TV Review: The Americans 3.10 “Stingers”

The Americans
Season 3, Episode 10 – “Stingers”
Directed by Larysa Kondracki
Written by Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg
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, April 1, 2015, 10pm

At what point did you realize that your parents weren’t as infallible as you’d once thought?

There’s a moment in every person’s life where this moment occurs. Comics writer Matt Fraction described it (in one of my favorite interviews of all time I might add) as the feeling of “…angst that comes from realizing you’re standing on a plateau with the people you looked up to. There are moments when any kind of role model that you have in your life, be it parental or educational””teachers””or even just, you know, professional mentors, can kind of invariably disappoint you.” It is different for everyone, but we all have it – the people who raise us have their own secrets, their own lives even, and we start to view them in a different light.

I don’t think Paige Jennings (Holly Taylor) expected her moment to be quite so painful.

Potential spoilers below.

The Americans had been juggling two major shoes that needed to be dropped this season. The first, Martha, exploded last week — but Fields and Weisberg had been keeping the Paige plot in creep mode. We slowly built towards this moment and the payoff was tremendous. Anchored by an incredible performance from not only Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, but from Holly Taylor herself — the confrontation in which Paige finally discovers her parents’ secret is a devastating series high.

It’s amazing the tension that episode writers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg are able to create once the secret is out there, as the rest of the episode becomes a Cold War — as Philip and Elizabeth have to trust their daughter after they’ve broken her trust. This reversal is something the entire episode could have focused on (and I wish it had), but with so many other plots going on, there’s just not enough time to do so. The Paige reveal comes around the episodes halfway mark and from then on, it’s a drop into full blown paranoia and tension land.

And yet nothing captures Paige’s headspace better than Stan’s (Noah Emmerich) dinner arrival as the Jennings daughter remembers the man next door is a FBI agent. The fade out as the wolves descend for dinner — Philip sharping his knife, Stan’s facade barely hold on, and Elizabeth’s smile — they’re all as manufactured and fake as the Smiley Face cookie jar we see in Stan’s house.

Paige wanted to know the truth. And there are consequences to that knowledge. Pandora’s box and all. But after ten episodes of waiting, the payoff has now offered up a bevy of new questions, each endless fascinating. With only three episodes left, I’m not sure how many of those answers we’ll get, but that’s okay with me. I want to continue to live in that kitchen, listening to the beeping of the phone as it goes off the hook and we plunge into unknown with these characters.

Quick Thoughts:

– Moments in parental surrogacy: the Stan/Henry hour was highly entertaining, if for no other reason than we know that Henry is keeping his own secret in the form a very well hidden porn collection. Furthermore, Elizabeth’s reaction to Henry’s recounting of Eddie Murphy’s Saturday Night Live “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood” skit is comedy gold. I need a gif of it, stat.

– Stan’s subconscious has already suspected something is up with Martha, but I anticipate his suspicions will only rise in the coming weeks.

– Kimmy’s return tonight is fitting, since she’s been a surrogate daughter to Philip in many ways. No better time for her to reappear than before it all hits the fan.

– I love how it’s Paige herself who forces Philip and Elizabeth’s hand. The show had been setting up this cat and mouse game between the two parents as to who would tell her, so the reversal is a true surprise. I also appreciate how careful Elizabeth is in choosing her words when she talks to Paige – not ever outright saying they’re spies. “We serve our country…’ is tough logic to beat.

– As with most things in the show, it’s a subtle exchange between Philip and Elizabeth that gives volumes into their relationship. I love Philip’s defeated head nod.

– Seriously, again, just tremendous work from everyone involved. And I’m glad we’re getting a fourth season to continue to see this great show work its magic.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Sound off in our comments below.

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