The Americans “Dimebag” Review Season 3 Episode 4

The Americans Dimebag Season 3 Episode 4 06

In a quietly riveting episode of “The Americans,” the series showed once and for all that it didn’t need actual action to be action-packed in the amusingly-titled “Dimebag.” (Though, from some of the reactions I saw online, it could have been re-titled “Dirtbag,” for reasons we’ll get to soon enough.) We started with Liz, spying on a group of kids, looking like a porno version of Gloria Steinem– a dichotomy if there ever was one; though, lest we forget, Steinem herself once went undercover as a Playboy Bunny. The true object of her affection? One Kimberly Breland (Julia Garner, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”), aka the daughter of Isaac, the head of the CIA’s Afghan group.

This scene was bookended at the end of the episode with a scene of Phil, posing as a lawyer/lobbyist- looking to do away with the congressional act looking to raise the drinking age, if I understood correctly- meeting with Kimberly to give her a set of fake IDs for her and her friends. As the two smoked pot together while “Kimmy” danced seductively for Phil, he looked about as uncomfortable as a lot of us felt watching it, apparently- hence the tongue-in-cheek “Dirtbag” designation. (Not to mention that creepy commerical they showed on Phil’s television earlier on- that company should be well ashamed of themselves- and I could use a shower after seeing it- though not with any of their products, to be sure.)

Of course, we all know Phil’s real feelings on this, thanks to his vehement opposition to Paige being recruited to serve as another undercover agent for the Soviets. (Note the scene last week in which Phil passionately railed against it to Gabriel.) Now, irony of ironies, here he was, put in a position where he actively had to essentially charm- if not eventually outright seduce- a teenage girl that couldn’t be more open to suggestion and manipulation. I think “ick” is the word we’re all looking for. But hey, that’s the job, right?

I think what this episode did best, arguably better than any that came before it, was to show how low people in this line of work have to sink to do the job at hand, and it isn’t always pretty. Note also the scenes in which Nina, her back against the wall, looking at life in prison- if not outright execution- was forced to con her cellmate Evi (Katja Herbers), a woman suspected of herself being a spy, into thinking she could be trusted by drawing on her own experiences that led her there in the first place. Like I said, irony of ironies.

Of course, technically, none of these people have to do any of this stuff. Phil and Liz alike could turn against their superiors and defect to the United States officially at any time (which is exactly what I think will eventually happen- though more likely with Phil than Liz, admittedly), but have yet to reach their breaking point to be tempted to do so. I think Phil is getting there, though. As for Nina, I think if she had it all to do over again, she’d almost certainly have chosen to defect herself. Lord knows both she and Stan would be happier if she had.

Speaking of Stan, I did like the scenes in which he first exploded at the EST trainer Lawrence (Scott William Winters, “Borgia”), then went a bit nuts at the diner he attended with actual defector Zinaida (Svetlana Efremova), who he quite rightly suspects to be a poser looking to get herself in the position to spy on higher-up types in order to report back to her real superiors in the Soviet Union. He has yet to find any evidence to that end, but remember, this is a guy who went undercover himself once, so it takes a spy to know one.

This subplot was likewise framed by a heartbreaking one in which Stan finally came clean to his wife- looking more and more to be ex-wife- about his affair and his general attitude towards her. In the end, it wasn’t her who was the a-hole, as he accused her of being at the EST meeting, it was Stan himself, and he knew it. Who says that EST crap isn’t good for something? Sadly, it was not enough to save Stan’s marriage, as she walked off without saying a word, but at least he knows it’s essentially over, once and for all, and was able to confess his sins to her- something he’d never had the guts to do before now.

Paige, on the other hand, is certainly not lacking in guts of a different kind- she’s as wily as a fox, that one. Using her birthday as an excuse to basically railroad her parents into letting her get baptized, Paige is nothing if not spy material, even if she almost certainly would reject such an enterprise out of hand, despite Liz’s feelings otherwise. Of course, Liz herself finally came clean about the fact that, yes, contrary to what she’d told Phil, she had indeed been trying to groom Paige to be a spy, which Phil did not take well. No sooner had this happened than Phil found himself in the position of having to charm a teenage girl himself. Oh, the irony!

So, like I said, nothing much happened in terms of real action, but never mind all that. This was “The Americans” firing on all cylinders emotionally, which can be its own sort of action, if you think about it. If anything, this should be the episode the show submits to show what an impressive acting ensemble they have at their disposal. Why this show isn’t drowning in awards by now is beyond me.

Not to mention they were cool enough to feature not one but two Yaz songs (or Yazoo, to my Brit readers), a band I myself also discovered as a teen, despite being of the oft-maligned “Grunge era.” They were sort of a gateway drug out of the darkness of that scene into the light of the “Rave” scene at a time when I needed that sort of thing most, so they’ll always have a special place in my heart, personally, which just goes to show that times may change, but some music never goes out of fashion.

Note also Kimberly’s reaction to Phil’s revelation that he was more of a Who and Pink Floyd man: “Oh, they’re cool, too.” Indeed they are. I just love the way this show uses music of the era, and what could be more perfect than a band that seems all cold and synthetic on the surface, but is actually filled to the brim with soul and emotion? Whether you want to call them Yaz or Yazoo, they fit that description to a “T”- or should I say “Y”?

So, yet another superlative episode to add to the “Americans” canon, even if it was a bit more on the contemplative side. Nothing wrong with that, when you manage to pack this much emotion in. And that, my dear readers, is why this is undeniably one of the best shows on television. Now if we could just hip other people to that fact, then we’d have something….

What did you think of “The Americans” this week? Did you mind the lack of action? Or do you prefer these more quiet episodes? What did you think of Paige’s actions? Do you think she’d be up for being a spy? Would she be good at it? (In a word: yes- or should I say, Yaz? Sorry, couldn’t resist.) How low do you think Phil will sink with Kimberly? Will he and Liz be able to move forward as a couple now that the cat’s out of the bag about her intentions with Paige? Do you think that Stan’s right about Zinaida? Sound off below in the comments section and let me know what you think, and I’ll see you next time!