In “Divestment,” The Americans explored the issue of second chances. First, Martha was questioned by Taffet, but stayed loyal to Clark. Her accusations once he got home, though, told a different story. Martha is, rightfully, confused and frightened by who Clark is and what he has asked her to do, but as I’ve postulated in the past, Martha is not that dense. She knows something is wrong (more accurately, many things) with their relationship, the things he’s asked her to do, and the things he keeps from her. But the other side to that is she really doesn’t want to know the truth.
In some ways, Clark and Martha having it out over his lies felt like a giant letdown. Clark earnestly tells Martha he loves her in so many different ways (recalling how Philip was taught by the KGB to “make it real”), and stresses that above all else. He deflects her pointed questions by calmly stating his affection for her, and then asks a question of his own: “is that enough for you?” She says yes, and for now, I believe her. Martha has gone along with everything Clark has asked of her because she’s desperate for his love, and this is no different. Ultimately, that’s what made the outcome of the exchange feel right. He made her believe the truth of his affection, and then challenged whether she really wanted the truth beyond that. That answer was no. But that final shot where they were both lost deep in thought showed that the issue is far from over.
Regarding the South African plot, even Elizabeth was put off by Reuben’s tactics of killing Eugene Venter, and (along with Philip) convinced him to let Todd go. He gave them what they needed, clearly doesn’t have the stomach for blowing people up, and deserves another chance. This whole plot arc hasn’t really connected particularly well with the rest of the story, even though it’s given us some great wigs and action sequences. (For instance, what has Kimmy been up to? I would much rather explore that than seeing strangers set on fire. Those gurgles …). But, it stayed on point with the episode’s theme, and it also exposed a side to Elizabeth that seems — despite her developing of Paige — to betray a slightly softer version of herself. The same was true later when she asked Gabriel to bring Philip’s son back from the front. She wants to be able to connect with all parts of him, including this secret past. It’s such a testament to where she is in their relationship, despite their divide over the Paige issue.
In another plot that has felt like it has been orbiting out on its own this season, Nina was granted a reduced sentence for “working” Evi and getting a confession from her, but she’s still at least a decade away from freedom. However, she was then offered a new gig (although I don’t believe for a second that it will be her last) in order to go free: getting the truth out of the captured scientist, Anton Baklanov, a thread from last season. And in another blast from the past, Nina came face to face with old Vasili, another person who she tricked and setup in order to make gains for herself. Nina is excellent at what she does (even though she keeps stumbling into it), and even though her initial conversation with Baklanov didn’t go anywhere, neither did the one she had with Evi at first. She’ll figure it out and adjust her tactics.
Amateur sleuth Paige, meanwhile, doesn’t just listen to her mother’s stories, she goes and corroborates them on microfiche. After calmly confronting her mother about Gregory’s past as a drug dealer, Elizabeth says that things are complicated, and that essentially, people aren’t just one thing. Paige claims she understands, but I think she’s still holding her ground when it comes to rallying against moral ambiguity. Still, Paige’s Christian beliefs also are surely guiding her towards forgiveness and grace, so there’s that element to it as well. Again, second chances …
“Divestment” was a slow-burning episode of The Americans that added to the overall story without directly going anywhere, but also felt like a turning point. Truths (or half truths) were revealed, deals were made, and there are still a lot of avenues left to explore. This season has been dense, but the buildup has been steady and immense. It’s incredible to think how much time remains for things to still escalate further.
Episode Rating: ★★★ Good
Musings and Miscellanea:
— “Do people resent you here? For being … new?” – Taffet. I can’t figure out if he deeply respected Aderhold, or just marveled consistently at the fact that he was black.
— Gaad vs the Mail Robot was hilarious.
— The sounds of someone being burned to death, though …
— Lovely little moment when Nina was transferred to her small apartment at the plant (which was reminiscent of the one Stan got for her), and how happy she was to have regular clothes and little touches of normal life again.
— Oh Vasili, you old creep.
— Elizabeth gets tapes from her mother, but is she not able to send any back? Sad.
— Arkady is a character I wish we got more of. He’s hardly been in this season, but I loved his scenes with Oleg and Oleg’s father. He seems to have a lot of depth and nuances to him I’d love to see explored further.
— Oleg: “He’s the Minister of Railways.” Arkady: “So next time I’m home, I won’t be able to ride the train?”