Initially it looked like this epi was all about two ladies who’d reached the end of their emotional tether, stand firm and refuse to be mollycoddled any longer.
Sure, the epi is mostly about Paige and Martha but, the more you step back, the more it seems this is also about a man taking back control of his family, for his family.
Midway, we get confirmation – validation – of that decision from the two people who best shade his light. We find Gabriel and Claudia convivially handling tea in a Greek diner. The two experts in tragedy trade ideas for how to proceed with P&E’s eldest child. To paraphrase: ‘Don’t worry about what happened before (with “the boy” killing his parents and then dying), they think you can pull this off. We want you to speed up the process. We’re all behind you big guy’.
The Center has sent a friend of 30 years to massage Gab’s ego and to deliver a pep talk: not a whole bunch of respect or sympathy from Claudia for boundaries, for the family, for what P&E have achieved in 20 years in the US. And zero talk of E’s mother.
P knows anyway; The Center can hammer its sickle up the Volga, Phil Jennings is doing what’s right by his.
Having last week left the Refusnik daughter feeling both frustrated and empathic towards her mother, we now find Paige in feisty teenage passive-aggressive mode (deciding to stay at the Pastor’s on a school night). With an embarrassing driveway standoff between real and substitute parents nimbly averted by Tim, the Jennings’ return home in familial silence (haven’t we all been there).
Once back in the privacy of their own vault-cum-garage, it restarts ‘we need to know we can trust you’ ‘how can I believe anything you say’; a sharper tone, a reminder of consequences, even a physical barrier. We know this isn’t wilful teenage angst. Instead, it’s valid entitlement, and her parents know it too.
The next night they go again. Paige accusingly waves the family photo album in which everyone who isn’t mom or dad or Henry is fake. She gets louder, it’s getting close to blackmail now – give me something real or I’ll make sure Henry knows.
E moves to put her hand over her daughter’s mouth. “Don’t touch me. DON’T touch me”. It’s an intense, confrontational family scenes that is usually about power but here is about identity.
Back in the USSR
Next; rapprochement. Dad knocks
He tries to soften her up. They reminisce; we spot the metaphor of Paige protecting Henry from a bear but then Paige says unprompted “He asked me to keep it a secret”. And so she did for 7-8 years until this moment. So why mention it now? It’s not a throwaway line.
My version: taken in the context of the reaction it draws (in the next scene) perhaps Paige is telling her father she kept secrets as a child but that was then. She understands grown up secrets have consequences way greater than a scared boy in a tent can imagine: I get it dad, trust me.
In the next scene, in the car, P to E “You should go and take her with you” “Look, if you don’t take her I will”. So P is making the call for his wife – and his daughter – that they can’t make. The Jennings’ are going rogue. Sort of, for a bit. Not even?
In the final scene mother knocks “Paige, I’m going to see my mother before she dies. In Russia. We think you should go with me. It will be the only chance you have to meet your grandmother.”
About bloody time: Nadz is coming home.
“Shogun: An English navigator becomes both a player and pawn in the complex political games in feudal Japan”. Stan’s read it, they’re both living it.
Agent Beeman decides to put the old fashioned squeeze on secretary Martha Hanson. She handles his unexpected visit well but soon turns to reflect on her marriage (again). She reaches out to her parents. Somewhere between that phone call home and Clark’s next visit, Martha decides two things, she is going to take a vacation (to visit her parents), and also that in order to withstand Walt Taffet, Stan Beeman and what she perceives people at work are saying, she will need one big change of her husband.
When Clark next comes home Martha is sitting on the marital bed, suitcase packed, in three-dimensional pink knitwear. Like the framed paintings, like the bedspread, like mostly everything, the knitwear is flowery: Clark tries to claw his own face off.
No wait, maybe not. Actually, he gets it; Stan is applying pressure and Martha’s reaction screams ‘guilty’. He can’t let her go on vacation (he also can’t let her spend time with her parents any more than Paige can stay with Tim).
Martha also needs that big change; in order to truly believe in her marriage, to make the pressure at work bearable, hubby has to drop all pretense – all vestiges of Clark have to go “I can’t take it” “ …. I can’t be here with you like this”.
In a scene that wouldn’t be out of place in the Twilight Zone a seemingly unworldly Clark purposefully removes the pins of his wig and then the hair piece itself. Martha is transfixed, staring open-mouthed at the transformation. All kinds of thoughts must flash through her discombobulated mind (‘Help, I Married a Reptile’) before Clark ruffles his full head of natural hair.
Phil’s huge call here – with Beeman so close, with Martha so fragile – is to not swap Martha for the contents of her burgeoning suitcase. All his training would have said wheel her out the door.
Instead, by the end, all that remains of Clark is a name. Sometimes, you have to wonder if Annalise’s demise left a lasting impression on Phil.
In Espionage Corner
We’re back to the Stinger storyline and in particular the back seat of a bogus CIA saloon where Abassin Zadran is sharing geo-political home truths and goat gutting techniques.
“Why is there no war here, in America. My country is always at war, and for what it has nothing?” ”All we want is to live on the land of our fathers in peace”. It looked instructive for P to see up close the nature of the people eager to kill his eldest son.
Zadran’s world comprises family, tribe, martyrs, traitors and infidels, and precious little else. Later, Zadran does the goat thing, helping out one superpower against another – the wrong one as far as he is concerned, if there was ever a right one.
On my count we now up to five characters fighting for family: P&E, Paige, Martha and Abassin Zadran.
We find stoic but likable Arkady pacing the smoky transcription room like an expectant father. He’s not happy. Soon he is summoning Ollie and Tatiana to tell them he is cancelling Zephyr.
Around about now we remember we don’t know a whole lot about Tatiana except she runs WILLOW.
Why does she want Zephyr to keep running? Maybe it has to do with WILLOW but who knows. We’re left pondering if Arkady is being premature or whether Tatiana has created the impression Arkady is being premature. We just don’t know enough to … know.
What do you do with a Problem like Maurice?
Yay, Maurice has hit the big time!
For goodness sake would someone please take this guy to one side and explain he is all kinds of wrong: listen you great big lug, you’re about the wrong kind of spying. That’s right.
Anyway, under Maurice’s supervision, with filming practiced and the plan talked through, there is only the portentous matter of 5 milligrams of sedative. “Trust me” says E. Ouf.
We leave Maurice proclaiming “I’m dealing with this side of things now”. Good luck with that.
Stan and Dennis the Menace
Am I late to twig Agent Dennis Aderholt has been tasked (presumably by Gaad) to look into the Stan/Nina business? Dennis prods at Stan in the trained way Stan is prodding Martha: it’s about how they react “There was something going on between you and Nina, that much is clear to me” “Did you plant the bug?” exclaims Dennis while the mail robot is beep-beep-beeping within bugging distance.
Stan is on to Martha but Dennis is on to Stan – Stan’s future may depend on who gets there first.
Pre-credits; P&E arrive home from phone tampering and the first question is not how are you but “Where is your sister?” Henry exhales, pauses, gives a teenage look. Body language bad, no eye contact. No one notices, no one cares. “Lights out by 10, Henry” and they’re gone again.
Then, mirroring the scene between Stan and Dennis, we get an aural clue; against a silent soundscape Henry’s gadget also beeps three times. Is Henry like the Mail Robot picking up every conversation?
His family – and us – assume Henry is lost in his early teen male world of gadgets, silly impressions (“he’s crazy, that kid”) and unmentionable hormonal changes, that he doesn’t notice the too-and-froing between bedrooms, the hushed and increasingly not so hushed conversations in bedrooms, in the kitchen, in the garage. There is stuff happening with Henry folks, the clever stash warned us, playing Stan showed us, the pre-credits tonight told us: we have been clued in
It’s probably my decadent western mind but if a woman at work brought me a sausage wrapped in a pastry …
Even Hans has never seen P or E without their disguises. On Hans: I can’t but help fear for this guy in the final epi. It feels like the character might be set up for an unfortunate end of season.
The date for the 2 ½ hour series finale of MASH was Feb 28th 1983 – that’s the night Paige wanted to stay with the Pastor and his family. Still the highest rated (by percent) US TV audience ever.
Checking Wiki, it turns out the Stinger storyline fits the actual timeline; historically speaking, Stingers were deployed for the first time in late 1986, over three years from where we are in the show. In our world, P&E partly bought the delay.
In Vacation Corner: Okay, how about this; E and Paige go to Russia. Clark and Martha take a vacation – that could work except for what can they do with Henry … it’s not like they have family.
It’s still snowing in DC metroland. Did we miss Christmas?