The Wheels Came Off
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Americans is like a slow, simmering soup whose smells wafts into the air tantalizingly, dropping hints of the flavors to come before its ready to fully engulf your tastebuds. Dimebag is one of those episodes, providing layers upon layers of characterization and plot without moving the story too far forward but very little of it felt stagnant. Certainly that’s helped by the script building upon last week in what felt like a germane fashion that also allowed for some of the most heightened hypocrisy yet displayed by Phillip and Elizabeth. Ever since the season finale of season two, the question of Paige being potentially recruited by the KGB has been hovering around the two and rightfully so – the future of their eldest child was at stake, after all. For Phillip, who takes more of the center stage this hour, the idea of giving a fourteen-year-old girl the Hobson’s choice of becoming a spy for a country she has no allegiance to and potentially live a less-than-ideal existence is ludicrous. But here, as the episode comes around to a close to Yaz’s “Only You”, there’s a phenomenal level of extreme discomfort one feels upon seeing Kimberly snuggling under Phillip’s jacket. She, after all, is hardly much older than Paige and no matter how uncomfortable Phillip himself feels at the prospect, that scene simply cannot be denied in its reality.
Dimebags, which Urban Dictionary informs me are small bags of marijuana for ten dollars that are intended to basically serve the same purpose as single-serve candy bars, are the first thing Elizabeth notices Kimberly buying from a sleazy guy outside of school. It’s an easy opening for Phillip to grasp, buoyed further by him catching her trying to get into a club with fake IDs (within that moment, has anything on this show sounded as blatantly false as Kimberly’s friend’s claim that they all went to Georgetown?). It’s severely uncomfortable, watching the lawyer slash lobbyist for the alcohol industry Jim working his way to that ending where Kimberly is snuggling against his chest. To the episode’s credit, every move that Phillip makes is scrutinized within that similar framework, his menacing frame either reaching over his fifteen-year-old charge or receding back into the darkened shadows where he’s ready to pounce. But Phillip becoming sexual with Kimberly is a line I really hope that this show does not cross – it would be a fundamental betrayal of Phillip’s very character and the subtlety that this show espouses and executes so well. Perhaps it is his refusal to cross that line that will eventually cost him something.
Stan, poor Stan. His storyline this hour is equally frustrating, enthralling, intriguing, and hilarious in ways I’m not sure Stan ever intended. The weakest part by far of the episode is the confession scene to Sandra. It’s not a weak scene in and of itself and it speaks to Stan’s turn of character that he openly admits to Sandra that he had an affair with Nina and he loved her, but this feels like the point where the sow needs to say goodbye to this particular relationship. Unless the writers have something up their sleeves for Sandra, this episode feels like a duly earned but timely farewell to the marriage that will never be repaired. Talking about reparations, Stan’s little collapse in the bathroom was hilarious, but is he onto something here? The suspicion that was aroused within him about people telling someone exactly what they want to hear in order to extract something from them carries over. Admittedly, there is a natural bout of suspicion that would arise from someone coming over from one’s archenemy state and it would make all the sense in the world for Zinaida’s behavior to be analyzed further once she’s actually in the United States. Certainly the episode smartly enough provides just enough pauses and clues to Zinaida being something other than what she claims, but it presents that from Stan’s point of view. This has the potential to either be Stan’s saving grace or his ultimate downfall.
Paige this episode proved that she does have some of the traits required to be a spy. As Elizabeth wanders what Paige wanted to do for her birthday, she says that she just wants to have Pastor Tim and his wife over for dinner. Phillip and Elizabeth immediately pause in concern over that pronouncement and like any reasonable parent, Elizabeth later wonders out loud whether Paige actually has any friends. But Paige has her own plans, seamlessly transitioning the seemingly innocent dinner talk to what she really wants for her birthday – baptism. Phillip and Elizabeth are thunderstruck, their facial expressions speaking all of their bemusement and anger clouding together as the realization that their daughter played them sank further and further in. Duplicity is a spy’s bread and butter so to speak and every character on this show has espoused it to varying degrees. Phillip is now balancing multiple lives (which is getting impossible to maintain in terms of time logic), Elizabeth’s cleverness and wigs speak for themselves, and even Nina is now feigning once more to be the innocent girl in order to betray her cellmate Evi and hopefully buy a truncated sentence. Paige has learned, perhaps to her own eventual detriment, how to transition seamlessly into her own family – by deception.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“We’ve never used someone this young before.”
+The innocuous “Good night” before the credits
+“She’s just doing that to bug us”; “It’s working .”
+“There’s one thing nobody can resist, and that’s a baby.”
+The EST scene was awful and hilarious in all the best ways
+“Are you married?”; “I have a husband.”
+“You’re pretty, you should have at least one.”
+“My father says you’re the scum of the earth.”
+“We’re trying to keep Congress from passing a legal drinking age.”
+“I did stupid things to try to save myself.”
+Thomas Schlamme’s direction was amazing this hour, especially when his camera isolated Elizabeth in the kitchen
+The sound design was mesmerizing this episode, especially that mix when Nina was talking to Evi. It sounded like a mix of drum rolls and the quiet, building menace of an oncoming storm. The train tracks sound towards the end was a brilliant touch.
+“You want a ringing endorsement or do you want to know how the burgers are?”
+“What is Tuna Melt?” Exactly.
+The Yaz album throughout this episode was deployed exceptionally well
+“Many divorced in Soviet Union, second only to the US.”
+“It is happening. I am doing it, with or without you.”
Written By: Peter Ackerman
Directed By: Thomas Schlamme
Image Courtesy: FX Now Canada