'The Americans' recap: 'Dimebag'
Let's talk about Yaz.
Despite making a strong impression with its use of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk,” music has never really taken a prominent role so far in The Americans’ three-season run—so when music is featured at all, you can’t help but notice. Music is a big deal in “Dimebag,” at first lingering around the edges, then creeping its way directly into the plot, before finally dropping in to bring home the episode’s themes in a sickening final moment.
However, this episode isn’t just about music. It’s about a bunch of other things. Like weed.
“Dimebag” opens, appropriately, with Elizabeth incognito in a park, watching Kimberly—CIA Afghan Group leader Isaac Breland’s daughter—buy a dimebag of pot from a dealer. The Jennings, with no other way in to the Afghan Group left, have decided to make her an asset. This, of course, makes Phillip uncomfortable—they have to seduce and exploit a teenage girl. That’s a line they’ve never crossed before.
The Jennings aren’t the only ones crossing lines this week, either—in a Moscow prison, Nina is told that her new roommate Evi was caught leaving intelligence for a spy boyfriend. If Nina can get her to talk, then the government will make an effort to pass a more lenient sentence on her. Of course, this requires Nina to be more cordial than she has been since Evi’s arrival. She takes on the task in earnest, slowly opening up to Evi throughout the episode, coldly manipulating her into becoming close.
Meanwhile, Paige is blurring the line between Church and State in her home—when her parents ask what she wants for her birthday, she tells them that she’d love to have her Pastor Jim and his wife over for dinner. This, of course, sets Phillip and Elizabeth on edge—privately, they wonder to each other if she did it just to get to them—but they’re all smiles in front of Paige.
Stan, who is apparently still going to EST, ends up crossing a line of his own—from observer to participant. When Lawrence, the creepy EST leader, calls Stan to the front to work out how he feels about his divorce, the FBI agent is resistant at first, but the silent peer pressure drives him forward. Stan gives Lawrence’s role-playing the old college try, but when Lawrence uses the word “asshole” Stan flips and calls Lawrence an asshole and says EST is bullshit.
This, of course—emotional honesty—is the intended effect, and the crowd applauds. Afterward, a woman named Tori gives Stan her number. When he turns down an invitation of hers, Phillip says he’s crazy. He is single, after all. Stan, however, won’t believe that he is.
Now’s a good time to return to what we started talking about with regards to “Dimebag”: music. As it blasts from inside a popular nightclub, Kimberly and her friends are turned away at the door on account of their fake IDs. Lucky for them, Phillip is there waiting for them—in a shaggy wig and calling himself Jim, a lawyer from New York. He pokes gentle fun at them for their fake IDs and says he can get them better ones with a friend’s help. He gives them a number.
When they call that number later, “Jim” agrees to meet them in a park with their promised fakes. Kimberly is listening to a walkman, and Phillip asks what she’s listening to. She hands him the headphones and tells him it’s the new Yaz record. He compliments her taste. She tells him to call her Kimmy. Everyone watching at home feels very uncomfortable.
Exacerbating the discomfort is the fact that Phillip decides to surprise Paige by getting the record (which, FYI, is Upstairs at Eric’s) as a surprise gift. Paige loves the gift, but it makes Elizabeth very, very angry—she sees it as a game of one-upmanship, an instance of Phillip reneging on their agreement to get her a gift from the two of them. Phillip claims the record is no different from all the time Elizabeth spends with Paige at church activities. This leads to the most heated exchange in the episode, one that shows the Jennings drawing dangerous lines in the sand:
“It is happening. It is just happening, Phillip,” says Elizabeth, strongly implying that she’s going to tell Paige the truth of who she is. “And yeah, I’m doing it. With or without you.”
And while our favorite FBI agent’s activities—which at the moment involve babysitting Soviet defector Zinaida—are very far removed from the Yaz record that set off a bomb in the Jennings home, it can’t help making a pretty fun appearance in his subplot. Stan, you see, doesn’t trust Zinaida. She’s getting a hell of a lot of access to very important government leaders, and there might be more to her than there appears to be. However, Stan can’t find anything concrete to back up his gut feeling—one that grows stronger when she spends an extra long time in the bathroom when they’re eating at a diner together.
This leads to the most fun scene in the episode, where Stan returns to the diner just after they close and frantically searches the bathroom for clues while “Don’t Go” plays on the soundtrack. He doesn’t find anything.
At Paige’s birthday dinner, the Jennings find out that their daughter had an ulterior motive to having her pastor over—she wants to get baptized. To “wash away her old life, and make herself clean for Jesus Christ.” This infuriates Elizabeth—although she doesn’t show it—and Phillip cautions her, saying that if she tells Paige the truth now, everything will blow up in their faces.
They never get to talk about it. Instead, they get a call. It’s a message from Kimberly. She wants to meet with “Jim.” And so Phillip complies, meeting her that night at a park, rolling a joint out of a dimebag of weed, and listening to the Yaz record he bought his daughter. As he lights up, the girl that could be his daughter snuggles up against him, under his jacket. “Only You” is playing. Phillip takes a puff of the joint and looks hollow inside.
There is a subplot in which Elizabeth visits another one of her assets incognito—Lisa, the AA sponsor from the season 2 episode “Martial Eagle.” She tells Lisa she’s fallen off the wagon. Lisa’s husband, Maurice, is pretty hostile toward her, but that’s because he’s drinking now himself. Lisa’s role is going to be a recurring one, I believe, so it’ll be interesting to see where this goes, even if it isn’t entirely clear now.
Best scene: When Stan asks the waitress at the diner how the burgers are, she replies, “Fair.” When Stan says that “Fair” isn’t quite the ringing endorsement, she deadpans, “Do you want a ringing endorsement or do you want to know how the burgers are?”
HENRY WATCH: Henry is in two (!) scenes today—one in which he’s studying state capitals with his dad on flashcards, and briefly again during the birthday dinner. Both scenes are really about Paige. There should be some kind of Bechdel test for younger brothers in prestige dramas. We can call it the Henry Test. I’m not entirely serious, but this is a fascination of mine.
MARTHAAAAA: No Martha. :(