Season 3, Episode 9 – â€Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?”
Directed by Stephen Williams
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 25, 2015, 10pm
“This is not how I expected it to end, the story. I’m not afraid of leaving the world. I don’t know why, but I’m not. It’s better than falling down in the street, like a drunk, and waiting for some stranger to pass by.”
“Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” not only gives us one of the best titled episodes of The Americans, but also the closest thing we’ve gotten to a bottle episode on the show.
Anchored by a fantastic guest appearance by character actress Lois Smith, “Sheep” dives right back into looking at the core of Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip (Matthew Rhys) as their marriage has continued to be tested throughout the course of what’s been a very difficult season for the pair.
The bottle sequence comes in the middle of a crossover between the three best characters on the show, as Philip works to bug the FBI’s Mail Robot, Smith’s Betty makes the mistake of “pick[ing] a bad time” to come into the repair shop. At first, Elizabeth seemingly searches for a way to not have to kill her. But what unfolds throughout this conversation between Elizabeth and a woman who could very easily be a stand-in for her own ailing mother makes for beyond compelling television. There’s a definitive battle of wits happening here, as the sudden realization dawns on Betty that she won’t make it out alive — she shares a message that resonates with Elizabeth, especially in the line of work she does.: “I’m not afraid of leaving this world. I don’t know why, but I’m not.”
From there, the conversation only gets more crushing as Elizabeth forces Betty to overdose on her heart medication. As Betty begins to fade, everything gets so much harder to watch. Betty continues on about marriage and life, all before having Betty deliver the kill shot: she tells Elizabeth that she’s an evil person. There’s no doubt that many in the US during the early ’80s would be quick to join Betty in her assessment, but if there’s anything that the show has proved over the course of these past three seasons, it’s that this conflict is anything but black and white. And sometimes the most random people are collateral damage.
What’s even more damning is the clear emotional toll this takes on Elizabeth, who already seems at wit’s end throughout the episode. Philip’s interactions with her prior and after Betty’s introduction are short and terse. And then there’s the obvious bit of her tears, which may have been the first time in the series we’ve seen her downright cry.
Speaking of Philip, in all the possible outcomes of the Martha situation, I never expected the show to double down on Martha’s loyalty, to a point where she almost seems more loyal than she was before last week’s revelation – as it’s her tip about the mail robot that lead the Jennings to their mission this week. Martha’s plot still seems far from over, but there’s a sense of dread here as well. I spent those entire scenes on edge, thinking (much like Philip) that there was something else about to happen and that he’d be forced to take dramatic action. Yet, Martha seems content, having an idea as to the truth now, with her fate. There’s more story to be told here, for sure, and right now this plot has become the one of most interest to me.
After a week off, Stan (Noah Emmerich) returns to the fold to hatch his plan with Oleg (Costa Ronin) to try to sniff out whether or not Zinaida is actual a double agent or not. I’ve always enjoyed the pairing of these two, and it’s fun to see Oleg get to take out some aggression on Stan.
And speaking of aggression, we finally see Philip cut loose on Gabriel (Frank Langella). While we got to see the more tender side of Elizabeth this week, the more angry side of Philip only rears its head every now and again. But once it does, it’s a sight to behold. There’s something so powerful about how Rhys plays these moments: there’s a quiet fury here, a calm before the storm. His warning to Gabriel is the rattlesnake shaking to alert you he’s there, moments before he strikes.
Yet it’s the conversation between Betty and Elizabeth that I continue to come back to – it’s such a set of affecting scenes, each more powerful than the previous. And while Gale’s experience in the war stuck with him, I think it’s safe to say that Elizabeth (and I) will be thinking about Betty for quite sometime.
– I hate hospitals too, Betty. They’re the worst on a number of levels.
– “It works better if you take it with beer. It’s not supposed to, but it does.”
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