The Americans: Lotus 1-2-3
April 4, 2017 9:35 PM - Season 5, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Renee sees Romancing the Stone with Stan and Matthew, enjoys some pillow talk with Stan, and has drinks with Stan and Aderholt as well as a furtive escort home, Philip has sex and learns Lotus 1-2-3, Elizabeth has sex and eats Smores, Mischa meets with Gabriel, Philip has Russia flashbacks, Paige and Matthew have one of those awkward "us" discussions, Henry has unsuspected talents, Tuan learns to throw a football and has McDonald's, Oleg's parents host a The Bachelor-themed dinner party, and Oleg gets stood up.

For some good reviews of this episode, check out Vox, Vulture, and The AV Club.
posted by orange swan (31 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Some random thoughts:

- Misha: I haven't been really invested in his storyline, but when Gabriel broke the news to him I was devastated. Great acting. I hope that story isn't over.

- Pest-resistant crops: I called it! And Phillip feels terrible. Notably that scientist was one of the few times Phil did the killing.

- Alexei's wife getting the job: Is that a way for that operation to continue now that they know the wheat thing was a bust? I'm not sure, if she's translating for the Dept. of Agriculture, will she really meet any useful assets at all?

- Fathers and sons: Philip realizes he doesn't know Henry that well, bonds with Tuan (who he might be saying goodbye to?) and doesn't get to meet his other son at all.

- Stan's girlfriend: Yeah, we all thought she was a Russian spy, now Phil and Liz think so too. Stan can't catch a break.

- Oleg: I wonder if he showed up at the meeting because he *wants* to work with the FBI. He always seemed like he had gone native, maybe he wants them to get him back to the US. He certainly didn't care for the creepy Buffet of Young Women that his father set up for him.

- Henry: My crackpot theory is that his secret math brilliance is foreshadowing that he's been way smarter than anyone thought for a long time, and maybe he's figured out who his parents are. In fact, the teacher says something "lit a fire under him" recently and he's been working harder. Maybe that's because the FBI offered to pay for his college after he's done informing on his parents. I think they've mentioned him going to "Chris's house" a few times. "Boy Chris or girl Chris?" Maybe it's Handler Chris.
posted by mmoncur at 2:38 AM on April 5, 2017 [5 favorites]


Pest-resistant crops: I called it!

You did, and I didn't believe it. I stand corrected. I think at this point there's a vanishingly small chance "saving the world" is a cover story for something more nefarious, mostly because the larger arc of this story is how The Struggle is affecting the marriage of Phillip and Elizabeth. We've watched Phillip get more and more disillusioned, while Elizabeth remains steadfastly committed, and in both cases, their belief in their marriage is tested.

Still, we're only halfway through the season. I strongly suspect the agricultural arc has more twists in store regardless.

And Misha... jesus, that was heartbreaking.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 5:13 AM on April 5, 2017


if she's translating for the Dept. of Agriculture, will she really meet any useful assets at all?

Probably, Graduate School USA is run by the USDA, it's the go-to place for foreign language training in DC. You meet all sorts of interesting people both in government and in the private sector there.
posted by peeedro at 5:15 AM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Phillip's not looking good right now. He's gotten nothing out of Alexei, while Elizabeth got the news of his wife getting the job. He killed an innocent man. And his working the Lotus-1-2-3 woman has gone nowhere, whereas Elizabeth got the whole story from her mark. Phillip's become the weak link in the operation. And, judging from next week's previews, everyone else sees him that way, too. Not good.

I'm not sure how I feel about the Misha plot. Certainly, it has the potential to blow things up, but it really feels fabricated to me. Where is he living now that he's in the US? And, where did he get the phone number and code words to use when he called the "operator?"

What was that self-help group Phil was attending? It didn't look or sound like EST. It kind of came out of nowhere.

So, do we think Stan's girlfriend is KGB or CIA? Or just an ordinary woman, in the wrong place at the wrong time? Phillip and Elizabeth aren't going to be able to learn much without getting close to her and working her a bit, which would be uber-dangerous for their cover.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:50 AM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


I was all happy with this episode until wheat guy and Elizabeth were in the kitchen talking about Egyptian food and wine and such and I saw a modern (white, even!) GFCI outlet. I don't know why, but that one little thing just stuck in my head until the foam Big Mac box near the end finally snapped me out of my hate spiral.
posted by wierdo at 8:25 AM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


where did he get the phone number and code words to use when he called the "operator?"

From his mother ? He did use her code words.
posted by Pendragon at 12:21 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


But she told him his dad was a travel agent, right? I thought he believed that. Yet what does he think all the clandestine calls/ meetings are about? Or does he think his dad was a defector, and therefore has to be careful.

