The Americans: A Roy Rogers in Franconia
June 2, 2016 5:07 AM - Season 4, Episode 12 - Subscribe

Mail Robot has an internal exam. Tatiana and Oleg get new job offers, and William is offered a trip abroad. Martha's parents and Stan each receive some valuable new information. Paige processes her new awareness of her parents' skills and has her first experience of honey pot duty. Henry learns about a startling new technological innovation.
posted by orange swan (26 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The matching Slate podcast has Chris Long (the episode's director) and Costa Ronin as guests. Oleg's phone call to his mother was originally intended for the previous episode.
posted by kingless at 6:27 AM on June 2, 2016

I trust I wasn't the only one who did a giggly "Yay, Paige!" during the kiss?

Oh, man...That scene with Elizabeth and Paige, where Liz is talking about her childhood. The camera work and lighting and makeup were really telling a whole lot of stories. Paige in full light, her round, flawless white face looking up, Her big eyes with those full, upturned and worried eyebrows. Elizabeth, in semi-shadow, looking down, her stern, angular face and her narrow eyes with those straight, pencil-thin angry brows. Mama bear and baby bear, indeed.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:06 AM on June 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Line of the episode (maybe season):

Paige: "Great."
posted by Pendragon at 10:32 AM on June 2, 2016 [11 favorites]

Paige: "Great."

Holly Taylor, shortlisted for line reading of the decade.
posted by Kinbote at 10:41 AM on June 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

If this season doesn't win Holly, at the very least, an Emmy nom, there is no justice in the world. She's been killing it.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:48 AM on June 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oh, man...That scene with Elizabeth and Paige, where Liz is talking about her childhood.

The best part of that scene for me was watching Elizabeth use a tactic to get out of opening up-- when pressed for an answer she just parrots back the emotions of the person asking. So when Paige asks about the mugging, Elizabeth just says "it happened so fast..." because those are the exact words Paige used moments before. Only when Paige really presses does she drop the facade and give her story of growing up.
posted by bluecore at 11:52 AM on June 2, 2016 [5 favorites]

Oh Mail Robot, the FBI and the KGB between them have stripped you of all dignity and agency.

Tatiana missed an opportunity for some serious double entendre, (i.e., "Oleg, would you like to work under me in my new position in Nairobi?")

Can't blame her for trying to pack up Oleg and take him with her, though. The man is not only fun and intelligent and, it would seem, good in bed, but he risked getting a bullet in the head to save the woman that he loved and to save the world from Soviet screwups with the Lassa virus. He's a keeper. Also, he seems to be a kickass agent. He's had all those secret meetings with Stan and worked his own agenda without ever being detected or letting on to anyone at work or putting too much trust in Stan. He had me fooled -- here I was concerned that Tatiana was working him, and it turns out he got just as much out of Tatiana as she did out of him.

I was wondering whether Gabriel's offer of sending William home was sincere. Gabriel had told Philip that William hadn't accomplished anything in his time in the U.S. and it didn't seem to make much sense that he'd get retirement now that he's finally stealing a few samples. However, this may be academic now that the FBI is on to him. The FBI counterintelligence unit is incredibly effective. Give them a little scrap of accurate information and they're all over it. Oleg didn't do much more than point them in the right direction and they took those extensive directories of names and zeroed in on the KGB plant in no time (though Stan didn't come home for three days, so the time it took was longer than it might have seemed). Poor William. He's lived a life of misery and now that he's made it's going to get much, much worse very soon.

Aderholt's new boss is not only marginalizing him but is pronouncing his name wrong -- "Adderholt" with a short a, rather than with the long a it's supposed to have.

The Hansons finally have some news regarding Martha. I was wondering if Martha could write them letters, but I suppose the FBI would seize them if she did. The KGB could relay letters to the Hansons but I doubt they will bother.

Paige's teenage years are dialed up to 11. Instead of, "Hmm, do I like the cute boy next door", it's "Hmm, do I like the cute boy next door and how useful is he as a source for my work for the KGB?" Intelligent and perceptive as she is, there's a certain age-appropriate immaturity in her reactions to things. When her parents won't tell her everything, she complains that she's getting treated like a child. No, that's getting treated like a spy, because they work on a need-to-know basis. Philip and Elizabeth really need to start training her. It's too dangerous to have her running around doing her own thing.

