“Paige, your father and I … We …”
“We were born in a … different country.”
And just like that, one of the biggest pressure valves on The Americans bursts open. After a season of Philip trying to protect their daughter, Paige, from being drawn into the control of the KGB and Elizabeth trying to gradually introduce her to the idea, the girl has called them out on their mysterious behavior at the behest of Pastor Tim and learned the truth about what her mother and father.
Now she knows. And, to quote another pop culture touchstone from the 1980s, knowing is half the battle. Except whatever fight Paige is being pulled into is probably just beginning.
After last week’s heart-crushing episode opened a moral chasm for Keri Russell’s Elizabeth, tonight’s installment of The Americans, titled simply “Stingers,” was mostly setting the chessboard for the end of the season and clearing way for this showdown between Holly Taylor’s Paige and her secretive mother and father to play out unencumbered.
The episode begins at the travel agency, which always makes me wonder: Do Philip and Elizabeth actually have to do this job on top of everything else? I’m sure the Soviet Union underwrites their business in some way, and they also have employees who must do something. Can you imagine what happens when Barb really does forget to file the agency sales report with the ATC? I digress…
Into the agency strolls none other than Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin), who says he’s not there to talk about Paige, he just needs a travel agent to help arrange a missionary trip to Kenya in July. (But oh, yeah, he’s really there to talk about Paige.)
“Why don’t you all come with us?” Pastor Tim suggests.
Friendly Smile™ from Philip. “I would love to take her abroad. But um, now’s not the right time, to be honest.”
“It’s always a good time for parents and children to get closer,” the good pastor says.
“It’s not that simple right now,” Philip says, which is KGB code for Get out of my grill, pastor!
“A kid like Paige, really needs to be treated more like an adult than a child.”
Oh baby. The look on Matthew Rhys’ face when this stranger speaks these words. RUN, PASTOR TIM!
But Philip pulls it together: “Do you have kids?”
Pastor Tim’s mouth falls open in a prolonged, “Ummm…”
“Let’s look at some dates,” Philip says, Friendly Smile™.
We then cut to a movie theater, where Noah Emmerich’s Agent Stan Beeman is watching Tootsie with defector Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya (Svetlana Efremova) and two other stone-faced agents.
Last episode, Stan and Oleg Burov (Costa Ronin) joined forces to threaten Zinaida in the hope of discovering she is actually a double agent whose defection was orchestrated by the KGB to get her close to American counter-Soviet leadership. Until now, we haven’t known whether she is or isn’t, but their plan is to expose Zinaida, get her arrested by the American side, and then trade her for their imprisoned mutual love Nina—currently detained back in Mother Russia for similarly playing both sides of the fence.
But Nina (Annet Mahendru) is taking care of herself, thank you, boys. She has been tasked with “befriending” and studying the kidnapped scientist Anton Baklanov (Michael Aronov), who is trying—maaaayyybe—to help his captors crack stealth technology. “If the people here want me to get results, they need to get me what I ask for,” he says to her. “Photographs. Simple Photographs.”
“To get a photograph they need to find a way to get an agent in place,” she explains, betraying a knowledge he didn’t think she had. “It could take months, even years.”
Despite showing her nothing but scorn until now, he softens and asks: “Where did you learn English?”
“Here,” she says. And then, after a beat: “And in America.”
It may take many more years before the one in Berlin comes down, but here … a wall just cracked. A little. Anton has come to a realization: They are all captives in this place.
Still, back in the U.S. of A., Stan and Oleg are trying to save Nina. As you probably remember from last week, their gambit didn’t make Zinaida so much as flinch. But … after excusing herself to use the movie rest room, we catch her planting a secret message under the sink.
Confirmation! The defector is playing the FBI. But Oleg and Stan don’t know this yet.
After the credit sequence, we see a pair of hands opening a metal box that was being hidden under some floorboards. Another secret stash by someone who is not who they say they ar—?
Nope. Just the Jennings’ teenage son Henry (Keidrich Sellati), hiding some sexytime pics he cut out of magazines and catalogs. Henry has been a bit on the periphery for most of this show’s run, but “Stingers” gives Sellati some great comic-relief bits to play with while finally giving the character a place within the grinding gears of his family’s relationship with neighbor Stan. In a lot of ways, both of them are little boys who just don’t know what the hell is going on and are driven by impulse.
Paige tells her parents she encouraged Pastor Tim to come to their office about the Kenya trip, but … I have a hard time believing that. Pastor Tim is a top-notch Svengali, and I put a lot of credence behind those theories that the church is actually The Organization’s way of monitoring the Jennings’ and nudging Paige into the tradecraft. (Remember how she got into it: meeting a young girl on the bus while running away to visit’s the “aunt” she didn’t think existed while The Organization tried desperately to help Philip and Elizabeth get her back.) I’m sure Pastor Tim wanted to go to the travel agency and convinced Paige it was her idea—and a great one at that!
Count me among those conspiracy theorists who think Pastor Tim is trying to hasten Paige’s transition as an agent.
Suddenly a call comes in and it’s for Philip. What? You don’t say … He has to go! “Barb never filed the agency sales report with the ATC!”
Thanks a lot, Barb. World’s worst travel agent employee.
Of course, that was actually The Organization and Philip has been sent to rescue his distressing mark Kimmy (Julia Garner) from a drug- and booze-filled party. “I think you’re the only one who really cares about me,” she mutters once he gets her home. While Kimmy is in the bathroom, Philip hotfoots it down to her dad’s study and recovers the recorder they placed in his attaché case.
On it is news so vital that he goes home and wakes up Elizabeth to hear it.
NEXT: The CIA has some important visitors coming to discuss Afghanistan …