The Americans: Walter Taffet
March 11, 2015 10:30 PM - Season 3, Episode 7 - Subscribe

In tonight's episode, Gaad finds an uninvited guest in his office, Martha cleans out her purse, Philip orders pizza, Elizabeth talks about parenting with a South African operative, and Hans experiences his first operation. This episode was the directorial debut of one Noah Emmerich. Soundtrack: Fleetwood Mac.
posted by orange swan (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
And, thank the heavens, we didn't have to cringe through another Phil/Kimmie scene this week. I was really afraid they would take the next step in that relationship this week. Whew!

It was kind of interesting that Martha knew what to do with the electronics in her purse. I wouldn't have thought she'd have that sort of knowledge.

The showdown between Elizabeth and Phillip over Paige is going to be epic. I kind of think Elizabeth is already thinking she might have to do something about Phillip.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:52 AM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Martha has started to clue in. She's cottoned on to the fact that she's been asked to do something very wrong, that something's up with Clark, and that she's in very serious trouble, and her terror is palpable. And she doesn't even know the worst yet. This is just the beginning of the collapse of her illusory happiness, and it'll be riveting watching because Martha is not a stupid or a passive woman, and Alison Wright has the acting chops for anything the show does with her. Some really amazing scenes from Alison Wright this week. Watching Martha begin to figure out what her marriage really is, I made certain resolves regarding my own future relationships. Martha's story is a parable on how shutting your eyes to reality because you desperately want a relationship to work may mean some short-term benefits but will lead to some truly devastating consequences down the road.

Holy cow, Clark has an apartment. The Soviet spy network never fails to amaze me. It never half asses anything. I'm guessing Philip has been using the apartment to change into his Clark look?

Henry made effective use of the word "discourse". I'm glad to hear a little more from him lately, because he does seem like a smart, interesting kid. The show's been Bobby Drapering him to focus on Paige. He and Paige are going to need each other.

Stan's definitely doing some growing. I winced for him during the Sandra scene, but I think as much as he doesn't want his marriage to be over, he'll accept that it is and begin a new chapter in his life. He moved immediately on from that painful moment to one in which he sees his son is open to talking with him, and he steps up and connects beautifully with him. It's a shame his friendship with Philip is built on Philip's lies and ulterior motives, because it is so genuine and solid on Stan's end.

Dad humour: Philip claims he's ordered a pizza with extra pineapple, anchovies, and pickles. In the next scene we see that the pizza has a simple cheese topping.

Philip and Elizabeth have begun to pose as Joey Ramone and Mary Stuart Masterson for operations. Better than Elizabeth's John Denver look, I suppose.
posted by orange swan at 7:09 AM on March 12, 2015 [8 favorites]

Holy cow, Clark has an apartment. The Soviet spy network never fails to amaze me. It never half asses anything.

Well, except for not having a dentist (or even just a skilled doctor) on the payroll to take care of things like Elizabeth's damaged tooth.

I totally expected Clark to have an apartment, myself. It makes sense that, at some point, Martha would probably want to go there with him, though not as a suspicious confrontation.

That Ramone look on Phillip was terrible. Probably the most obvious wig he's worn yet, and that's saying something.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:24 AM on March 12, 2015

The scene where they discover the bug was so, so good, just all around. And the consequences are going to be brutal - I think Martha already came damn close to shooting herself and/or Clark. I think even Gaad is going to take it pretty hard, and if he eventually figures out it was Martha? Their whole office is just going to sink into paranoia and self-loathing.

It's a shame his friendship with Philip is built on Philip's lies and ulterior motives, because it is so genuine and solid on Stan's end.

After his attempt at pizza heroics went nowhere (and he couldn't even get a reaction to his attempt to gross Paige out with the fake toppings), I liked that Philip went over to Stan's to eat it. Much like Philip and Elizabeth's marriage, the foundation of his friendship with Stan may be some fake spy bullshit, but there's some real, true stuff being layered on top of it as time goes by.

On a lighter note, "You are not a part of this discourse!" is going to become a catchphrase around my house for a while, I'm pretty sure.
posted by mstokes650 at 7:35 AM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

The at-home dentistry says a lot about KGB priorities. They'll leave nothing undone that will contribute to the success of their mission, but they can't be bothered to do anything simply to make life easier for their agents.

From an AV Club interview with Joe Weisberg:

"...this is based on real cases where illegals married unsuspecting women. I think there’s three reported cases where we know about what happened at the end, when the truth finally came out, in each of these three cases after many years of marriage. In one of the cases, the woman absolutely refused to believe it. Even when the police were presenting her with irrefutable evidence, she was in denial. There was nothing you could say; she just never believed it. In another case, the woman got up from her chair, walked over to a window and jumped out the window. Just immediately killed herself within five seconds of being told. And in another case, the woman hung herself an hour later. So you have two out of three suicides. I’m not suggesting that’s where our story is going because who knows where our story will go. But how horrible what they’re doing is, to me, it’s already at peak horror. I don’t know. What twist could it take to get any worse?"

I'm thinking there's no way Martha gets a happy ending.
posted by orange swan at 7:46 AM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think Martha could very well be turned to work against Clark/Phillip. I say that because, some way, somehow, Stan has to discover Phillip's true identity. It just seems like the direction to go. Otherwise, Stan is stuck being the poor, clueless schmuck, and I can't accept that as his future in the show.

