The Americans: Glanders
March 16, 2016 9:55 PM - Season 4, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Clark and Martha and Paige and Pastor Tim try to find their way forward. Gabriel gives Elizabeth and Philip a new mission. Philip reminisces about his childhood at EST and has drinks with Sandra. Stan does not think Tori's EST-style advice will help him improve his workplace relations at the FBI. Henry isn't seen, but his presences is smelt.
posted by orange swan (19 comments total)
 
Henry isn't seen, but his presences is smelt.

Heh. It does make one wonder if Henry is going to do an Adam Cartwright and just fade-away. Hope not. It would be nice for him to have some more meaty scenes this season, instead of being more-or-less wallpaper.

I am so glad this show is back! This was a good set-up for the rest of the season, where, judging from the previews, the shit finally hits the fan.

I had never heard of Glanders, so I hit Wikipedia and, holy shit. Nasty stuff.

Here's something I noticed in this episode...Look at Philip's disguise when he and Elizabeth are trying to meet-up with the Glanders guy. As (seemingly) always, his wig and facial hair appliances don't look exactly right. They pass as being real, sort-of, but there's something off. Like, maybe the color doesn't seem right for him.

Now, look at the scenes with Paige and Pastor Tim, compare Tim's look with Philip, and tell me Tim's hair isn't a wig. It just doesn't look right. I'm probably way off here, but, the guy has always felt like he wasn't what he appeared to be, to me.

And, a blessedly Kimmie-free episode. Though, I'm pretty sure I recall seeing her and Philip in a promo FX ran at some point over the past few weeks.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:30 AM on March 17, 2016


I'm so glad it's back!

I find it fascinating that Martha has decided to cope by going all in. She's pretty good at being an operative, and was so cold with Stan who was trying to be empathetic about Jean. And those black-hat-lady earrings she was wearing when she copied the reports were really ... interesting.

It was a good season kickoff episode, setting everyone in their places: Stan still letting his real world emotional life cloud his professional thinking and instincts; Martha walking a high-wire; Gabriel struggling to manage this team; Pastor Tim being Pastor Tim (so seemingly weirdly naive, but pushing Paige to get info about their spying. Is he trying to see if Paige is being truthful? Does he want to blackmail? Does he want to turn them over? Does he have other plans?)!; Paige being caught between her fear, her inability to cope, and her desire to protect her parents and to reject their whole lifework; a new headache of a case to manage, and the ever closer prospect of getting caught.

I hadn't really thought about the fact that we hadn't seen Philip's pre-Elizabeth past, and so the window on his childhood was really interesting and a contrast to Elizabeth's mother-insulated childhood. His childhood seems more wooly, more street-kiddish, with violence coming much earlier. We first saw her as the victim of violence as a trainee, but Philip experienced it much earlier.

I miss the mailrobot.
posted by julen at 8:34 AM on March 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


I thought the reason we didn't see Henry might be that the story is supposed to pick up just hours after the closing scenes of season three, and that it would be hard to disguise the fact that Keidrich Sellati, who plays Henry, has physically matured by a year "overnight". Holly Taylor is a year older too, but she looked the same as she did last season. It seems she's actually 18 and playing a 15-year-old, and the physical changes for a girl between the ages of 17 and 18 are pretty negligible.

Kelly AuCoin is indeed wearing a wig for his role as Pastor Tim. In real life, he's balding with very closely cropped hair. I don't know that this means he's some sort of operative, though. I need to see some actual proof before I get on board with that theory. I mean, it makes no sense... if he were a Russian spy, surely Philip and Elizabeth would have been told about him, and if he were an American agent, he would have turned Philip and Elizabeth in. While we're on that topic, it doesn't seem realistic at all that even an ordinary American citizen wouldn't report Philip and Elizabeth. Certainly I can understand his reluctance to do what he knows will destroy a family, but he must understand that there are other people's lives at stake. Maybe he isn't quite sure it's true? Or maybe he doesn't have very good judgment. So many people who take up the helping professions like counselling and the like don't, surprisingly. There are many ministers out there who are clueless and narcissistic and the like without being actually corrupt or evil.

