Dear Diary, Is This Season Of The Americans Ever Going To Get Started?
Paige gets her grubby mitts back on Pastor Groovyhair's diary and does not like what she reads, Tuan escalates hostilities toward Pasha, Philip has a weird surprise for his 'wife,' and it all feels like hiking through wet cement.
It Doesn't Always Get Better
Situation: Pasha's being bullied so badly at school that both his parents are reaching out to their best American pals, the Eckerts, to express their feelings of helplessness and frustration about it. (In the course of her venting to "Dee," Evgheniya also confesses to her affair with her student, though it seems like that's a less appealing outlet for her now that Pasha's misery has caused Alexei to start being nicer to her for Pasha's sake.)
What makes it awkward? The Eckerts have to respond with horror and empathy as though their little boy Tuan -- who starts this episode by disconsolately apologizing to Elizabeth for his Harrisburg fuckup last week, and being told she didn't report him but that he can't do that shit again -- were not the architect of Pasha's destruction. When "Captain Eckert" comes home, Tuan asks of Alexei, "Did he tell you about the shit in his locker?" "Human shit?" asks Philip (kind of hilariously). But no, Tuan convinced Darren Burke, one of the most assholish buddies to collect some of his dog's and dump out the bag into Pasha's locker. Pasha doesn't know Tuan was behind it; in fact, Tuan doesn't even think Darren understands how deftly he was manipulated into doing it. Elizabeth is right: Tuan could be a great spy! A bad person, maybe, but you can't have everything.
How is order restored? It's not yet, but the process is underway.
After Tatiana -- still at the Rezidentura, after Oleg ruined her big op last season -- gets a message about the progress in tricking Evgheniya into returning to Moscow with Pasha, she intercepts her on the street outside the dry cleaner and tells her that even though she and her family defected, she can totes go home if she wants: "There's a lot of bad information out there. Western propaganda." (Thank you, The Americans, for reminding us all that there has always been a word for the incredibly ugly and imbecilic "fake news.") Tatiana goes on: "The truth is, people who leave -- we want them to come back. First of all, it's your home. And to be honest, it looks very good for us too. There would be no problem. No repercussions. For anyone." Evgheniya will think about it, so I guess if he wants to put this one over, Tuan may have to escalate to human shit after all.
The Hairy Diaries
Alert Type: Journal Alert.
Issue: Pastor Groovyhair's still writing a bunch of shit about his parishioners in his journal.
Complicating Factors: One of those parishioners is Paige, and I guess since he never was a babysitter, it never occurred to him that she might go pawing through all his stuff, as all babysitters do. (When Paige tells her parents she's been reading it again, Philip complains to Elizabeth that Pastor Groovyhair should have put his diary in a safe. And he's right!) What's changed since the last time Paige read it is that apparently he now thinks Paige is irretrievably screwed up as a result of her parents' deception...and treason, I guess.
Resolution: After handing over the tape from Kimmy's dad's office and asking some pointed questions about what had been the real plan for that viral strain they spent BASICALLY ALL LAST SEASON trying to steal -- about which Claudia pleads ignorance -- Elizabeth and Philip suggest that maybe The Centre could come up with a job offer for Pastor Groovyhair that would take him very far from Paige. Claudia says there are peace groups they could talk to, so Elizabeth and Philip bring the idea to Paige, framing it as the removal of a stressor in her life and potentially a great opportunity for Pastor Groovyhair and his family, but say they won't do anything unless she says she wants to.
Spoiler: As a clergyman, Pastor Groovyhair should really be more careful about telling white lies.
That'll Do, Oleg
I don't want to pin all the blame for this season's flabbiness on Oleg, because other stories have moved verrrrrrry slowly too.
But is it worth adding ten extra minutes to this episode's runtime so that, first, we can see Oleg and Ruslan, on a stakeout to see what they can find out about the black marketer Dimitri dimed out in the last episode (not much except that she seems extremely cheap) and discussing how worried Oleg needs to be about the recent KGB interest in him...
...and then later silently eating dinner with his also-silent parents? What is the point? Being a KGB agent is a bad job? Oleg had more fun in the decadent West? Communism grinds down everyone who lives within its systems? I THINK WE GOT IT.
