I’ve thought about recapping FX’s brilliant spy series The Americans for several years. I have finally taken the plunge with Season 5, which finds Philip and Elizabeth digging a hole. Literally.
I posted the picture above even though it comes from Season 4 because I *adore* Frank Langella as KGB spy daddy Gabriel. Langella brings a feline presence to the proceedings with his silky, smooth voice, nondescript sweaters, and wise eyes. If they decide to kill Gabriel off, I plan to go on a hunger strike. No wheat for me, y’all.
In preparation for last night, I watched the first four seasons on Amazon Prime so I’m primed with information, especially if they serve prime rib. I’m just ribbing you: there’s no food in the shops in Moscow when KGB hunk Oleg returns home in the premiere. His new mission is to root out corruption, which his boss informs him is the wish of then Soviet Leader Constantine Chernenko. I had a good laugh at that: Chernenko was as crooked as a snake and his sole qualification to be Soviet leader was that he was Breznhev’s drinking buddy. Vodka is some evil shit. Zazdarovje.
For those of you who DVR’d the season premiere, I’m going undercover for the rest of the post. The only thing spoiled in this post is Dylan Baker’s body. I just lied like a spy. I’m merely inserting a break but first some contemporaneous music:
Now where did I put Philip’s wig? It’s time to stop wigging out and get down to it.
Amber Waves is a typical Americans season premiere. It sets the stage for the rest of the season and moves at a deliberate pace. The only time that was not the case was the pilot way back in 2013 when an exhilarating chase scene was set to Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk. It used to be on YouTube but it’s vanished much like one of Stalin’s henchmen after a long night of drinking. Like Khrushchev, I’m still here.
We meet some new characters: a cranky Russian defector and his unhappy family. Tuan, Philip and Elizabeth’s new fake son, who is spying on said cranky Russian for his fake parents. There’s a lot of fakery in the spy game, y’all. One thing that’s not fake is Elizabeth and Philip’s disgust at the defector’s food whining. They remember when they had to walk 44 kilometers through the snow to eat boiled onion soup, so rat shit infested bread is no biggie. The Great Patriotic War doesn’t sound so great to me, y’all.
Sensitive Christian teen Page is still having difficulty dealing with her parents’ real identities and occupations. Imagine that. She remains traumatized by seeing her spy mama kill a mugger in self-defense. Elizabeth had no choice but, of course, didn’t report it to the police. Who the hell wants Sting mucking about in their business? He might put a message in a bottle and dime them out:
Actually, it would have been worse to have drummer Stewart Copeland mucking about in their business: his father, Miles, was reputed to be “with the company” if you catch my drift. There are spies everywhere. Trust no one, not even Andy Summers. He was briefly Dennis Miller’s chat show band leader, after all.
Back to The Americans. Elizabeth is teaching Page to defend herself as way of getting over the trauma of witnessing her mother snap a mugger’s neck like a drum stick. Meanwhile, Philip is fuming about Page’s relationship with cute blond neighbor kid, Matthew. He’s perfect for Page but his father is FBI counter-spook Stan Beeman. The good news for Philip is that Schnorrer Stan finally brought a six-pack of High Life over. The bad news is that when Stan finds out who his buddy Philip really is, he’s going to be pissed. Additionally, his career will be over like that of his former boss, John Boy in the wake of the Martha scandal. Hopefully, he won’t get whacked in a hotel room like John Boy did. Good night, John Boy. Good night, Stan.
The closing scene shows Philip and Elizabeth leading a team to exhume Dylan Baker’s contaminated corpse. There’s much digging and grunting until they hit toxic pay dirt. You may recall that Baker’s character, William, was another KGB “illegal” agent who specialized in chemical weapons. When he was caught, he took one for the team by injecting himself with a bug that dissolves one’s innards. But what if Hannibal the Cannibal is craving offal for dinner? Oops, wrong show. I wonder if I should insert a joke about Baker’s homicidal character in The Good Wife, Colin Sweeney? Probably not. That would amount to casting pearls before Sweeney…
Our intrepid spies lose a sidekick at the big dig. Elizabeth’s South African protegé Hans is accidentally exposed and she goes all Kervorkian on him and shoots him in the head. It was merciful but Elizabeth is going to suffer over the loss of her gangly Afrikaner protegé. It’s another hit to her steely Soviet resolve. It’s bound to haunt her.
Speaking of ghostly spectres, Philip’s son by another spook is on his trail. His mother was executed by the KGB but left Misha fake papers to allow him to flee the USSR. I’m not sure how this story will play out but Philip’s spy daddy and mommy (Gabriel and Claudia) know all about it. Nothing gets past those two. That’s why they’re spymasters.
One hope I have for Season 5 is that we’ll get to see unwitting traitor Martha’s life in Moscow. The good news for her is that she’s from Minnesota so she’s used to cold weather. The bad news is that, absent a spectacular plot twist, she will never see Clark/Philip again. It’s hard being a Russian dupe, just ask the Insult Comedian.
All of this talk about digging has given me an eighties earworm. It comes from Pete Townshend’s 1989 album Iron Man and finds him regrouping with two old pals, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle: