The Americans Head For Kansas To Find Fake Love With The Lonelyhearts Of Agricorp
While her parents ply their trade(craft) in Topeka, Paige freelances with an op chez Groovyhair.
Loading More Cabbage Onto Already Pretty Full Plates
Who called the meeting? Gabriel.
What's it about? What happened in Oklahoma.
How'd it go? Not great. After we learn that this was apparently the first op for Marilyn and Norm, Philip and Elizabeth's lookouts, Gabriel moves on to the actionable intel that resulted. The Centre's got dossiers on two Agricorp employees: Deirdre and Ben, both single. Philip and Elizabeth both sigh, seeing where this is going, before Philip dares to ask whether the task of seducing these poor goons for information (I'm paraphrasing) couldn't possibly go to someone else, since he and Elizabeth are already working on a bunch of projects, which Elizabeth enumerates: the Morozovs, handling Paige, making sure there aren't any Stan eruptions. Instead of addressing all of that, Gabriel asks whether there's something else bothering them that they want to talk about. Philip goes back to Paige and all her pain-in-the-ass bullshit (I am once again paraphrasing). Gabriel knows better than to negotiate against himself, saying simply that he understands. After a beat, Elizabeth says she knows how important this is, to which Gabriel replies, "Good, then I know you'll work it out." YOU CAN'T SET HIM UP LIKE THAT, GURL.
Afterward, in the car, Philip deadpans to Elizabeth, "Think we're going to get fired?" "It's not funny," says Elizabeth. Philip: "I know." It's a little funny. But seriously, think of all the shit these two do AND on top of that they have to run the travel agency too? They need to talk to their union shop steward about how many vacation days they've accrued.
A Wizard Did It
HENRY HOLY SHIT
You know and I and Vulture all know that the show hasn't really tried that hard to hide the fact that they're hiding Henry: I think we've only seen him twice this season -- once far from the camera and once lying down in bed, asleep. But maybe someone decided they might as well get some work out of him if they're paying him for every episode anyway, because here he is, and...
...yeah, okay, this confirms all our suspicions: the reason Henry hasn't been on the show is that only weeks are supposed to have passed since Season 4 and yet somehow, in that time, Henry Jennings grew four feet. He also grew sassy: he claims to have no idea why Elizabeth's had a call from his math teacher wanting to set up a meeting, and tosses the toast his mother made him in the trash because she didn't put enough jam on it. And...that's a wrap on Henry: though he is a topic of further discussion -- Elizabeth updates Philip on this math teacher conference, which doesn't happen in this episode, and Paige and Elizabeth speculate that he might be spending so much time on the phone because he has a girlfriend -- he's swiftly taken off camera so that we don't notice he suddenly towers over not just both his parents but, like, also the fridge.
Deirdre In The Headlights
Name: Deirdre. Age: Early 50s. Occupation: Vice President Of Production And Distribution at Agricorp. Goal: "Logistics. Storage, materials handling, identifying shipping inefficiencies," to the exclusion of all other activities -- even accepting the advances of a clearly interested stationary bike enthusiast...
...with dumb glasses and suspiciously wiggy hair.
Sample Dialogue: When Philip, as "Gus Alexander," comments that it sounds like her company can't do anything without her: "They can't."
A Little Light Treason
Situation: Feeling the pinch from the CIA after getting that blackmail cassette last week, Oleg swears his mother to secrecy with regard to his father, and then confesses that when he was in America, he told the wrong people the wrong things, and now may be in serious trouble.
What makes it awkward? Other than everything, there's the fact that Oleg is his now mother's only remaining child, since the relatively recent passing of his brother. So as soon as Oleg says he might go to prison, she bursts into tears.
How is order restored? Oleg's mother comes to his room and tells him something he didn't know: just after she married his father, before Oleg was born, she was arrested and thrown in a prison camp, where she stayed for five years. "It happened that way sometimes," she says. "They took the wives. And not the husbands. I was there for five years. I lived. You understand? A lot of people didn't. But I found ways. I did what I had o do to survive. You do what you need to do." In other words, if he needs to pass information to the Americans in order to stay with his family, he's got her...well, "blessing" isn't the right word for a variety of reasons, but you get it.
