The Americans: The World Council of Churches
May 23, 2017 10:20 PM - Season 5, Episode 12 - Subscribe

Pastor Tim tells Paige about his career plans, Elizabeth and Philip tell Claudia and Pastor Tim about their retirement plans, Sofia tells Beeman and Aderholt about her matrimonial plans, Oleg talks relationships with his investigators, sentencing with his boss, camp life with his mother, and shop with his father, Mischa has dinner with his uncle, Elizabeth and Evgheniya clip coupons, Paige tries to change up her accessories, Pascha comes home from school with a new look, Tuan comes up with a new plan, and Henry makes dinner.

For some good reviews of this episode, check out Vox, Vulture, and The AV Club.
posted by orange swan (34 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Please please tell me I wasn't the only one with my heart in my throat when Paige was stringing up the punching bag as I wasn't sure that's what she was doing, particularly given the scene with Tuan that followed.
posted by Carillon at 11:07 PM on May 23, 2017 [9 favorites]


Also the avclub links to vulture not able club fyi ☺
posted by Carillon at 11:10 PM on May 23, 2017


Like, WT holy F, Tuan?
posted by 2N2222 at 12:05 AM on May 24, 2017 [5 favorites]


Oh yeah Carillon, I am right there with you, it was perfect foreshadowing that P&E were out for the evening and were going to come home to find Paige swinging in the garage.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:19 AM on May 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


No, Carillon, you weren't the only one. Scared the heck out of me.

Tuan's a fucking psychopath, and P&E see that now.

I can't believe either P&E think their kids (or, at least Henry) will adapt to living in the Soviet Union. I'm not entirely sure P&E will be able to adapt, either. There's no EST or Camaros in the USSR, Phil.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:50 AM on May 24, 2017 [5 favorites]


Henry would end up like Pascha in the USSR. Or, forced to do military computer stuff.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:59 AM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


Was Nina connected to the illegals program?
posted by drezdn at 6:58 AM on May 24, 2017


I don't think Philip and Elizabeth are fooling themselves that Paige and Henry will adjust to the USSR; I thought this episode was them trying unsuccessfully to convince themselves.

I like how Pastor Tim is their non-KGB sounding board, simply because he's the only grown up outside the KGB who knows their situation. Other than the going away gift, I don't think that was manipulation on the Jennings part; I think they just genuinely need some counsel. But I'm worried that he's going to tell Paige about this possible repatriation before they do, which will not go over well. What are they going to do if she offers to babysit? Even if he keeps their confidence, no way is that not in his diary!

It took a few seasons for Oleg to grow on me, but now I am possibly more concerned about his fate than anyone's, at least for an episode or two.

So Tuan has decided Philip and Elizabeth are way too soft, huh? He definitely tried to wait til it was too late for them to nix his plans for Pasha's suicide attempt. I'd love to know what HIS reports say.
posted by the primroses were over at 8:06 AM on May 24, 2017 [3 favorites]


Also, Claudia seemed fine with them ending their tour, but what is the Center going to say? If the Jennings return home, that pretty well scuppers Paige as a 2nd generation illegal.
posted by the primroses were over at 8:15 AM on May 24, 2017


You can never take Claudia at face value. She may have seemed fine, but I expect her to have now put P&E in some mental "traitor" box. She's a snake.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:02 AM on May 24, 2017 [3 favorites]


This tweet from Noah Emmerich freaking kills me.
posted by orange swan at 1:59 PM on May 24, 2017 [9 favorites]


I too was going "Holy crap Paige Holy crap!" during that scene.
The scene where Paige tries to make a statement in taking off her crucifix & throwing it away and Elizabeth's "No no sweetie." was also pretty crushing.

The thing about Tuan is that it was a brutal move on his part but also a really brilliant idea that was a guaranteed win. I can see him being confused about their reaction. Since when do lives matter that much in their game.
posted by bleep at 3:45 PM on May 24, 2017 [3 favorites]


I have no idea where some of the thousand plotlines are going, but it's fun to speculate.

Paige has really said eff you to religion, and is embracing her Russian roots. I joked that she was going to say, "I want a secret Russian name," and her parents would reply, "Funny you should mention that."

