The Americans: IHOP
May 2, 2017 10:34 PM - Season 5, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Oleg answers some questions and gets some answers, Philip listens to audio and consults a priest, Stan is faced with a new dilemma and visits Linh Gaad, Gabriel visits Martha, Kimmy celebrates her 17th birthday, Henry announces he wants to leave home, and Tuan leaves home.

For some good reviews of this episode, check out Vox, Vulture, and The AV Club.
posted by orange swan (27 comments total)
 
Well the question is now do we believe Tuan? Mad props if he's playing everyone here.

Other thoughts, does it seem that it's gaads wife grief talking and that Stan actually has the correct read? Or are we to think his affection for Oleg is causing him to misread?
posted by Carillon at 11:12 PM on May 2, 2017


The other question is do we believe Henry?

I know it's just my whackjob theory, but I still think Henry has been informing on P&E to the FBI, and his reward is that they get him a scholarship to a prestigious school where he can get the hell away from his parents. Which of course would mean that, by fall, they don't expect to need him anymore...

The giant hole in my theory is that Stan would have to either (a) be in on the whole thing and an amazing bluffer, or (b) be completely uninformed about it. Then again Henry does hang around with Stan quite a bit.

No Paige this time, and nothing about the Wheat thing.

Martha seemed tragic... I could see her reading right through Gabriel's "Clark really cares about you" line. Even though it was true.

I don't buy Tuan's story. Why would he go out of town to make a phone call to his foster family? Wouldn't borrowing a friend's cell phone at school, or an office phone, be less suspicious? Isn't the act of getting on a Greyhound to PA way more suspicious than making a phone call?

Stan's going to get Oleg killed. If the CIA decides to approach him right after he's been investigated...
posted by mmoncur at 2:40 AM on May 3, 2017


The second I saw the photo of Kimmy on her father's desk, my mind went "Nooooooooooo! Don't go there!" At least it was short, and relatively non-creepy.

Tuan hopping a bus to Harrisburg to make calls seems somewhat implausible. Baltimore's closer. But, maybe it's his spycraft leading him to go far-ish away? Not sure I buy his excuse. You just kind of assume everyone's lying on this show.

Martha and Gabriel was an interesting scene. It's the first time I ever saw Gabriel utterly clueless and lost. He's spent his life in service to his country without ever having to face any of the consequences.

Getting Henry out of the house (and to the boarding school) somewhat solves a problem for P&E. With him gone, they don't have to worry about him discovering the family trade.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:13 AM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Other thoughts, does it seem that it's gaads wife grief talking and that Stan actually has the correct read? Or are we to think his affection for Oleg is causing him to misread?

I think the wife is correct-- Gaad was a "do anything to win" kind of guy. I think Stan wants to do the right thing, not a destroy a man's life unnecessarily, possibly because of Nina, his affection for Oleg, or EST. Now he's stuck, although maybe Oleg will want to help with the way they treated his mother and now him?

Wouldn't borrowing a friend's cell phone at school, or an office phone, be less suspicious? Isn't the act of getting on a Greyhound to PA way more suspicious than making a phone call?


Cell phone? It's the 80s. The foster family don't know where he went. He's effectively just a runaway to them. If they managed to trace the call, they'd at least have the wrong state.
posted by bluecore at 5:16 AM on May 3, 2017 [11 favorites]


I'm surprised Philip and Elizabeth didn't have to actively suppress their excitement over getting Henry out of the house.
posted by drezdn at 6:02 AM on May 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


I know it's just my whackjob theory, but I still think Henry has been informing on P&E to the FBI, and his reward is that they get him a scholarship to a prestigious school where he can get the hell away from his parents.

I'm not sure it would fit the overall vibe of the series, but it would be pretty amazing if Stan had figured them out long ago and was pulling off your idea. The show ends with a flashback showing everything from the past few seasons from Stan's knowing perspective.
posted by drezdn at 6:04 AM on May 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Tuan violated protocol and begged P&E not to put the event in their report. Basically asking them to become accomplices and violate their own protocol. If they don't report it, that doesn't bode well, I think.

Stan's going to get Oleg killed.

