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Review: ‘The Americans’ Season 3 Episode 8 ‘Divestment’ Tells Truths

Review: 'The Americans' Season 3 Episode 8 'Divestment' Tells Truths

LAST WEEK: Review: ‘The Americans’ Season 3 Episode 7, ‘Walter Taffet,’ Brings Trouble

Briefing

One-on-one conversations, important conversations, are hard to deal with for most people. Whether you’re sitting down with your boss or talking to your loved ones, intense conflict on a professional or emotional level can be unnerving to say the least. Yet there were more of these discussions than I could count in this week’s episode of “The Americans.” From FBI Agent Taffet’s interrogation of Martha and Agent Aderhold (is this the first time we’ve heard his name?) to Philip and Elizabeth’s torturing of Eugene Vinter and Todd all the way until Martha confronted “Clark” about his true identity, “Divestment” featured more confrontation than perhaps any television episode before it, and it certainly left us the most uncertain of where those discussions will lead.

Two discussions stand out, one for its obvious repercussions and another for its implied ones. The latter was Elizabeth’s request for Gabriel to watch out for Philip’s son. Was she asking this “favor” because she truly cares for Philip, or is she worried Philip’s first born dying for “the cause” may tip him over the edge into interfering with Paige’s development? It could be both, but right now Philip has to deal with Martha. Her decision — whether or not “this man” is enough for her — may force Philip into an unwanted situation. Even now, it’s likely he’ll have to keep closer tabs on his other wife, as she can’t be trusted to keep anything he’s said to herself.   

Philip’s Loyalty: USA

By not lying to Martha — clearly he does care for her — Philip took a stance toward family. He may have more than one, and his first family certainly means more to him than Martha, but he’s obviously not ready to give up on her just yet. The appropriate reaction to her accusation would likely have been to kill her, or at least take her away for safe-keeping and monitoring. He did neither, instead going home to Elizabeth wearing the same wig Martha once mistook for a hairpiece.

Philip is also clearly worried about his alleged son fighting the “good” fight for Russia. He told Elizabeth his name when asked, but had nothing more to convey that wasn’t apparent on his troubled face. Though he’s certainly still using his fists for the KGB, his heart has drifted to more human interests than political ones. When and how he’s tested before season’s end is what to watch, as he’s still got to deal with Martha, Kimmy and Paige. 

Elizabeth’s Loyalty: KGB

Was it just me, or did Elizabeth seem more jarred than Philip by Eugene’s ghastly execution? Nagobo didn’t hold back, but would Todd still be alive if he had? Philip was eager to spare the young man, but it was Elizabeth’s final word that kept the college kid alive. Later, she asked for Philip’s son — birthed by another woman — to be spared. Is she softening or just trying to keep Philip happy?

Elizabeth hasn’t had it as hard as Philip up to this point in Season 3, but she’s harder to get a good read on. He’s been put through the grinder with each mission, and even his oldest infiltration has gone awry (first when Martha wanted a kid and now doubly bad that she’s scared of “Clark”). If you think Elizabeth is making these decisions out of fairness or mercy, is it because her feelings for Philip have led her to a more empathetic place? If you think she’s making moves calculated to keep her husband in top form as an operative, does that mean she loves him any less? The breaking point is coming for Philip, and how Elizabeth reacts may define more than just their marriage. It may define her for a long time to come.

Stan: Savant or Square?

Stan appeared only briefly this week, and merely to aide in Martha’s story just one week after Noah Emmerich’s directorial debut. We’ll give him the savant label since we like him so much, and he did the stand-up thing by going to his ex-partner’s funeral in Chicago. Still, his absence was the one flaw in an otherwise perfect week. 

Best Asset: Nina

Working in Russia isn’t without its rewards. Though Nina wasn’t “jumping up and down” when her sentence was reduced, you could see how appreciative she was to be out of that sparse cell when she emotionally smelled her new bed linens. So eager to move up is she that not even a meeting with the man she framed for treason could deter her. Vasili Ninkolaevich may never forgive her for what she’s done, but he won’t be interfering with her mission — not if he knows what’s good for him. The scientist will present his own challenge, but Nina has proven herself to be an effective spy, even when the odds are against her. She won’t waste this opportunity at freedom. 

Wig Count: 3

It was a weak wig week, especially compared to last week’s exciting bounty of new identity-masking ensembles. But we did get to see Elizabeth wear that short blonde cut again — or as I put in my notes, “Oh, thank the Lord we get more of punk rock Liz” — and Philip kind of grew into those dreadful black locks when he watched Eugene burn to death by tire fire. Plus, well-educated TV fans will get to see a new wig tomorrow night when Matthew Rhys guest stars on “Archer.” (He gets a co-writing credit on the episode, as well, so don’t miss it.)

Quote of the Night:

“So was he a criminal or wasn’t he?” – Paige
Things aren’t that simple. I mean, you know that. You’re already fighting against injustice. Who are you fighting against? Countries? Governments? People who make laws? You know what I mean?” – Elizabeth
“I guess, but you can’t just go rob banks and things.” – Paige

Interestingly enough, Elizabeth really does seem to be letting Paige find things out herself. She’s not lying to her oldest child, but instead giving her bits and pieces of information and letting Paige ask the questions she needs to have answered. Her conversation about Gregory illustrated the divide between mother and daughter more than what they may have in common. Paige’s religious background — and youthful naïveté/innocence, depending on your perspective — provides her a clear line of demarcation where an act either falls on the good or bad side. Elizabeth is trying to blur that line, but it doesn’t appear Paige is ready to embrace anything that goes against God, like drugs or murder. Elizabeth will likely try to get her to see the forest through the trees and accept that drastic action must be done for the greater good, but that’s going to be a bigger battle than she may have anticipated from the outset.

Grade: A

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