The Americans: Darkroom
May 9, 2017 10:20 PM - Season 5, Episode 10 - Subscribe

Stan, Renee, Philip, and Elizabeth have dinner, Brad and Alexei have kvass, Tatiana has a chat with Evgheniya, Oleg talks to his co-worker and does not talk to his parents, Sofia tells Aderholt and Beeman about her boyfriend, Pasha is dealing with a shitty situation at school, Philip and Elizabeth tie the knot, and there are new developments arising from Paige's relationship with Pastor Tim.

For some good reviews of this episode, check out Vox, Vulture, and The A.V. Club.
posted by orange swan (32 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is Pastor Tim trying to push them?
posted by drezdn at 5:45 AM on May 10, 2017

Push them? How so? He doesn't know they're reading his diary. or...does he????

That wedding was really out of right field, but touching nonetheless. Of course, it was born from Phillip's insecurities over Elizabeth and Tai-Chi Man.

It was odd to see rabid anti-religion Elizabeth submitting to a very religious service, and looking totally cool and touched by it.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:22 AM on May 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wow. That was a powerful ending.

The wedding was touching, but the ending was deeply sad. I totally don't get any of the interpretations that see Tim as being revealed as a bad guy here. These are his private thoughts -- and he's right. What he said to Paige is what he should have said.

I don't know how each of the three will react to that entry. Unlike some of the recappers, I don't think that Elizabeth will recognize (or admit to herself) that anything that Tim wrote was true ... she's delusional in her thinking that Paige reading the diary has revealed to Paige who "he really is". Yeah, he cares about her, that's who he is. Elizabeth can't see the truth about Pastor Tim because it's too threatening to her -- not so much the religion, as the fact that he demonstrates the lie that she's telling herself about how she's raising her kids.

Philip, on the other hand, I think will both see the truth in what Tim wrote, and perhaps also see Paige's photography for what it really is.

Which, I think in agreement with one of the recappers, is more a cry for help than it anything else. She wants her parents to read those words and recognize the truth of them.

Despite my anger at Elizabeth and Philip about their kids, I found the wedding scene to be very moving.

Now that one of the recappers mentions it, I do agree that there's definitely a sense of something unseen and very important going on, that neither the audience nor the Jennings are aware of. I don't think it's that Stan is onto them.

I do think, though, that what we've seen all along about Renee has been suspicious and that Tuan's bus ride in the previous episode is also suspicious. So here's my grand theory of everything that ties this all together: both Renee and Tuan are FBI counterintelligence agents, investigating Stan and the Jennings, respectively. The way this might make sense is that somehow they got onto the Jennings which would inevitably point a big arrow at Stan, who given other things, looks really bad. So they wouldn't just arrest Philip and Elizabeth, they'd try to determine if Stan has been compromised and working with them, first. And they don't have anything yet, because, actually, he's not.

I like this theory, but it doesn't quite work out on the timing, as Renee predates Tuan, doesn't she? And while that would work if they had already suspected the Jennings via another direction, they'd still not be able to get an undercover agent (Tuan) in with them because that's all worked out from the other direction. Tuan could be an already in situ agent that led them to the Jeninngs, but then it would only be after that they would start to look at Stan. So, I don't think the timeline works. But it's a nice theory in that it accounts for the two things that don't fit, Renee and Tuan, that hint that maybe there's something really big we don't know.

That tripod they used in the end scene in their makeshift photo lab was definitely a modern-era, lightweight one that wouldn't have existed in the mid-80s. Not that I really look for that sort of thing, that just struck me in particular.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:33 AM on May 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Push them? How so?

Didn't he tell Paige things similar to the diary? It seems like the sort of thing that if it would get back to her parents would make them mad. Maybe he is just trying to separate Paige from them.
posted by drezdn at 10:31 AM on May 10, 2017

I need to rewatch the end to check for gendered language, but nothing actually says "Paige" - it's all "PJ". I wonder if some of Pastor Tim's diary entries aren't about Paige at all, but about Phillip?
posted by coriolisdave at 3:32 PM on May 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Didn't he tell Paige things similar to the diary?
That wasn't my take-away. He told Paige "you're amazing you're awesome no problems here!1!", but writes "jesus this kid is fucked up and gonna be fucked"
posted by coriolisdave at 3:34 PM on May 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

This is all very interesting, but did you see the weird way Oleg holds his knife and fork? It was like he'd never encountered cutlery before.
posted by sobarel at 4:36 PM on May 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think Renee and Tuan partially exist to make us feel the way Philip and Elizabeth feel - always on edge and not trusting the people in your life, especially when they can't even believe the Center to tell the truth about whether they sent another agent after Stan. It becomes a hall of mirrors where you can't tell reality.