Philip and Elizabeth have tapped Pastor Tim's calls. If he ever does breathe a word about them, he's a dead man. Then Paige will know what they did and report them to the police herself, and yikes.

I'm sure we're going to see Kimmie again, and that it will be just as wretched as we all fear.

Martha now knows Philip to be a killer and her way of coping is to double down. I did not expect that -- I thought that would be her breaking point. At the same time I recognize that she has no good options at this point. I suppose the real breaking point will be when she finds out Philip has a wife and children and has only been pretending to love her. At which point, watch the fuck out, Philip.

Yes, this is the first time we've had a glimpse into Philip's childhood. Previously we haven't seen anything prior to just before he joined the KGB in his late teens. He lost his peace of mind and self-respect at a very young age. It's interesting that he would have chosen espionage after that. I mean, he killed someone as an adolescent boy, he's had to live with that for years... and then he signs up for more of the same? The average teenaged boy who joins the military or what have you has no idea what it would be like to actually kill someone.

So Nina has a husband! It'll be interesting to learn more about that back story.

The Soviets could at least let Anton write to his wife and son to let them know where he is, for God's sake, or even let them join him if they want to.

Oh Stan. You have so many reasons to beat up Philip, and you picked the one thing Philip was innocent of.

This was a good episode. This year things are going to really start getting ugly for Philip and Elizabeth. They thought it was bad before, and it was, but it's going to get a lot worse. They face disaster on all fronts now.
posted by orange swan at 11:00 AM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


if he were a Russian spy, surely Philip and Elizabeth would have been told about him

Uhm, no ? Compartmentalisation ? He could be a check on Philip and Elizabeth ? Maybe to see if Paige doesn't crack ?
posted by Pendragon at 12:21 PM on March 17, 2016


if he were a Russian spy, surely Philip and Elizabeth would have been told about him

Not necessarily. Remember that kid from season 2 who killed his Russian-spy parents had been recruited by the Russians without his parents knowledge and I think against their wishes.
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:26 PM on March 17, 2016


In the case of Jared Connors, he was being recruited by the Connors' handler, Kate. The Connors didn't know what Kate was up to, but they knew she was another operative. In this case, according to your theory, we have a so-called operative working Paige without the Jennings knowing he's an operative, which comes with a high probability of the Jennings killing him to protect themselves. The Soviets have to invest too many resources into their spies to risk having one of them killed this way.

I've previously laid out my case for why it would be extremely unlikely that Pastor Tim is an undercover agent. As I said in that comment, I am prepared to be wrong about this, but I've seen nothing yet that makes me think he might be and am remaining firmly on Team Well-Meaning if Naive Pastor for the time being.
posted by orange swan at 2:33 PM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't really know what they're doing with Pastor Tim. Given his politics, and that all he's been told is that they're Russian and probably Soviet agents, but not that they've done anything violent, he may not be very patriotic about it relative to how much he cares about what's best for Paige.

I found myself thinking about this when I was watching it, whether I would report secret agents of a hostile power to the authorities. I probably wouldn't, assuming I didn't think they were terrorists. I'm not even remotely patriotic these days. (Well, now I'm going on a list, huh? Which is a big part of why I feel the way I do.)

One of the first true radicals I ever met, who published a zine with a lot of anti-American and pro-communist ranting, was a guy in Amarillo in 1986. I think that younger people today may not really understand how much Reagan, especially, radicalized a lot of the American left -- for which the Vietnam war and Nixon was a relatively recent memory -- and how much a certain kind of person, usually younger people, who see things in a very black-and-white way, were drawn toward seeing the USSR in a relatively positive light as the obvious alternative to the USA. I wasn't one of those people, at all, but I knew a number of them. There was a time in my life when it seemed like I kept meeting people who explained to me that the USSR was a pretty great place. And this was in Texas! (Mostly.)

A Christian church that organizes nuclear weapons protests in 1984 isn't really the kind of folk who would see the USSR in a positive light, but among them there are going to be people who aren't necessarily very quick to feel patriotic and report Soviet spies, either. Especially just on the word of a teen.