I get the feeling Oleg's already on that glidepath. Perhaps KGB has a mole in the CIA and has a copy of the tape? Or, they know that Stan pressured CIA to lay-off Oleg, which would certainly raise a whole lot of flags in the KGB.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:29 AM on May 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Oleg is clearly doomed here, right? Those KGB agents knew exactly what to ask.

Using Kimmy as a way to get Elizabeth questioning The Mission is fine by me, although I never felt where the show was going with her and Philip was so disgusting it needed to stop abruptly. Kevin Bacon and the writers of The Woodsman handled a gross, creepy pedophile story in a smart and thoughtful way; I see no reason this show couldn't have done the same, but I guess that puts me in the minority here.

Tuan's longing for family in the USA as he works to destroy it has always been sad. That he actually had one, with a little brother he had to leave with no explanation, makes him almost as sad as Martha. I'm with Elizabeth; I believe him. Interesting Phil's reaction is the colder of the two this time.

I have no idea what's up with Henry, except my roommate said the other day, "If he *doesn't* turn out to be some sort of spy, it'll be a pretty big waste of a character."

Not sure I totally agree (I can see the writers wanting a normal teenage foil in the family) but I do recall Henry smashing a creep over the head with a beer bottle to rescue Paige in season one, another father writing a letter of recommendation without even talking to the parents of the kid does seem strange, and they sure are dropping hints to make us wonder what's going on. Henry as FBI informant, though, that's a new one.

Poor Gabriel. He wanted a new friend in his retirement but botched the approach completely.
posted by mediareport at 9:31 AM on May 3, 2017


Oh, and Elizabeth's final line, "That's not who he is," is so perfect. They'd just found out they had no clue "who Tuan is," but her reaction is to cling to the belief he's still the loyal soldier she's been taking for granted for months. Philip isn't certain of much these days but at least he knows he doesn't know who someone like Tuan really is.
posted by mediareport at 9:35 AM on May 3, 2017


mediareport: I have no idea what's up with Henry, except my roommate said the other day, "If he *doesn't* turn out to be some sort of spy, it'll be a pretty big waste of a character."

Pretty sure Henry's not a spy or informing on his parents. If he was, they'd already be in handcuffs or dead. I think the events surrounding Henry being found to be gifted are underlining to them what crappy, distant parents they've been. That's why Philip is so upset after talking to Kimmy and hearing her say how no one gets parenting right - his job forces him to be more concerned about his fake son's whereabouts than his real son. (Just compare the last episode's rotating surveillance for Tuan versus the previous episodes "Where's Henry? Dunno.") The boarding school also sets up a situation where if they have to drop everything and run (either from the FBI or the KGB) they can't just stuff Henry in car if he's all the way in New Hampshire.

In terms of wild speculation how this could play out, it could be interesting if Stan discovers who they are but then is faced whether to destroy the family or let them run. If he's burned out at that point after Oleg's inevitable death by the spy game, I could see him letting them run or letting them commit suicide but agreeing to adopt Henry so Henry's life isn't ruined too. I could see Philip and Elizabeth willing to do this if Philip discovers his Russian son is dead (don't see him surviving Russia that long) and maybe Paige too (she's holding it together for now, but for how long?) Maybe the show ends with them sacrificing themselves for the good of their children? Wild speculation, but all the elements (Kimmy, Tuan, even Oleg) are about how the job affects family and what it means to be a good parent.
posted by bluecore at 10:06 AM on May 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


I know it's just my whackjob theory, but I still think Henry has been informing on P&E to the FBI, and his reward is that they get him a scholarship to a prestigious school where he can get the hell away from his parents. Which of course would mean that, by fall, they don't expect to need him anymore...

I think it's just the opposite. The Russians know P&E are not hugely enthused about putting their kids in the biz, so Henry is being lured away, out of their control.

(Also, again: Pretty sure Pastor Tim is Russkie agent, to initially assess Paige's suitability, steer her towards Leftist causes, and keep tabs on P&E.)
posted by Sys Rq at 11:19 AM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Also, Kimmy's line, "You're worried about your son" (or whatever it was) -- hilarious. Which son? Dude's got three, and he's worried about all of them in totally different ways.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:25 AM on May 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


Before he whipped out the prep school brochure, I was thinking Henry was going to confess to hacking the school's computers to give him good grades. Too Ferris Bueller, I guess.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:21 PM on May 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


The school Henry wants to attend turns out to be a CIA school, and Paige is assigned Henry as her first official job.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:34 PM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Slate's s5e9 podcast episode includes an interview with Alison Wright.
posted by kingless at 2:20 PM on May 3, 2017


Blimey, Martha's a Mackem!
posted by sobarel at 4:15 PM on May 3, 2017


I kept expecting Gabriel to suggest hooking Martha up* with Phillip's russian son (Mischa?).


