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Review: ‘The Americans’ Season 3 Episode 5, ‘Salang Pass,’ Makes it Real

Review: 'The Americans' Season 3 Episode 5, 'Salang Pass,' Makes it Real

Briefing:

“Salang Pass” started with three quick jolts. First we see Martha and “Clark” scouting out a new asset to their team at a foster care home. Though Philip has been firm in his “no adoptions” stance, his second wife seems to be wearing him down as a look of nostalgia — and maybe even yearning — crosses his face while looking at children at play.

Next up, Elizabeth convinces her sponsor to leave her husband and move into a new home at a convenient location — for the mission. The decision ultimately ends with Liz killing a Northrup employee (I’ll surely be thinking twice about working under a car from now on) in order to open up a space for Lisa at his facility. 

Then, and perhaps most shockingly, we see Stan ask Oleg to help flush out the “defector’s” true identity. If Zinaida really is a Russian spy, Stan thinks he can arrange a prisoner exchange to get Nina back to safety in the States. Oleg doesn’t turn anything up, but Nina’s ex-lovers-turned-teammates certainly aren’t done trying. 

To round things out, Philip is finally forced to make a decision regarding his latest asset, Kimberly, when she kisses him in a baked daze. After receiving some morally questionable advice from Gabriel, Philip gets an honest answer from his wife before providing her one in return. “Should I sleep with her?” “Honestly, I don’t know,” Elizabeth responds, before countering with, “Do you have to make it real with me?” “Sometimes,” Philip says. “Not now.”

Philip’s Loyalty: KGB

In the final minutes of “Salang Pass,” we got a disturbing look into an area of Philip’s training previously undisclosed. I, for one, imagined he and Elizabeth had gone through formal seduction lessons where they’d been provided behavioral advice that went along with their field training in regard to reading people. Not once did I think about the desensitizing exposure therapy inflicted upon either of them, depicted from Philip’s POV here. The dark imagery of that room and the ever-changing entrants to it will stick with me for a while, much like it clearly has remained on Philip’s mind.

Yet in remembering that training, Philip didn’t seem resentful. He understood and seemed to make peace with whatever will happen with Kimberly. It’s the most he’s sided with his comrades this season, and — not coincidentally — the closest he’s been with his wife. Philip still loves her, even if he sometimes has to “make it real” when they’re together. Perhaps this is what brings him back into the arms of Mother Russia.

Elizabeth’s Loyalty: KGB

Elizabeth’s resolute nature was best reflected by the unwavering glare she gave Philip after he told Paige he’d take her dress shopping. She is focused. She is undeterred. She is lethal. This week, we saw Elizabeth kill a pseudo-random Northrup employee (to create an opening for her asset) with less emotion than when she talked about her fancy purse purchased with money from a fake suitor. Liz’s steady hand worked as the foil to Philip’s roller coaster-like emotions, but she, too, is nearing a breaking point. Might she boil over when Paige actually gets baptized, or will she keep it together for the sake of the family? After Stan’s enthusiastic blessing, representing the cultural norm of the time, she may have to take Door No. 2 — like it or not. 

Stan: Savant or Square? 

Stan didn’t feature much into this episode, as his tactics with Oleg led nowhere — though it’s a promising start from a dramatic level — and his dinner with the Jennings was used, mainly, for one very worthy laugh. Still, he did have a heart-to-heart with Philip over beers where he admitted it wasn’t likely he’d be back with his wife any time soon. It’s good for Stan to move on, if that’s what he ends up doing. Either way, I can’t wait for next week’s double dinner date. What do you think — more or less awkward than when he congratulated Paige on the baptism? 

Best Asset: Lisa

Assets abounded in Episode 5, as nearly all of the couple’s contacts came to play. First, Martha stirred up trouble for Clarke with her baby fever. His relationship trouble continued with Kimberly, who at least treated him to some Jiffy Pop and Rocky Road before complicating his life even further with that icky kiss. Philip also had to play the tough guy to Yousef, who thought he had earned his way out of the Ruskie’s debt. 

If we were rewarding the agents and not the assets, Philip would win by a long shot for sheer workload alone. But we’re here to talk about which asset provided the most intel and opportunity, making Lisa the easy pick. Elizabeth’s sponsor-turned-friend was readily manipulated into leaving her husband — who was too untrusting of Liz to be kept around — and then did just what she should by going after a transfer to Liz’s target facility. Plus, with her stinky cheese and eye for purses, Lisa just seems like a good hang. Here’s hoping Liz never has to hang her out to dry. 

Wig Count: 4

There were some truly horrendous wigs in Week 5. Philip’s above-pictured shaggy cut looks worse and worse every week, though that could be because it’s identified with what he’s doing in the wig. Elizabeth tried out an aptly forgettable wig while walking the dog and killing the Northrup worker. “Clark” brought back his “toupee” and Liz reintroduced her mullet-esque look when hanging out with Lisa. Isn’t she worried her less-than-stylish cut will make her materialistic mark all the more suspicious? Use that money from your sugar daddy to redo your do! 

Quote of the Night:

“When people’s lives intersect with our operations, it’s the operation that’s crucial.” – Gabriel

As played by the brilliant Frank Langella, Gabriel is turning out to be the most fascinating new character in Season 3. He speaks plainly to his agents, sharing advice and information in such a frank and knowledgeable manner it must be hard to disagree with him. So far, he hasn’t pushed any agenda other than what’s expected; he’s working for the Centre just as much as he’s protecting Elizabeth and Philip.

But do we trust him? Warning Philip that his “conscience can be very dangerous” doesn’t sound like an idea our male protagonist should comply with, but he seemed more agreeable than ever after his meeting with Gabriel (sure, the pot probably helped, too). In Episode 5, Philip went along with everything, from his daughter’s expensive Baptismal dress to the seduction of an adolescent girl. Elizabeth has decided what to do about Paige’s recruitment, but she’s still mulling her decision over the baptism. She even showed hesitancy over Philip’s mission with Kimberly.

The couple isn’t switching roles, as Elizabeth went cold and hot in equal measure this week. It seems Philip may be reinvesting in the KGB, but that would only make Gabriel all the more dangerous. Only Philip was clashing with the Scrabble-playing Centre representative, so will ol’ Gabe show his true colors now that everyone’s joining the cause? After all, what we see is never exactly what we get with “The Americans.” 

Grade: B+

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