But, really, what I think is a better explanation is that Pastor Tim doesn't actually believe Paige that her parents are secretely Russian and are Soviet spies. I think he thinks that either she's deluded herself into this as an alternative to a more mundane but horrible truth, or that they've been keeping things from her, maybe they're actually Russian, but not that they're actually spies.

The other possibility is that he's not what he seems to be, which would annoy me a great deal, like it would other people here.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:08 PM on March 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have had suspicions about Pastor Tim, and with this episode, they got stronger. When he is first shown talking to Paige, he is obscured by a curtain and she is not. So yeah, that seems a big hint. Would it annoy me? Almost certainly.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:10 PM on March 17, 2016


I wasn't trying to argue that Pastor Tim is definitely an agent working to recruit Paige. I was just pointing out that the Russians don't really have qualms about going behind a parent's back to recruit a child. Phillip and Elizabeth may have been able to change their superiors' minds but I also do remember Margo Martindale saying they would be recruiting Paige with or without their permission.

A point in Pastor Tim's favor though, is that the creators themselves have said he was a nice guy without nefarious purposes. This was 2 seasons ago and maybe they changed their minds regarding what they wanted to do with the character, but I'm going to believe them until the show tells me otherwise.
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:44 AM on March 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I didn't get to watch until last night --- so worth the wait!

A thought early in the hour: It's weird to see Clark looking like Philip.

Long minutes wondering how Martha will process the fact of Gene's death and how she will move forward. When she showed up at Philip's place it hit me that she *really* has no one else with whom she can share what's going on with her at this point. How does she even say to her mother "Oh, Clark is so busy; I wish he didn't work so much."

Interesting thoughts about Pastor Tim and his politics, Ivan F.

...So much more to say and think about, but I am at work and that's not happening now. I'm glad to have time to digest before diving in to episode 2. (And I would dive in if I could.)
posted by jaruwaan at 7:02 AM on March 18, 2016


I suppose the real breaking point will be when she finds out Philip has a wife and children and has only been pretending to love her.

I'm not sure Philip is only pretending to love her. Remember Sandra told him he needed to confide in his wife about what happened at est. And he did, but he confided in Martha, not Elizabeth. At the end of last season, Philip told Elizabeth how disturbed he was about killing Gene and Elizabeth shut him down because Reagan was giving the Evil Empire speech. Philip is badly in need of emotional support, and he's getting it from Martha.
posted by chrchr at 2:14 PM on March 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


I don't know if he loves Martha, but he definitely cares for her and has a lot of empathy with her. Which is tragic, really. It might actually have been more of a kindness to kill her. Not really, I think, but in some sense the fact that he cares for her is worse than if he were truly a stone-cold manipulator, as he might have been.

But as I've said a lot in these threads, this is a fundamental truth about espionage -- the actual practice of it is deeply hurtful to the human spirit. It's all about exploitation and manipulation and deceit in personal relationships ostensibly for the greater good. As with most soldiers and war, people wouldn't be able to do it without the ideology, training, and the institutional support because it's just horrifying. But they do do it and, unlike soldiers, what they do isn't really acknowledged or celebrated.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:04 PM on March 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


This show is so good.
posted by Nelson at 9:21 PM on March 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Line of the week: "No, I just thought random people couldn't stop staring at me because I'm so handsome." Overjoyed to see the addition of the lovely Dylan Baker, who reliably brings the snark and derision to any situation!

Search me what the deal is with Pastor Tim (although the next episode is titled "Pastor Tim," so the tenterhooks? I am on them). I agree that it would seem super-weird for the show to be so obvious as to make him a player. However, when his advice to Paige is "hey, gather more details about your parents' activities so you can tell me," regardless of who or what he is that ain't gonna end well for someone. I definitely can envision a scenario where he thinks she's deluded and takes his concerns to P&E, though. Regardless, I continue to cackle in delight at the parallels the show draws between how P&E cultivate and work assets and how the church does.

Gosh, Alison Wright should be winning so many awards for her performance. What an impossible situation Martha is in. I'm kind of bored with the Nina and the Scientist sub-plot, not sure why.

