The Americans “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears” Review (Season 4 Episode 8)

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On the latest episode of “The Americans,” things finally came to a breaking point with the Jennings family and we seemed to learn Martha’s ultimate fate in what may be the longest title of an episode I’ve ever seen, “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears,” which I gather from my research was, in fact, the actual title of Copperfield’s special at the time, which aired April 8th, 1983.

At first, it seemed a bit of an oddball title to use for a show like this, at least until one got to the scene featuring the family gathered around the TV to watch it, at which point everything fell into place and you realized that the show knew exactly what it was doing. Doesn’t it always, really? It’s a wonder I ever doubted it.

Interestingly, and unpredictably as usual, the Martha drama was the least of the goings-on here, and was basically dealt with right at the beginning, as Martha, after getting no sleep whatsoever, ate a sad and morose last meal before she was off with little fanfare, boarding a small plane in the wee hours of the morning after giving Phil one last kiss goodbye.

It was a bittersweet ending, to be sure. Phil told her to try and make the best of things and not be alone, and she told him to do the same, after which she sailed off into the great beyond. I halfway expected the plane to explode or something, but it never went that far. In fact, all we got was a report later on that Martha had landed in Cuba and was about to fly to Prague next and that was really all she wrote.

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Phil did ask if they could call her parents sooner, which Gabriel balked at, adding that he might be able to dial the call down to six months from now, but no sooner than that. Phil grumbled about calling them himself, but Gabriel warned him not to go there, helping ease the pain Phil was obviously in with some good news: his son had made it home safe from the war and was fine.

That said, though Martha might have made an early exit from the episode, the repercussions of her leaving were certainly felt throughout the proceedings, from Phil’s glum mood after her leaving, to Liz’s fury coming to a boil for reasons that perfectly explained why she was as upset about all of it as much as she was.

It seems that Liz resented the fact that Martha had gotten away clean, unlike Gregory, who essentially died for the cause. Making matters worse was Liz going to check out EST for herself and admitting that she saw the appeal of getting things off of one’s chest and that Phil certainly needed an outlet for that. (“You love the prison you’ve made for yourself” must have had some significance for her, no doubt.)

However, as she also pointed out, not only wasn’t it doing Phil much good, given his poor sleeping habits and bad moods as of late, but it was a bit of a racket to boot, given that one had to keep upping the ante financially to keep going with it. As such, she dismissed it out of hand, much to Phil’s consternation, who had only burrowed more deeply into it since Martha’s leaving, even going so far as to read up on it.

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This led to a bit of a blow-out between the two that was probably long overdue, if one thinks about it. Two people can only stand so much before they explode, and Liz has been holding a lot of things in for a really long time, so it’s no wonder she went off like a time bomb. The real breaking point proved to be a call from Lisa (a returning Karen Pittman), who was reaching an impasse of her own.

Cracking under the pressure of working undercover for the Soviets- although she really didn’t know the reality of her situation, that was obvious- she had fallen off the wagon, which was acerbated by her husband doing the same coupled with his leaving her for another woman and taking all their money with him.

Wanting Liz to go to the police with her and turn themselves in and admit what they were up to, it was clear that she was a loose cannon her own damn self, ready to go off. Unfortunately for her, Liz was in no mood for such things and acting somewhat impulsively, clocked Lisa in the head with a bottle and took her out in swift order.

I’d almost forgotten how ruthless Liz could be in the clutch, much more so than Phil, though his hands are hardly clean in that department- remember the security guard on the bus earlier this season? Reporting back to Gabriel, who had himself met with Claudia (a returning Margo Martindale) to vent about how childish Liz and Phil were being, it was clear to him that both of them were in danger of going off the reservation altogether.

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Remarkably, in the end, he opted to side with them, despite his complaints to the contrary, telling them that it was time for a long-deserved, and frankly, well-earned break from things. For the time being, he said, no more operations, save maintaining the ones already in motion, i.e. Young Hee and the bug at the Brelands.

Kimmy was referenced as well- as being a “field agent,” no less- in a nice update that showed that the writers never miss a beat and have memories like an elephant when it comes to the past, between these things, Lisa and Gregory all being referenced.

Just as the writers didn’t forget, neither did the characters, as we saw the ripples all their past dealings had on their collective psyches, which certainly includes Gabriel, who talked about an incident from his own past, and how much easier Liz and Phil had it than he did. Similarly, Liz didn’t let Paige forget the awkward position her own actions had put them all in when she told Pastor Tim about her parents.

