The Americans Thread: Only Human

There are only two episodes remaining in the final season of The Americans. The episodes keep getting more and more intense. The Summit was the best installment thus far. It contained a major plot development that surprised even me and I’m watching closely. We’ll get to that after the spoiler break.

It’s odd that the show runners haven’t used any Todd Rundgren, with or without Utopia, songs over the course of the series. (I googled it and couldn’t find any without going down an epic rabbit hole. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.) It’s time to rectify that with what amounts to a theme song for this recap.

I’ll explain Only Human‘s relevance after the spoiler break; even if the post is a day late, I know not everyone was watched The Summit yet. Here’s a hint: Gorbachev is the chap in the fedora, the better to hide the splotch on his head.

The episode opens with an intense scene between Philip and Elizabeth. He tells her of his contacts with Oleg and why he was sent to America. She feels betrayed and is deeply wounded when Philip implies that she’s an automaton, following orders from the center without wondering *why* they do the things they do. The best line in the scene came from Elizabeth: “You lied to me for months because of Gorbachev?”

Politics has a way of getting in the way of relationships. It’s why I don’t believe in mixed political marriages.

It’s a devastating scene. Initially, I thought their relationship was toast but later developments proved me wrong. I like being proven wrong by the writers. It happened several times during this episode. We’ll get back to Elizabeth and Philip at the end of the recap when Elizabeth surprised the hell out of me. In the end, she proved she’s Only Human.

Death By Paintbrush: Erica Haskard is ready to die. Her arms control negotiating, baseball loving husband Glenn has botched an attempt to ease her out of this life. When Stephanie/Elizabeth arrives, Erica is still alive so her caretaker finishes the job.

We’ve seen Elizabeth kill many people in the last six seasons but this is her first mercy killing. She essentially smothers/chokes Erica with an appropriate tool: a paintbrush. It may be a mercy killing but it’s the most graphic one on the series so far. Erica’s mind was ready to go but her body has a mind of its own.

Glenn makes the obvious gesture and offers Stephanie/Elizabeth one of Erica’s paintings. She takes one that is so big that it barely fits into her station wagon. She briefly considers keeping it since Erica is one of the few people she’s ever seen as an equal but, in the end, it’s evidence so she burns it in her spy lair.

Glenn is too devastated to work so Elizabeth finds a plan-B to bug the meeting.

Jackson the Marietta Cineaste: Wendy/Elizabeth convinces the naive intern to take a box into a room at the State Department where US diplomats are meeting with Goby’s man Nesterenko. Claudia is convinced that he’s a sell-out, up to no good. Of course, she’s not exactly in favor of Perestroika and/or Glasnost. I visualize her as the Madame DeFarge of the Stalinist era show trials, knitting and cheering the prosecution on.

Elizabeth seals the deal by springing a honey trap on the young film buff. It was her easiest seduction ever: it’s a 21-year-old dude’s dream to be seduced by a beautiful, sophisticated older woman. It’s unclear if they watched The Big Heat together but Jackson brought a VHS of the classic Fritz Lang film noir. Speaking of femme fatales, here’s Gloria Graham in that very movie:

Jackson had the best day of his life, immediately followed by the worst. Elizabeth asks her “knight in shining armor” to fetch the box. Jackson makes the mistake of opening it and finding a listening device. She tries to convince him this is SOP for lobbyists in “the real world,” but he’s not buying it. He nearly bought the farm but Elizabeth spares his life. For now. I think he may spill the beans and he’ll either be killed or a star witness for the FBI.

The Stan Track: Our favorite Feeb is a methodical investigator. He’s what the Brits would call an Officer Plod. He sometimes misses the obvious: the sketches at the office are much better than the ones done in season 1. A sketch of Philip in his Chicago disguise looks like Stan’s bestie with a goatee. Perhaps he’s under Dennis’ sway: “They’re either all the same people or all different people,”

Stan The Man pays a visit to Curtis who was one of KGB spy/Elizabeth boy friend Gregory’s drug gang back in season 1. Curtis has gone straight and is flipping burgers at a Roy Rogers fast food joint. Boy howdy. Stan shows him a picture of Elizabeth who he *almost* identifies but he’s not sure. He does say that Gregory’s friend was beautiful, had hair like a Vidal Sassoon ad, and smoked like a chimney. Sounds like a certain petite spy to me, y’all.

The Stan Track may reach fruition in the penultimate episode. In the previews, we see him on the phone with PASTOR TIM. He, of course, is one of the few people who knows the truth about the Jennings family. He took a vow of silence but he’s a gabby guy. Stay tuned.

One more thing: I’ve come to the conclusion that Walk Away Renee is a blonde red herring. It seems a bit too late in the series to out her as a KGB or Mossad spook. It’s  a pity to waste Laurie Holden who played the woman who got Vic Mackey in The Shield but there you have it. But I may be wrong, I was wrong about Elizabeth, after all.

Nesterenko Good, Claudia Bad: When Elizabeth hears the Nesterenko tapes, she realizes that he’s acting in good faith on behalf of the President of the Soviet Union who is, more importantly to Elizabeth, Chairman of the Communist Party. Elizabeth is the loyalest member of the CPSU imaginable.

Claudia instructs Elizabeth to whack Nesterenko but she cannot do it. She demands to know *why*, Claudia fumbles about before telling her that she’s one of the Dead Hand dead enders and that Elizabeth is their cat’s-paw/pawn. The plan is to edit the tapes and/or Elizabeth’s reports in order to make it look as if Gorby and his man are selling out the country, which will result in a coup that may even strand Gorbachev in Washington.

Elizabeth is horrified and refuses to carry out the mission. I was surprised. I thought she’d figured out what was going on and since she has been anti-reform all season I assumed she’d be down with the KGB/military coup plot. I should not have been surprised: Elizabeth is an idealist and loyal communist. She may not love Gorbachev but unless the party moves against him, she will be loyal to her Chairman.

Elizabeth returned home and informed Philip that she wanted to meet Oleg because “what he fears is happening.” Philip isn’t certain that’s possible because Oleg is being followed BUT he will leave a message for him at the dead drop spot.

The penultimate episode looks amazing. Philip is to meet with a Russian Orthodox priest and the Feebs are following the bearded cleric. Will Philip be swept up and arrested? Will Special Agent Plod finally recognize him? Stay tuned.

The last word goes to Todd Rundgren and Utopia. It’s a song that describes the 1980’s but remains timely; much like The Americans.

2 thoughts on “The Americans Thread: Only Human

  1. I think it was worse than choking her with the paintbrush, it looked like Elizabeth induced vomiting and Erica aspirated the vomit, which is a horrible way to die. But it would be consistent with an accidental death from morphine ingestion in an amount that was not in itself a lethal dose. That would keep the husband out of suspicion in the event the coroner took a close enough look to detect signs of outright asphyxiation or other intentional methods of euthanasia.

    Re: Jackson; I could just see Elizabeth ticking off in her mind, one by one, in those few seconds of silence, the ways she could murder Jackson before deciding that driving around town with a bloody corpse in a Mercedes was too risky and then to let him go. Kid’s a real lucky dog. And not out of the woods yet. Odds on dead Jackson before show’s end? 60/40 dead. Also 60/40 he rats her out first.

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