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Review: ‘The Americans’ Season 4 Episode 3 ‘Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow’ Could Self-Destruct

Review: 'The Americans' Season 4 Episode 3 'Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow' Could Self-Destruct

Briefing

Guys, we’ll get to the pressing final moments of “Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow” shortly, but let’s immediately address the most glorious diversion of the hour: Elizabeth is a Mary Kay girl! Okay, okay, she’s a “consultant” as they’re now called, but I’m pretty sure “girl” was the accepted nomenclature during the ’80s, when women selling makeup were expected to come knocking on your door. Obviously, we’ll have much to discuss with Elizabeth’s monstrous blonde wig in the designated section below, but we just couldn’t wait that long to share a collective moment of glee over her chosen way to obtain William the clearance he needs. 

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way: Panic! Elizabeth and Phillip have been exposed to a deadly chemical agent, Gabriel seems to be knocking on death’s door and neither may be the most dangerous development of the last few minutes if Paige starts talking to Henry about what she knows. Not only is Henry most likely too young to properly gauge the news that his parents are Russian spies, but he’s also become pretty chummy with the FBI Agent across the street. If Paige sought solace from Pastor Tim, it’s certainly plausible to imagine Henry sharing his concerns with Stan. So, one way or another, Mama and Papa Jennings need to get home soon. 

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘The Americans’ Season 4 Episode 2 ‘Pastor Tim’ Puts the Onus on Elizabeth

Phillip’s Loyalty: USA

Not much has changed, loyalty-wise, since last week. Even after Pastor Tim admitted to telling his wife a secret Paige made him swear to keep to himself, Phillip remained adamant about not killing his daughter’s role model. And really, he’s right about the whole Epcot plan. There’s simply no way Paige wouldn’t know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that her parents were responsible for Pastor Tim’s “accident.” Gabriel was likely lying in an effort to comfort two parents put in a rough predicament, and Elizabeth simply wants to believe her daughter would never distrust her, no matter the motivation. Phillip may be a little lost right now overall, but he’s seeing this decision quite clearly.

Elizabeth’s Loyalty: KGB

While Elizabeth’s car confessional about wanting to keep this family together — to not go back to Russia or live on the run — made it tempting to see her as a reborn American idealist, it was her determination to kill Pastor Tim that speaks to her instinctual loyalties. Let’s face it: Elizabeth has wanted to off the pastor for some time now. Whether that’s clouding her judgment regarding Paige’s comprehension of the forecasted events is unclear, but I half expected to see her launch across Tim’s desk when he started shit-talking Russian religious principals. Elizabeth has never been big on risks, nor does she like to mess around with loose ends. That speaks to her training. That speaks to her nature. That speaks to her as a KGB agent. 

Stan: Savant or Square?

I don’t want to believe that Stan will learn the truth about the Jennings this season, if only because that would mean an end to Phillip and Stan Guys’ Nights. But the writers seem to be leading us in that direction. Sure, there’s Stan’s aforementioned friendship with Henry, which is bound to end badly for Phillip, but the real cause for concern is their breakup and its ensuing side effects. We mentioned last week how Stan went looking for friendship with Oleg because he couldn’t go to Phillip anymore. Now, he’s spending his free time tailing Martha, a woman who’s literally one degree away from Phillip’s secret life. Neither development is good for the Russians, and if Phillip was still tight with his neighbor, he might be able to steer Stan away from both pursuits. Instead, Stan is getting back to his A-game, and Phillip may suffer the consequences. 

Best Asset: Pastor Tim

“I know what spies do,” Pastor Tim oh so confidently says when first compared to the Russian infiltrators sitting before him. But do you, Timmy? Do you really? I’m guessing you have no idea that the couple calmly speaking about the future of their family would snap your limbs in half and stuff you in a duffle bag if it wasn’t for their daughter’s desperate connection to you. I’m guessing you don’t know they’ve discussed killing you on multiple occasions already, always stopping just shy of saying “Go” because — and only because — Paige might not be happy about your death. You are the definition of expendable the second Paige is protected, so if you think for one second you’re not already dead, then you know nothing of “what spies do.”

[Additionally, Yeung Lee from Mary Kay would have been our pick here, but I set a strict 400-word maximum on all things connected to Elizabeth’s new hobby.]

Wig Count: 1

In a week with a dangerously low total wig tally, bless Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields for making the lone choice one that could come back again and again, with each return more pleasing than the last. I don’t know if there’s any more to say than, “Oh my God, look at Elizabeth’s impersonation of a ’80s Mary Kay rep! Her hair! Look at her hair! that’s what she thinks would make her blend in! And she’s right!” I mean, just look at her…magnificent.

Quote of the Night: 

“It seems like Paige loses whatever we do.” – Phillip

Before getting to the timely beauty of the above statement, a little side tangent: While Phillip’s retort does seem accurate on the surface level, it’s only when you think about the other options that flaws start to emerge. Mainly, did Phillip just never expect to tell Paige about he and Elizabeth’s secret lives? No matter how or when that came out, Paige was going to be severely traumatized, and there was likely to be some form of collateral damage similar to this. 

But what makes the line such an ideal summary for the episode is how it applies to life pre- and post-exposure. When Phillip said it, he meant that whether or not they kill Pastor Tim, Paige is going to suffer the consequences. Either her life is uprooted when they go on the run, her parents are taken away from her or she hates them for killing the one person she still trusts. Now, though, the quote takes on a whole new meaning as Paige’s canceled vacation — “I guess we’re not going to Epcot” — could spell doom no matter what her parents do. If they risk going home to keep an eye on their daughter, she could be exposed to the deadly virus. If they stay, she could tell Henry what’s going on and set in motion a chain of events that would destroy the family in equally devastating fashion. Paige truly is at the center of it all, even when no one party knows all of the consequences.

Grade: B+

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