It would be very Henry of Henry to find his parents' spy supply cupboard because he was looking for some video/TV gadget.
posted by orange swan at 3:18 PM on June 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

A question: do you think there was any percentage of Oleg's decision to go to Stan that had to do with sabotaging his girlfriend's new posting so she wouldn't leave him? He seemed genuinely happy for her, and he seems to like America more than most, maybe even more than Philip, so it all fits that he might not want that deadly virus to be in the world, but he's also probably still reeling from losing Nina and his brother, so maybe there's a tiny part that's being selfish... ?
posted by bluecore at 4:10 PM on June 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

bluecore, my co-worker pal had the same thought. Great episode overall. Loved loved loved that when the camera cuts from Gabriel dialing Martha's parents to Philip watching, Philip's eyes are directly on the keypad making sure Gabriel is dialing the right number.
posted by mediareport at 5:23 PM on June 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Up to now I've been intrigued by the Paige storyline, and I think the young actor is doing a decent job, although I wonder if a tougher JLaw-type persona won't ultimately be needed. Maybe it's because I HAVE been thinking more about the possible plotlines, anticipating, but this had an oddly fan-fictiony feel to it. The quiet heart-to-hearts were nice, but then the tone/mood changed.

Suddenly she's teasing her mom. She and Matthew are sharing a too-long-foreshadowed Kiss. And then that last stubborn outburst, when her parents could've just shut her overeagerness down by saying, "We had years of training. You can't suddenly be a spy like we are any more than you can be a surgeon after watching 'St. Elsewhere.'"

Funny that all the actual KGB agents are showing various states of doubt over mission while Elizabeth Jr. is all full speed ahead. (A smart, sheltered, nonviolent person going bad for the family. Paige is Michael Corleone. Discuss.)

I did appreciate her calling her mom's B.S. on her cliche, pat answers. And I'm glad we finally saw Henry wondering wazzup. (But where will this plot go when TWO kids are all wackily involved.)

They've cut out some strong grownup storylines (e.g., Martha - for now). I feel like they need to reboot with a major twist in Ep 13: The Jennings move and take on new IDs, or Stan gets killed.

Yes, I'm not into the Oleg/Stan bromance. Just more Aderholt, please. (Stan dying would up his motivation, wouldn't it.)

And I'll be sorry if anything happens to William. Not only because he's a decent guy, but who will bring the fashion-snark about Phillip's disguises.
posted by NorthernLite at 5:41 PM on June 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

NorthernLite: feel like they need to reboot with a major twist in Ep 13: The Jennings move and take on new IDs, or Stan gets killed.

Oh, I think that would be a huge mistake. They've been building the Stan friendship for years, and having the Jennings move away or killing Stan suddenly would rob us of seeing Stan putting the pieces to together and realizing his last remaining friends in the world are his sworn enemies who have been working against him for their entire friendship. Is it even a real friendship? For Philip, in many ways I think it might be, but they're still working against each other, killing each other's co-workers.

The plot is whether the Jennings get caught or not, but any show can do that. The reason this show is so great is that it cleaves to the human condition: family, friendship, love, betrayal, loss.
posted by bluecore at 6:12 PM on June 2, 2016 [5 favorites]

Does anybody not think that the series finale will end with Paige testifying against her parents? I mean, at least for me, that's how this story is obviously ending.

I have to say, while the directing and acting in this episode were fantastic, I was a little disappointed at this as a Golden Age of Television penultimate episode. A lot of moves were made in regard to the finale, but most premier dramas do that a couple episodes earlier and use the penultimate for the dramatic climax (to wit, the Wire killing off Stringer, etc.). I trust that the writers are setting up an incredible finale that sets up next season, but I was really expecting more from this episode.

I also very much expected Gabriel, when he sat down in the scene with Philip, to end the existential crisis with a health crisis, and was remarkably relieved when that didn't happen.

Oleg, man, to answer a previous question, I think he was shocked and almost offended when she ended the conversation with a basic "if the east coast survives my tenure, it'll be a success." I think he basically realized that what she's doing is too dangerous, and he actually has some empathy for the U.S., and that's why he turned on her and went to Stan. Than man loves some U.S. goodies, which he has shown no shame about.
posted by General Malaise at 7:04 PM on June 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Additional Paige thought- I agree with her, they should be worried what Henry says to Stan (Yes, the irony.)