Ms. Kovalenko Gets It Done
Too skittish out on the streets? The FBI rents an apartment in her building where they can safely meet. Grill all fucked up? The FBI will fix it! And in return, she brings some hot intel: she's dating a former member of the Olympic champion Soviet hockey team who also happens to be a government courier bringing intel back and forth in diplomatic pouches.
The FBI's already so ready to start messing with diplomatic pouches that they're all ready with a film strip about interfering with them when couriers bring them into stalls at airports!
EVERYTHING'S KOMING UP KOVALENKO!!!
Seriously, Though, Who's That Girl?
A dinner double date (after which karaoke is vetoed by the dudes, WEAK), Philip and Elizabeth part ways from Stan and Renee and revive an old debate.
...Why does this bother you so much.
It just does.
The Centre has nothing to do with them. Come on. And so what if they do?
I don't want Stan to be like Martha.
And yet, WE ARE NO CLOSER TO AN ANSWER ON WHAT RENEE'S DEAL IS, WHAT EVEN IS THIS SEASON.
It's A Date
Nice Day For A Warehouse Wedding
Who's on a date? Philip and Elizabeth. Philip, you see, has been thinking a lot about the est belief that you don't have to stay the person you were programmed to be when you were a kid, and/or he's concerned that Claudia's order that he and Elizabeth keep working their fake Topeka SOs for a matter of years when Elizabeth seems like she likes hers for real. So he's come up with kind of a crazy idea to show Elizabeth he's not the same guy she married: he's a BETTER guy!
Philip unfolds their (fake) marriage license, asking her if she remembers the day they got it and all their other phony documents; she says she does, and we get a flashback to their allegedly younger selves in different wigs shot in soft, forgiving light. "Want to make it official?" he asks.
Where has he taken her? He's brought her to a weird warehouse, where Father Andrei has set up a makeshift altar, and we watch their entire wedding in real time.
Sure, they look cute in their crowns. But honest to god, ten extra minutes of runtime on this episode, and it is SO SLOW. The show's already established that Philip and Elizabeth are in love for real. Church weddings are boring and impersonal when you have to watch your IRL friends star in them; watching fictional characters through the entire length of a ceremony is A LOT TO ASK OF YOUR AUDIENCE.
Are things headed in a horizontal direction? Probably in the fullness of time.
But for now they just go back to the Secret Basement Of Spycraft, open the safe hidden behind their fuse box, and put away their real wedding rings. Scintillating!!!
J. Walter Weatherman Lesson
Get Out Of The Groove
Philip and Elizabeth are working on travel agency business at the dining room table (and once again I am horrified by the amount of work these people have to do to keep up their cover for all the OTHER work they do) when Paige comes home from babysitting Chez Groovyhair. Once she's confirmed that Henry's not there -- of course he's not, he had that one scene weeks ago!!! -- she announces that she read Pastor Groovyhair's diary again -- and this time she took pictures. For most of the episode she's been wavering about whether to sign off on his getting a job offer without ever knowing it was the product of Soviet spies, but then she was volunteering with Pastor Groovyhair at the food pantry and kept setting him up to say some version of what he's been writing about her in his diary, and he refused every opportunity, all "You have a lot to handle, but you're handling it!" this and "You're going to do great in life" that. So now that Paige has confirmed that his real opinion of her trauma hasn't changed and that he's actually just totally comfortable lying to her face, she's decided she does want The Centre to come up with a job offer for him after all: "I'm not mad at him -- he's been really good to me, but he hasn't been good for our family." Officially, she was reading his diary AGAIN for clues as to what kind of job they should try to get him -- and he did go on and on about missionary work he did in Ecuador after he graduated college, so she took snapshots of those pages. But she took photos of lots of OTHER pages too. She obviously can't take the film to a Fotomat...
...so all three head down to the Secret Basement Of Spycraft, where Philip and Elizabeth set up their home darkroom and get to developing. Pleasant memories of Ecuador aside, there's some pretty harsh stuff here: he considers the damage Philip and Elizabeth have done to Paige tantamount to sexual abuse; he believes Paige has suffered a "severe psychic injury"; "she doesn't even know how much she's suffering."
Does he know how much he's going to suffer now that he's unwittingly pushed her all the way onto her parents' side?