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Review: ‘The Americans’ Season 4 Episode 2 ‘Pastor Tim’ Puts the Onus on Elizabeth

Review: 'The Americans' Season 4 Episode 2 'Pastor Tim' Puts the Onus on Elizabeth

Briefing

Picking up immediately after the tussle between Phillip and Stan which ended last week’s episode, “Pastor Tim” was an episode bookended by revelations — specifically. secrets being shared with Elizabeth. The first was Phillip’s confession to his wife that he’d been going to EST meetings, a self-help group frowned upon by the mass public (if Stan’s reaction last year was any indication). She didn’t seem as upset as could’ve been justified — given he hadn’t been telling her about it, not so much that he ate a meal with another woman. But when Elizabeth asked, “Is it something you’d ever want me to go to?” Phillip’s hesitant and protective, “Sure,” didn’t indicate he thinks she’d be on board.

But it was Paige’s admission to Elizabeth that really knocked her back a few steps. Though she’d already found out by listening to the family’s phone calls — which, I must say, felt like what could be a daily practice in modern households with overprotective parents, not just those with Russian spies as Mommy and Daddy — Paige telling her mother she’d shared the family secret with Pastor Tim spoke to the backbone of the group. It also put Elizabeth in yet another situation where instead of being angry about the betrayal, she was concerned about the well-being of her family. She may not be happy about it, but still: pretty great matriarch.

The time in between wasn’t short on notable events either. Nina got caught trying to do her scientist boyfriend a favor (through her ex-husband, no less). Phillip chokes out an airport security guard after an attempt to drop off the biological weapon goes incredibly wrong. Oh, and Elizabeth’s mom died. The last of those we saw coming, but how it affects Elizabeth moving forward should prove fascinating. Timing is everything, after all.

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘The Americans’ Season 4 Episode 1 ‘Glanders’ Introduces a New Weapon to the Cold War

Phillip’s Loyalty: USA

Phillip. Is. Ready. To. Go! After Elizabeth informed him what Paige had done, his second instinct — after a half-hearted suggestion to “work” the Pastor onto their side — was to get the hell out of Dodge. “We could leave,” he said. “Maybe we should leave.” Elizabeth responded strongly in the negative, but she may have been more open to the idea at the episode’s end. It’s going to be truly difficult to get away with killing Pastor Tim, especially with a daughter who seems more and more suspicious of just about everything her parents do. 

Even more telling of Phillip’s psychological state is when he was somewhat gently prodded by Elizabeth, during a later discussion over what to do about Paige. “None of this is what I wanted,” he says. The comment and conversation goes back to their debate last season over whether or not recruiting Paige was a good idea, or to be more specific, whether they should even tell her what they really do. While I’m not sure what exactly Phillip expected if they had kept lying to a daughter who knew they were lying to him, clearly he’s in need of a change.

Be it scenery, professional or otherwise, Phillip remains as devoted to his family as they seem devoted to making his life very, very hard — unintentionally, of course, but that doesn’t make things any easier. Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” playing on the oblivious bus passenger’s headphones fittingly summed up Phillip’s motivations for doing what he’s doing. While it may have seemed like an act similar to what he used to do for the Centre, now he’s been pushed into protection mode. The only assets he’s worried about are his own.

Elizabeth’s Loyalty: Split!

And if Phillip was in protection mode, Elizabeth was in reaction mode. Faced with many hard truths in a brief amount of time, Mrs. Jennings handled herself pretty well. She tried to unleash the fury of a scorned mother on Paige, but her well-reasoned and good-hearted daughter quickly squashed any sort of angry impulses within Elizabeth. Meanwhile, she responded much more carefully to Phillip when he confessed to public therapy via EST meetings. Neither morsel could have come as welcome news to Elizabeth, but both have certainly put a dent in her plans and beliefs. Combine them with the timely death of her mother, and Elizabeth is likely seeing the world a bit differently.