HOWEVER. What neither of them can possibly know is that Stan hasn't stopped thinking about the Oleg problem, and his own moral obligation to keep Oleg from being endangered, given the service he's already done for the U.S. So after hearing a story from Aderholt about a guy he was involved in blackmailing -- all it took was the FBI telling him they knew he'd had an affair for him to spill everything, his wife never found out, his family's still together, and now they're all U.S. citizens with new identities (the guy's son even grew up to become a lawyer!) -- Stan calls his old pal the Deputy Attorney General. In the secure room, Stan confesses to having killed Vlad back in Season 1. The Deputy AG doesn't particularly care (HE'S NO SALLY YATES, AMIRITE), so Stan explains why he should: "If the CIA uses the tape I made to blackmail Burov, I will go public and confess. The U.S. government killing innocent people? Splashed across the world's newspapers?" Oh, Stan, I hope you didn't live long enough to see stuff like this. But if the CIA ignores him and keeps trying to turn Oleg anyway, would Stan ever possibly know? It's not like Oleg can text him.
Mischa Is Going To Austria!
Now that those total strangers Irina did not vouch for have taken the majority of Mischa's cash, it's time to get our boy to Austria! But then again, is it?
Human Smuggling FAQ
Q: How's Mischa getting from Yugoslavia to Austria?
A: In the back of this station wagon.
Q: Considering how gruff those dudes were in the last episode, this doesn't look so bad, right?
A: Don't be so sure.
Mischa's going to be on the floor under a fridge.
Q: What's the strategy for getting through the checkpoint at the border?
A: It's pretty ingenious! Vaso, the driver of the car Mischa's in, apparently already knows the guys at the border are sports fans, so he pulls up in the middle of a game they're listening to on the radio. (Soccer? Hockey? ...Liptauerball? Guys, I don't know what they were into in Austria in the '80s.) Before the guards even come to the car, he starts yelling questions about the game, and continues bellowing in reaction to the play-by-play as the guard looks in the back of the car.
Q: That distraction is all it takes to keep the guard from finding a person under a fridge?
A: Not quite: the OTHER guy from the address Mischa went to is in the car behind the station wagon, and as Vaso keeps yelling shit about the game, he honks and complains that they're dicking around. Consequently, he gets pulled out of line for further inspection, while Vaso the actual Mischa smuggler drives on, his secret cargo undetected.
Q: So it works?
A: Welcome to New York, Mischa!!! Try the Skittles!
I Have Ways Of Making Him Talk
Name: Ruslan. Age: Late 50s. Occupation: Interrogator. Goal: To get Ekaterina, the "super"market manager Oleg talked to in the last episode, to give up the name of the person she bribes for "prime" inventory. And since Oleg's Good Cop routine bore no fruit -- not even a few rotten pears -- Ruslan is ready to get the results he wants by threatening not just her job and home but her husband's job and the care of their children when she's in prison. Imagine going to prison over a shelf of shitty tomato paste and one bag of tangerines! Cracklin' Oat Bran, okay, but you know this dump doesn't have any. Sample Dialogue: "Denying it isn't going to help you."
On The Menu
What's For Sale At The Health Food Store?
Philip having made his initial contact with his uninterested quarry, it's "Brenda Neal"'s turn to journey to Topeka and "happen to run into" hers. What's on the menu?
Carob: Elizabeth manufactures a meet-cute with Ben, pouring carob candy into a totally inadequate plastic bag so it rains all over the floor instead, and he rushes to help her.
Elizabeth says she's never had carob before. Ben describes it as "like a natural, sweet, chocolate-type thingy?" (lies), and urges her to try some. Aghast, she says she hasn't paid for it yet, to which Ben jokes, "Have you never been in a health food store before?" Apparently everyone's just helping themselves to samples all the time which, actually, given the dirty hippies who shop in these places, actually scans. "That's actually pretty good!" she chirps. (More lies.)
Dried Fruit: Anachronistic dried fruit, that is.
I'm old enough to remember when food packaging like this didn't have flat bottoms like that.
GORP: Elizabeth is there to buy the ingredients a friend recommended for GORP, which she's been told she'll need before going on one of Topeka's famous hikes -- though she's not even sure she'll get to do it on this trip, since she's leaving tomorrow. What do you know, Ben is an expert hiker! He'd love to show her the best trails! Easily, Elizabeth gets to an introduction; either Ben's a much easier mark than Deirdre, or Elizabeth is way better at this than Philip, or both. (Speaking of which: when are we going to get an episode where Philip has to seduce a man and why isn't Matthew Goode playing that man and do I have to do everything?)
