The title "Roy Rogers in Franconia" really does roll off the tongue, doesn't it? Before the season's through, I just wanted to make sure I gave a shout out to the wonderful episode titles that The Americans has brought us. (Other favorites included "Baggage," "One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov" and "Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow.") Has it really been 12 weeks already? Why, it seems like only yesterday Paige was being inducted into the world of espionage. Now look how far the curious teenager has come: Paige is still being inducted into the world of espionage!
Just joshing. I think it's wise her story line is proceeding at such a cautious pace. Any faster would be unrealistic, though this hour sure saw Paige catapulted a little further into her parents' world than Elizabeth and Philip might like. Namely, whatever distance it takes to know that your mom and dad have definitely killed before and may kill again. While Paige dealt with the aftermath of watching her mom knife a man dead, William had second thoughts about delivering the deadly virus sample. And if that wasn't enough the FBI discovered the dang bug in the mail robot.
"Roy Rogers in Franconia" — named for the Virginia restaurant where the FBI janitor got coerced into changing out the planted bug — forced the Jenningses to confront new realities about the lives they live. The two scenes that stuck out as thematic parallels were Paige's talk with Elizabeth about killing, and William's explanation of why he refused to help get a virus that makes you "dissolve inside then squirt yourself out your anus," as he so poetically put it. On the one hand, there was a woman who justified her murderous actions to her own daughter by drawing on inspiration she felt as a child in watching her town rebuild itself. On the other, there was a man who had once committed himself to a cause in the throes of youthful idealism, but had since grown out of touch with the country and its values.
By my recollection Paige has become the only non-spy person Elizabeth has ever had to be honest with about the process of killing; likewise, William seems to be the only other spy in the game willing to talk critically with Philip about the dangers and pointlessness of this war. Both Elizabeth and William - and really everyone in this Cold War, has to rely on some version of the world they're trying to protect to justify the knives to throats or potential poisonings of the Eastern seaboard, and that version normally resides in the imagination. That's not so different from how we normally position visions of a hopeful world in order to achieve goals, but for William and Elizabeth these dreams increasingly feel like they came from a place in history that doesn't apply anymore.
When Paige asked her mother how she could be calm after killing a guy Elizabeth's answer rang simplistic to her daughter because the two had grown up with different cultural values. For Elizabeth working together to bring change in her city was true life and death, cementing a world view. In Paige's case she's had a cushy life and can't imagine why her mother would subject herself to danger and jeopardize everything the Jennings have.
It's a valid question, and one that usually ends with Elizabeth reminding herself of a distaste for American culture while Gabriel eggs her on. In fact Gabriel usually there as the spirit of Russia "reminding" his assets of their heroics and just how beloved someone like Martha or William will be if they just do this one little thing. But even his grip on the battle is slipping. Every once in a while Gabriel will pop off with some aside about being unsure and then just put his head down and go back to doing what he's always done while lamenting old age and loneliness.
So while William's effort to put his foot down on this mission seemed fruitless, the elephant none of the Russians want to acknowledge is that the ideal version of a home land they use to continue to do things like ruin friendships and carry out assassinations is no more. The Russia Elizabeth and Philip are fighting to protect is a distant memory. The more these two bump up against the Paiges and Williams of the world their initial reasons for living in such danger are growing old. And not just for themselves, but their family and countless civilians. This attitude is a growing one.
Take Oleg's meeting with Stan for instance. After Beeman called off their rendezvouses last episode, Oleg came back to deliver a breathless and emotional bit of intel in an effort to put the kibosh on this crazy disease warfare. Ever since his brother Yvgeny died in a nameless battle the man has become disillusioned with fighting the fight. Coming from the Russian MIT he also knew that even with the best brains in the world the Russians didn't have the money to safely support such deadly research.
I don't know that seems like a move that could land Oleg in the soup, especially since Tatiania can't seem to stop being mysterious. I want to trust that her offer to Oleg to join her in Nairobi is legit, but at the same time she's always giving him lingering glances like she's been sent to investigate him and his local Rezidentura, while orchestrating efforts to steal the super virus. Eh, maybe I'm just being paranoid.
Strange there was no follow up to Gaad's death last episode. Either that's being saved for the finale, or maybe we'll never know the specifics of the Russians' offer. Arkady knows and - hey, what if Tatiana is investigating him? He did allow Nina to be a mole in his own office, and even somehow screwed up this Gaad plan. Maybe he suspects he's being viewed as incompetent? In any case everything the FBI did this episode was wonderful. I love how active and mechanical these suits are, especially when they get a small taste of a lead. Really enjoyed that brief surveillance nab sequence. Good stuff.
While Stan was busy following up on the William lead, his son Mathew was busy hanging out with Henry and getting his smooch on with Paige. How the tables have turned, what with Paige entering that period of young adulthood where life becomes one big secret from your parents. No way is she reporting that she kissed Mathew, and no way is she going to share any other kisses coming her way. So first off great work The Americans on 1) organically getting Paige to a place where she has to be both transparent with her parents in one area of her life and totally private in another; and 2) having her follow in her parent's footsteps in way that might make Philip and Elizabeth uncomfortable.
As we near the end of an arc that began with the Jenningses preparing for Paige's maturity, the spy parents don't seem ready for how naturally their daughter has taken to espionage. Elizabeth seemed concerned that Paige would report on Stan Beeman without their command. Plus, when the Jennings' daughter suggested that a closer watch be kept on Henry, considering how much time he spends with their FBI neighbor, all mom and dad could do was remind Paige that they only wanted her to disclose information about Pastor Tim. Isn't that just parenthood in a nutshell? You tell your child to do one thing and they apply it to all areas of life. Then it's time to teach them about the gray areas, which is a lesson that lasts for the rest of your life.
- Do you have any favorite episode titles?
- Will the computer that the Center sent Henry factor in some how?
- Is Martha REALLY with people who respect her and doing well?
- Will William crack?
- "It's not logical, it's emotional," Paige explaining soap operas to Elizabeth
What did you think of "Roy Rogers in Franconia"?