Henry OTOH, if dragged to Russia, could form a Sad Sack club with Martha.

I was suspicious of Phil/Mischa Sr.'s "brother" suddenly showing up.
posted by NorthernLite at 5:38 PM on May 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


Does anyone else think Elizabeth could end up killing Paige to protect the mission? Elizabeth's utter coldness about the necklace completely freaked me out.

On a happier note, every outfit Paige wears is something I did/would have worn in 1984. Including those Jordache jeans. Hoping for a monogrammed sweater soon.
posted by Sukey Says at 7:02 PM on May 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


You can never take Claudia at face value...She's a snake.

Yep. Her expression was the definition of "stony" when they told her they were thinking of quitting. Philip and Elizabeth decided weeks ago to give her just the bare minimum in their reports, and she's responding in kind by telling them only what she thinks they want to hear. Nothing in their interactions should be taken at face value.
posted by mediareport at 7:13 PM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


On a critical note, the Jennings going to pastor Tim for advice seemed really strange. Unless they have some kind of end game in mind that isn't yet clear, I can't wrap my head around the idea of them approaching Tim for life advice on sensitive questions he might easily spill to the kids.
posted by mediareport at 7:17 PM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


Liz and Phil get what they need where they can find it. I think they've even actually asked Tim for advice before. There is also something to be said for their skill in doling out tiny swatches of personal insights about themselves in order to create an energy debt that connects them to other people.

Also there is no way Liz would ever hurt Paige. Especially visible in this episode with how aghast she was at Tuan's plan. The moment with the necklace was more like her being a mama lion teaching her baby how to hunt.
posted by bleep at 7:27 PM on May 24, 2017 [6 favorites]


Only The Americans is so committed to the slow burn style of storytelling that they're still running opening credits 11 minutes into an episode.

I bet the Mail Robot's favourite show is Knight Rider, and that it has a poster of KITT on the wall of the mail room.

When Elizabeth says it's nice that Pastor Tim is thinking about his daughter's chance to learn to speak Spanish, Paige is all, "That's what he said." As we know, the Jennings have Pastor Tim's office bugged, so my guess was this was a slight slip on Elizabeth's part. Will Paige figure that out?

Paige takes off her cross with a sigh of relief. Finally, a moment of authenticity! Her parents: NOT SO FAST YOUNG LADY.

When Oleg's interrogators asked him about his relationship with Tatiana, I was waiting for him to say, "We had hot pig sex and I squealed like a piglet." But he's too much the gentleman, and the KGB isn't that prurient anyway. Seriously, though, I am impressed by his cool hand throughout all this. You'd think he was playing chess. And by the way he relayed information to Stan, protecting himself by making Stan do the work of connecting the dots. Oleg was telling the truth during his interrogation, if not the whole truth. He had never heard of William Crandall, and he did not tell Stan about him.

But I'm not really buying this whole idea that Oleg is only now discovering just how corrupt and hard line the Soviet government is. I know he's led a relatively privileged life, but he's not a kid (Costa Ronin is 38), he's an intelligent, perceptive guy, and he's a career KGB officer. There's no way he wasn't aware of the rampant injustice of the USSR before he spent two years working in the States in his mid-thirties.

Oleg's quivering chin when his mother tells him she prostituted herself to survive in the camp is the most emotionally out of control we've seen him.

Oleg's boss seems like a decent man, but when he tells Oleg that the grocery store manager has been released, Oleg goes to the store to see for himself.

Did anyone else think of Martha standing at the bridge after her flight from the KGB safe house when Oleg did it too? Don't jump, Oleg! I can't bear to have anything tragic happen to him, given what a good man he is and what his parents have already suffered.

What is up with Sofia? Is she really so naive and so simple? She tells her FBI contacts they're "her only American friends" and brings her new fiancé to meet them....? Hockey Champ Fiancé wants more money -- he suggests $700 a month instead of $500. Whoa there, fella. That's practically extortion.

Why are Pasha's parents so useless at dealing with the abuse he's getting at school? For heaven's sake, move him to another school and hire him an English tutor. Also, report the assault to the police.

