It’s season finale time on The Americans, and I’m feeling a similar level of “how will they wrap this up” anxiety to what I experienced as Mad Men ended its penultimate season. “The Soviet Division” left me feeling like I’m holding my breath, and I guess I won’t get to let it out until (maybe) this time next year.
Let’s start with the storylines that were NOT addressed in the finale: Oleg (Costa Ronin) is still, as far as we know, wandering the nighttime streets of Moscow while the KGB closes in on him. Also: the Kansans are still in play, although we haven’t seen them recently.
Apparently wrapped up in this episode: Looks like we’ve seen the last of Tuan (Ivan Mok). The episode opens where last week‘s left off. The “Eckerts” are on an urgent evening family walk to the Morozovs’ to make sure that Pasha (Zack Gafin) isn’t dead. Before Philip (Matthew Rhys) has a chance to blow their operation by visibly breaking into the house in front of the security watchdog guy who parks outside of it all the time, Alexei (Alexander Sokovikov) and Evgheniya Morozov (Irina Dvorovenko) pull into the driveway, surprised to see their friends dropping by.
Everyone goes inside, and Pasha doesn’t respond to his mother calling to him, so Tuan goes up to his room and “finds” him on his bed with his wrists slit as planned. The adults all spring into action, with Elizabeth (Keri Russell) calling 9-1-1, Evgheniya and Philip holding Pasha’s arms up while applying pressure to his wounds and Alexei pulling their security guy into the mix. Pasha and Evgheniya are taken away in an ambulance, and Philip follows Alexei into Pasha’s room to help him pack a bag for his son. In the process, Alexei finds Pasha’s “suicide” note explaining that he can’t live in the U.S.
Although Philip and Elizabeth never warm to Tuan’s plan, and they never waver in their conviction that it was right to care whether Pasha died, the plan technically succeeds and Tuan and Claudia (Margo Martindale) are both satisfied with the results: Pasha and his mom are moving back to Russia, where the Center can blackmail her into helping them manipulate the CIA operative she’s been having an affair with.
Philip and Elizabeth plead with Claudia to help prevent the family from being torn apart, as Alexei is convinced he would be jailed the minute he arrived in Russia so he’s refusing to go home with his family. Claudia weakly agrees to try, making it clear that Alexei is probably right and that having Evgheniya in Russia without a husband works better for the Center anyway.
When they say their goodbyes to Tuan, Philip and Elizabeth tell him that when they file their report, they can put in a word to have him assigned to a different kind of work. They see the red flag in the way he managed Pasha without caring if he lived or died, and they believe that he might be relieved to leave their type of deep-cover spycraft. He declines their offer, with offense, and tells them that he’s already filed his report on the operation, that he confessed his trip to check on his Seattle family and that he ratted them out for being absent from the mission too frequently, as he’d told them, and for compromising the mission with their misguided concern for Pasha.
Even though he shows so many signs of being a psychopath, Elizabeth is relatively gentle with him when she explains that he will definitely fail in this line of work if he keeps trying to go it alone. She tells him to have his people send him a partner, but leaves him hanging when he asks if she means a woman. Let’s hope that’s really the end of all that.
Close to resolution, but not close enough to trust: Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin) and family really do seem to be on their way out. While palling with Paige (Holly Taylor) at the food pantry, the good pastor talks with her about moving on to his new job, tries to get info on the surprise going away party he knows is brewing for him and tells other food pantry folks about how they’re still looking for his replacement.
I don’t know if he’ll really leave, but I’d be happy to see him gone like Tuan.
As she leaves the food pantry, Paige walks alone through the dark streets to the parking lot where she and her mother were mugged. She’s nervous as heck, but thanks to her self-defense lessons with mom, she is able to safely reach her car and overcome one of her fears by doing so.
Up in the air at episode’s end: Where will Henry (Keidrich Sellati) be going to school next year? Of course he was accepted to the boarding school and got the scholarship. But will his parents let him go, or will they move him to Russia? When Henry gives his dad the good news, Philip takes back his promise that Henry can go and yells that their family sticks together, before ditching Henry to go play racquetball with Stan (Noah Emmerich).
Also up in the air: What’s Stan going to do about his job? He and Agent Aderholt (Brandon J. Dirden) hook Mr. Hockey Hero (Yuri Kolokolnikov) up to a lie detector to see if he’s really interested in being their informant, and he passes with flying colors. This means that if he wants to, Stan can work these new operatives for a long time, thereby keeping his counter-intelligence job for a long time.
