‘The Americans’ Season 5: Not So Quiet on the American Front

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“The Americans” continues its slow-burn of a season with some interesting developments as of late, as well as the expected strong character-driven moments- but is the approach turning off some viewers? After landing about in the 0.900 million viewers in the first few episodes, the show has sunk down to the 0.700 range as of late- though, to be fair, it has maintained that rating steadfastly for several weeks now, seeming to indicate that those who love the show are in it for the long haul.

For comparison, FX’s highest-rated shows are the ones by ratings powerhouse Ryan Murphy, whose “American Crime Story” and “American Horror Story” both rate in the 2.9-3.2 million range of viewers, with newbie Murphy show “Feud” averaging 1.3 million. On the plus side, the show has already been guaranteed another season, thus ensuring it wrap things up on its own terms, so there’s that. Still, the dwindling ratings are a clear reflection that this show may not be for everyone.

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On the one hand, I get it- this hasn’t exactly been an action-packed season overall, and a bit of a letdown from previous seasons, admittedly. On the other, it’s clear the show is preparing for the end, and “The Americans” has always been meticulous in its plotting and setting things up for the future, so I can’t say I’m surprised that it is taking its sweet time preparing for the end, either.

Besides, I do have some idea of where all this is headed, and I do think it’s only a matter of time before things take a turn for the worse. For instance, though the show has been cagey about whether Stan’s newly-minted girlfriend Renee (Laurie Holden) is a Russian plant, it has done so in a way that leaves the door open for either, which lends both Stan’s scenes with her a nicely intense feeling, as well as the Jennings’ respective reactions to her, with both of them clearly in the dark as to whether she’s one of their agents or not. (For the record, the Russians deny that she is- but would they really tell them anyway?)

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Meanwhile, Stan (Noah Emmerich) and Dennis Aderholt (Brandon J. Dirden) have been cultivating a new recruit, a Russian woman by the name of Sofia Kovalenko (Darya Ekamasova, “Angels of Revolution”), who I’m almost positive is in the class taught by Evgheniya Morozov (Irina Dvorovenko, “Flesh and Bone”) that Liz (Keri Russell) and Phil (Matthew Rhys) are so keen on spying on. (Liz and Phil also recently uncovered the fact that Evgheniya is engaged in an affair, which could obviously be used as leverage against her.)

If one or both of them happens to hang around the class Morozov is planning on bringing home coming up soon, then Sofia may spot them and mention them to Stan and Aderholt, thus bringing Liz and/or Phil that much closer to getting found out by the two. And if Sofia is savvy enough to get a photograph of one or both of them… then the beginning of the end is certainly upon us, which we already know to be true anyway.

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Indeed, either Stan or Aderholt, both of whom are closely monitoring Sofia anyway, may get a photograph of whoever attends the class in question anyway, from outside. It’s already been inferred that the Americans are keeping an eye on the Morozov family as it is- likely in hopes of finding out if they are up to something anti-American. From our vantage point, it’s clear that isn’t the case as of yet, but it’s also clear that there’s no love lost for Russia for Alexei (Alexander Sokovikov), either, so turning him, at least, may not be too hard.

By the same token, the Russians turning son Pasha (Zack Gafin), who hates America and wants to go home, may also be a possibility, especially with the new plan of action suggested by Russian plant Tuan (Ivan Mok), which could sow the seeds of even more discontent on Pasha’s behalf if it works. Basically, Tuan wants to even further isolate Pasha by intentionally intensifying some bullying by some classmates of Pasha’s, which could make him even more anti-American, and thus, ripe for being recruited himself.

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If all this comes to pass, then both the Americans and the Russians alike will have someone in play within the Morozov household, via Alexei on the Americans’ end (with an “in” via Sofia) and Pasha on the Russian’s end (via the “in” by Tuan). Still, both are only tentative at the moment, with Sofia very nervous and shaky, being a newbie and all, and Tuan’s plan having the potential to completely backfire.

On other fronts, Liz and Phil were both taken aback to discover that, far from being the insidious plot the Russians suspected, the whole wheat thing was actually an effort to produce a plant that could withstand nasty conditions, not come up with a bug that could destroy their crops. This means that the guy they killed in that lab was not only completely innocent, but that it could have been avoided altogether if they’d had valid information. In other words, they killed someone for no good reason.

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By extension, the guy Liz was casing, Ben (Brett Tucker), was actually a good guy, not the nefarious “evil” scientist they initially suspected he was. Although, in an interesting turn of events, we saw that Ben did, in fact, have another girl on the side from Liz, which clearly rattled her cage more than she wanted to admit. Is she losing her touch? Or is her heart not in it anymore? It just goes to show how tricky these sorts of assignments can be, especially in terms of the emotional toll it takes on the agents having to do it.