Philip and Elizabeth telling Pastor Tim about their plans to retire seemed strategic to me. If he knows they'll be heading back to the USSR soon, he'll see no need to report them, and asking him for advice made their news seem more believable. At the same time... they probably did actually consider his advice, which was sound. I can easily believe that Pastor Tim is an effective counsellor when it comes to dealing with ordinary problems. But that going away present compass? NICE BURN. Maybe Pastor Tim can use the compass to find a clue.

Perhaps Henry's preparation of dinner was inspired by his sister's frantic cleaning sessions.

The KGB must have alerted Philip's brother to Mischa's existence. Notice how his boss told him to take all the time he needed? Smart move on their part, because if Mischa can connect with his uncle he'll perhaps be less likely to try again to contact his father.

Tuan is a sociopath. I thought Elizabeth was bad, but he's worse.
posted by orange swan at 8:40 PM on May 24, 2017 [5 favorites]


When Elizabeth says it's nice that Pastor Tim is thinking about his daughter's chance to learn to speak Spanish, Paige is all, "That's what he said." As we know, the Jennings have Pastor Tim's office bugged, so my guess was this was a slight slip on Elizabeth's part. Will Paige figure that out?


But Paige's convo with him took place out by the van, not in the office.

My favorite part of the scene with P&E and Pastor Tim was when Phillip casually insisted that "of course you already know all of the things we do" with a look of innocence and pure hearted altruism , they played him just right.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:36 PM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


For heaven's sake, move him to another school and hire him an English tutor. Also, report the assault to the police.

It's not always so easy to move a kid to another school, especially public schools. Also, back then, cops didn't really give a shit about students pounding on each other. Reporting it would most likely lead to even worse abuse. I agree about the tutor, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:08 AM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


But Paige's convo with him took place out by the van, not in the office.

Pastor Tim would have been likely to have discussed the matter in his office with other people and to have said much the same things as he said to Paige in those discussions. The point was that Elizabeth just happened to blurt out one of Pastor Tim's specific reasons for accepting the job, and it struck Paige as just a little too coincidental.
posted by orange swan at 7:01 AM on May 25, 2017


Oh my GOD TUAN'S PLAN. I had already accidentally read the first few posts here, and so was prepared for it to be something really messed up, and I still audibly gasped when he told P&E about it.

Also Oleg's dad gets a "Best Father in the World" mug for telling Oleg that he will crush people if Oleg needs him to. <3 <3 <3

Phillip still just seems so broken, and even with the tense, awful end of the episode I couldn't help but feel a little upbeat that he wasn't going to let Tuan or Elizabeth stop him from trying to save Pascha if he could.
posted by augustimagination at 12:03 PM on May 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


Yes, Tuan is all kinds of wacko here. Even Elizabeth can see the kid is a dangerously loose cannon, taking things into his own hands like that. When he made the smartass remark, "I didn't know Pascha was the priority here", Elizabeth picks up the phone forcefully, for a moment I thought she was going to smack him with the receiver. Tuan is so undisciplined, I can't figure out if the Center really dropped the ball putting this kid in an operation, or if Claudia has been directing him the whole time to test P&E, casually spouting extreme ideas, running off on a whim because of family, and now this.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:20 PM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


I was worried that Oleg was going to somehow get Nina'ed by a passerby as he sat on the bridge looking at the view--something about the location of the back of his head in the composition of the frame, I think.
posted by blueberry at 11:20 PM on May 25, 2017


I think Oleg is supposed to be substantially younger than the actor who plays him. Early thirties at the oldest. And while it does seem clueless for he and his father to be talking about how they would never feed at the trough in their spacious and well-appointed apartment, you have to remember that the system is set up to conceal itself from those who benefit (see white privilege, patriarchy, etc).

The Russia scenes are incredibly effective for me. I went to the USSR in 1988 with a high school Russian class, and the threadbare look of everything is very consistent with the limited view we were afforded. Philip and Elizabeth have no conception of the country they will be returning to.