I personally think they've been making it too obvious that Renee might be an agent (especially her not being able to have dinner next week because she'll be out of town-- which is exactly like Philip and Elizabeth with their assets.) And Tuan seems too much of a zealot to be a double agent.

At this point it feels more likely that Sofia is a honeypot sent in because Stan and Aderholt were so clumsy with their recruitment. I guess the Russians could be making it seem like a challenge by hiding fake intel in the diplomatic pouches for them to steal?

An interesting way to take the story could be to have Philip and Elizabeth secretly engineer a breakup with Renee because they don't trust the Center to tell them the truth about her being an agent, which makes Stan lonely and seek out affection with Sofia because she reminds him of Nina (and he likes to feel like he's saving someone.) So Philip will be creating the exact situation he wishes to avoid.

In terms of Pastor Tim, did anyone else get an ominous feeling from the photos? Like the diary was much worse than P&E had assumed? I don't know if they're going to be able to let them walk away to South America. "Honey, remember how you decided to get them sent to their dream job in South America? Well, instead we had to engineer a car crash to kill him and his entire family because they were loose threads."
posted by bluecore at 4:46 PM on May 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Slate's s5e10 podcast episode is only 20 minutes long. Among others, Rhys and Russel are on.

Tangentially related, the latest episode of The New Yorker's Politics and More podcast has a few former spies on to talk espionage. Joe Weisberg is one, as well as a former director of MI5, a computer hacker, and a master of disguise. Interesting career paths.

Really enjoyed seeing Tatiana again, especially in the Rezidentura.
posted by kingless at 5:14 PM on May 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Didn't [Pastor Tim] tell Paige things similar to the diary?

No, you got that exactly backwards, I think. Tim handed her a bunch of pablum about how she's gonna be a great person, after she'd read his diary entries talking about how damaged she's going to be forever. His lies to her were so obvious they pushed her to give the ok to her parents to send him away.

Great episode. The marriage was weird, though. Powerful, but very weird.
posted by mediareport at 5:36 PM on May 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

My predictions never work out for this show (still have half a notion the Center is behind Henry's move away from his dad, who's demonstrated real resistance to Page getting involved in the spystuff), but like I said last week I'm pretty sure Sofia is a plant. Not clear on Renee.
posted by mediareport at 5:40 PM on May 10, 2017

Philip has to act like he's never had kvass before, and then when Alexei's back is turned he gives it a "where have you been all my life" look. I've commented before that it must have been incredibly hard for Philip and Elizabeth to give up their entire identity as Russians and immerse themselves in American culture, even to the point of never getting to enjoy the foods they liked. Most immigrants keep whatever cultural preferences they wish and only assimilate to the degree that they want to. My Irish great-grandmother tried to make her Canadian grandchildren as Irish as possible, and what she couldn't accomplish in terms of their citizenship she tried to overcome by way of indoctrination.

Alexei has finally moved on from simply griping about Russia and started to take a more nuanced view of the difficulties of assimilation, including becoming more aware of his wife and son and their needs. And now Evgheniya feels bad about banging one of her students.

When Elizabeth is your spy mom, she pulls on a gun on you for visiting your fatally ill little brother and praises you for putting dog poo in your friend's locker.

Paige's frantic late night mopping session reminded me of the time her mother got her out of bed to clean the kitchen in the middle of the night. Now it's become Paige's coping mechanism. Philip's trying to share his EST ideas with her to give her an alternative. I found it sad that Paige put in her word for Henry getting to go to boarding school. She's trying to save him from going through what she's going through. I agree with those who've said that Paige photographing Pastor Tim's diary was a cry for help. Or more specifically, a "LOOK LOOK LOOK SOMEONE ELSE THINKS I AM IN SO MUCH PAIN THAT ITS GOING TO DESTROY ME PSYCHOLOGICALLY."

Elizabeth is such a fanatic she's the one who can't see who people really are.

Oleg's totalitarian regime doom spiral is so hard to watch. It's like he's starring in his own version of George Orwell's 1984. I'm glad he didn't tell his co-worker anything incriminating. But man, that dinner table scene. There were undercurrents upon undercurrents, and the Burovs were all "there's no point in even starting this conversation, just cut and chew and digest".

Philip and Elizabeth can't seriously have thought that the Soviets weren't going to use the Lassa virus or that the Soviet agriculturists were going to be able to develop super wheat immediately. They've been living in the U.S. so long that they don't have a realistic sense of what their own government/country is like.

I must see Philip, Elizabeth, Renee and Stan out at karaoke, belting out "Islands in the Stream". I must.

