The Americans: Dimebag
February 19, 2015 8:35 AM - Season 3, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Philip faces a moral dilemma while developing an asset. Philip and Elizabeth's friction escalates. Stan develops a theory with serious repercussions. Paige makes a surprising birthday wish.
posted by LizBoBiz (16 comments total)
Among the other mountain of trigger-warnings this show can engender, we now have to add creepy-older-dude-getting-close-to-teenage-girl. Ewww, Phil.

Paige's birthday surprise was rich. I have no idea how they're going to handle it, given that Elizabeth is dead-set on bringing Paige into the family business. Saying "no" could probably shut that door. But, saying "yes" only encourages her moving even further into the arms of American Christianity.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:52 AM on February 19, 2015

Also: Soundtrack Yaz! I've got "Only You" playing on YouTube as I write this.

Elizabeth is delusional if she thinks Paige will ever want to spy for the USSR. She claims Paige's willingness to criticize the US for its social problems and disproportionately powerful corporate culture means she is "ideologically ready", but Paige isn't going to see allying herself with a repressive, brutal regime as any kind of a solution.

Poor Stan. He's trying so, so hard to clue in.

I very much did not like that there was no Martha in this episode, though she did get a mention.
posted by orange swan at 9:21 AM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is that horryfing Love's Baby Soft commercial. I just needed to see it again to make sure that I wasn't hallucinating.

The fight that Philip and Elizabeth had over the record was nastier than I've seen them be to one another since the first season. Fighting for the soul of their family has raised the tension between them, and I think it's good for the show. Elizabeth is delusional, but I think the show has made her desperation understandable. Whereas Philip gave up a normal life for himself after the first season, he's not giving that up for his children. I thought after last season, Elizabeth would have moved closer to defection, but she's even more entrenched in her "true believer" position.
posted by gladly at 11:30 AM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Hands up everyone who thinks Phil is going to slip-up at the EST meeting?

I'd love to see him get called up to the stage, get confronted and scream something that raises a whole lot of big red flags for Stan.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:04 PM on February 19, 2015

Ewww, Phil.

Judging by his expression at the end there I don't think he's too comfortable with it himself. Pretty sure he'd just about rather be stuffing bodies in suitcases already, and he hasn't even moved past the "get close to her" phase of things. And that's even without the whole "this girl is basically my daughter's age, if I use her to spy for me how much of a hypocrite does that make me re: Paige" that I am sure is rolling around in the back of his head.

Their reaction to Paige's dinner plans were priceless, though. "She played us!" Yes, your daughter is excellent at subterfuge and manipulating people, I wonder where she gets it from.

Nina, oh man. Nina is the most opaque character on this show, to me. She tells her cellmate her whole story - every word of it is something we watched happen - and yet I still wonder if how she's saying she feels about it is actually how she feels about it, or if she's just saying what she needs to say to manipulate this person into feeling for her. But then, she's so powerless as usual that manipulating people into liking her is all she's got. The "real" Nina could be right there on the surface, or buried a million layers deep, and I can just never quite tell for sure which it is. I find the whole thing eerily fascinating to watch though.

I'm also, at this point, not sure whether the Soviet defector is really up to no good, or if Stan's finally just cracking up under the strain of his own misery. I think for his job's sake he better be right.
posted by mstokes650 at 1:34 PM on February 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm leaning towards a false defector, too. But like Stan, I'm suspicious without tangible proof, just instincts. But! Stan took that bathroom apart and didn't find anything. (Then again, that wasn't a planned stop; I'd have left my note for a Soviet contact in a tv station restroom, not a random restaurant restroom). I think Stan's instincts are generally good (e.g., searching P&E's car early in the first season, reinforcing the car following). But is she getting screentime because she's false, or because she's setting the stage about the War in Afghanistan and it's upcoming end & is a symbol of how messed up Stan is.

