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'The Americans' USA vs. USSR fan react: Heartbreak

Season 3 | Episode 9 | “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” | Aired Mar 25, 2015

Early in this episode of The Americans, Elizabeth’s protégé, Hans, botches a mission and reports that it didn’t go as planned. “It seldom does,” Elizabeth responds, a fact she knows all too well, and will face again all too soon.

As Elizabeth and Philip burrow deeper into the FBI, and unlikely allies join forces to ferret out a traitor, who wins this week’s battle of the Cold War superpowers: USA or USSR?

Hans is devastated when Elizabeth tells him it’s game over: He blew his cover when Todd glimpsed the fellow South African after Venter was fire-roasted. Hans will do anything to support the anti-apartheid movement, and decides to prove it by murdering the only person who can ID him. He makes a few rookie mistakes—he has to strangle Todd to death after shooting the man, but only grazing his face, and he leaves behind a bloody mess—but he did it for the cause, and to keep working with Elizabeth. She’s impossible to read: Is she mad? Is she proud? +USSR for inspiring such devoted fervor, even if he maybe doesn’t know which side is controlling him

Oleg and Stan agree to keep investigating Zinaida, for Nina’s sake, not knowing the resourceful gal is already taking care of things on her own back in Russia. Oleg takes a turn playing dress-up: Disguised in glasses and a Beastie Boys/”Sabotage” mustache, he threatens Zinaida from the shadows of her hotel room, warning her to recant the bad stuff she’s been saying about Russia or else. Then, he whacks Stan in the head with his gun and flees. Later, they meet up, share a beer, and trade headache cures. +USA

“Doing nothing is a bad idea.” That’s what Elizabeth says when Philip tells her Martha knows, or at least knows something’s up. But Philip trusts Martha, and says so very pointedly, a dig at his fractured relationship with Elizabeth of late.

Philip/Clark visits Martha, who greets him with a smile and dinner. She matter-of-factly puts to rest the idea of fostering a child, and makes a toast to turning the page. She has also decided to keep feeding Philip/Clark information about the FBI, including Agent Gaad’s temper-tantrum that broke the mail robot. +USSR … unless it’s a front and Martha is playing both sides

Philip seizes on the opportunity to bug the robot, and Gabriel promises to keep Martha out of it, knowing she’s under enough suspicion for pen-gate. +USSR

Elizabeth and Philip sneak in to bug the mail robot, but there’s a complication: an older woman working late at the office.

Elizabeth warns Betty (played by Lois Smith, True Blood’s Adele “Gran” Stackhouse) to keep quiet and not make trouble. She’s chatty, despite being held hostage, or perhaps because of it. Maybe she’s hoping to develop a relationship with her lovely captor, draw out some kindness, and stay alive. Only now and then does she betray her nerves. She likes to work at night, she says, because she can feel the presence of her deceased husband, a war veteran who started this company. She talks of her son, her sister-in-law, her career as a math teacher, religion.

Elizabeth reports back to Philip, who’s working on the machine. She seems to want to cut Betty some slack, but this time he’s the one with ice-cold veins. “She picked a bad time,” he says. (Oh, I am feeling so much dread.)

Elizabeth has a moment of candor, and tells Betty about her own father, the coal miner, and her mother, who’s alive in Russia. This must be a rare relief, freely speaking about herself. But the terror, then teary-eyed resignation, that crosses Betty’s face when she realizes Elizabeth won’t let her live is almost too much to bear. She’s not afraid of leaving the world, Betty says, though this isn’t how she wanted her story to end.

The murder weapon? Her heart medication. One by one, Betty swallows the pills; each sip of water is one swallow closer to death. Though the strain and growing discomfort, she dutifully takes more pills, trying to make conversation. Drifting in and out of hallucinations, she makes Elizabeth promise not to hurt her son, then demands to know why Elizabeth does this kind of work. To make the world a better place, Elizabeth answers. “That’s what evil people tell themselves when they do evil things,” Betty says, before taking her last few breaths.

Elizabeth is shaken, and sheds a tear as she hurries Philip along. (I have a feeling this is going to haunt her more than many of the lives she’s taken.) —RIP Betty

americans_s3e9_betty

The episode wraps up as many have this season: with a game of Scrabble and a conversation with Gabriel. Philip confesses when he first saw Elizabeth, he felt something he’d never felt before, and hasn’t since. Gabriel shares that Elizabeth rejected the first officer that was to be her American husband, so in a way she did choose him.

Then, he asks Philip what’s wrong, what is his problem? It’s you, Philip responds, putting it all out there. He doesn’t trust Gabriel, and will not be manipulated the way he thinks Gabriel does to Elizabeth. Philip’s No. 1 job is to look out for his family, because no one else will.

Interesting timing, given what Elizabeth just went through in the name of the cause. Are they both close to their breaking point? Where will either of them finally draw the line and say “no”? +/− TBD

WINNER: USSR. How can the USA compete with rogue South African agents-in-training, mail-robot espionage, and agents willing to murder innocent old ladies? This emotional episode was more unsettling than stuffed kishka.


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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