Everybody lost the Cold War.
posted by rikschell at 7:41 AM on May 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


And Orange Swan, I can see that if you grew up in the USSR, getting the police involved in ANYTHING would not be your first instinct! I also imagine their English and understanding of USA culture to be worse than the show reveals. They speak good English with a heavy accent because the show needs viewers to understand them, but in real life they are much more garbled and lost.
posted by rikschell at 7:44 AM on May 26, 2017


Also, I took Mischa's new family as evidence of Gabriel working behind the scenes to fix something else he broke in the USA. But learning from his experience with Martha, he didn't do it in person.
posted by rikschell at 7:51 AM on May 26, 2017 [7 favorites]


Yes, Tuan is all kinds of wacko here. Even Elizabeth can see the kid is a dangerously loose cannon, taking things into his own hands like that. When he made the smartass remark, "I didn't know Pascha was the priority here", Elizabeth picks up the phone forcefully, for a moment I thought she was going to smack him with the receiver. Tuan is so undisciplined, I can't figure out if the Center really dropped the ball putting this kid in an operation, or if Claudia has been directing him the whole time to test P&E, casually spouting extreme ideas, running off on a whim because of family, and now this.

He might be testing P&E at Claudia/the Center's behest, but Tuan is hardly a loose cannon. He's a methodical fanatic convinced no cost is too great in the service of the cause. He is exactly the kind of disciplined the Center wants on the ground. I think the reason Elizabeth freaks out so visibly is that she recognizes her own ruthlessness in Tuan. A few seasons ago, or maybe before the show started, she would have been capable of something similar. Not because she derived pleasure from hurting people but because her conviction and her training permitted her to think of people as pieces on a chessboard who needed to be moved and toppled to serve a greater good. But Elizabeth's youthful conviction has been tempered by, among other things, the recent revelations about what the Soviet government is actually doing, her experience of parenthood, and her betrayal of that Korean friend. Her reaction to Tuan's announcement is an eruption of maternal empathy; although a morally satisfying character development, from an operational perspective it's a compartmentalization failure. If Claudia had any reservations about the plan it would only be whether the ensuing emotional trauma would compromise Evegheniya's possible utility as an asset. The ambivalence that Elizabeth is starting to manifest is exactly what made the Center suspicious of Philip in Season 1.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 11:32 AM on May 26, 2017 [9 favorites]


They don't seem to be playing as much 80s music this season.

Is Claudia just humoring them or are they really going to be allowed to quit when they want? I understand that they won't be able to force the kids to go back with them but that would mean staying deep undercover even in Russia for the rest of their lives lest their children become outed as the children of the illegals program.

I kind of assume that P&E would be set up pretty well back in Russia. They're supposedly heroes, right? And if Henry's really that smart, he'd be going to the elites schools in Russia too. (It's not the rich and powerful who have to put up with the conditions in Russia.) I'm sure Elizabeth would probably work training new recruits.
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:05 PM on May 26, 2017


He might be testing P&E at Claudia/the Center's behest, but Tuan is hardly a loose cannon. He's a methodical fanatic convinced no cost is too great in the service of the cause. He is exactly the kind of disciplined the Center wants on the ground.

Methodical only describes Tuan if he is in fact working with Claudia and/or the Center, unbeknownst to P&E. We're not even sure if this is the case. As far P&E (and we) know, he's abruptly gone off script twice now with risky behavior and dubious judgment befitting a sociopathic teen. This is behavior they would rightly think that the Center, or Claudia, would not like in their teen agents.

I think the reason Elizabeth freaks out so visibly is that she recognizes her own ruthlessness in Tuan. A few seasons ago, or maybe before the show started, she would have been capable of something similar. Not because she derived pleasure from hurting people but because her conviction and her training permitted her to think of people as pieces on a chessboard who needed to be moved and toppled to serve a greater good. But Elizabeth's youthful conviction has been tempered by, among other things, the recent revelations about what the Soviet government is actually doing, her experience of parenthood, and her betrayal of that Korean friend. Her reaction to Tuan's announcement is an eruption of maternal empathy; although a morally satisfying character development, from an operational perspective it's a compartmentalization failure. If Claudia had any reservations about the plan it would only be whether the ensuing emotional trauma would compromise Evegheniya's possible utility as an asset. The ambivalence that Elizabeth is starting to manifest is exactly what made the Center suspicious of Philip in Season 1.