Love, Hate & Everything In Between
Where The Elite Meet To Sabotage Wheat
While Elizabeth's in Topeka pretending carob isn't fucking disgusting, Philip services their relationship with the Morozovs by taking Alexei out for a a beer. Alexei describes what drinking was like in the Soviet Union -- a woman with some kind of Communist pruno and a single mug out of which all her customers had to take turns drinking -- before asking about Philip's "Captain Eckert" background. In case it's important later: he was always interested in planes, and when he was a kid, a guy at an airfield near his house taught him how to fly; he got his pilot's license at age sixteen, joined the Air Force at eighteen, and served in Vietnam. Alexei asks whether that's how he happened to adopt Tuan, but Philip says it was unrelated; he and his wife couldn't conceive. Alexei calls Tuan "a good boy," and when Philip replies that Pasha is too, it's all the opening Alexei needs to start bitching about how ungrateful both Pasha and Evgheniya are about all the wonders they get to enjoy in the U.S., thanks to him: "If I didn't love my job, I would shoot my brains out." Philip casually asks what his job is like, and Alexei is only too happy to hold forth: "They think I'm genius. Everything they not know about port -- Russian, Soviet port -- about food transportation, everything to do with grain, I know. They can't believe it take us months to move what you guys move in one day. This is who we fight?...In Soviet Union, we have same great land, same great climate, but system is broke. They still move food by horse sometimes. By the time it gets where it needs to be, it's already rotten." Captain Eckert is pensive. One wonders how long someone as ideological as Alexei is going to stay friends with someone who doesn't eagerly agree with him, but then again, maybe he just wants a new audience who won't tell him he's the one who destroys.
Squeezing More Than Produce
Who called the meeting? The Colonel.
What's it about? How things went on Oleg and Ruslan's first joint interview with a corruption target.
How'd it go? Uncomfortable. Oleg, secretly dealing with his own shit, wants to go easy on the guy whose name Ekaterina gave up -- or, at least, doesn't want to pressure him into disclosing information by threatening his son, who's serving in Afghanistan. "We use what works," smirks the Colonel. "It isn't always nice....Were they soft in the PGU?" Oleg counters, "It's not about being soft; it's about doing the decent thing." "The decent thing is what's best for our country," says the Colonel, adding that if Oleg has talked about this with his father, Igor would say the same thing. Oleg says he hasn't talked about his job with Igor at all, as the Colonel had requested. For his part, Ruslan seems to be no stranger to power struggles like this, and breezily offers, "May I suggest that we study the file and form a plan? We'll get through to him." Which "him"? Maybe both!
Plot Lightning Round
In Virginia, Paige is getting final instructions for her evening of babysitting Little Baby Groovyhair. Mostly, Alice is typically new-mother fretful, but when she tells Paige that the baby will wake up around 9 and go back to sleep after a bottle and Paige asks, "If she doesn't," Alice cracks, "Panic!" Alice didn't deliver her sense of humour along with the placenta! Good show, Alice.
When she bustles off to deal with some last detail, Pastor Groovyhair -- hey, buddy! -- comes out to chat with Paige. He confirms that she and Elizabeth are still planning to volunteer at the food pantry the next week, and Paige says they wouldn't miss it; Elizabeth likes that it's something they do together. Pastor G, seeming sincerely impressed, comments that Elizabeth is "really trying," which he doesn't always see with the families he deals with. Talk of Paige's parents sends him into his office to get his copy of Das Kapital, which he thinks might help her understand them better. Paige, surprised, asks if Karl Marx wasn't very anti-religious, but Pastor G waves that off: "He was pretty great on class and poverty." True! "Labour is therefore not voluntary but coerced," he reads. "It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need. It is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it." Oh, Karl. Will we ever deserve you? Paige is like, "Guh?" But before they can dig into it, it's time to go, and Paige is left alone. What to do?
From a pay phone, Philip calls Deirdre and tries to make a dinner date for the next time he's in Topeka. She puts him off with talk of a presentation he has to get ready for, and is she maybe gay so that Elizabeth is going to have to seduce her? Or is she just that unimpressed by Philip-as-Justin? Goes to show you: wig choice counts.
