There were some major bombs dropped in “Stingers,” but in typical Americans fashion, they were handled quietly. The subplots of “Singers” may have been brushed off quickly (the brief reappearance of Kimmy, Nina working the scientist, the Jennings actually working at the travel agency, Gabriel telling Philip that Elizabeth asked for his son to get an early release), but that can’t be blamed. The most shocking and incredible thing to happen in “Stingers” was that Paige finally knows the truth.
That revelation has been teased since Season One, with Paige attempting to poke around the basement, call her parents at work, and set up small ploys or tricks to try and catch them out. She’s accused them of affairs, and in this hour, threw out a number of other possibilities: witness protection? drug deals? murders? aliens?
Given what a hot-button issue this has been for Philip and Elizabeth (regarding how or even if to tell Paige what they do, and whether or not she wants to be a part of it), the actual conversation was incredibly calm and staid. They were born in the Soviet Union, and they help out the cause of their people, and fight for peace. That’s not so bad, right? Oh, and they also collect information that their country could not otherwise get.
For some teenagers, the revelation that one’s parents are international spies might be met with some excitement (you know, after the whole “betrayal of lying to me for my entire life” wore off). But Paige’s conflicts with the information were very clear here. She’s angry at her parents, of course, but only later — when Stan shows up — does she really start to internalize what it is they’re doing. Though she chose to keep the truth from Pastor Tim (just barely), her consideration that her parents are working Stan (or that he is willingly working with them) clearly throws her off. One also has to assume that her seeing a conflict here with her Christian beliefs will begin to weigh heavily on her conscience.
The best parts of the conversation among the three though, and its aftermath, wasn’t in what was said, but what wasn’t. The look Elizabeth gave Philip before his almost imperceptible nod to tell Paige the truth was a study in nuance, as were Paige’s verbal ellipses when talking to Pastor Tim. And like so much of The Americans, these cues only hinted at the real storm brewing.
The same was true later in a short scene that was really, really interesting between Elizabeth and Philip at the hotel. Though Philip is already juggling several women through his aliases, he offers to take over the hotel seduction ploy by waiting for a woman to switch over for the shift change. Elizabeth goes ahead with it, but doesn’t do so with a look of ready determination. She seems worn out.
Another important component to all of this is the development of Henry. Most TV shows don’t know what to do with kids if the show isn’t about them, and to be fair, The Americans has mostly ignored Henry (though Paige being “forgotten” is part of the plot). Now, though, something interesting is happening with him and his relationship with Stan. Stan bonds with him as a reminder of how things were with Matthew before he went undercover, and Henry is happy to have a father figure around who actually pays attention to him (plus, he’s definitely hoping to run into Sandra). That also, though, potentially complicates Henry’s future development as a spy, or when he learns the truth about his parents. Or will it make him a more effective one? (Although we know Henry certainly enjoys the trappings of American life). Either way, it’s a fascinating new thread.
Back to Paige, though; the most brilliant part of the revelation was that the episode didn’t end with it (I’m even more thankful that the season didn’t end with it). With have three more episodes to see how this plays out. Like the Jennings, though, I don’t think we have any idea of where things might go from here.
Episode Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Not much to say about the Kimberly plot this week — she was drunk, Philip took her home, and swapped out the recording device.
— Nina, as I knew she would, found a new angle with the scientist by showing she speaks English, and has been to America. That warmed him up a little!
— So it appears Stan was right in his suspicions regarding Zinaida, who is indeed a spy so secret that only two people at the Rezidentura know about her.
— I still would like to see more of Arkady, who is a tangential part to two of the subplots, but doesn’t really have much to do besides look over papers and make phone calls.
— Tron! Strat-O-Matic!
— Henry quoting that Eddie Murphy SNL sketch had me in stitches. That’s may be the most normal thing the show has ever done.
— Another great small moment: Liz’s laugh after Paige says, “trying to turn me into a travel agent?”