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The Americans Hits at Insecurities and Relationships

The characters of The Americans often deal with insecurity. It’s a part of living lives dependent on secrets. These insecurities come and go, but are never forgotten. Some characters handle it better than others. Some seem poised to throw everything into chaos. So far season 5 has decidedly avoided chaos, but it has not avoided the insecurities which create it. “Immersion” brought them to the forefront and resulted in an episode filled with moments revolving around various anxieties.

Spoilers for 5×08 “Immersion” below

Recap

Philip returns home after the talk with Gabriel. He tells Elizabeth what he said about Renee and Paige and questions whether Gabriel ever cared about them. She tries to make Philip feel better, but is clearly surprised. She wonders about a life where no one had to do what they do.

Holy crap, Elizabeth questioning her career.

Later, Henry has some friends over to play video games, including a girl his parents think he likes. Stan and them talk about it and also about Renee. When he asks about Paige, the Jenningses do a decent job playing it off. Across the pond, Oleg’s room is searched by Directorate K agents. By search I mean they tear the place apart. Good thing Oleg burned that tape and map. After they leave, Oleg’s father wants to call about the search but Oleg stops him.

Back in America, Elizabeth and Pasha’s mother Evgeny talk about Pasha and her teaching job. Seems Tuan is the only thing keeping Pasha sane. Evgeny says her class is having a weekend at a student’s house where they will only speak Russian. She also talks about a ladies man in her class.

Next the episode sees Elizabeth and Philip make their first visit to their new handler: Claudia! I’m not surprised and very happy. Their visit is brief and the Jenningses say they don’t want the same kind of relationship with her that they did with Gabriel. Claudia says she’s okay with that. Part of their briefing is that she wants them to continue their relationships with Ben and Deidre until they hear about the plants they stole.

In the next scene, though, Elizabeth decides to cancel her next visit with Ben. Philip decides to do the same with Deidre, which gets a happy little smile out of Elizabeth.

Turns out Stan didn’t chase off their TASS contact, as she meets with him and Aderholt. They give her specifics about financial assistance and ask about her coworkers. She describes a small office where no one can hide anything, as well as a GRU officer named Yuri. The agents make sure she’s prepared to answer questions about her lunch break. She also asks if they can help her find a dentist and reacts happily when they will help.

Elizabeth and Philip then make their calls to cancel their dates. Ben is disappointed but Deidre uses the opportunity to break up with Philip. Yes, this was rather funny and obviously coming after last week. Turns out he is too nice for her and she wants someone assertive.

Speaking of assertive, Paige’s training has come along NICELY.

I’m equal parts sad and proud.

She has damn near become a ninja. During a break she says she’s sick of feeling scared. Elizabeth tells her about being raped, and her own difficulties overcoming that feeling of fear. She talks about training hard every day to be sure it would never happen to her again, and how she’ll make sure Paige feels the same.

Oleg makes a less emotional confession to his own boss about the search of his apartment. He also tells his boss about finding his mother’s file from her time in prison. Turns out he did so without permission he needed. His boss says that is a problem, but not something he would be searched over. He also says his mother’s imprisonment wasn’t serious, and that she was pardoned because of his father’s power.

Philip walks in on Elizabeth doing Tai Chi before bed and tells her about Deidre. She assumes he failed because he doesn’t want the Martha incident to occur again, and Philip rejects the idea. She also accuses EST of being the problem, which Philip also rejects. Then it’s confession time for Elizabeth, who tells Philip about her talk with Paige.

Time for some spy work! The crew follows Pasha’s mother to her “student weekend,” which turns out to be a motel where she’s having an affair with one of her students. Meanwhile Stan and Aderholt plan possible meeting routes for their TASS contact. Stan shows reluctance to them all. Elizabeth meets with Claudia, who tells her he’s a CIA agent probably in line to become head of the CIA station in Moscow. They plan to push Evgeny and Pasha to want to return home as leverage against the agent.

Claudia tells Elizabeth about returning home and her family not knowing her. In return, Elizabeth talks about life going better with her family. She also talks about how she and Philip will never be on the same frequency regarding Paige. While they talk, Philip makes another call to Deidre. He pleas again on her voicemail and tells her he’s married. This works and Deidre answers the phone.

They meet later with Tuan to talk about pushing Pasha and his mother into leaving America. Tuan makes a plan to join a group of kids who make life miserable for Pasha. When the “Eckerts” leave, Tuan tells them they should be around more to avoid suspicions. As if they didn’t have enough kid drama, Elizabeth finds Paige flipping channels depressingly at home. They go for a walk where they talk more about Elizabeth’s rape.