Paige is so smart. And the Pastor totally knows some of what is going on - he doesn't talk about Philip's threats, must be picking up on Philip/Elizabeth's discomfort, and says all the right things. I can't figure out if my assigning faintly nefarious intentions is because I've bought into Elizabeth and Philip so much, or if there is some manipulation going on there. The language used was particularly infuriating to both undercover Soviets and the parents who have raised you - rejecting the past, washing yourself clean of it, starting again, dedicating yourself to the ideal that is so alien to Soviet-reared people.

In some ways, it's not that different to the decisions teenage Philip and Elizabeth made to put their own pasts behind them to become these agents in America with new identities and new guidelines, dedicated to the Soviet ideal. The strong break that represents is unsettling both as a spy and a parent, I would think.

I LOVE Nina. She added a few lies (a husband to drive a sympathetic comparison), shaded her story in (however real) self-loathing, used the truth as much as possible, and then let it percolate until her fake nightmare. She's SO smart. I still suspect the Belgian roommate is a plant to test Nina, and this is an elaborate test at that, but as auditions go, this is a good one.

Poor Stan. Poor Sandra! What a mess.

It's a relief to see that Philip is as creeped out about recruiting the girl as I am about him doing it.
posted by julen at 3:02 PM on February 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

God-hell, I'd forgotten about that Love's Baby Soft ad. Brilliant, especially in the context of this episode.

Mr and Mrs Pastor Jim are summoning my inner Stan: there's something not quite right there. My pet theory last season was that they're working the same side of the street as Philip and Elizabeth. By now, that would probably peg my BS meter, but still... there's something off. Most plausibly, it's just that they're recruiting for the Lord rather than in the interests of Historical Materialism. Still. Hmmm.
posted by Kinbote at 10:56 PM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

And that's even without the whole "this girl is basically my daughter's age, if I use her to spy for me how much of a hypocrite does that make me re: Paige" that I am sure is rolling around in the back of his head.

That awful moment when he shows up to Paige's room with the record that he finds out about because of Kimmy? And she's so excited about it. If I remember correctly, he's actually lying on Paige's bed.

I love this show for not flinching away or trying to mitigate how gross it is.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:36 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Phil does not seem all too pleased about any of this whole thing with Kimberly. He expresses his misgivings from the start (and notice his deep, mournful sigh when the comm center calls with their message to deliver those fake IDs; not least of all as they chose to encode this with talk of a concert "in B minor") and certainly wasn't about to dance to Yaz with her. What used to be a look of blank robotic soldiering when doing the unsavory for The Cause (such as delivering an openly sobbing defector to Soviet hands last season) now looks like one of depressive disgust. Of course it doesn't help that he'd just had his wife tell him that prepping Paige for spy work "is happening", end of discussion.

Speaking of which, I chuckled mightily at the sight of Elizabeth when that baptism announcement was made; sipping her coffee to hide her poorly contained rage. Well played, Paige. Maybe a bit portentious, too - Paige might display some real cunning if Elizabeth does invariably decide to jump the gun. I hope Elizabeth learns to temper her zeal with caution, because Phil sure doesn't seem capable of detering her in any way.

Can't say I'm as optimistic of Nina's prospects. Her continued expectations-building and inevitable disappointment is almost Trier-esque. I don't think throwing the Belgian under the bus is going to play out into a better day for her. She might even know this on some level, and probably does, but what choice does she have?

I also share suspicions of the defector. Her gushing is so cartoonish it's like Yakov Smirnoff or something. I think Stan's right to have an eye on her, but the way he keeps trying to save himself from divorce, and invariably only making things worse, doesn't inspire a lot of faith in his powers of observation. Guess we'll see!
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:18 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

One thing that kind of bothers me re: Kimmie...She's the daughter of the head of the CIA's Afghan group. I'm somewhat surprised there isn't some level of security keeping tabs on her. It just seems preposterous that some random middle-aged guy can walk up to her and start a relationship without someone taking notice.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:00 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

The same thought crossed my mind, but then again, the penchant for weed, trying to sneak into clubs, flirting with older dudes and all led me to think this was classic attention-seeking behavior in response to a cold and distant father. So there's that. But yeah, the risk entailed is probably not lost on Phil, and might also be contributing to his misgivings, regardless of how much of a "hard target" the CIA is.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:07 AM on February 21, 2015