Her first words to Paige after revealing her grandmother died were, “I’m so glad you got to meet her,” and this was after Elizabeth knew Paige had confessed to Pastor Tim. Her focus felt authentic, as she was likely thinking about how she, too, is glad Paige finally got to know the real Elizabeth, as well. Later, Paige’s defense speaks to the opposite end of that spectrum: “You did this to me,” Paige said, noting that one truth after years of lies doesn’t wash away all wounds.

Elizabeth has always been the resolute soldier, ready to do whatever is necessary for her country, but she’s also found a way to balance those moral certitudes with her familial obligations. When push comes to shove, she protects her family, even if she was more than willing to die for her country herself. Now she’s in a seemingly unwinnable position. How Elizabeth decides to handle Pastor Tim will be key in not only the family’s future, but the fate of Elizabeth’s soul.

Stan: Savant or Square?

Oh, Stanley. Trying to fill the voids in your life with less willing and less meaningful substitutes. Fresh from his tiff with Phillip, Stan made a first move (toward friendship) with Oleg, but the Russian agent had received too much devastating news to remain open to an old enemy’s advances. Stan is having better luck with Henry, who now seems like a regular fixture in the largely empty house across the street. But trying to make up parenting points with another family’s kid never proves as rewarding as it initially feels, and Phillip has more than a few good reasons to want to keep Henry from getting too tight with Stan — especially if Paige’s loose lips keep sharing secrets. Stan needs to find substance in his own life, in his own world, rather than reaching out to anyone with a free ear.

Best Asset: Nina

Oh dear Lord, don’t let anything happen to Nina. The Russian spy has escaped certain death more than a few times in the past, but who could come to her aid now feels like a nonstarter. Really, as soon as she was sent back to Russia, it’s felt like Nina’s days are numbered, but hope again sprang up when she survived — and thrived in — a gripping Season 3. Now, though, the prisoner not in jail finds herself caught red-handed with no room or will to deny it. She readily admits to writing and sending the note from her scientist friend to his son, and it’s her resolute nature that’s the most frightening. “I’m not who I was,” Nina said when asked why she did it, and while that’s a milestone moment for her (and us, the audience), her determination to do what she wants and unwillingness to apologize for it may not bode well for our long-running favorite asset.

Wig Count: 2

“Feeling safe, are we?” William’s sassy remark about liking Phillip better as a blonde somewhat emulated our own frustrations as an audience with a season that’s yet to bust out the big guns, wig-wise. Sure, we got a brief glimpse of Phillip in his late ’80s hacker attire — long, mangy hair tucked under a hat and behind some big ‘ol glasses — but his airport stop ‘do was the only other disguise we got. Neither were particularly striking, though the light and fluffy quality of that bus hair is pretty impressive wig work. Still: more wigs! 

Quote of the Night:

“We’re in trouble.”
“I know.” 

No offense intended, but if Phillip would’ve been standing outside, smoking a cigarette before dropping this doom-laden bombshell, we wouldn’t be so worried. He’s been freaking out for quite a while, and it’s the fact that Elizabeth has caught up to him — rather than calmed him down — that’s truly frightening. “Pastor Tim” saw quite a few key developments that were partly overshadowed by the most graphic — and comparatively meaningless — moment of the episode. Yes, Phillip encountering yet another spooked contact meant to take the biological weapon off his hands spoke to just how difficult it might be to get rid of the damn thing, but his confession to Elizabeth about EST, Paige’s confession about telling Pastor Tim and Elizabeth’s mother dying all carry far graver consequences to come.

As does Nina’s failed attempt to do a favor for her scientist friend (or is there more?), but let’s stay focused on the challenges facing the Jennings family. Is there any way around this Pastor Tim debacle? Does an alibi exist that would allow them to kill Pastor Tim and protect Paige from finding out down the line? Or is Phillip right, and now is the time for the family to break free of the Centre and go out on their own? The idea of Elizabeth and Phillip waging a war against the Russians — who’d want them dead — and the Americans — who would never trust them — simultaneously is tantalizing; that is, until you realize that’s as much of a no-win scenario as they find themselves in now. 

Grade: A-

READ MORE: Spoiler-Free Review: The Americans’ Season 4 Brings Grave Consequences, Long Coming

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