The episode ends with Paige wondering if her mother likes being a spy and Elizabeth saying she wish there was no need for spies. When asked what she would do otherwise, she says she would want to become a doctor in third world countries. She views it as the same beneficial mission to the world.

Uh, sorry Liz. That’s just not true.

Review

If The Americans makes its characters any more insecure than they were in this episode, they might as well start wearing these:

Not to say their reasons for their insecurities are silly or unfounded. Paige’s fear over the mugging incident is perfectly understandable. Stan’s insecurity over his new agent as well. Philip and Elizabeth both have a variety of reasons to feel insecure. Tuan might be feeling a little insecure about his solitude. Even Claudia should feel a little insecure. She clearly has suspicions about Philip and Elizabeth’s dedication and worries she won’t be able to reach them.

Altogether, the various insecurities of characters both major and minor made for an episode highly focused on relationships. Some fell apart, some came together, and some are limping along over thin ice.

Philip may need to keep the Deidre option open for his work, but he was driven just as much by his failure and Elizabeth’s success. Elizabeth’s insecurity over Ben’s womanizing has her lingering on him in ways she typically won’t. Evgeny has begun an affair. Paige and Matthew are done. In better news, Henry may soon have a girlfriend. The Americans has always been a show about relationships (and marriage in particular) but this episode took that ongoing theme and built the entire episode around it.

What resulted was yet another episode with outstanding character moments lacking in attention-gripping action. I covered my thoughts on this last week. The Americans has excellent characters which keep me interested at all times, and “Immersion” was one of the strongest so far of season 5 in that regard. I am continuously amazed by how this show does this. The setup of a scene may look like the same old scenario – Philip and Elizabeth in a bedroom, one or both sitting at a table with a handler, Paige walking with her parents or lying in bed – yet somehow they manage to squeeze new and important information into these familiar setups.

The Americans especially shone the incredible development light on Elizabeth this week. Elizabeth is always incredible. Between the writing and Keri Russell’s acting, hardly an episode passes where I’m not astounded by her. This one, though, this one was special.

Telling Paige about her rape was a transformative moment for Elizabeth (and one that could damn well win Russell an award). Her multiple declarations of wishing spies like herself were not needed came across stunningly earnest. The ending scene of her equating her work with being a doctor shows how she still views her behavior as necessary for a greater good.

How is she so good at these bone-chilling moments?

All throughout “Immersion” she served as the rock anchoring everyone around her. She assured Philip over his insecurities about Gabriel and Deidre. She helped Paige in the aftermath of her breakup and the fear she still feels. Claudia and Evgeny also used her as a sounding board. This isn’t a new role for her or anything, but it stood out just how much people depended on her throughout the episode.

I can’t help but worry that while she serves as the rock for everyone else, no one else serves as the rock for her. Philip sure can’t do it. Paige can’t. Henry has his own life damn near split off from his family. I’d love to see Claudia fill this role, but can Elizabeth truly trust her enough to open up? Maybe their scene together was a step in that direction.

My only concern (and one true for the entire season) is Oleg. I love his storyline. I love his character and am 100% invested, but much like Nina in season 4 there’s not much connecting him to everything else happening. Nina’s Russian story has paid off elsewhere, but it took a while to get there. The same is occurring now with Oleg and I understand the frustrations. Also, that disconnect will sour the same fans who didn’t like Nina’s story either, even with the eventual payoff.

Others may not care for these characters for Oleg and season 5 to grip them entirely, but I sure do. Another week, another quality episode. I expect nothing less.

Other Thoughts:

  • Oleg’s father has serious pull. Oleg was scared to death about how quickly his father could learn the truth of the Directorate K investigation. I wonder what else there might be to his mother’s imprisonment as well.
  • Lots of nice little romance moments for Elizabeth towards Philip in this episode. “Not everyone is as attractive as you, Elizabeth.” “But you are.”
  • Philip’s pleas to Deidre proved her “needy” description. I also love how he puts on the “Clark” face when he’s on the phone.
  • Elizabeth doing Tai Chi makes me wonder whether she often picks things up from assignments like Ben, or whether this is because she actually likes him.
  • Philip views EST as showing him a side of himself he didn’t know. I love how this keeps coming up. I hope EST truly helps him.
  • Stan is showing the same hesitation with his new contact that Philip is with Deidre. The Americans parallel these two often and are doing so again now. Philip’s still hung up on Martha, while Stan is with Nina.
  • Tuan abandoning Pasha and joining a group of friends who will torture him is just cruel. Damn, Tuan.
  • Paige is right. Elizabeth has no bedside manner. Also, I wonder how much of Paige trying desperately to bury her feelings is picked up from her time around Elizabeth lately.

Images Courtesy of FX

Bo
Written By

Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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