Oh my gosh. I hardly know where to start with the latest episode of The Americans. All the best stuff in “Darkroom” happens within the Jennings family, but should I make you wait for it, or…?
OK. You can have the Jennings family first. You’re welcome!
I’ll start by addressing the elephant perpetually in the room with this show: Where’s Henry? Henry (Keidrich Sellati) is at Chris’s house. He doesn’t appear at all, although it is not because they’ve shipped him off to boarding school… yet.
Paige (Holly Taylor), on the other hand, is home when we first see her, obsessively mopping the kitchen floor late at night when her parents return from an evening as the Eckerts. They can tell right away that something is OFF with her, and when confronted she confesses that while she was babysitting she read Pastor Tim’s (Kelly AuCoin) diary again– and this time it was about her.
Apparently the good Pastor is worried about Paige. She paraphrases to her parents that he said he thinks she might be really screwed up, and that he’s worried about her soul. This does not sit well with Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell).
During their next meeting with Claudia (Margo Martindale), they ask if there’s a way the Center can help get Pastor Tim a job somewhere else– like Europe. Claudia says yes, and that she can look into it for them. They ask her to wait, and when they get home they put the decision in Paige’s hands. They tell her that they don’t want her to have to “handle” Pastor Tim for the rest of her life, and that if she wants them to, they can arrange for him to receive a fabulous job offer and happily go off into the sunset. She tells them she needs to think about it, and they agree to give her time.
Not wanting her to have to handle the Pastor forever is probably weighing heavily on them because Claudia has informed them that although the wheat sample they stole and sent home has indeed proven to be super wheat, it could take years before the agronomists will have been able to do anything with it– so they’ll be working the Kansans long-term. (Philip and Elizabeth exchanged a look on receiving this news that had me thinking about defection, but it might have had them thinking about retirement.)
Later, Philip goes for a suspicious jog and tosses a suspiciously nondescript rock onto a debris pile in a suspicious park we’ve never seen before. When he gets home, he finds Paige doing homework on the sofa and sits down to tell her that Pastor Tim’s thoughts about her are irrelevant– he doesn’t really know her. Then Philip crosses a new boundary of intimacy with his daughter and shares that in EST he’s been told that you don’t have to stay who you were as a child, implying that whatever Paige is now is impermanent.
She surprises him by turning the conversation to Henry. Evidently her thoughts about her parents manipulating Pastor Tim into a new, dream life have led to her advocating for them to let Henry go to boarding school because he “knows what he wants” and “is different.” Coming from her, the idea of Henry going away seems SO MUCH LESS LAZY than it has when hinted at in any other context. From Paige, it seems like both protecting Henry from being in the state of mental and moral upheaval that she’s been in since learning her parents’ secret and setting herself free from having one more person she needs to actively keep secrets from. Now I feel excited for him to go instead of frustrated with how loose an end he seems to always be.
Philip’s rock turns out to be a container for a tiny piece of paper with numbered code on it that is collected by someone, who must be watching the debris pile as a drop, and turned over to the Rezidentura. There, Oleg’s old flame Tatiana (Vera Cherny) decodes the message, and, and not long after, Philip gets Elizabeth to get in disguise and go for a long drive with him.
Elizabeth is uncomfortable, because she hates surprises and Philip won’t tell her where they’re going or what they’re doing. It turns out to be absolutely the best, though. He takes her to an apparently abandoned warehouse complex in the dark and leads her into one of the buildings. They’ve left their disguises in the car at Philip’s urging, and they enter the shabby building as themselves.
Once inside, Elizabeth is stunned to discover a humble, makeshift altar and a candle-lit Father Andrei (Konstantin Lavysh), Gabriel’s priest operative whom Philip met recently. Philip has their fake marriage license with him, and he asks Elizabeth if she remembers when “they” gave it to them. She does, as we see in a moving flashback of their being assigned their identities before leaving for the U.S.– this time with Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys playing their younger selves, versus the other actors employed in a previous season. He asks her if she’d like to make it official, and swoon.
Philip apologizes for the God stuff in the ceremony, which is the best he’s been able to arrange, and Father Andrei explains that when they return to Russia, whomever arrives first will need to file papers to make the marriage legal with the State. They don’t care.
The intimate ceremony is in Russian, and Father Andrei calls them by their real names: Nadezhda and Mikhail. Elizabeth is holding her emotions in, but you can see that she’s doing so with some effort. Father Andrei has them remove the rings they wear as Philip and Elizabeth Jennings and presents them with new, “real” rings. It only takes a matter of minutes, but now they are really husband and wife.
At home later, they’re cozily sitting at the dining table doing travel agency work (because even though it’s a front, the travel agency is real and they do those jobs, too) when Paige comes in from another babysitting gig for Pastor Tim.
