‘The Americans’ Season 5 Finale: Soviet Disunion

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In a somewhat muted finale of “The Americans,” the big action is… an attempted suicide? Pretty much. But beneath that action is a bigger one simmering underneath the surface- and it’s one that will wave “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” to the Jennings’ plan for a would-be happily-ever-after in the Soviet Union, at least for the foreseeable future.

Showing that nothing is in this show without a reason, the whole Kimmy (Julia Garner) business, which seemed almost tacked on as an afterthought earlier this season- as if to say, “Oh, you thought that was a done deal? Guess what, it’s not! That’s STILL happening, on top of all this other stuff!”- turns out to be the one thing that completely derails the Jennings’ escape plan.

Yep, it turns out that Kimmy’s dad, Isaac (Frank Deal), just got himself a promotion, to the head of the Soviet Division, suddenly making Phil’s seemingly innocuous side gig of getting his daughter stoned so he could plant a bug in her dad’s briefcase and switch out the tapes periodically into a pretty big deal. And you better believe Phil (Matthew Rhys) knows it, to the point where he very nearly chucks the evidence of it into a nearby lake.

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This major breakthrough, one which virtually ensures he’s going to have to up the ante on the “relationship” with Kimmy, which thus far has managed to stay relatively pure- or as “pure” as a relationship between a spy and their prey can be without involving sex with a minor- into a whole different bowl of borscht altogether.

You just know that, in “choosing” to stay in America, that Kimmy is going to see that as a sign that Phil just couldn’t bring himself to leave town after all, which, as a teen, she’s naturally going to attribute to herself, meaning that, in order to keep that thing going (that thing being coming over to her house and switching out the tapes), Phil’s going to have to step up his game, which is all kinds of icky, and he knows it.

Of course, this is just one of the many reasons Phil can’t wait to get out of this horrific line of business he has found himself in. Factor in how spread thin both he and his wife, Liz (Keri Russell) have been this season, between the Kansas gig (cue that Elton John again) and the thing with Tuan (Ivan Mok) and the Morozovs and everything else and you can see how all this led to his wanting out, by any means necessary.

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The big difference was that, by this point, Liz was right there with him. At long last, even she reached her breaking point, determining that the time had finally come to end all this craziness and GTFO of the spying business and go home. Naturally, it took her having to shoot an elderly couple in the heads to get her there, but hey, whatever works. (Granted, one of which was accused with collaborating with Nazis to kill over a hundred Russians, which she did indeed confirm, but still… there was that collateral damage that was the woman’s husband.)

Then, just as it seemed the stars were aligned for them to get while the getting was good, the hammer and sickle dropped. Or, to paraphrase “The Godfather”: Just when they thought they were out, it pulled them back in. The Jennings just can’t win for losing. And you just know that none of this is going to end well. Either they get caught or killed, but no way they’re getting a happy ending, right?

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My favorite sequence of the show was the aforementioned Elton John montage- has a show ever had such a perfect ear for the perfect song for the occasion as this one? As we saw the last vestiges of poor Paige’s innocence fade away, she practically dared anyone to mess with her, purposefully taking the exact same route she and her mom did that fateful night they were attacked, to get home without instance- only to be pummeled in the face by her own mother. No one quite hits your buttons like family. Or punches you in the face like a Russian spy that just happens to be your mom.

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Meanwhile, Phil “loses” his beloved racquetball partner Stan (Noah Emmerich) to the likely fellow Soviet interloper Renee (Laurie Holden)- all but confirmed as such later on, when she compels Stan to keeping fighting the good fight when he expresses a desire to leave the current position he was holding, having, like Phil, gotten a bad taste in his mouth from it and wanting to leave it all behind.

As Phil loses his best bud and Paige loses her innocence, right along with Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin)- good riddance, I say, to the two-faced preacher man- the glossy music of Elton John gives way to the grittier alternative future of R.E.M. and their equally melancholic “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry),” as the noticeably older Phil skeevily rubs the shoulders of a teen just before his world is kicked out from underneath him.

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Nothing on this show happens by accident, and in his decision to break things the way he did to Kimmy, Phil basically sealed his own fate. Now the only way back in is through, and once he does that, Paige won’t be the only one losing her innocence. To say nothing of the fact that he almost certainly will end up getting caught at some point, surely, which will only make matters worse.

As for the whole Tuan thing, the brash youngster took matters into his own hands, upping the ante on the assignment by not only driving Pasha (Zack Gafin) to try and attempt suicide, but calling out Liz on her “bourgeoisie” nonsense, which she later recognizes to be all too true. It’s precisely the sort of thing Liz herself would have done in her younger days and not thought twice about, and that’s the point- even Liz recognizes that she’s losing her edge.

