TV Review: The Americans 3.5 “Salang Pass”

The Americans
Season 3, Episode 5 – “Salang Pass”
Directed by Kevin Dowling
Written by Stephen Schiff
Starring: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Lev Gorn, Annet Mahendru, Susan Misner, Costa Ronin, Keidrich Sellati, Holly Taylor, Richard Thomas, Alison Wright, Noah Emmerich, and Frank Langella.
Air date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015, 10pm

As The Americans‘ third season continues, this week’s episode is all about the kids. Hit the jump for our review.

decisions are made and not bought / but I thought this wouldn’t hurt a lot / I guess not – Kids by MGMT

If the first part of The Americans‘ third season was about the relationship between mothers and daughters, these last couple of episodes are decidedly about the relationship between fathers and daughters. Having been backed against the wall by Elizabeth last week, Philip (Matthew Rhys) has found himself in a position where he’s struggling with three different forms of fatherhood: his relationship with Martha (Alison Wright), Kimmy, and Paige (Holly Taylor) – each taking a toll on him in significantly ways.

Martha’s trip to the foster home is the throughline for “Salang Pass.” As ‘Clark’ and Martha look on at the playing and smiling foster children, we hear their screams of laughter and joy, which provides sheer delight for Martha and a clearly resistant Clark.

Even more resistant than Clark is Philip’s Jim as he continues his adventures with Kimmy. When Elizabeth (Keri Russell) asks what she’s like, Philip responds with the only descriptor he can: “Young.” And she is: showing up to parties with bros in letterman jackets and popping things of jiffy pop in between joint hits, Philip feels more out of place than ever before.

And then there’s the incredible speech that Kimmy gives. Played off as ramblings from a stoned kid, Kimmy talks about how her parents are present, but they’re not around. It parallels Paige’s comments from earlier in the season that Elizabeth and Philip look out for one another more often than they look after her and Henry. Kimmy is in a similar situation, going so far as to state they could have entirely different families and she’d never know.

This, juxtaposed with an earlier scene in the show where Philip takes Paige dress shopping, furthers the isolation that Philip is feeling throughout most of the episode. There are plenty of ways that both he and Elizabeth don’t feel connected to the events and the world surrounding them – but it wasn’t clear to me until ‘Salang Pass’ that Philip is drifting this season: a rocky relationship with Elizabeth back home, things with Martha getting increasingly dicer, and the guilt over both Paige and Kimmy – we’re seeing a whole new side of this character.

And if that wasn’t enough, in an incredibly striking sequence, brought on by some strong weed, we’re privy to what looks a series of sexual test for young Philip as he works at the art of seduction with partners of same and different sexes. The show has let us in on Elizabeth’s past before, but this scene in particular was a revelation – showing us that Philip has just as much of a dark past as Elizabeth does.

Then comes the bomb. “Do you have to make it real with me?”, Elizabeth asks. “Sometimes. Not now.” He warily responds.

Philip thought it wouldn’t hurt a lot. I guess not.

Quick thoughts:

– The titular Salang Pass that this week’s episode of The Americans is named after the pass that claimed the lives of approximately 64 Soviet soldiers and 112 Afghan people in November of 1982.

– Henry (Richard Thomas) asks Stan (Noah Emmerich) how Mrs. Beeman is doing, which cause Paige, Elizabeth, and Paige to act very quickly to change the subject (although Paige’s reasoning is a bit different than her parents).

– This episode also gives us the return of my favorite Soviet/American Rad Bromance between Stan and Oleg and also provides one of Beeman’s best one-liners in recent memory.

Another strong outing for the show this week, but what did you think? Sound off in our Comments section below.

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