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The Americans 5.13 “The Soviet Division” Review: It’s Us

31 May

There are a couple of threads running through season five of The Americans that culminate in some big decision moments; first the idea of staying together and this applies to partnerships and the family unit as a whole. The other is the impact on the teenage characters of which this show has a number of extending way beyond just Paige and Henry.

In fact both of these threads have been important for some time now and back toward the end of season 3 I wrote about how teen girls rule the world on The Americans (they just don’t know it), but this has now been extended to several boy teens. Boy teens are typically ignored or just sit and wave (oh hey Chris Brody) on prestige dramas so this is going against the norm in making them integral.Let’s start with the scariest boy teen there is and if Elizabeth is trying to make Paige in her own image, well there’s already a spy version who is even more committed to the cause than even she is. Tuan is terrifying because like a lot of teens he has strong opinions and he’s also super impulsive. Yes his plan worked, but Pasha did almost die and they can’t ever know whether he would’ve survived if Philip hadn’t stomped over there.

He sees weakness in Philip and Elizabeth and he has the perfect one-liners to throw at them including their “certain petty [or petit] bourgeois concerns.” Those concerns on this occasion being whether a teenage boy is going to live or die. Not whether to get McDonald’s for dinner.Tuan admits his own weakness in his report and also points to Philip and Elizabeth’s failings, ‘failings’ which can be attributed to their experience and the fact that a) they have been working on multiple operations and b) they work as a pair. So despite Philip’s potentially rash choice to break protocol and head over to Pasha’s house while a CIA agent is posted outside, Elizabeth is by his side in an instant.

Early in the episode as they discuss Tuan, Philip notes how young he is and Elizabeth wishes she could take him with them back to the Soviet Union. Elizabeth sees a lot of herself in him and despite his hard exterior she knows that he needs someone. When she has her one-on-one chat with him after he has attempted to ream them out – the side eye Elizabeth gives is magnificent – Elizabeth points to his weakness.

Telling him he will fail if he stays by himself is a very on theme message for this episode and season as a whole. After all they were very young when they started this dangerous life and they have always had each other, even when they weren’t together together.I keep coming back to the conversation at the end of “Lotus 1-2-3” and the unifying statement Philip makes telling Elizabeth he can’t let her take over the whole thing because “It’s us,” but ultimately the point they come to by the end of the finale is that this is the path they are going to take. Kimmy’s dad has been promoted and he’s going to be the head of the Soviet Division.

This is the spy jackpot and everything they have been working towards; Philip considers getting rid of the tape and whether it is duty to country or knowing that he can’t lie to Elizabeth he refrains from doing this. I suspect it is more the latter and the ‘normal’ life they have been dreaming of disappears as soon as he tells her about the tape’s contents.

Family is important to Elizabeth and yet she is a soldier for her country first and there is no way she can leave now they have this goldmine opportunity. But hey this means Henry can go to boarding school now. Elizabeth understands why Philip yelled at their son in the same way she totally got it when he tore out the pages of Paige’s Bible; it is a culmination of so many things and fun dad is not always fun. Especially when he is slowly being ripped apart from all the shit they have to do.This brings me to another theme of the episode with Elizabeth’s reasoning as to why moving back home will be great “All of us together without all of this shit on our backs” and Stan telling Renee that he is “tired of feeling shitty.” They’re all at a crossroads and the parallels are hard to ignore; different sides, but the same awful side psychological side effects. They all have to manipulate and put other people’s lives on the line. People have got hurt and worse along the way and it is getting too much to handle.

Stan’s situation is also running concurrent to Oleg’s (who sadly does not appear in the finale) and they are both good agents trying to do the right thing. This is something Renee emphasizes to Stan as a reason why he should keep doing what he is doing and she is definitely a spy, right? Or the writers are throwing up another red herring.

Either way there is no confirmation about her status, but Philip remains suspicious and also has times for jokes pondering what it would be like if they ever had kids quipping that Paige thinks she has it bad.It is good that despite his soul being shattered into pieces, Philip can still see the dark humor in their dark situation but the pipe dream of getting away and living a happy life in Russia as a family is over by the end of this finale.

Also this fantasy of a happy life together back home is of course a fantasy because there is no way that Henry (and even Paige) would react well to this massive change. And it is not just their kids who would find it hard and as Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” plays we see Elizabeth looking at her wardrobe full of clothes and kitchen appliances. Their petty bourgeois concerns.