I think this reads too much into Elizabeth's character. Her immediate reaction is that Tuan made a rash decision without authorization or even consultation. The first time he did something impulsive like this, she came close to shooting him. It looked to me like it was Philip who was more repulsed by his latest ploy's monstrous amorality, whereas Elizabeth more shocked at the recklessness of it.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:34 AM on May 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


It looked to me like it was Philip who was more repulsed by his latest ploy's monstrous amorality, whereas Elizabeth more shocked at the recklessness of it.

This.
I think a prime illustration of their different motivations/reaction is when they're marching down the street and Elizabeth takes Philip's hand. She does this not because she is shares Philip's upset and disgust but, rather, because she knows there's an observer and her instinct is to appear as a loving couple out for a family walk. There's simply no humanity in her. Or, at least, she doesn't allow any to come to the surface.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:06 AM on May 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


Definitely read Tuan not as a psychopath, but as someone who'd been in the game from childhood and was therefore completely, utterly ruthless and remorseless. The back to back juxtaposition of his scene's with Paige's cannot have been a coincidence.
posted by ominous_paws at 8:20 AM on May 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


Methodical only describes Tuan if he is in fact working with Claudia and/or the Center, unbeknownst to P&E. We're not even sure if this is the case. As far P&E (and we) know, he's abruptly gone off script twice now with risky behavior and dubious judgment befitting a sociopathic teen. This is behavior they would rightly think that the Center, or Claudia, would not like in their teen agents.

He's at least cooperating with them, or his parent org is. The Center maintains lots of international relationships (e.g., the org that hired Pastor Tim and the people who tracked him down in Africa); an arrangement in which the Communist Vietnamese group that recruited Tuan exchanges his operational support and intelligence for his training would make sense. When P&E caught him sneaking off to visit his foster brother, Tuan begged them not to put it in their report. Why would he care unless he or his group already have a relationship with the Center?

The first time he did something impulsive like this, she came close to shooting him. It looked to me like it was Philip who was more repulsed by his latest ploy's monstrous amorality, whereas Elizabeth more shocked at the recklessness of it.

She pulled the gun on him to make him tell the truth, and because she was afraid he might have betrayed/endangered them somehow. She put it away when he explained why he snuck out and that he cancelled the visit anyway when he saw he was being followed. (Incidentally, I don't believe Tuan would betray the cause. If he was lying about his foster brother, it was at the Center's behest, to see how soft P&E have gone. And if he wasn't, his willingness to incur the dangers of an unsanctioned visit to his foster brother betrays a real human affection that doesn't square with sociopathy.)

I think a prime illustration of their different motivations/reaction is when they're marching down the street and Elizabeth takes Philip's hand. She does this not because she is shares Philip's upset and disgust but, rather, because she knows there's an observer and her instinct is to appear as a loving couple out for a family walk. There's simply no humanity in her. Or, at least, she doesn't allow any to come to the surface.

I read that very differently. She and Philip shared a moment of horror back at the house, when they exchanged glances. But Tuan has previously reported their house is being watched; allowing her horror to show outside, giving the observer anything to notice, risks blowing their cover. That she manages to keep the bigger picture in mind doesn't mean she has no humanity. It just means she doesn't let emotional responses override real, immediate, practical concerns about their safety.

Definitely read Tuan not as a psychopath, but as someone who'd been in the game from childhood and was therefore completely, utterly ruthless and remorseless. The back to back juxtaposition of his scene's with Paige's cannot have been a coincidence.

Tuan has previously mentioned that his whole family was killed, and the actor has said his character starved on the streets after being orphaned before he was recruited and sent to the States. As far as he's concerned, the war never ended, and Pascha will be just another unfortunate but necessary casualty. He's killing as a soldier, not for fun, and however much loyalty he may actually feel toward the Communist cause, his ability to kill is rooted in a trauma and fear that parallels those of the "Nazi collaborator" Elizabeth just killed.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 8:05 PM on May 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


Is Claudia just humoring them or are they really going to be allowed to quit when they want?

I took Claudia's response to be specifically about sowing seeds of doubt, with the easy acquiescence just buttering them up for these key lines: "It takes two or three years to really adjust -- longer for the kids, of course -- but, people don't usually regret coming home." (i.e., some people do regret coming home.)
posted by nobody at 5:27 PM on June 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


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