*Just as friends, mind, or maybe adopting
posted by coriolisdave at 6:03 PM on May 3, 2017


"I'm with Elizabeth; I believe him. Interesting Phil's reaction is the colder of the two this time."

Elizabeth should be skeptical. While it's a believable story, and there's reason to believe that Tuan has been lonely, it's also the case that Tuan's story is arguably crafted to appeal to what he's in the past shown to believe is the Jennings's excessive sentiment. At any rate, they shouldn't report it to the Center and let the chips fall where they may. They have other things to worry about than Tuan, who -- I repeat -- has made a point of how important is the rigorous dedication to the cause.

"Poor Gabriel. He wanted a new friend in his retirement but botched the approach completely."

I was thinking that this showed that Martha is still just as foolishly sentimental as she ever was, just in the other direction. So she knows how things really work now? And she's telling a retired senior KGB agent who is clearly lonely to take a hike? Good plan, Martha.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:44 PM on May 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


This episode felt very tense and suspenseful, like something was going to happen any minute, but though there were some reveals, they weren't major. But it does feel like we're done with the table setting and the show has started to ratchet up the tension for the home stretch of the season.

We finally get to meet Kimmy's father. And find out what the Soviets intended to do with the Lassa virus.

That was an unrecognizable rendition of "Forever Young", Philip. Keep both your day and your night jobs.

Kimmy: Do you want to know what I wished for on my 17th birthday?
Jim: No, I absolutely do not want to hear about how you want to jump my middle-aged bones.

The Russian guy in the Jennings travel office is going to feel like *such* an idiot when he finds out who his bosses really are. Although sometimes I wonder if it won't be him, or someone who hasn't really registered with viewers, who turns in Philip and Elizabeth, and isn't a bit of a interesting coincidence that they should just happen to have a Russian employee? I'm looking for a completely unexpected twist to finally leave them exposed.

There's no reason for the FBI to believe that Oleg will know anything about what happened to Gaad. The FBI is simply using Gaad's death to manipulate Stan into agreeing to blackmail Oleg.

Philip is listening raptly to Kimmie's father ordering a sandwich. So much spycraft must be an exercise in tedium.

You don't want Elizabeth for your spy mom. Break curfew once, and she ransacks your room, sics a surveillance team on you, and sticks a gun in your face.

The priest wants a friend, and Philip can't even.

The FBI is not the best at emotional labour. No kidding. Poor Linh Gaad.

I'm not convinced that Gaad would have wanted revenge. He was more the "throw a tantrum and beat up the Mail Robot" type than the type to play the long game.

I was expecting Henry to pull a Paige-style "TELL ME WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON" showdown in the kitchen with his parents and instead he's a social-climbing preppy who will probably wind up working for the George W. Bush administration.

Elizabeth's first question: "Is it a religious school?" Finding out she's spawned another Bible-thumper would be more than she can handle. Philip is more concerned that his son is an ingrate.

Martha's apartment doesn't look so bad, and is probably better than what many Russians would have had at the time -- it's far better than Mischa's grandfather's place, for instance. It's not so very inferior to her old place back in Washington D.C., although it is terribly drab.

Martha is maybe doing pretty well with her Russian. She spontaneously used two conversational Russian sentences.

That baked potato was so sad. But at least she was drinking water with it, not chugging it down with alcohol.

Why was Gabriel there? To make himself feel better by trying to help Martha? That didn't make much sense to me. He must have worse matters weighing on his conscience than her. And that ingratiating little smile he does... it's more disturbing than endearing. I wouldn't trust him either.

Why on earth can't Martha and her parents write to one another through the regular mail? I fail to see why either the U.S. or Soviet governments would object. It's not like they're going to have any state secrets to tell each other.