In fact this relates to a scene from season 2 after Philip bought the Camaro and he asked Elizabeth if there was anything that she liked about this life. She denied it at the time, but her wistful glances at her beautiful shoes tells another story. It would be a massive lifestyle shift for all and even when they’re talking about planning a European vacation as their cover there is an end of The Graduate like moment where they both look a little unsure about the course they have set for themselves.Ultimately this is all irrelevant by the end of the episode because they’re staying put and when Philip apologizes to his daughter about not having the normal things like a dog or a regular boyfriend across the street, it is because he already knows what his wife will say when he tells her about the tape. It is a heartbreaking scene for a number of reasons as he slowly welcomes his fate. There is no escaping this life.

Paige is embracing certain aspects and like Tuan she’s a risk taker; parking her car in the same place where she saw her mother spring into full on defense mode and this feels like a test. A test to see if she can defend herself or at least confront her fears about getting attacked. It is also pretty dumb. Later on she takes a smack to the mouth from her mother and she’s still got ways to go before she is as tough as her teacher. Although she takes it pretty well, this is very Elizabeth Jennings of her.Because Philip and Elizabeth lost their father’s at an early age, they both know what a loss like this can do and they are on the same side when it comes to this notion of keeping a family together. This is why they both fight for ensuring Alexei returns to Moscow with his wife and son. He’s too scared despite Tatiana’s earlier assurances and it looks like he will be staying behind. Part of their attempts at reversing his choice comes from guilt feelings at the things they have done – see Young Hee – and because they are tired of ruining so many lives. Philip’s concerns are impacting Elizabeth in this way.

One person who has seen positive growth since the spy world unknowingly entered her life is Kimmy and Philip as Jim emphasizes how much she has changed for the better when he reveals he is moving to Japan. Guessing Jim’s job is going to fall through now and if Elizabeth gets her way this will be the only operation Philip will be running from now on. The fact that Kimmy looked like she was going to get out of this whole mess better off, only to unknowingly become a bigger part of their scheme is pretty depressing. Can she remain unscathed? And will her friend ever get to Japan? Oleg and Mischa Jr. are absent this week, but there is one Russia thread that managed to shine a ray of light and not only is Martha’s Russian coming on, but they’re also making sure she isn’t alone as they’re giving her a super cute (or adorable) orphan girl. This feels like a good thing and after all it was what Martha wanted with Clark, but there’s also part of me wondering if there is something more insidious at play because intentions are rarely pure on this show.

So what about that big conversation at the end? In true Americans tradition the conversation itself is rather sedate and a quiet end to a mostly quiet and meditative season. If season 1 ended with Elizabeth telling Philip to come home in their native tongue then in this moment she is setting him free. It is still proclamation of “It’s us” but in telling Philip she will go it alone from now on she is doing her duty to both country and her marriage. Plus he’s still going to be some pretty important work (as well as running the travel agency) and if he can look a little less sad in season 6 well then that will be a victory for Elizabeth.

This being The Americans it is probably not going to be as simple as that and while this year has seen a less explosive season than one might expect for the penultimate outing getting to the point where Philip is bowing out while Elizabeth stays in is pretty huge. Especially as they’re doing it together. “It’s us.”

When Not to Make Jokes“My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” This is from the news item Paige is watching (and Henry is oblivious to, because of course) and it also gives us a date in time around when this episode is set; August 11, 1984.

This shot is also an appropriate time to once again to give a shout out to the production design department for the Jennings family photos.

The Return of My Favorite Philip TopStill on the hunt for a retro Dunlop tee and Philip is once again taunting me with this perfect version.

 

Until next year and the final 10 episodes of The Americans. It has been a pleasure!

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4 Responses to “The Americans 5.13 “The Soviet Division” Review: It’s Us”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Scott Speedman Was a Disaster of a Boyfriend and Other Important Felicity Things | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 31, 2017

    […] Keri Russell received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it was season 5 finale of The Americans and she appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! with former co-star and ex-boyfriend Scott […]

  2. Out of the Box: Look of the Week | TV Ate My Wardrobe - June 9, 2017

    […] Fashion Awards, which I covered here and June has started well on the fashion front. There was no Americans this week, but Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys did go to the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic on […]

  3. Out of the Box: Look of the Week | TV Ate My Wardrobe - August 25, 2017

    […] delivering on the contradictions in Ozark and I’m also looking forward to seeing how Kimmy will play a part in the final season of The Americans as Philip’s only spy operation.I’m so excited […]

  4. Celebrating the 75th Golden Globes with Bold Print and Color | TV Ate My Wardrobe - November 16, 2017

    […] she does in 2018. Namely the Waco miniseries and how much Kimmy will be in the final season of The Americans. I should probably also watch Ozark.Oh, hello. Turtleneck with a suit achievement unlocked and I […]

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