Has the whole Misha plotline confused anyone else? Why was he raised in Russia. Wasnt his mother also an "illegal" planted in Canada?
posted by NorthernLite at 2:20 PM on April 5, 2017


It seems odd that his mother would have that kind of secret information, doesn't it? Or, have I missed some piece of backstory explaining that?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:21 PM on April 5, 2017


His mother was an "illegal" who betrayed russia, she was in the recap at the beginning of the episode. Misha used her emergency code.
posted by Pendragon at 2:27 PM on April 5, 2017


Slate's s5e5 podcast episode has Noah Emmerich (who directed this one) and Costa Ronin in addition to the Js, of course. Got a kick out of seeing the operator again, who seemed a good bit older to me.
posted by kingless at 3:47 PM on April 5, 2017


What was that self-help group Phil was attending? It didn't look or sound like EST.

EST was written on the blackboard. I think they had a variety of seminars.
posted by cardboard at 4:53 PM on April 5, 2017


How creepy is it that Phillip's costume when stalking Andrea, I mean Stan's new squeeze, is his EST leader?!? Poor sad Phillip. He was always going to be the one to pull them out.

Elizabeth's guy in Kansas is a total manic pixie dream boyfriend.

Maybe it's that Soviet computer that's making Henry so great at math? He is playing it all the time right?
posted by LizBoBiz at 5:46 PM on April 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


weirdo, didn't GFCI exist in the mid 80's? I know my parrents house, last remodeled circa then has one in the bathroom.
posted by joeyh at 7:27 PM on April 5, 2017


Deirdre works during date night dinners out, with a glass of wine in hand, and goes straight from a session of joyless, mechanical sex to giving instruction on how to use Lotus 1-2-3. I'd say she needs to learn how to cut loose, but for her that probably is cutting loose.

What's going on with Philip's flashbacks? There's clearly some revelation coming regarding his father. Did he kill people to get their ragged clothes and awful food?

Elizabeth is sharing her special transplanted-to-America-and-busy-with-spy-stuff lasagna cooking and parenting tips with Evgheniya.

Beeman and Aderholt are still trying to talk to Russians who don't want to talk to them. The whole point of the exercise might be to keep the Soviets "busy and irritated". The problem with this is that when the Soviets get paranoid, they don't just get busy and irritated -- they start killing people.

It's both hilarious and sad that Philip and Elizabeth have no freaking idea what's going on with Henry. They didn't even seem to realize that he's especially intelligent, and of course it's always been clear that he is. And when Philip said, "We haven't seen you do a lot of studying," I was waiting for Henry to come back with, "You're not here to see what I do."

Such are the rigours of espionage that one doesn't even have time to see Romancing the Stone.

The show is clearly going somewhere with the Renee thing, but I won't hazard a guess as to where. I will say that I think it's highly unlikely that she's KGB, because if she were Philip and Elizabeth would surely have been apprised of that.

Hmm, I didn't read the food supply guy as having anything to hide.

I was wondering how on earth Mischa would ever find his father, but it seems Irina left him some info as well as money and passports. "Stasi MacAllister" is one very unlikely name. That scene with Gabriel was so heartbreaking. What will that poor kid do? He seems so lost and desolate.

Brenda's got some cutting edge styling looks for 1984. Makes sense for a clothing industry sales rep, I suppose.

I never believed that the Americans were sabotaging Russian wheat (I mean, hello, it would be a war crime and historically they seem not to have done anything of the sort), but there was just no way Elizabeth's new Kansas boyfriend Ben in especial could ever be guilty of such a thing. It would take a sociopath to do such a thing, and he so clearly isn't one. I'm even skeptical that he'd be single.

Where and when did Philip learn to throw a football? That KGB training must have been very comprehensive.

"Maybe I'm just meant to be alone." Way to break your father's heart in one sentence, Paige.

"He already has entries in his file that don't look good." Such a chilling sentence. After all Philip has done and the sacrifices he's made, the KGB is still keeping track of black marks.

That Dating Game dinner party? AWKWARD. Oleg carried it off as well as anyone could, but you'd think his parents would have had better sense than to arrange such in a thing in that way, especially his mother, who must realize that Oleg won't want to get involved with anyone right now with the CIA thing hanging over his head.

"To old scars and new skin." Stan really knows how to romance a girl with a graceful toast.

Philip is even getting all melancholy over his Big Mac.
posted by orange swan at 7:59 PM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


The name probably is Stacy MacAllister.
posted by Pendragon at 11:15 PM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


The name probably is Stacy MacAllister.
Yes (one of the virtues of watching with closed captioning on), just mispronounced by Mischa.
posted by ShooBoo at 11:26 PM on April 5, 2017


~The name probably is Stacy MacAllister.
~Yes (one of the virtues of watching with closed captioning on), just mispronounced by Mischa.