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At the same time, she’s right on the money in telling Tuan he’s destined to crash and burn sans a partner-in-crime. No one can go about things at the fever pitch he is without reaching a no-turning-back point, and he came pretty close with Pasha. You can see it on his face when he sees first-hand the results of his manipulations and is horrified, at least at first.

With alarming quickness, though, he simply mentally sweeps it all under the rug and moves on, lashing out at Liz when she understandably calls him out on it. Thankfully, I do think her advice landed, though, with even Tuan realizing that a more significant other couldn’t hurt. You can’t really blame Liz and Phil for not being around more than they were- after all, they were already spread pretty thin, even before the Tuan assignment- but I think deep down Tuan knows it was all a bridge too far, in spite of the results, which were nonetheless still achieved.

Hopefully, Tuan heeds Liz’s advice and dials it back a few notches, but either way, he can see the Ghost of Christmas Future in Liz’s face if he looks hard enough. She isn’t so much lashing out at him as she is herself, as she knows good and well she’s done as bad and then some in her own past- and might well again. Of course, at this point, she still has good reason to think she won’t, but her type of laurels weren’t meant to be rested upon, I’m afraid.

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You can see the steely determination and resolve sinking back in her face in that final scene, as Phil confesses what was on that tape and what it means for their intended plans. Good thing they hadn’t told the kids yet. Henry (Keidrich Sellati) may get his beloved private school after all, at least in the short term.

As for Paige, well, at least she can take comfort she won’t have to deal with Pastor Tim and his wife anymore, now that he’s due to be shipped off. I loved the scene between her and her mom in which they discussed the pros and cons of Pastor Tim’s influence, BTW: helping the poor=good, organized religion, not so much. Too bad this wasn’t a few years later, or they could have cued up another R.E.M. hit: “Losing my Religion.”

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Sadly absent from the finale was Oleg (Costa Ronin), but then, I’m not sure what he could have added to the proceedings, as we know where he stands, and the potential dumpster fire he might be standing in before too long. In his stead, we instead got another surprise appearance from Martha (Alison Wright), finally getting what she long hoped for, albeit in the most roundabout of ways, as her Russian tutor suggested a potential way forward for her happiness: adopting a wayward orphan. Nice to see Martha cry tears of joy for once.

All in all, it wasn’t just the finale that was a bit muted, but the season as a whole. I suppose that’s what happens when you know the end is near, but you also know you have to set the wheels in motion for it, and there’s no getting around the fact that this season was more set-up than action. Still, there are positive attributes to such an approach, as the season served to only deepen our affections for all these characters we’ve grown to know and love, and in some cases, exposed a new layer or two in the process, i.e. who knew Henry even had another layer?

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Yes, it was all a bit on the slow side, with very little in the way of genuine spy action, but I suspect this was intentional to a certain degree. THIS is what the spy life is really like, the show seemed to say- monotony and a non-stop grind, occasionally punctuated by a burst of Technicolored violence, which is rarely, if ever, wanted, and in some cases, entirely unwarranted, i.e. the lab tech killing, the Nazi woman’s husband. A glamorous life, this is not.

But I suspect next season, aka the final one, will be an entirely different animal. After all, the wheels are now in motion for things to wrap up, one way or another. Will the Jennings get their “happy ending”? Even if they make it back “home,” what’s waiting for them may be a damn sight different from what they hoped for, as we’ve seen from Oleg’s experiences, and I can’t imagine their kids faring too well under those circumstances, after being Westernized all their lives.


No, I suspect that only tragedy is in store for this group of sad individuals, and not just the Jennings, either. Can anything but heartbreak be in store for Stan, for instance? Hell, even Martha might find that being a parent might not be all it’s cracked up to be, least of all in Soviet Russia, where you don’t parent the kids, the kids parent you! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

But who knows, maybe the writers will surprise us. Maybe Stan will let Phil and Liz slide if he finds out about them. After all, he let the foxes into his own hen-house, and now may well be sleeping with one. (Okay, definitely is, IMHO.) There are any number of directions this could all go, for sure. Hopefully, with all the advance time they’ve had to puzzle things out, the ending won’t disappoint, even if the lead-in was a bit of one.

Until then, we have this sad, last blast of the rigors of spy craft at its most grueling to look back on. Who knows? Maybe one day, when things get really nasty, we’ll look back in longing to these slightly more innocent times. We shall see.

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What did you think of the penultimate season of “The Americans”? Was it all a bit too slow for your tastes? Or did you appreciate the microscopic look at the inner lives of our favorite Soviet spies? Do you think the final act will be worth it? What was your favorite moment of the season? How about your least favorite? (Lay off Paige haters, if you will.) What do you think will happen next season?

Sound off down below, and thanks for reading!