Heck, the friction between Phillip and Elizabeth over Paige's future would dovetail nicely with Phillip being caught and turned to inform on Elizabeth, Gabriel, etc.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:33 AM on March 12, 2015

Thorzdad: "Well, except for not having a dentist (or even just a skilled doctor) on the payroll to take care of things like Elizabeth's damaged tooth. "

They couldn't use the one the Soviet Embassy would use because the CIA would probably be at least photographing everyone who came into it, and bribery/pressure might work on an independent doctor/hygenist, but the risk of them wondering why this American would need secret dentistry, why someone else was arranging it, + the BOLO sent to all dental offices on the east coast. It was a fairly big risk.

Alison Wright was SO the MVP of this episode. Her fear of being caught, her anger at being in this position, her sadness as she grappled with all the questions she has just been glossing over, the thin veneer of her professional self-protection, the brittleness of her emotional self-protection, the dawning horror of what her life is. It was so good. She's a mirror of sorts to Nina's experience, not innocents, but chewed up in the larger machinery of the Cold War anyway.

Has the Defector ever been in Gaad's office? Stan's paranoia about the convo Aderholt and Gaad (about him?) were having was immediately replaced by the horror of the bugged pen. I think he's going to go back to suspecting the Defector, while Taffet strikes me as an Angleton-type who will be suspicious of everyone, and he should cotton onto Martha's secret "marriage" at some point.

Watching Elizabeth's convo with Reuben, I was struck by how hearing his parenting perspective and wants for her kids struck Elizabeth. It was her own philosophy repeated back to her, but even though she agreed, and told him she wasn't an American, and listened, you could see his detailing his perspective and preferences for how his child died landed a small blow.
posted by julen at 1:25 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

They're really ratcheting up the tension on all fronts, but I was most pleased by the VAN FU in the end scene. Philip sees/hears it screech out of the alley and immediately turns it into a weapon.
posted by Etrigan at 5:57 AM on March 13, 2015

I was most pleased by the VAN FU in the end scene

Yes, I do miss the spy craft, and they are particularly great with car action.

An interesting suggestion about the pen bug from the Sepinwall comment section:
eiganvalue: The techs would have known that the bug would not transmit very far. They had to figure that a recorder like Martha's had to be very close to the pen.

Here is a spy pen that was sold in the 1980's... The range was listed at 25 meters. But with metal frame around room, the very magnetically noisy computer room just next door, they have to suspect Martha or Stan as 1 and 2.
Obviously the KGB would have better tech than anything the average person could order; maybe someone here knows more.

I was really afraid they would take the next step in that relationship this week. Whew!

On one hand I am just dreading this, because OBVIOUSLY. On the other hand there's a tiny part of me that feels the show is so willing to be raw and honest that not going through with it would feel...not like a cop-out, but more of a capitulation to network people or fear of internet backlash or something because OBVIOUSLY.

I actually looked up the actor who plays Kimmie hoping to see she is an actual minor. I'll leave it to the individual to decide if they want to know if her age precludes that scene from ever happening.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:39 AM on March 14, 2015

I looked her up too. I'm guessing the scene that we dread can certainly happen so far as the actors' ages are concerned. We shall see.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:17 PM on March 14, 2015

The bit at the end with the vans in the alleyway really drove home for me how important it is that Philip and Elizabeth sound absolutely American -- like, when the lady holding the baguettes opens her mouth, and you hear her accent? And the next thing you see is the bullet-hole in her forehead?

I love the Americans so much. Mr. Machine is usually a very stoic TV watcher, but when Martha was took the gun from the drawer, he blurted out, "OH GOD I HOPE PHILIP SHOOTS HER".

Not out of actual ill will towards her, mind you, but mostly because he couldn't STAND THE TENSION ANYMORE.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:22 AM on March 16, 2015

Also, as much as I love Henry and discourse, as much as I love Martha's freak-out, as much as I love the KGB not half-assing anything, as much as I love the job that Rhys and Russell did playing a couple that is playing not being angry at each other -- like, as much as I loved all of that, and I did, my favorite bit in the episode happens when Elizabeth and Reuben are standing by the water, talking about his kids back home. And he talks about trying to beat the love of motorcycles out of his son, because he wants his son to be a freedom fighter. And he/the show realizes just how weird this sounds to the audience, so he says that line about how he knows this isn't what Americans do with their kids.

And Elizabeth says she's not American.

My parents are immigrants, and my father, in particular, shares Elizabeth's deep, deep sense of alienation from so much of mainstream America. That moment was WRENCHING for me, especially in compare-contrast with how Philip does really American-dad things like try to bribe his way into quality time with his kids by bringing them pizza and making dad-jokes.

This was an exceptionally strong episode in a season that has just HIT IT OUT OF THE PARK.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:29 AM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Such great commentary here, thank you everyone. I feel bad watching the show so late because I missed the party! But I want to pick up on Thorzdad's comment that maybe someone in US intelligence finally clues in to Elizabeth and Phillip and starts to counter-spy them. Maybe it's Beeman finally trusting his intuition, maybe Martha has hidden depths to her, maybe Gaad has more going on than he lets know. It'd make a great twist for season 3 if they can figure a way to pull it off without blowing up the show.
posted by Nelson at 9:39 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older Hindsight: Auld Lang Syne...   |  Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Rept... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments