The Americans Review: “Pastor Tim”

(Episode 4.02)

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<i>The Americans</i> Review: &#8220;Pastor Tim&#8221;

“We’re in trouble.”

Has there ever been a truer statement?

Once again this episode picked up seconds after last week’s premiere ended with Philip coming into the house immediately after his fight with Stan. The back-to-back nature of the storytelling continues to give the show such a sense of urgency—so much so that I begin the hour already stressed out. Seriously, is The Americans going to pay for my new anti-wrinkle cream? Because I am pretty sure I watched the entire episode with a furrowed brow.

But Elizabeth and Philip are definitely in trouble. Via the bug she plants in Pastor Tim’s office, Elizabeth learns that Paige has told Pastor Tim everything. Elizabeth’s solution is swift: they’ll have to kill Pastor Tim. Philip isn’t so sure. “You want to kill the one person in the world that she trusts?” he asks his wife. Philip fears that once Paige truly understands what it is her parents do, she’ll be able to put together that they killed Pastor Tim. Elizabeth is almost gleeful at the chance to rid her family of the man. Her plan is to have a gas leak at the cabin where he goes to write his sermons. But even Elizabeth is experiencing some guilt about what they are about to do. She is plagued by nightmares.

Paige unknowingly saves Pastor Tim by confessing to her mother that she has told him everything. The girl who has the parents whose whole lives are a lie couldn’t stomach lying to her parents. “This was the one thing that you couldn’t do,” Elizabeth tells her daughter. But Paige, already so much more mature than her age, wisely tells her mother “You put me in this position. You did this to me.” But now that Paige has told her parents, killing Pastor Tim is no longer an option. “Well that’s it. She’d certainly put it all together now,” Philip says.

The episode featured two off-screen deaths. Oleg’s brother died, and so did Elizabeth’s mother. It was Elizabeth’s almost cold reaction to her mother’s death that seemed to propel Paige to tell her parents the truth. Even her mother’s death couldn’t stop Elizabeth from working.

Back in Russia, Nina uses her husband to get a message out to Anton’s son that Anton is still alive. She is caught. “I’m not who I was,” she says when she is caught. But Nina is so wily that I almost think this is somehow still part of her master plan to get Anton to trust her completely. She’s like the spy who cried wolf. I don’t believe anything she says or does at this point.

In a poignant scene, Philip confesses to Elizabeth that he has been going to EST meetings. Instead of being furious, Elizabeth shows compassion. She knows that he husband has been struggling. Philip also tells her about the boy he killed when he was 10 years old. It’s moments like these that continue to remind viewers that even amid all this violent spy work, Philip and Elizabeth have a real marriage.

Philip tries to give the bio weapon to the pilot assigned to take it out of the county. But the pilot is anxious and the exchange goes terribly wrong. Philip has to strangle a security guard with his bare hands in the back of the bus. Killing him took an excruciating amount of time—once again emphasizing just how truly horrific Philip’s life is. It was also Philip’s boldest kill yet, on a bus with another passenger (blithely listening to “Tainted Love”) on it. The kill was so risky, I again wonder if Philip is subconsciously hoping to get caught. Meanwhile, the pilot didn’t even take the bioweapon so it’s back in the Jennings’ house and Philip’s murder was all in vain.

Philip and Elizabeth can’t kill Pastor Tim, but it’s also not great for him to be alive knowing all that he knows. So now what? The Jennings family may be in trouble but the show certainly isn’t, in this already stellar fourth season.

Stray Observations:

I remain impressed that, with all that she has going on, Elizabeth has time to chop up vegetables for dinner.

Stan may still be furious with Philip, but his affection for Henry remains. He’s giving him advice on his crush on his teacher and offering him more bad cologne.

When I first saw the title of this episode I thought it would heavily feature Pastor Tim. How wrong I was. We only see him once in his eponymous episode, appearing briefly in Elizabeth’s nightmare.

“I said wait to your father gets home.” Humor, The Americans style.

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.