Indeed, Liz really let poor Paige have it, yet another repercussion of all the pressure all concerned have been under- well, save Henry, of course, who remained blissfully unaware of anything. As per usual his only concerns were of a frivolous nature- as it should be for a kid his age.

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Imagine my surprise then, when the seemingly unrelated Copperfield special came into play and we heard him talk of being an immigrant who came to America with his parents long ago, with the dream of anything being possible in the great US of A. He also talked of the sacred nature of the Statue of Liberty- right before he made it disappear, of course- and of freedom in general.

For once, the entire family was rapt and speechless, wondering just how Copperfield had done it. Just like that, peace was restored in the Jennings household, and what had disappeared had reappeared once more and we saw the effects of that in a flash-forward of seven months.

To be honest, I don’t always care for flash-forwards, as it seems like a cheap gambit that rarely pays off like one wants it to, but here, it really worked for me. Possibly because, within the context of the show, it made perfect sense. After all, Gabriel did promise them some much-needed time off, sans any operations, and from the looks of it, they got it.

We saw that Paige had resumed her role in keeping up appearances with Pastor Tim and his wife after threatening a revolt, and the flash-forward synced perfectly from the shot of the returned Statue of Liberty in the past to a replica in the present on a miniature golf course, as Paige played the game with Tim and his wife, as a yearning song played from, I believe, Roxy Music.

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True, Paige was still not thrilled about it, as we saw in her consternation from reporting back to her parents on the state of things with the Pastor and his wife, but she was doing it, nonetheless. Freedom always comes at a price, after all, and Paige isn’t getting off that easy. Still, her reports were just as solid as any Phil and Liz ever gave to any of their own superiors- she’s a natural at this, as it turns out.

Reference was also made to Henry finally getting his much-desired trip to EPCOT, so that dream was also fulfilled. Meanwhile, Gaad was enjoying his forced retirement more than he thought he would, and was about to visit his wife’s parents in Thailand. He nonetheless encouraged Stan to keep on top of things and march to the beat of his own drummer by taking the initiative with Oleg and to use their bond over Nina to his advantage. Make it personal, but never forget who he was dealing with and who these people are, really.

Other stuff: I got a kick out of Liz blowing off some steam with Young and sneaking into a movie. That was something my mom and me used to do as well, which I never really realized was a bad thing until much later, but I liked that gleeful look in Liz’s eye when she and Young did it, taking in a showing of “The Outsiders.”

Also liked the period-appropriate movie posters, though the only one I was familiar with was “The Entity,” which is one nutty movie. I found it interesting that Liz wasn’t a particularly big movie fan- it spoke volumes about her personality. Not one to have her head in the clouds, that Liz.

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There was also the scene in which Phil visited Eugene’s grave, aka the man he killed to save Martha’s cover. Obviously, it was yet another reference to the past haunting these characters as well. Phil did get reassurance that he’d done the right thing with Martha, though, from Stan shortly thereafter, so he got some peace of mind from that, at least.

That was about it, really, but it was plenty. Keri Russell in particular knocked this one out of the park, though Matthew Rhys, who also directed the episode, did some strong, if subtler work as well. As ever, the way this show handles certain things continues to astound.

Those disappointed there wasn’t more pay-off with the Martha thing weren’t paying attention, as the pay-off wasn’t her fate, really, but how her entire situation affected everyone involved with her, from the FBI people she worked with- and even those she didn’t, like Liz. I thought the show did a great job in defying expectations while still delivering the goods dramatically, albeit in a more unexpected way.

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What did you think of the latest episode of “The Americans”? Were you disappointed in the way the Martha thing played out? Or did it seem just right? Do you think Martha will persevere in spite of her unfortunate situation? Will Liz and Phil be okay now, now that they’ve had a much-needed break from the action? How about Paige? Will Stan be able to flip Oleg? Is Tatiana up to more than she lets on? What’s next for all concerned?

What was your fave movie from 1983? I’m partial to all the Stephen King adaptations that year, especially “Christine,” “Cujo” and “The Dead Zone,” plus “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” “The Hunger” and “Psycho II” were all solid. My favorite was probably “Videodrome, which was super ahead of its time. I’m guessing the main characters here were partial to “Gorky Park,” lol. 🙂

Sound off down below and see you next week!