I enjoyed Elizabeth's reaction when Philip mentions Martha again. Nothing else has ever gotten under Elizabeth's skin like Philip's anguish over Martha -- not him banging the gorgeous Annelise, not even him spending the night with his ex-girlfriend.

It seems suspicious to me that Sofia is telling Aderholt and Beeman about her boyfriend's visits to the U.S. She might be willing to sell out her co-workers/organization, but compromising the man she's interested in? Ruining his career, and possibly risking worse consequences for him? That I don't see, and she can't be so naive she doesn't realize the FBI will use whatever she tells them. I don't subscribe to the crazy theories about Pastor Tim, Tuan, or Renee, but I think Sofia is up to something.

I am, however, looking forward to Aderholt and Beeman's forthcoming Operation Toilet Stall.

The wedding scene was lovely and moving, with Philip and Elizabeth getting to marry each other under their own names and in their own language. And remember when Elizabeth told Philip at his and Martha's wedding that they'd never had a ceremony? *He* clearly remembered that. Even though Elizabeth doesn't have any use for religion, she would have been likely to have attended a Russian orthodox wedding or two back in the USSR so it would have a certain cultural resonance for her. I bet Rhys and Russell got a special kick out of doing that scene given that they're a real life couple. It certainly added to the viewing experience.

However, I was a little taken up with thinking about the legalities of the two of them getting married. Philip is legally married to Martha -- marriages made under an assumed name are still legally valid -- so he can't legally marry Elizabeth. I suppose he intends to ignore that inconvenient fact, but I can't quite imagine Martha doing so. If she finds someone in Russia whom she wants to marry, she's going to want to be legally married -- but I guess she'll have to accept that it isn't possible for her to get a U.S. divorce under the circumstances. I also don't quite get why Philip and Elizabeth couldn't use their existing wedding rings.

It was nice to see Tatiana again. Also, that woman is alarmingly convincing when she says she wants to be a friend.
posted by orange swan at 8:46 PM on May 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

I enjoyed Elizabeth's reaction when Philip mentions Martha again. Nothing else has ever gotten under Elizabeth's skin like Philip's anguish over Martha
I had a slightly different take.. it seems that Elizabeth's relationships have generally been short(er) term things - (bang this guy, get the thing, move on / make a friend, betray the shit out of her, move on), whereas Phillip's has tended to have the longer-term relationships - Martha, Stan, Kimmy, that girl he stuffed in the suitcase..

I wonder if Elizabeth's distress at the (I forget Korean Mum's name) betrayal might have given her and insight into the impact on Phillip of losing these longer-term, more intense relationships?

He states he can't face losing another Martha.. isn't that what Stan is, at this point?
posted by coriolisdave at 9:54 PM on May 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Tangentially related, the latest episode of The New Yorker's Politics and More podcast has a few former spies on to talk espionage. Joe Weisberg is one, as well as a former director of MI5, a computer hacker, and a master of disguise. Interesting career paths.

Not quite a hacker but he does know security. Good guy, gave up his couch to me for a month once upon a time.
posted by scalefree at 11:19 PM on May 10, 2017

nothing actually says "Paige" - it's all "PJ"

Just rewatched that last scene, and there is one passage where Tim specifically refers to "this girl".
posted by Dr. Grue at 10:52 AM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

So Elizabeth confirms Evgheniya & family is not happy, and Tatiana gives her the all-clear on going back to Russia. But given that Evgheniya's affair was not some star-crossed romance and in fact was something she felt terribly guilty about, wouldn't that make the whole operation of moving the family back moot? If they move back and are happier and she is re-dedicated to the family isn't that the end of the affair?
posted by mikepop at 11:21 AM on May 11, 2017

mikepop, I think the idea is that this Deputy Director of the CIA will be exposed to blackmail because he had a sexual relationship with a current Russian citizen. I don't think they expect Evgheniya to "run" him, but someone else will approach him with their evidence of their relationship.

I felt so sad for Paige. I feel like in a lot of ways, she's going through things many idealistic teenagers go through: learning that adults lie to you about lots, including their opinion of you. I also was thinking that even her acts of snooping while babysitting are pretty normal teenage behavior. It's just that in this case the stakes are so high.

Of COURSE Stan's current op hinges on a bathroom encounter. One of my favorite moments this season was when he and Aderholt "casually" approached one of their marks in the bathroom. Nothing makes people feel more ready to open up than chit-chat in a public restroom...
posted by CMcG at 11:32 AM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Tim could have full knowledge that Paige is snooping and reading. Wouldn't most people assume that's what teenage babysitters do?
posted by bleep at 6:08 PM on May 11, 2017

I have to go back and pause at the bathroom espionage diagram, but from a quick glance it looks like someone is going to be camped out in a stall with an x-ray machine. I wonder which agent will be tasked with making realistic sounds of gastrointestinal distress to discourage anyone from opening that stall.
posted by mikepop at 6:24 AM on May 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

So Elizabeth confirms Evgheniya & family is not happy, and Tatiana gives her the all-clear on going back to Russia.