Btw another nit to pick re: the lady from the robot repair shop, I think the show had the ages off. Didnt the story go that the woman and her husband were fairly young adults during WWII? If so, she should've been in her 60s/early 70s in the early 1980s.
posted by NorthernLite at 7:30 PM on June 2, 2016

Yeah, I noticed exactly that about Betty! I was meaning to re-watch that episode to check. I also thought she was talking about her late husband having served in WWII, but perhaps she was talking about WWI without specifying which war and we just assumed she meant the other one. I do seem to recall that the photo of her and her husband showed more modern clothing, but then it might easily have been a photo dating from a later decade. Lois Smith, the actress who played Betty, is 85, so this isn't something the show's writers just came up with.
posted by orange swan at 9:29 PM on June 2, 2016

It would be very Henry of Henry to find his parents' spy supply cupboard because he was looking for some video/TV gadget.

And he'll confide in Paige who'll be very conflicted about how to handle it, probably because of some complication as yet on the horizon. It'll be her trial-by-fire.
posted by scalefree at 3:36 AM on June 3, 2016

I think Oleg was motivated by a couple of things:

Being bested by his girl. Gotta imagine it's tough for a guy from the Soviet equivalent of MIT (omg, I shudder to think) to gracefully accept that his woman is more professionally successful than he is. She revealed that there were uncertainties and weaknesses in the current operation in that casual remark about the eastern seaboard and he used it.

Living with the pain of death of a loved one from senseless warfare. He's still hurting from his brother and his mother is destroyed. He groks what the devastation would be if Tatianas work ever came into practice, accidentally or purposefully. No coincidence that he reached out to Stan right after that phone call.
posted by Sublimity at 4:17 AM on June 3, 2016

I don't see any basis for these theories that Oleg tipped off Stan out of any desire to either keep Tatiana in the States or to best her. To begin with, Oleg doesn't seem too serious about Tatiana. As Tatiana said, they'd only been involved for a few months, and from what we've seen, he enjoys her company and has a casual affection for her but there are no declarations of love or indications of any great passion. Oleg's father told him, "you've been with so many beautiful women", and my guess is that Oleg finds it so easy to find desirable women to be with that he would see no need at all to make a strenuous effort to hold onto one of them -- let alone commit treason to do so. He did it for Nina, yes, but that was to save her life, not to keep her with him when she got a better posting somewhere else. And even then he wasn't sure whether he loved her or not.

As for the idea that he'd sabotage Tatiana's operation in order to best her because he couldn't stand have his woman outdo him.... come on. We've seen zero misogyny from the guy. He's shown nothing but care and respect for the women in his life. He seemed genuinely and unreservedly happy for Tatiana, and tellingly his mood only took a downturn when she made that crack about not killing half the people on the eastern seaboard. We heard Oleg express concern about substandard Russian technological equipment when he told Tatiana about the incident of the Russians almost launching their nuclear arsenal because they mistook some clouds(!) for American nuclear missiles. He said, "Our technology is so far behind." He realizes, like William, that the Russians should not have the Lassa virus, not because they're any less moral than the Americans, but because they don't have the resources to contain it safely. I see no evidence that his motive was anything more than a desire to prevent a catastrophic global epidemic. Heaven knows he didn't need another reason.
posted by orange swan at 6:19 AM on June 3, 2016 [13 favorites]

I got all space-enthusiast annoyed that Oleg was looking at "an upper stage for shuttle Challenger" thinking that the shuttles didn't really stage that way. But looking it up just now, I see that the thing he was examining was a real thing, planned to boost heavy satellites past the shuttle's standard orbit, and that it was a colossally bad idea that, if used, could easily have been catastrophic.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 7:38 AM on June 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

The scene where Elizabeth and Paige were talking about Matthew was interesting. Paige was basically saying "me cultivating Matthew for information is the same thing as me cultivating Pastor Tim and Alice" and Elizabeth was like "no, no, it's totally different." But I think Paige is the one who's right here, she sees enough of how the game works to understand that it's all up for grabs. Although Paige doesn't know it, Elizabeth has been trained to use her sexuality and her profession of romantic emotions to foster her craft. But Elizabeth's gotten to a point with Don and Young Hee where she's feeling the pain of opening up that way, and she doesn't want her daughter to suffer the same way. At the same time, she's got the parent's protective feelings over her child's sexuality and emotions and she doesn't want to think of her daughter being as manipulative with her own sexuality as she is herself.

