TV Review: The Americans 3.8 “Divestment”

The Americans
Season 3, Episode 8 – “Divestment”
Directed by Dan Attias
Written by Joshua Brand
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, March 18, 2015, 10pm

The latest episode of The Americans, titled “Divestment,” aired this week on FX. Continue reading for my thoughts on the episode.

Fair warning: there will be spoilers below, so continue only if you’re caught up.

Divestment refers to the reduction of some kind of asset for reasons that are financial, ethical, or political in nature. And while that certainly refers to the fiery death of Eugene Venter, it could just as easily refer to a number of characters in this week’s episode of The Americans as they struggle to find any attempt to reduce their current situations to something more palatable and free themselves from the prisons they’re trapped in.

Let’s start with the literal: After a few episodes off, Nina (Annet Mahendru) finally gets to reap the rewards from her cooperation by moving to the research lab where the scientist that Philip (Matthew Rhys) had sent back to the USSR is working. But unbeknownst to her (and to me, sadly, as I’d forgotten that’s where he’d landed after Nina framed him as a mole within the Soviet Rezidentura) is Nina’s former superior: Vasili. Nina’s divestment doesn’t work the way she had intended, but she still gets a better deal than what she had before — but at what cost?

Also literal, the situation with our South American buddies. There’s a conscious choice between how the scene with the prisoners and subsequently Martha (Alison Wright), who I’ll touch on shortly, are portrayed within the context of the episode. Once they were snatched by Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip, their fates were sealed, but the incredibly violent way in which Venter was dispatched was another new standard of cringe for the show (and that includes a scene earlier this year where a woman was broken down into a suitcase). It’s also something that doesn’t sit well with Elizabeth and Philip, as their methods are historically much cleaner and efficient.

But there’s no one person that’s more of a prisoner than poor, poor Martha. The way those early scenes of the episode cut between her and our South African friend places Martha in a place not entirely dissimilar to the one we’re already watching unfold. And while Martha survives her trial by fire, it’s enough of a trauma for her to finally confront Clark about who he really is.

In a brilliant scene between Rhys and Wright, Philip gives his most convincing performance yet, making it beyond real for Martha. And while she seems to buy into it all, there’s still a massive amount of dread that hangs over those scenes in Martha’s home — the final of which shows Philip in a physical position that suggests he’s just as trapped as Martha, albeit in a different way.

In fact the only one that seems to have any agency this week is Elizabeth, who uses her knowledge to gain back some of the foothold for Philip as she bargains the safety of his son as compensation for the clear level of anguish Philip ls having over the Kimberly situation.

In a week where everyone is trying to cut their losses and walk way with some shred of themselves still intact, go figure it’s Elizabeth Jennings who walks away pretty much unscathed.

Quick Thoughts:

– “He’s the Minister of Railways.” “So…next time I’m home I won’t be able to ride the train?” Even poor Oleg is nearly finding himself in a place where he could be just as trapped as everyone else.

Noah Emmerich‘s Stan seemingly gets the week off after Emmerich’s incredible effort last week. Although, looking at other shows, typically when an actor directs an episode they’re either more absent from their directorial episode or the episode before.

– Gadd versus the mail robot is the best man versus machine battle since Terminator 2.

– “Being married and being at war do not always go together.”

– Paige (Holly Taylor) isn’t trapped, but she’s certainly asking the same question of Gregory that Martha asks for Clark. I imagine that conversation might be coming soon, though.

A bit of quieter episode this week, but on this show, that’s never a bad thing. What did you think? Sound off in our comments below with your thoughts.

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