It kind of amuses me that the KGB is introducing Martha to men. As heartless an organization as it can be, when the KGB takes care of you, they really take care of you.

Martha wasn't the least bit gratified to hear that "Clark thinks about her". As she puts is, she understands everything now. My guess is that she knows she was just a mark to Philip, that deep cover KGB agents are paired up with a spouse, and that Elizabeth was therefore Philip's "real" wife.

Those looks the people outside Oleg's office exchanged when he left to be interviewed.... Oleg is in deep shit. He kept his cool admirably, but the questions he was being asked were way too close to home to be accidental. If anything happens to him, it will destroy his parents. So he tempts the grocery scam guy with an apple and some personal info, like some KGB version of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and gets him to cough up a name, but I doubt if being good at his job will help him much, as he's always been a capable officer and he's still in trouble.

Tuan's not quite the single-minded ideologue he has appeared to be. But then even Elizabeth broke rank to go see her dying mother.
posted by orange swan at 9:41 PM on May 3, 2017


The actress who plays Evgheniya is a Russian ballet dancer.
posted by matildaben at 9:42 PM on May 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


It kind of amuses me that the KGB is introducing Martha to men.

The look she gave initially made me think she was being sexually assaulted or raped. The rest of the conversation didn't play out like that but that's where my mind went first.
posted by LizBoBiz at 5:31 AM on May 4, 2017


Tuan's not quite the single-minded ideologue he has appeared to be. But then even Elizabeth broke rank to go see her dying mother.

Or Claudia is testing them again, using a single-minded ideologue. You can never know.

But the surveillance team was used to follow Tuan: Claudia could get a report from Norm and Marilyn about the operation, so Philip and Elizabeth would need to file something.
posted by cardboard at 6:07 AM on May 4, 2017


Costa Ronin liked a tweet I wrote about Oleg!
posted by orange swan at 9:46 AM on May 4, 2017 [5 favorites]


So you're just besties with the whole cast now, huh?
posted by LizBoBiz at 10:06 AM on May 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


I was expecting Henry to pull a Paige-style "TELL ME WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON" showdown in the kitchen with his parents and instead he's a social-climbing preppy who will probably wind up working for the George W. Bush administration.

Contrary to everyone here who assumes Henry knows or will figure out what's going on with his parents and there's some second meaning behind his desire to go to boarding school, I immediately imagined that in the epilogue to this show, Henry Jennings is utterly flabbergasted when his seemingly-inevitable victory in the presidential election of 2024 gets derailed by the revelation that his parents were Russian sleeper agents.
posted by mstokes650 at 7:14 PM on May 6, 2017 [8 favorites]


I keep thinking about the contrast between Paige and Henry's reaction to their abnormal homelife, i.e., no extended family, few friends of the family, parents who are inexplicably absent much of the time. Paige's response is to insist on knowing what's going on, with the result that she becomes involved in her parents' work for the KGB, which leaves her very conflicted and stressed -- and criminally complicit. Henry takes his family at face value and focuses on building a life for himself with whatever resources he can find outside his home: with Stan with his friends and his friends' parents, at school. He'll be happier, less conflicted and more productive than Paige short-term, but as mstokes650 points out, it's still a house built on sinking sand.
posted by orange swan at 7:55 PM on May 6, 2017


I got into this show in the winter via Amazon Prime, and I am finally caught up! Thanks y'all, I have been reading through the old fanfare threads for company.

When Tuan got on the Harrisburg bus, my first thought was "wasn't the bus ride that led Paige to Pastor Tim's church also a Greyhound to Harrisburg?" I have never bought into the Pastor Tim is a KGB recruiter theory, but when Tuan got on that bus my hackles raised right up for a moment. But I buy his little brother with leukemia story, although I may be a soft mark.

I think all the investigation of Oleg may be the influence of whatever powerful interests are meddling in the food supply chain that are feeling threatened by his current investigation.

It's interesting that Paige went for the church and Henry is going for elite moneyed boarding school connections. I mean, obviously connections are also important in the USSR, but it's the other easy way for a teenager to rile up your Marxist parents. Not that I think Henry has any idea his parents are Russian spies, but c'mon - he even used the word "capitalize" in his sales pitch on the virtues of boarding school connections.
posted by the primroses were over at 8:30 AM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


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