It's going to be interesting to see where the Paige thing goes. She's pretty smart about the spy game, but she's still a teenager - something's got to crack sometime.
posted by matildaben at 10:47 AM on June 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Paige isn't cultivating Pastor Tim and Alice for information. The reason that P&E insist on Paige staying close to Pastor Tim and Alice is that they're vulnerable to PT&A. Matthew doesn't know P&E are Russians. That may be the difference Elizabeth sees.
posted by kingless at 11:37 AM on June 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think the theme for this episode was "everybody's working everybody [except maybe Philip, and poor Mail Robot]". Elizabeth didn't say a single true thing to Paige all episode, and I'm not even sure that whole "Smolensk was devastated by the war" sniffle has anything to do with Elizabeth's original motivations (even if objectively true that it was), it was just the story Paige needed to hear. She knows she's working an empathetic, sensitive, rule-following Good Kid. Liz is playing pool, bouncing Paige off just the right bumpers with Matthew and murder and Pastor Tim.

Gabriel's little "just got to sit for a minute" bit - again, might be rooted in reality - but was total stagecraft. Telling William in front of Philip that he was going to Go Home To His Hero's Reward was a threat to Philip - we'll send your ass home, buddy, the last place you want to go.

I think Oleg called home to say goodbye to his mother, just in case, but he couldn't say so. And I believe his (kind of dramatically-performed, for Oleg) concerns about Captain Tripps were legitimate, but his timing and delivery...he's playing a long game on something. Assuming the FBI did what he wanted and pulled all their manpower onto this thing, what is it he doesn't want them looking at instead?
posted by Lyn Never at 12:56 PM on June 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think Oleg called home to say goodbye to his mother, just in case, but he couldn't say so. And I believe his (kind of dramatically-performed, for Oleg) concerns about Captain Tripps were legitimate, but his timing and delivery...he's playing a long game on something. Assuming the FBI did what he wanted and pulled all their manpower onto this thing, what is it he doesn't want them looking at instead?

I'm not so sure. I think Oleg fancies himself a true patriot, the kind that will betray his country to save it. I keep thinking about that postcoital bedroom scene with Tatiana a few episodes ago, when he was telling her about the Stanislav Petrov incident. There was admiration in his voice.
posted by duffell at 2:16 PM on June 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm a little frustrated with the plotting right now. But the characters are so great! All those Mother/Daughter talks, so poignant. Keri Russell does a great job as Elizabeth conveying the mix of emotions. Being a good solid spy, but also wanting to be honest and connect with her daughter, but also realizing that she has to be honest or else she'll fail to turn her daughter into a spy, but then also hating herself for that. Love the performance.

And Holly Taylor is doing great work as Paige. I loved how ambiguous her relationship with Matthew is. Partly she's just thrilled to kiss a boy and hot for him. Partly she thinks she can work him and make her parents proud of her. The ambiguity of a teenager's motives, only as orange swan says dialed up to 11.
posted by Nelson at 10:19 AM on June 4, 2016

I can't be the only one who thought that Oleg was going to say something about O-rings after studying the shuttle schematics and shaking his head in disbelief?
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:27 PM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

I got interested in what he was doing and read up on the Centaur, and I think he was shaking his head because it was a terrrrrrible idea.

As the subtitle on that article says, italics included: "NASA once considered putting tanks of liquid oxygen and hydrogen in the cargo bay."
posted by Lyn Never at 9:47 AM on June 8, 2016

I thought Paige spying on Matthew was "different" because while it's necessary for her to maintain a relationship with Pastor Tim & Alice to keep them from blowing the cover, she's not (as said above) getting info from them.

We've seen how messy (and deadly) things can get with people Elizabeth & Phillip get information from - and that's dangerous and difficult even for them, with years of training AND elaborate disguises and identities for each subject. Matthew knows her name, he knows her face, he knows where she lives, he knows who her parents are, and his dad is in the FBI.
posted by bunderful at 8:27 PM on May 20, 2018

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