, and she babysits for one of her father’s employees. Last week we saw her try to seduce her employer, but it didn’t go so well. Phillip and Elizabeth’s arguments about Paige are reflected in Kimberley, Nina makes a return and once again I have no idea what’s going on with Stan.

It’s Paige’s birthday (I think she’s 15 now), and she doesn’t want much for her birthday. Just dinner with her family as well as Pastor Tim and his wife. It turns out that that dinner is a setup so she can get her parents’ permission to be baptised. Elizabeth is as taken aback as Phillip is; she attends church with Paige in order to spend time with her, but also as part of the KGB’s recruitment process. She didn’t realise that Paige was this serious about her faith. Phillip and Elizabeth’s argument about whether or not to recruit Paige into the KGB has been the central conflict of The Americans’ third season, and finally Elizabeth tells her husband that yes, she does want to recruit Paige. She wants her daughter to know where her parents come from, but it’s more than that. Elizabeth believes in what she’s fighting for, moreso than Phillip. But Paige’s ploy to get her parents permission to be baptised is exactly the kind of thing the KGB are looking for – ideologically she has the right ideas, and she’s also able to trick her parents. The only person in this equation who doesn’t know that her parents also happen to be professional spies is Paige.

Meanwhile, Phillip and Elizabeth have work to do at their actual job. They’ve made a decision to try and recruit Kimmie. Phillip is worried that she’s too young to be recruited (the parallels to Paige here are fairly obvious), but Elizabeth assures him it will be fine. Phillip comes across Kimmie and her friends after they were banned from a nightclub in Maryland – the drinking age in DC is 18, but higher in Maryland. I didn’t realise the national drinking age of 21 was introduced after the 1980s, but it’s 18 over here in Australia, so I never had to worry about that. So Phillip endears himself to the girls by being the guy that can get them decent fake IDs. Because they’re 18, Kimmie and her friends are impressed, and having a guy who can get you a good fake ID is pretty much the best thing ever. Phillip smokes pot with the kids, and listens to ‘Yaz’ (the Stateside term for band Yazoo) with Kimmie before buying the album for Paige, another source of conflict with Elizabeth (the argument over Paige’s birthday present is just another proxy argument for Paige’s recruitment). Then after Paige’s birthday dinner, when Phillip and Elizabeth are arguing about what to do with their daughter, the Centre calls. Kimmie wants to meet with Phillip; it seems she has a bit of a crush on him. Phillip had better tread carefully.

Across the road, Stan is still trying to fix his relationship with Sandra by going to EST despite the fact that he thinks it’s bullshit, and says as much in the meeting. Another EST attendee asks him out for drinks, but Stan is still trying to fix his marriage. It seems that what Sandra has told him about honesty has finally gotten through to him, because he tells her all about Nina. Sandra walks back inside without saying a word. Susan Misner is doing great work on this show, even though Sandra doesn’t have much depth. I think it would be good for Stan to let go, but given that Sandra’s new partner (I think his name is Arnold, but I have no idea) is even less of a character than she is, I wouldn’t be surprised if Stan and Sandra reunited at some point. Stan is also worried that the defector they currently have under protection is actually a spy; she has every reason to be, since she’s going to be in meetings with high clearance personnel. So far this season’s spy storyline has focused on the proxy war in Afghanistan, and she’s involved in that, but the mission in the series premiere was to take out a Russian defector. Is she a double agent or will she end up dead? Knowing this show, it’s entirely possible that it will be both.

Finally we come to Nina, who has been used sparingly this season. I’ve noticed that Nina and Martha haven’t appeared in the same episode so far. I like Annet Mahendru’s performance as Nina, so I find the character fascinating, but I have no idea how far this story will go. If Nina manages to get the required information from her cellmate, is she going to go back to America? I like that The Americans just shows how good Nina is at getting people to trust her. She did it with Stan, her boss who the FBI trained for treason, and now her cellmate. Her cellmate said she doesn’t have a boyfriend, and Nina fakes nightmares and tells her the story of how she got arrested in order to gain her trust. It’s never explicit that Nina’s nightmare was faked, but Annet Mahendru is such a good actress that if they needed her to cry properly in this scene she wouldn’t be able to. Nina’s a pretty good actress as well.

Other thoughts:

  • No Martha this week; Phillip tells Elizabeth that Martha wants foster children, and Elizabeth asks who wears the pants in that relationship.
  • I’ve said this before, but the show’s portrayal of Phillip and Elizabeth’s marriage is one of the most realistic on television, especially now that Friday Night Lights is over. Just because two people love each other, it doesn’t mean they always agree, especially when it comes to their children.
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