Elizabeth and Ben have gone on the
threatenedpromised hike, Elizabeth laughing up a storm at everything Ben says. She is very good at flirting to be able to put on a show like this; his story about woodpecker tongues is a snooze.
Paige -- who hasn't taken off her very clunky boots to clomp around the sleeping baby -- briefly observes her as she snores adorably. That doesn't take long, so: to snooping!
Back at Ben's, seduction has begun.
Paige snoops some more, opening a nightstand drawer and being rewarded with a box of condoms. (Lifestyles: I challenge you to to bring back this vintage package design!)
More fooling around.
More snooping: Paige finds a journal and settles onto a bench at the foot of the Groovyhairs' bed to read it.
Back in Topeka, "Brenda" puts the brakes on all the frenching. Ben thinks she's about to say she has a boyfriend, but it's not that; she just has to work, but can she see him the next time she's in town? Ben: "Yes please." Aw, hiking is boring but he's not the worst. It's not clear whether Elizabeth is postponing the consummation of her flirting to keep Ben on the hook, or if she's having moral qualms about giving up her gift this time. Maybe both!
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Paige vs. Elizabeth
After they've confirmed the house is empty, Paige allows herself some curiosity about what Elizabeth's been up to. After running the water in the sink, Elizabeth quietly tells her, "It's what we were talking to you about, the grain thing. We're developing some new sources, and unfortunately it takes some travel to get to them." Paige is fascinated and peppers her with more questions about who Elizabeth's source is, what he thinks her deal is, and even what her alias is -- which Elizabeth tells her, and which I am sure is going to come back to bite her later somehow. Paige giggles at the name, but when Elizabeth asks can't really say what's funny about it; she just thinks it's weird. She'd be scared of someone seeing through her, to which Elizabeth says a lot of it comes down to confidence.
Speaking of confidence: apparently Paige has enough in her abilities and judgment to share that she found and read Pastor G's journal when she was babysitting. She thought she might be able to find the name of the lawyer to whom Alice gave the tape with her story about Philip and Elizabeth's big secret. Elizabeth is horrified, not because it was a bad idea to try to find the information, but because Paige isn't trained to be a world-class liar like her parents are: "Paige, you can look different after you've done something like that. You can sound different." Paige says he just writes about people from the church, and that even though he only uses their initials, she was able to figure out who most of them were. Elizabeth, torn between not wanting to endorse this move and wanting to know, asks whether Pastor G wrote anything about Philip and Elizabeth. "Not that I saw," shrugs Paige. Elizabeth hisses that she understands what Paige was doing, and that it was smart and brave: "But Paige, if there is any slip -- if they sense anything from you, Alice wouldn't come to us next time. She would go straight to the FBI." "I'm sorry," says Paige, after a moment, and not very apologetically. "But I was there, not you." And Paige is going to develop her OWN philosophy of tradecraft, for a NEW generation!
Winner: Elizabeth, I guess? Nothing she says seems to have chastened Paige very much, though.
Wrap It Up
Philip has made it home from Topeka -- apparently without having gotten a leg or anything else over Deirdre -- and we join the scene as Elizabeth has just finished telling him about Paige's freelance mission at the Groovyhairs'. He's appropriately alarmed, but when Elizabeth goes silent, he can tell there's more on her mind. "If there was something on him with a parishioner?" muses Elizabeth. Philip seems to think it's unlikely, but Elizabeth presses, "It's interesting, right? I mean, who knows what goes on with the good pastor." If all this closeness between Paige and Elizabeth is heading toward a plot where Elizabeth sends Paige to seduce Pastor Groovyhair, PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE UPSET, and yet Elizabeth's not wrong, IT WOULD BE INTERESTING.
Philip wearily gets into bed and changes the subject to Elizabeth's trip to Topeka. She mutters that it was fine; she doesn't want to talk about it. "Why?" he asks. Haltingly, she says, "I don't know what to say. He's nice, he likes birds, hiking, he's funny." "You like him," says Philip, sounding jealous not that she might like Ben more than she likes Philip, but that she likes her dude more than Philip likes his lady. "I have to sit there with him while he makes his jokes," she says. Well, that's men for you. "The guy's laughing while he tries to starve an entire country." Well, that's...yeah, okay, not all men.