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'The Americans' fan react: Dangerous liaisons

Season 3 | Episode 5 | “Salang Pass” | Aired Feb 25, 2015

Philip Jennings is exhausted. The Americans patriarch wears a lot of hats (or, rather, wigs): father, husband, lover, Russian patriot, and confidante to the FBI agent next door.

Early in the episode, Yousaf reports the Russians are losing the conflict in Afghanistan (inspiration for the episode’s title), and fundamentalists are infiltrating his own Pakistan. When Philip tells Yousaf to keep his head down and stay in the game, you wonder if he has to give himself a similar pep talk these days.

This week, in addition to awarding points to USA or USSR, I’m also judging Philip’s moral compass, because I strongly suspect what’s being asked of him—to turn Paige, to sleep with a teenager, foster a child—could, after all these years, steer him away from Mother Russia for good.

Philip buys Paige a new baptism dress, putting on a show of support for his daughter’s devotion to the church—just like Elizabeth did all summer. Two can play at that game. +/ (Ongoing stalemate)

Stan confesses to Philip he’s nervous about dating again. He also desperately misses his son and can’t seem to connect with him. Stan is falling apart, and the only thing he’s got left is saving Nina. He clues Oleg in to his suspicions about Zinaida and suggests a prisoner exchange: Maybe if together they can prove the defector is really a spy, the FBI can arrange a trade and rescue Nina. Oleg goes on a fishing expedition with the new girl at the office, but she doesn’t give up anything. Oleg suspects Stan’s on a wild-goose chase or, worse, trying to set Oleg up. Both men love Nina, Stan argues, and outing Zinaida is their only hope. +USA (Tentatively: Stan is onto something, he just needs proof)

All of the pieces are falling into place for the Jennings to infiltrate Northrup, like a carefully crafted set of dominoes. Elizabeth/Michelle offers to let Lisa, her AA sponsor, stay at her “mother’s house” outside of D.C. to get away from her alcoholic husband. Lisa is so happy to get away she puts in for a transfer to a closer Northrup facility to avoid the commute. Then, Elizabeth casually drops a car onto the man working under it in his own driveway, killing him but making it look like an accident. Lisa gets that guy’s job. Elizabeth/Michelle hints at a new man in her life—a “consultant” who interviews her about her “defense contract job” in exchange for fancy dinners, expensive cheeses, and a Coach purse … all to set Lisa up as a new informant—consciously or not, we don’t yet know. +USSR /–The guy under the car (ouch)

Gabriel sympathizes with Philip’s struggle to balance his relationships. But, he reminds Philip, the operation is always priority No. 1. “Conscience can be dangerous,” he warns. Philip, still intensely uncomfortable with the idea that lives depend on his sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl, insists he can find another way to get the job done—without taking his pants off.

She invites him to her house while her parents are away at a fundraiser, and after they get incredibly stoned (ironically, on Afghan weed), she tells him about her strained relationship with her parents (an innocent and bittersweet monologue from Julia Garner) and they pig out on ice cream. Philip’s new angle seems to be playing the dorky dad to her lost little girl: They throw popcorn at each other, veg on the couch watching TV, and he carries her to bed after she passes out. His plan hits a snag when she wakes up and kisses him, but her parents arrive home early and he races out the back door like a teenager. +Philip, desperately searching for a way to protect this girl and not cross a line from which he may never recover.

As I wrote last week, I predict this latest assignment, combined with tension over Paige, and Martha’s growing insistence that they adopt—and therefore rope another innocent into a cause he himself is starting to question—might finally be too much for him. When he arrives home, stoned, Elizabeth is waiting up for him. In a scene mirroring this season’s second episode, when Elizabeth relates her early dealings with the KGB, Philip flashes back to his training as a young man—when he was taught the proper way to have sex with strangers and “make it real”—locked in a room with a parade of young women, old women, even men. –Philip: That’s some serious adolescent trauma to cope with. No wonder he doesn’t want Paige to go through that.

Tentatively, Elizabeth asks if that’s what he does with Martha, or Kimberly. He supposes he’s faking it with Martha. He just feels bad for Kimberly. He admits he sometimes has to make it real with Elizabeth. But not now, he says as he tenderly brushes the hair from her eyes, and goes in for a kiss. +Philip, for honesty, and for trying to mend fences with his wife and partner.

WINNER: USA. Remember when Mikhail Baryshnikov defected from Russia in the 1970s and joined the American Ballet Theatre (but before he was on Sex and the City)? It’s like that. Stan is thisclose to finding evidence against Zinaida, the Russians are losing the war in Afghanistan—and, through aggressive spy tactics, might soon risk losing one of their best undercover agents.

The Americans airs Wednesdays at 10/9C on FX.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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