My ongoing (and increasing) motto for the show is Someone Please Help Will Graham Kill Stan Beeman.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:55 AM on March 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


A likely explanation for Pastor Tim's oddness is the showrunners themselves didn't know whether they wanted to make him a spy. So write the character and let it develop, and give the actor just a bit of a strange presence so later they can turn him into an agent if they need to.

I'm fascinated that Nina is still on the show, I felt sure they were going to write her off. It seems odd to have her and Anton off in their own story halfway across the world but it provides some nice balance to all the American stuff. I wish they showed a bit more joy in the Soviet world, even if it's just a bit of after-hours vodka or something. It's a bit too grey grim stereotype for verisimilitude.
posted by Nelson at 10:37 AM on March 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


"My ongoing (and increasing) motto for the show is Someone Please Help Will Graham Kill Stan Beeman."

Jesus, yes. It wasn't clear to me for a long time whether the show intended for me to dislike Stan, but I think with his freak-out with Philip, there's no doubt. He's really a selfish asshole. And while sometimes he has good intelligence instincts, it's pretty clear that his own self-involvement undermines them far too often. (I don't think he has any reason to be suspicious of Philip and Elizabeth; but he's been shown to be compromised with Nina and on some other occasions, too.)

"I'm fascinated that Nina is still on the show, I felt sure they were going to write her off."

They probably have a destination in mind, but I mostly think it's just because they must (rightly) love the actor and character. But this storyline has been plodding and I think it was a mistake.

"I wish they showed a bit more joy in the Soviet world, even if it's just a bit of after-hours vodka or something. It's a bit too grey grim stereotype for verisimilitude."

It's a scientific gulag, effectively, at least for Anton. I think it's realistic that it's grim. I don't think -- though I could be wrong -- that it was factually the case or if it could realistically be the case that such a facility doing such cutting-edge work could be basically a prison workcamp. But, if not, the facility itself would be very locked-down and grim and the scientists who are unlike Anton and in favor would have perqs in their lives outside the facility, if just a residential area nearby. Anton, though, would be confined there and his life (and consequently Nina's) would be quite different. That's my read.

There were a lot of similar scientific facilities in Siberia or otherwise distant and dismal locales (particularly relevent is the following section, "The Box", in that Wikipedia article).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:42 PM on March 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh man, finally got to watch it.

First: Has there been on TV a more tragic character than Martha? I mean, at her age, in the 80s, I bet she never thought she'd ever get married, and yet finds and marries a plausibly good man, only to find he's not who she expected and a murder if not more. But decades of believing in romance and true love and finally having it, she's not giving up on it. There's no fanatic like a convert.

Since his first appearance, I've had a weird feeling about Pastor Tim. His supposed character is not that different than the ministers of the church I grew up in, but we definitely didn't do social justice programs or anti-nuke demonstrations. Just straight-up Republican patriotic god-fearing love of Reagan and hatred of abortion and gays (you'll be happy to know that I've been way out of that for decades now). Last season, when the thread about there being some kind of internal-affairs-ish thing (Department 12) in the Rezidentura came up, I immediately jumped and said, "That's what Pastor Tim is. He's there to keep tabs on Paige." Now that we've seen the wig and Tatiana being outed as part of Department 12, I honestly now really think that's where it's going. It is The Americans, though, so I could be wrong.

I'm excited to see where Nina and Anton's story goes, although there's a part of me that thinks it's going to intersect the disease story and will probably go very poorly for Anton.

Finally, usually the first episodes of these premier dramas are slow and merely setting up the board, but this was gripping as any later-season episode. *Crap!* Stan shoved Philip right into the uber-plague! Perhaps the best season opener I've ever seen.
posted by General Malaise at 5:23 PM on March 21, 2016


I thought Department 12 was the super top secret chemical and biological weapons project.
posted by chrchr at 9:33 PM on March 21, 2016


chrchr - Upon looking it up, I think you're right. It just read like some kind of secret internal affairs program to me on the show.
posted by General Malaise at 5:04 AM on March 22, 2016


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