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The Americans Takes on Marriage, David Copperfield and a Time Jump

(Episode 4.08)

TV Reviews The Americans
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<i>The Americans</i> Takes on Marriage, David Copperfield and a Time Jump

Time jumps. Everyone is doing them.

While once avant-garde, time jumps have become de rigueur on TV shows. Two years ago Fargo executed a time jump in the middle of an episode and it was innovative, shocking and just the right move. Now The Americans has done the same thing, but the time jump didn’t pack the same punch. It seems more like a way for the show to extricate itself from its current situation.

Since the fourth season began, The Americans has been going at a breakneck pace with each episode beginning moments after the previous one ended. The stress level has been enormously high. After Elizabeth has to kill a drunk and frantic Lisa (who is brought back only to be murdered, sorry Lisa!), Gabriel announces that it’s too much. “Things have to change,” he tells them, before deciding they will take on no new assignments. The Jennings and the audience probably both needed a breaks, but there’s something about the time jump move that just seems stale to me.

But let’s back up to the beginning of the episode. Martha got on that plane to Russia. Until the plane was actually in the air, I kept hoping that somehow she would make a break for it. And poor Martha, she remained in denial about Clark until the end. “Don’t be alone Clark, alright. Don’t be alone,” she tells him. She’s abandoning her entire life to live in a country she knows nothing about, and she’s still worried about Clark, even though Clark is the one who has put her in this untenable position. I really hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Martha. Maybe the FBI can make a trade for her?

Philip gets confirmation that the FBI was indeed looking for Martha when Stan tells him he’s been in the “middle of dealing with this disaster at work.” Philip and Elizabeth have this super awkward conversation where Elizabeth writes off Martha as being “simple” and Philip defends her as being “actually very complex.” Don’t you hate it when your real wife doesn’t fully get your fake wife?

Elizabeth attends an EST meeting to see what all the brouhaha is about and declares the whole thing to be “very American.” What they are after, she tells Philip, is your money. This leads to a massive fight about who slept with whom, why Philip is so sad about Martha, even Gregory gets brought back into the mix. It’s a raw, vulnerable fight showcasing what the series does best—juxtaposing a complex marriage against Cold War espionage.

The most harrowing scene came with Elizabeth’s verbal assault of Paige. Paige skips bible study because she didn’t feel like going. “You get yourself in the mood,” Elizabeth seethes. “We’ve been trying to forgive you for what you did.” It had appeared that Elizabeth was softening and perhaps putting her children before her country. But that scene made it clear that, in many ways, Paige is just another asset Elizabeth continues to work. She tells Paige that she will spend time with Pastor Tim and his wife and she will report back to her parents how that time went.

The whole family gathers to watch David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear. It’s an illusion—much like Philip and Elizabeth are an illusion of typical American family of four. Seven months later and Elizabeth and Philip are happily playing outside with Henry while Paige plays miniature golf with Pastor Tim and a pregnant Alice. When Paige returns home, she tells her parents how the visit went in a lifeless, monotone voice.

“You can’t lose sight of who these people are,” Agent Gaad tells Stan. Stan hasn’t and the show certainly hasn’t. I might not be on board with the mid-episode time jump, but with only five episodes left this season, I can’t wait to see what happens next. Things have apparently been status quo for seven months, but we know that can’t last.

Stray observations:

Elizabeth and Young-Hee sneak into The Outsiders which is high on my list of all-time favorite movies. I wore out my VCR copy of the movie watching this Rob Lowe shower scene. Sodapop forever!

When are we going to find out why Elizabeth is befriending Young-Hee?

Nice to have Kimmy at least mentioned again.

“Well, I don’t collect stamps.” Just another great delivery by Richard Thomas.



Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal ®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and a regular contributor to Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.

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