The Americans Thread: When Oleg Met Philip

I was on the fence about recapping the sixth and final season of The Americans. But the minute the episode commenced with Don’t Dream It’s Over, I was hooked, fished in, captured, and dragged off to a safe house.

There’s been a substantial time shift. The show has moved forward three years to 1987. Holy Quantum Leap, Batman. A lot happened during those three years, especially the seismic changes brought about by the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. Everyone on both sides is divided as to how to deal with Gorby including our characters.

The 1987 divide remains resonant in 2018. America is badly divided and it’s partially due to Russia. The victory of the “Russian good guys” was ephemeral. We know where Putin stood at the time and he continues to promote irredentist policies to avenge the demise of the Soviet Union. Spies are back in vogue on the Volga.

Before our spoiler break, let’s squeeze into a Crowded House:

There have been many changes since we last met our main characters:

  • Philip has hung up his cloak and dagger and turned a travel agency that was once a front for espionage into a thriving business. He’s even taken up line dancing.
  • Elizabeth is still at it and it’s taking its toll on her: she looks like a zombie spy girl: haggard, pale, and thin even for Keri Russell.
  • Our favorite Russian, Oleg Burov has left the KGB and moved to his father’s ministry of transportation. He’s married and has a baby but he remains the do-gooders do-gooder.
  • Paige has joined the family business and I’m not talking about the travel agency. I’m saddened but not surprised. She’s always been Elizabeth’s Mini-Me. Sigh.
  • We only see our favorite Feeb Stan briefly but Renee has not walked away and Elizabeth still suspects her of being a KGB plant.

The action in Dead Hand revolves around an upcoming high stake arms control meeting. Soviet hardliners distrust the Americans and their own leader. Gorby is skating on thin ice. Philip and Oleg stand with Gorby whereas Elizabeth and Claudia remain hawkish. Anyone surprised? I thought not.

In the interest of brevity, I’m going to focus on two aspects of the episode, which sets the table for the final season. When I decided to recap the final season, I vowed not to get lost in the weeds. We’ll see how that works out. I may need some Round-Up after this, uh. round-up.

The Killing Of A Chinese Food Junkie: This segment deals with baby spy Paige Jennings but I couldn’t resist the Cassavetes reference. He *is* my countryman after all. If you’re unfamiliar with the reference here’s a picture postcard (poster, actually) to clarify matters:

Paige has taken the plunge but she’s still not comfortable in her spy skin. In her ballcap and shades, she resembles her mother but she’s a green spook. We first see her at Claudia’s crib watching what appears to be a Russian soap opera. It looked terrible but it gave Elizabeth a chance to take a cat nap.

Paige’s big moment involves a stake-out and a sailor who spots her in the family’s nondescript brown sedan. He turns out to be part of the security detail for the nearby Naval Observatory, which still serves as the Veep’s residence. For all we know, Poppy Bush was playing horseshoes or yelling at W at that very moment.

The sailor checks out Paige’s, uh, documents. He tries to talk her in to joining him for Chinese food but she asks for a rain check. He foolishly keeps her fake ID so she’ll show up. It was a fatal mistake for both of them.

Mini-Me tells her mother/spymaster what happened. Elizabeth assures her that she handled it well by not panicking and blurting out, “I’m a baby spy.” Elizabeth finds the sailor and stabs him to death: dead squids tell no tales. Mommie Dearest had nothing on Elizabeth.

It will be interesting to see what, if any reaction, Paige has to the killing of a Chinese food junkie. The Paige of season-4 would have been horrified, but she’s been under Claudia’s wing so she may already be used to this sort of thing by now. Stay tuned.

The Dead Hand Dead-Enders: Dead Hand is a Soviet missile system that guarantees massive retaliation even if they’re all killed by an American nuclear first strike. Holy doomsday, Batman.¬† KGB hardliners are worried that Gorbachev who had a weak hand might trade away Dead Hand in the upcoming negotiations. They are determined to prevent this, otherwise they will move against Gorby. This is some serious shit. y’all.

The fears of the Dead Hand Dead-Enders sets three of our characters on a collision course. Claudia dispatches Elizabeth to Mexico City to meet with the sinisterly handsome Gen. Kuvton who is the General Jack D. Ripper of season-6; end of inevitable Dr. Strangelove reference. This plan is so dangerous that the General gives Elizabeth an amulet containing poison. She must either succeed or die. It’s time for a cyanide sigh.

The meeting was set up behind the back of Claudia and Elizabeth’s bosses at the Center in Moscow. It’s a rogue operation that targets Gorbachev and his reform faction. We learn this because our old friend Arkady, who used to be the KGB honcho in DC, is now the deputy director of Section S. Arkady is pro-Gorbachev and has a plan to thwart the Dead Hand Dead-Enders that involves his former employee, Oleg Burov.

Over his wife’s protests, Oleg agrees to go to Washington to meet with another retired spook, Philip. As one of Philip’s former handlers, Arkady knows that Philip is an EST-attending, Cadillac driving, line-dancing liberal. The plan is for Oleg to convince Philip to convince Elizabeth to not go through with the Dead Hand Dead-Enders’ plan. Initially, Philip demurs but finally agrees to try. It’s his Michael Corleone in Godfather 3 moment:

The stage has been set for an eventful final season. I cannot wait to see the look on Stan Beamon’s face when he learns that his neighbor and best friend Philip Jennings is a Russian illegal. It may push Stan over the edge. One or more of the major characters are destined to die. It could be at Stan’s hands. Stay tuned.

As usual, the producers’ use of music is brilliant. What’s not to love about a soundtrack that uses Crowded House, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, and Fleetwood Mac?

The use of Stevie Nicks’ Gold Dust Woman¬†from Rumours evokes the series premiere and its brilliant use of Tusk. The circle is unbroken. The last word goes to Fleetwood Mac: