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TV Review: The Americans - Season 3 Episode 1 "EST Men"

01.28.2015

SEASON 3, EPISODE 1: "EST Men"

SYNOPSIS: With Paige in the crosshairs of the KGB's recruitment machine, Phillip and Elizabeth are forced to decide whether to let their daughter in on their secret life, or let her make a life of her own.

RECAP (Beware of spoilers, comrades!):

FX’s underrated gem, THE AMERICANS, which I consider to be the best show on TV, is finally back for Season 3. Already, the warmer relationship that developed between Phillip and Elizabeth last season has dropped to a Cold War-esque chill, while the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan is starting to heat up. Like Season 1’s chase scene to the tune of “Tusk”, and Season 2’s horrific triple murder, the Season 3 premiere got off to another murderous start and set up what is surely going to be the conflict of the season: should the Jennings recruit their children to be KGB agents? “Est Men” is the perfect setup to show where the action is headed, and if this season is anything like its predecessors, we are in for a treat.

Since the beginning, creator Joe Weisberg has been building up to this ideological decision, will the Jennings allow their children to become agents of the Soviet Union? In the pilot episode, Phillip and Elizabeth had a heated discussion about involving their children in the spy life. They swore they would never tell Paige and Henry about their covert work. Elizabeth even went as far as to say that Paige and Henry should never be a part of it; the children need to grow up and live their own lives. However, at the end of last season, that all changed. After the death of Jared, the son of fellow “sleeper cell” operatives, it was discovered that the KGB was planning to recruit second-generation, American-born children into their ranks. After all, their legitimate documentation (e.g. birth records, social security numbers, etc.) would be able to withstand the brutal investigation processes needed to gain employment in the Intelligence Community. With top recruit Jared gone, Paige was next on the list.

Phillip made aggressively sure that the KGB would not contact Paige without their permission. However, a conversation about Paige’s future with the Jennings' new handler Gabriel (Frank Langella) shows Elizabeth seems to have tampered back on her outrage. She appears a lot more on-board with Paige’s potential inclusion in the KGB than Phillip, and even says she has started to lay the groundwork for Paige to learn the truth about her parents. Later, Elizabeth tells Phillip she was only saying what the Centre wanted to hear, but he isn’t convinced. After all, Elizabeth has always been more zealous about the cause than him. This difference in ideology was one of the main conflicts between the couple in Season 1. At times, Phillip was ready to defect at the drop of a hat, whereas Elizabeth consistently stated she was willing to die for the cause.

Last season spent a lot of time building Paige’s character and personality. She went from being more of a supporting character to a main character by the season’s end. However, as annoying as Paige can be, with her teenage attitude and nosing around (hopefully catching her parents behind closed doors has helped stifle that urge), her quest for a cause to rally behind became a huge conflict in the show. Much to her parents’ dismay, Paige chose to dedicate her time and attention to Christianity. However, this church is more liberal with its views and can be spun to agree with the Soviet ideals. Will Elizabeth actually decide to use this to their advantage? After all, she has started to attend church with Paige, and while she claims it is to help build their relationship, it seems as though Elizabeth is working her own daughter like an asset.

I can already see Elizabeth creating the comparison between Jesus’ sacrifice and their own patriotic mission - sacrificing their lives for the greater good. We already know that the Jennings had to leave their Russian loved ones, culture and language behind, but tonight the personal sacrifices they have made were even more prominent. An audio tape reveals that Elizabeth’s mother is dying and Elizabeth is helpless to say goodbye. But where is the line for this personal sacrifice? Does it rest with Paige?

The last time we saw Nina, she was looking at Stan through the back window of a Rezidentura car, on her way back to the Soviet Union to stand trial. Things aren’t looking much better for her in this episode when we find out that she was inevitably convicted of treason and espionage. Not a winning combination, especially in Soviet-era Russia. Oleg’s father, who has strong political connections, has refused to help. And good ole Stan seems to have resigned himself to Nina’s impending fate too.

Along with being embroiled in the Cold War, the Soviets are also dealing with their war in Afghanistan. With growing concern that this war will become the Soviet’s Vietnam, agents are being assigned to gather intelligence on U.S. involvement in Afghani resistance. Cut to Elizabeth, in one of her lovely wigs, chatting up a disgruntled CIA analyst, who has become disillusioned with her organization due to sexism. Like we have heard, especially after the popularity of ZERO DARK THIRTY, the CIA is an old boy’s club, with many top promotions going to men instead of their deserving female colleagues. She gives Keri a list of people working in the CIA’s Near East (NE) Division and Special Activities Division (SAD) for Afghanistan. However, on her way to the bathroom, the employee has a sudden change of heart and turns herself in. When the agent returns back to the table, Elizabeth’s spider sense starts to tingle and she quickly exits the bar. FBI agents (including Gaad) find her on the street, but before they can bring her in, Elizabeth kicks their asses, leaving Gaad with a broken nose. When Stan hears what happened, he wonders whether this is the same woman he has been tracking over the past year. Maybe she wasn’t killed like the intelligence claimed.

Meanwhile, Phillip (disguised as Swedish intelligence officer “Scott”) meets up with his asset Anneliese, the wife of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense who he also used to seduce Yousaf in Season 2. Thanks to interference from the KGB, Yousaf took a leadership position in the ISI and is now privy to information about U.S. aid, which is funneled through Pakistan, to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan. Between seasons, Yousaf and Anneliese seem to have fallen in love. With the KGB feeling the heat regarding the Afghanistan War, Phillip presses Anneliese for more intel and she agrees to ask Yousaf to come visit her. Bad decision. With Phillip eavesdropping in the next room, Yousaf and Anneliese start getting hot and heavy. However, Anneliese starts to feel guilty and confesses that she has not been totally honest with her lover. In a fit of rage, Yousaf strangles Anneliese to death. Phillip walks in to find Yousaf straddling her body, and tells him he can help make the situation go away. Hello blackmail my old friend.  

 

BEST 80S REFERENCE: Stan and Phillip attend a weekend of EST (Erhard Seminars Training). Lasting from 1971-1984, the course was meant to encourage everyone to experience their lives, instead of just living it. Stan’s wife became obsessed with the movement last season, and Stan attended to try to impress his wife and win her back, but to no avail; she easily saw through his bs.

POOR MARTHA: As one of the most heartbreaking characters on TV, it was nice to see Martha have a pretty positive episode (for once). She used her Kama Sutra moves with “Clark” and learned how to shoot a gun with Stan. However, I imagine her firearm will not stay at the shooting range for long. Does Clark have a bullet in his future?

STRAY OBSERVATIONS:

  • The pen Gaad used to sign his report about the ass-kicking woman looked to be the bugged pen Phillip had Martha place in his office last season. The Jennings should gain some interesting intel about the FBI’s perception on the attack.
  • The EST seminar lead was the asshole guy with the ponytail from GOOD WILL HUNTING. Looks like he still hasn’t cut his hair.
  • SPOILER ALERT: Thanks to info I received in casting alerts and in THE AMERICANS panel at New York Comic Con, we do know Nina is somehow going to be back this season. But, it’s a wonder how she will get herself out of this mess and how they will incorporate her back into the show.

FINAL VERDICT:

Source: JoBlo.com

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