This show seems to excel at crossing some very bright lines. Given that, I am really, really, really dreading the possibility of Kimmie and Phil getting any more intimate than the cuddle-up Kimmie did at the end of the last scene with Phil. I don't know how I'm going to react if they actually kiss, even if it's just a quick peck on the lips. I'm hoping Phil has a crisis of conscience and bails on his mission before it gets any deeper.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:49 AM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I share the same hope that they don't go there. I hope, instead, that Philip - being pressed from all sides by his wife determined to open their daughter to the awful truth, the pastor (a guy he nearly beat the shit out of last season) having conspired in secret to baptize his daughter, and his own self-loathing over this whole thing with Kimmy - decides instead to confront CIA Babysitter Flirt directly, and extort him. Likely with some cathartic moralizing involved.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:50 AM on February 22, 2015

I guess I'm late enough that I just need to say I agree with everyone. Also, poor Stan, always one-half step behind.

My pet theory last season was that they're working the same side of the street as Philip and Elizabeth. By now, that would probably peg my BS meter, but still... there's something off. Most plausibly, it's just that they're recruiting for the Lord rather than in the interests of Historical Materialism. Still. Hmmm.

I had the same suspicions early on. I thought I expanded on it more here, but all I could find was my response to another comment back in S2E13:
Wasn't it actually some girl (whom Paige didn't know) on the bus (train? can't remember), back when Paige ran away, who befriended Paige, and invited her to come to the church? My guess they have been watching Paige closely and took that opportunity to hook her.

This seemed very convenient to me.
so I definitely agree with the "hmmm" vibe.

God-hell, I'd forgotten about that Love's Baby Soft ad.

Gawd, me too.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:28 PM on February 22, 2015

The pastor/wife seem suspicious in the context of the show's theme of secrecy and subterfuge. But they are hardly unusual when it comes to the youth-proselytizing Christians I knew during the very time the story takes place (and probably to this day). It's a neat parallel to Elizabeth and Philip, similarly engaging in their own secrecy and subterfuge, and disliking getting played the way they do to the world, at least in a small way.

Which leads me to Paige's little stunt. She's clearly smart enough to know her parents are not exactly straight with her about a whole lot of things. The whole baptism thing may be mostly a kind of attention seeking ploy on her part to push Philip and Elizabeth somewhere. Anywhere, beyond the boundaries they predictably retreat to.

If they let her in on the family secret, I'm not sure I can see it working out well at all. Despite the blood ties, she's fundamentally an honest, well intentioned, American teenager. She knows something is up with her parents, and I think there are more than a few seeds of distrust as a result. She has her own strong moral compass, and she's smart enough to figure out that any kind of work her parents do, even if she were to get a sugar coated version, would inevitably involve some serious dirty work. If the story goes there, I think it'll take some clever storytelling to make it convincing. Furthermore, if she's not completely on board, she becomes a huge liability, and an absolutely nasty prospect as far as the story goes.

I'm curious about Nina's storyline. So far this season, I'm not hooked.

I also liked Elizabeth's little quip about who's wearing the pants in the Martha/Clark relationship. He's still soft compared to her. And he knows it. Will he stand up to Elizabeth over Paige if it comes down to the wire?

One thing that amuses me a bit is Philip's regular nice guy personas remind me of Jack Tripper/John Ritter, almost to comic effect, such as Clark wearing glasses while making love. It just seems so goofy, and Martha so oblivious, like a Three's Company Jack Tripper scheme.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:47 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

So many excellent notes hit in that episode. Love's Baby Soft. Yaz. (Yaz! Who remembers Yaz? Good lord.) I've been mostly skeptical of the show's setting, it seems just a little too distant but not distant enough, but it hit the right notes here.

And then the ending with skeezy Phil hitting on the 15 year old girl. And he's rolling her a joint, and she's dancing to Yaz, and he puts his jacket around her. Oh god so awful. Great TV.
posted by Nelson at 9:48 PM on March 7, 2015

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