Of course, whether Evgheniya actually believes there would be no repercussions upon returning is another matter entirely. I doubt she's that naive.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:33 AM on May 12, 2017

So I had a hard time telling if Elizabeth was really into the wedding or if she was just going along to "work" Philip. What do people think?
posted by matildaben at 12:36 PM on May 12, 2017

I was thinking about that too but her eyes seemed really genuine to me.
posted by bleep at 3:16 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, there's one lingering camera shot in particular that convinced me Elizabeth was deeply moved by the moment of Traditional Mother Russia, despite the godstuff.

Honestly, if anyone was "working" someone in that scene it's Philip working Elizabeth. He knows she's had doubts about him and he's doing his best to solidify their bond before he once again suggests, this time forcefully, that they disappear into the bowels of America rather than keep spying for the Center.
posted by mediareport at 4:24 AM on May 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I am eagerly awaiting the episode-long fight scene between Elizabeth and Philip, sprawling over all three floors in the mostly loving home they've built together over decades of undercover work, while Paige and Henry watch horrified and then start screaming deeply revealing secrets to each other (SPOILER: Henry is gay), as Stan frantically rings the doorbell over and over, hoping for some leftover lasagna.

It'll be Peak TV, for sure.
posted by mediareport at 4:33 AM on May 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

And speaking of working folks, Paige working her parents - "gosh, gee whillikers, maybe if you read these here diary entries you could figure out where to send Pastor Tim" - was a thing of beauty. Those quick looks she shoots at them in the darkroom were perfect.
posted by mediareport at 4:43 AM on May 13, 2017 [9 favorites]

The end, in the darkroom, with the perfect Bauhaus song, reminded me so much of season one. This is going to be a rough wait until next season.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:28 AM on May 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think the last scene was wonderful: combining the emotional punch of reading someone else's secret diary, having the diary be about you, the opening up also of her parents' secret world to Paige, and finally the existential crisis that the claims of the diary provoke in Paige. Very powerful. This is my favorite season I think, understated and consistent and complicated, and the character work feels more "real" than my least favorite, season three.
posted by sylvanshine at 10:54 AM on May 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

There's an article posted to the blue today about an immigrant (to USA) family from the Philippines and their slave, written by one of the sons.

This struck me as a description of where we likely see the Jenningses going:

I could have turned in my parents, I suppose. It would have blown up my family in an instant. Instead, my siblings and I kept everything to ourselves, and rather than blowing up in an instant, my family broke apart slowly.

I am loving the slow burn of building tension this season.
posted by jaruwaan at 7:34 AM on May 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

My own two cents is that offering Pastor Tim a reassignment is coded language for dumping his lifeless body in the Potomac, especially after E and P read what he had to say.

It's interesting to me that Oleg is willfully failing to see that his job and what he is doing is pretty much the same as what is being done to him, unless he's just that nuanced and he was trying to imply to his co-worker that they shouldn't just assume woman in car is guilty and create a reality that makes their assumption true.

Now i want to homebrew Kvass
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:31 PM on May 17, 2017

I'm not sure they'll off Pastor Tim. Not yet. They might get him assigned to a locale sufficiently unstable that he could plausibly be killed by forces untraceable to Russia, but they can't just kill him now. His wife would go to the authorities the way she threatened to when he went missing in Africa. And The Centre can't off the whole family as long as it wants to cultivate Paige, because they can't risk alienating her. If Pastor Tim and family get "reassigned" and she never hears from them again she'll eventually put two and two together.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 11:55 PM on May 17, 2017

I am loving the slow burn of building tension this season.

I've been re-watching this season in preparation for the new season starting next week. I have to say that without the tension of the unknown, the burn is a bit too slow.

When they are driving out to the wedding and Elizabeth is saying how she doesn't like surprises but Philip won't give her a straight answer about where they are going and just keeps driving deeper into the maze of deserted buildings, I was just imagining Elizabeth's inner monologue as "Has he lost it? Is he going to kill me and run away with the kids? This is totally one of the ways I'd kill him if I was going to kill him. Shit, which purse did I grab when we left the house, the gun purse or the knife purse?"
posted by mikepop at 11:47 AM on March 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

That last scene...

Fuck yeah, Paige.
posted by skewed at 8:07 PM on August 11, 2018

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