I thought it really odd his code name would be Stasi, given that that's the name of the East German secret police. Glad to know it was just a mispronunciation.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:58 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


The scene with Mischa and Gabriel was so heartbreaking. The only thing that bugged me a tiny bit was him insisting they speak English. If anyone could overhear them, it was hardly inconspicuous to hear the broken urgent English. Give the poor kid a break and let him speak Russian. OTOH Gabriel is just as vulnerable as the other illegals, he's got no diplomatic cover, so I guess he's extra careful about his personal security.

Man, I'd love a whole spin-off show about Gabriel and Claudia and their lives in America. They were young and idealistic and happy once, right?

I nearly choked laughing when the skeezy natural foods guy brought out a bottle of "Omar Khayyam Wine" and then proudly proclaimed "yes, he was from Egypt". 80s dude may look strong and sensitive and educated but he's totally bluffing. I bet he has a copy of the Kama Sutra in his nightstand. But unlike Martha, his is there to impress the ladies with his knowledge of Oriental Wisdom. Perhaps he is in to tantra.

I'm relieved the show has revealed how implausible the grain plot was. Not to mention Renee, she does seem way too easy for Stan to have fallen in with. Laurie Holden's a good actress too, I know her mostly from The Walking Dead.
posted by Nelson at 8:04 AM on April 6, 2017


🎶 I called the math thing, I called the math thing 🎶

Sorry, I never call anything.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:03 PM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


I forgot y'all talk about shows here! This is the only television I watch.

I thought Philip's disguise when watching Stan's girlfriend is intended to look like the dude Elizabeth is meeting up with in Kansas. Philip is clearly bothered by her being with him. Further evidence of Philip cracking up.
posted by Sublimity at 2:37 PM on April 7, 2017


The Misha story is annoying. First he magically travels from Eastern Europe to America, sight unseen. Second, now that he's in Washington/NY, after weeks of travel, staying under the radar, and uprooting himself from Russia, after a two-minute conversation he appeared ready to accept Gabriel's instructions that he's going to be sent home. No way, kid! Grab your bag and run!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 3:46 PM on April 7, 2017


It certainly is a problem for Misha that the only way he knows to get in touch with his father is through the CIA.
posted by chrchr at 4:39 PM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


I said CIA. I meant KGB.
posted by chrchr at 7:36 PM on April 7, 2017 [2 favorites]


Probably, Graduate School USA is run by the USDA, it's the go-to place for foreign language training in DC. You meet all sorts of interesting people both in government and in the private sector there.

At various times CIA has used USDA as a cover for their activities. If I recall properly the highway exit sign for Langley even said Dept. of Agriculture for many years. I'm sure that's what the showrunners meant to imply. We should know soon enough.
posted by scalefree at 9:49 PM on April 7, 2017 [2 favorites]


GFCI outlets existed, but you wouldn't be likely to see one in Kansas that early since they weren't required by building code yet. That would have been around the time they began being required in some jurisdictions, but we middle-of-the-country people have always taken a long time to get with the program.

The refrigerator and appliances didn't look that contemporary to me, which is probably why it threw me.
posted by wierdo at 1:14 AM on April 8, 2017


GFCI outlets existed, but you wouldn't be likely to see one in Kansas that early since they weren't required by building code yet. That would have been around the time they began being required in some jurisdictions, but we middle-of-the-country people have always taken a long time to get with the program.

Yeah, but the guy is obviously the sort of person who might actually retrofit his place with the new gadgets. As I recall, GFCI outlets were being pushed pretty heavily back then, sort of the same way smoke detectors were. "Save the world" hip granola guy strikes me as exactly the kind of person who would be an early adopter of such things.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:45 AM on April 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


Even if he did spend the $100ish it would have cost at the time, he wouldn't have had a white one. Maybe I'm misremembering, but I don't recall white outlets of any type being very common back then. I remember them almost always being beige/tan or black. That's not to say they weren't available, of course. (One of my clients had an office that was renovated ca. 83-85 with goldish smoke mirrored walls, cardinal red carpet and matching cardinal red outlets..sports and beer makes people crazy, y'all)

It seems extra out of place because the refrigerator is beige. I think that is probably more than enough exposition of my thoughts on 80s electrical system aesthetics for the next couple of seasons. Sorry guys.
posted by wierdo at 11:41 AM on April 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


I like the lady Philip was assigned to. I think it's interesting to see how the "get them in bed" strategy isn't a winner with everyone they meet.
posted by bleep at 1:23 AM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


Deirdre works during date night dinners out, with a glass of wine in hand, and goes straight from a session of joyless, mechanical sex to giving instruction on how to use Lotus 1-2-3

I think this scene could have been improved if she had been explaining Lotus 1-2-3 during the mechanical sex.
posted by mikepop at 11:20 AM on April 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'd forgotten that Lotus 1-2-3 was so sexy.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:10 PM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Why can't they carry face masks/pantyhose to put over their faces if they need to interact with someone who they need to scare into giving them information?
posted by mabelstreet at 10:30 PM on July 2


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