At home, after finding this out, he is roasting a chicken with Renee (Laurie Holden), who is DEFINITELY a spy, and tells her that he feels crappy all the time and wants to leave his job– not the FBI, just his current position. Now, Renee has barely finished moving all of her stuff into his house “temporarily” because a “pipe burst” at her “apartment,” and it is “flooded,” so she certainly isn’t going to let him waste all the energy she’s invested in him. She schmoozes for about one second about how she understands what he’s saying and blah blah blah, then moves in to “but if you leave, who will stand up for all that is good and right when your colleagues want to be shady as he**” territory.
Stan looks at her quizzically, and I don’t know if he’s thinking about what she’s said and taking it to heart OR finally noticing how convenient everything about her is and realizing she is a SPY. (Let’s be honest, it’s probably the former.)
One lovely surprise tonight: Seeing Martha (Alison Wright) smile. I don’t know if her appearance was opening a new storyline or closing the book on our recently Russian friend, but she’s walking in the park with her Russian tutor, conversationally improving her grasp on the language. He invites her to sit at the edge of a playground where a bunch of darling children are playing wholesome games under the watch of a teacher (?), and an angel of a little girl runs up to them to retrieve a ball that has rolled in their direction.
When the girl runs back to her friends, wistful Martha learns that she’s been brought here on purpose. All of these children, including little angel Olya, are orphans. The USSR wants Martha to be happy, and Olya is all alone. Martha watches Olya and looks like her heart is coming to life in her chest as a teary smile lights up her face. Fingers crossed that this is the beginning of Martha’s happy ending.
And finally to the big cliffhanger: Philip goes to Kimmy’s (Julia Garner) house to smoke weed with teens and swap out the recorder in her dad’s briefcase. While he gives a flirty young woman a shoulder rub during a classic round of “teens and one middle-aged man give shoulder rubs while high,” he tells the group that he might be moving to Japan, which sends a tearful Kimmy out of the room.
He follows her to the kitchen, tells her that it’s likely that he’s going “for work,”and assures her that she’ll be fine without him because she has great friends and finally has a good relationship with her dad.
When he gets home, he spends hours and hours listening to the recording he’s retrieved, and it’s mostly boring boring boring. But then, while he’s using the restroom, a bomb drops. Kimmy’s dad has been promoted to HEAD OF THE CIA’S SOVIET DIVISION.
Philip immediately hops in the car and drives to the water’s edge. He is so, so close to chucking the recording into the water and pretending he never heard that, because if he did… bye bye, plans to return to Mother Russia. Instead, he goes back home.
When he comes inside, he finds Paige nursing her bruised and bloody face while doing homework at the dining table. Mom was rough during their training session, but Paige is rolling with it. She even told her mom that although she doesn’t care about the churchy stuff anymore when Pastor Tim leaves, she still wants to help in the food pantry. The girl is adopting her parents’ beliefs at the same time she learns to take a punch?
He apologizes to her for her parents’ lifestyle and how she never got to have normal things, like a dog, and she looks at him as though to say that she’s good with things now.
He goes upstairs to find Elizabeth and asks her to go for a walk with him and sit somewhere. They walk through their neighborhood and find a bench to sit on, where he tells her what he’s heard. He explains that if the recording goes away, they can still go home, but she knows it’s impossible. There’s no way they can replace Philip as the inside man with Kimmy at this critical point. Her father has just landed the job they’ve dreamed of having this kind of access to. They’re going to have to stay, and they’re going to have to keep spying.
Elizabeth suggests that maybe Kimmy can be his only mission, but they both have to know that it’s unlikely the Center will let him semi-retire. She’s worried about him. She doesn’t want to see him so conflicted anymore. They sit in the dark without any answers, and leave us without any, too.
Notable: There’s more brilliant song placement in this episode, especially Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” It begins playing at the tail end of Paige’s time with Pastor Tim at the food pantry and overlays the end of Philip’s racquetball game with Stan, where Philip looks around the gym on the way out with mixed emotions on his face– maybe regret? It continues as Paige is making her triumphant walk to her car, and it catches Elizabeth putting away some of her beautiful clothes in her tidy closet full of chic blouses and boots. While regarding her clothing, Elizabeth displays her first-ever suggestion that she might miss some of her American life if she goes back to Russia, which is driven home when she goes downstairs to gaze lovingly at her living room and kitchen. There’s so much in the lyrics to the song that I’m giving you a link here.
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