Meanwhile, Phil had his own moment of a similar nature when Deidre (Clea Lewis) dumped him for not being assertive enough. If she only knew! To remedy this, Phil simply told her a version of the truth- that he was married. Realizing he was bolder than she thought, Deidre snapped the phone up and it would seem, took him back after all. #SpyCoupleProblems

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There was also an unforeseen development on the Gabriel (Frank Langella) front, at least in terms of the Jennings, who were shocked when he announced he was quitting the game and moving back to Russia, leaving them to report to the prickly Claudia (Margo Martindale), who already has an inherent mistrust of Phil in particular, and scoffed at Gabriel’s warnings that the Jennings were being spread too thin with all these assignments as of late.

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I kept hoping that Gabriel would come clean to Phil about the fact that he actively got rid of poor Mischa (Alex Ozerov), Phil’s son, at the Russians’ behest, essentially forbidding the poor kid from seeing his father, completely unbeknownst to Phil, who had no idea Mischa had even come looking for him- and still doesn’t. As a sort of iffy consolation prize, Gabriel did tell Phil that his own father was a prison guard, which rocked Phil’s foundations somewhat.

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Speaking of which, Paige (Holly Taylor) continues to struggle with her situation, despite Liz’s best efforts on that end. In hopes of easing things somewhat, she and Phil introduced Paige to Gabriel before he left, which didn’t hurt matters- though Gabriel himself told Phil that his instincts to keep Paige out of the spy life might be right after all, which I’m guessing the Russians wouldn’t be too happy about his saying if they knew.

Liz was sort of stunned by this revelation as well, even though she has her own reservations about it, as evidenced by her reaction to Paige going through Pastor Ted’s stuff while he was out of the house without having been instructed to do so by anyone. Truth be told, Paige is a bit of a natural, despite her own reservations about it all. Liz also shared the fact that she’d been raped once to Paige, as a way of explaining why she was so good at defending herself, i.e. the way Liz did so against the attackers in that parking lot last season.

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I think the revelation went a long way towards solidifying the bond between Paige and Liz, but also moved Paige that much closer to actively wanting to participate in what her parents do for a living for real, which could be bad- albeit not for the Russians. On the other hand, it also led her to take her parents’ advice and break up with Matthew (Danny Flaherty), as she couldn’t bring herself to lie to him anymore, which clearly hurt her deeply to do, even if she knew it was for the best and he’d be better off without her. This may not bode well for Paige’s romantic future, if she continues to shut herself off from others, in lieu of having to lie to them.

Interestingly, brother Henry (Keidrich Sellati) proved to have unexpected layers, when it was revealed he was a natural at math, so much so that he’d been put into AP classes to that end, much to his parents’ shock. I guess all those video games paid off after all! But will that pique the Russians’ interest in recruiting him as well? We shall see. The question is, is Henry ready to know the truth about his parents? Hard to say.

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Back in Russia, Oleg was prepared to meet with an American contact after a tape recorded of a conversation between him and Stan surfaced, but I guess Stan’s gambit worked, because the contact backed off and never showed for the meet. Thankfully, Oleg destroyed the tape, and just in time, as a group of agents asked to search his room, for reasons unknown. Obviously, they got wind of something, but found nothing, lucky for Oleg. Was it his fellow agent, picking up on the fact that America had “softened” Oleg, or was it something more? Either way, Oleg is safe- for now.

However, Stan’s actions may have unpleasant consequences for him, as it was heavily implied that he might be out of a job sooner than later, at least once his current operation is done. On the plus side, his newfound wariness of the way his employers do things might be a boon for the Jennings once they are inevitably found out. Perhaps Stan might actually be the one who saves them, rather than dooms them. You never know. It all depends on how betrayed he feels by it all, I suppose, and whether he thinks their misdeeds outweigh their positive attributes.

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I think that about brings us up to speed for now. With five more episodes to go, things should be heating up sooner than later, but even I admit the show could use a little more action right about now. Hopefully, what’s to come will be worth the slow start of the season thus far. As it stands, “The Americans” remains one of the better written shows on television, even if it can be a bit pokey at times. Thankfully, loyal viewers have so much invested in the characters at this point that they can stick with it through the slower spots- or some of them can, anyway.

What do you think of the show this season? Is it too densely-plotted for its own good? Or do you not mind the slow pace, so long as the payoff is worth it? Any predictions on what will happen? Do you agree with my assessment of the situation? Or do you think something else will go down? Let me know what you think down in the comment section down below, and join me next month for another update. Thanks for reading!