Beforehand, she’d been helping him stuff boxes of provisions at the food pantry and had led him into a conversation about her wellbeing. He insisted that her faith would take care of her and that he had no doubt about her growing up to be just fine, which she knows to be a lie because of whatever she read in his diary. And his deception leads to two decisions for her: First- that she does want her parents to help him relocate, and Second- that she’s going to photograph his journal to help her parents and their people understand what kind of job he’d like.
When she walks in on Philip and Elizabeth and their pile of travel paperwork, she presents them with her decisions and her camera and explains that she didn’t feel comfortable taking this film to Fotomat. They opt not to scold her for reading the diary again, and instead they click into gear– and they take her with them. Cue Bauhaus‘s “Slice of Life.”
The whole family (that’s right– I’m excluding Henry from that) goes into the Laundry Room Of Secrets, where Philip and Elizabeth efficiently convert the space into a darkroom before Paige’s marveling eyes. The bond between them and their daughter grows right in front of our eyes as the pages of Tim’s dairy come into focus… including the ones he’s written about Paige.
Pastor Tim has put in ink that he’s seen sexually abused children he’s less worried about than Paige– that the extent of her psychic injuries is so great that the poor girl doesn’t even know how much she’s suffering. He wonders whether her parents are monsters. And as Paige looks on with her characteristic aura of innocence, something grows steely in Philip and Elizabeth.
As Bauhaus says:
So I lied to you once again
So I painted over you once again
So I die before you once again
‘What’s the difference’
Come clearly where the flavour is
Seen here in black and white
You’ve got two seconds baby boy
In burning light white light
‘What’s the difference’
Clear up what you are
Burn out these eyes
Rip up this place and scream
‘I am your slice of life’
In other words, maybe Pastor Tim will be getting a job offer abroad, but I’d wager money that after reading what he wrote, the Jennings parents will ensure that he has a fatal accident shortly afterwards.
Stan and Agent Aderholt (Brandon J. Dirden) are making progress with Sofia (Darya Ekamasova), whom they’ve arranged to start meeting in an apartment they’ve rented in her building. Her teeth are much better since they’ve helped her see a dentist, and she’s very happy. She tells them freely about a famous Russian hockey hero she’s dating and how he brings her gifts when he comes in from the USSR. This is the first real harvest our intrepid agents have been able to make since beginning to cultivate their relationship with her, and it escalates quickly.
Apparently Hockey Hero is coming in and out of the U.S.A. twice a month with well-guarded diplomatic pouches that U.S. agents have failed to crack. Stan and Aderholt have given their bosses what they need to target the Hockey Hero on his next trip through the airport and secretly X-ray the pouch while he’s using the toilet!
Over in the Morozov subplot, Alexei Morozov (Alexander Sokovikov) shares a home-brewed jar of kvass with Philip and confides in him that Pasha has become really withdrawn and that even though there’s a lot of food and money in America, even Alexei is kind of homesick for his mama and Moscow.
When Philip comes home to Elizabeth and a thoroughly chastened Tuan (Ivan Mok) to tell them this, Tuan explains that his plan to break Pasha’s spirit through the use of school bullies is going well. The bullies put a bag of dog poop in Pasha’s locker at Tuan’s suggestion, and Tuan feels sure that Pasha doesn’t know he was behind it and pretty sure that even the bullies don’t really know that it was his idea.
Elizabeth has coffee talk with Evgheniya Morozov (Irina Dvorovenko), who reinforces how unhappy Pasha is and confesses that even she isn’t happy either. She tells Elizabeth about the affair we know she’s having and says that lately Alexei is being so kind to her and trying so hard that she just feels terrible all the time.
It’s not long after this that Evgheniya is approached by Tatiana on the street and offered the opportunity to come home to Russia with no repercussions for having left the way they did. Evgheniya says she’ll have to think about it.
Speaking of Russia, Oleg (Costa Ronin) and his partner Ruslan (Ravil Isyanov) are staking out the WOMAN the grocer gave up under pressure. She is living a very modest life, and they don’t yet see any evidence of her being a queenpin. While cooped up in a tiny car to watch her comings and goings, Oleg tells Ruslan about the KGB’s interest in him, and Ruslan says that if they’re searching his apartment they must have a reason.
The tension of the KGB’s interest in Oleg is hanging over his family like a little black raincloud, and one of this episode’s most uncomfortable scenes is a long, silent dinner featuring Oleg, his mom (Snezhana Chernova) and his dad (Boris Lee Krutonog) looking like a loud noise would about kill them while they serve and pick at their food.
In conclusion, my crush on Costa Ronin is getting stronger. Talk about a tall drink of water!
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