Tag Archives: KGB Soviets

S3E10 ‘Stingers’

Written by showrunners Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg – which was probably as big a hint as we needed.

Stuff relating to many arcs happened in S3E10 but, given we’ve been waiting pretty much an entire season for one particular conversation, let’s get to that first – later, we’ll double back like a well-trained South African for the rest.

Paige can’t take it any longer. With P rebuking Pastor Tim for his gentle intervention at the travel agency (“Paige … needs to be treated more like an adult than a child” “Do you have children?”) it’s now up to the shrewd daughter and, as you would expect of a Jennings, she catches her prey off guard and pounds and pounds:

“Do you love me”: BOOM!
“This isn’t normal. I need to know the truth”: BOOM!
“If you love me, really love me … “: BOOM!
Then the big-eyed pleading “Are you in the witness protection program, am I adopted … are we aliens”. The poker faces flinch. E checks, P nods – a fraction. Paige wins.

We settle down at the kitchen table for the mother and father of all parental/teenage conversations – not for this family the cautionary ‘be careful of boys’ chat. Each sitting at the kitchen table understands this is probably *the* life-changing moment for Paige. The language is slow, deliberate, precise:

Mom: “Your father and I …”
Pop: ” … were born in a different country”
Paige: “You’re spies?”
Mom: “ … we are here to help our people”


After years of obfuscation, outright lies and folding laundry in the middle of the night, it’s out!

The victor retires to her room, taking with her dad’s observations about prison and mom’s last words  “knowing the truth brings its own responsibilities” P takes the phone of the hook. They stand stunned. That makes at least three of us.

After the inevitable sleepless night, Paige needs a day alone. She wants someone to speak Russian – it’s a gloriously visceral moment. “Я очень тебя люблю”. ‘We love you very much’.

Out in the garage P&E discuss options. There aren’t any: “We go to work. We hold our breath”.

At the office, minutes seem like hours … while, at home, Paige continues to deal with the overload. She checks in with the Pastor: “I talked to them last night.” “Like you said.” “I think that they’re, I think … I just wanted you to know it happened.”

Now I don’t know about you guys but, in this situation, I always think the first person you choose to speak to is the test. We, at least *I*, read into the call that Paige understands the gravity, that there will be no emotional rush.

Later an FBI agent breezily comes over for a postponed dinner. In the middle of a normal midweek family dinner, Paige is utterly poleaxed; punch drunk, stunned, numb, at this moment unable to even walk. Senses are distorted beyond use, long-standing brain associations fuse, everything she knew just … wasn’t.

It’s going to take more than a little microfiche action at the library to sort this out.

Intuitively at first but later evidentially, Paige has been putting pieces together for some while – at least back to her comment to a disinterested Henry (when the family suddenly took a vacation in the middle of the night): “Does all this seem weird to you?”. Remember, she also took the bus to visit an elderly relative.

Distrusting her parents, Paige edged towards Pastor Tim. He became her confidante, her guide. Paige questioned her parents less, she watched more. Eventually, her confidante visits the travel agency, perhaps on a travel pretext perhaps not. His unspoken point: Paige knows something is out of whack, she’s more grown up than you can see, if there is another truth she needs to know’. Phil isn’t listening – he can barely keep from reaching for the leather gloves.

In a wider context, sure Paige had doubts but E brought this to a head herself by talking about Gregory and back in the day. That provided the catalyst: what Paige instinctively knew already, plus the civil rights activism, got us to this moment.

Moving forward, Paige doesn’t have to lie to Pastor Tim. He won’t ask for details but even if he does, she has already told him they’ve had that chat and it’s okay. He can choose to believe the witness protection story or not: his concern is with his parishioner and she is fine.

In the meantime, everyone else – from P&E to Gabriel and the Centre – have to keep “holding their breath”.

The swapped tape reveals a meeting between the CIA and the Mujahideen, and maybe even a particular meeting in history. We know there was a point when the CIA intervened in Afhganistan and turned the tide against the Soviets. It’s also depicted in the movie ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’:

Charlie Wilson: You mean to tell me that the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is to have the Afghans keep walking into machine gun fire ’til the Russians run out of bullets?
Gust Avrakotos: That’s Harold Holt’s strategy, not U.S. strategy.
Charlie Wilson: What is U.S. strategy?
Gust Avrakotos: Most strictly speaking, we don’t have one. But we’re working on it.
Charlie Wilson: Who’s ‘we’?
Gust Avrakotos: Me and three other guys

That’s the point we’re at now in The Americans. The hotel meeting is about the US/CIA sending surface-to-air Stinger missiles to the Mujahideen fighters (including Osama bin Laden) via Pakistan.  That can’t be done without Yousef and the ISI. It’s of historic significance because, without total command of the air, the tide turned against the Soviet Union and they ended up losing the war at huge cost. Not too long later, Mikhail Gorbachev became leader and the world changed forever.

No wonder Gabriel seems agitated when P&E stop by: he recognises the stakes are huge.

Stan cannot bag a break; even two soviet spies don’t want him over for dinner. He ends up in his big ol’ lonely house hanging out with their pre-teen son – and all that kid wants to do is steal another photo of Mrs B. Sitting in the wreckage of his marriage with a kid looking to add to his porn stash, Stan doesn’t even know if he lives alone or with his son. At this rate he may as well head off back to Alabama to hang with the crazy people.

Yet professionally, he’s holding up – just about: he didn’t see Nina was playing him yet somehow he sniffed out Zinaida and maybe Martha. Those are big scores. Not so sharp on the neighbours though.

Zinaida? Well, there wouldn’t be much of a story if she wasn’t bogus. And we now know the new-ish woman back at Soviet HQ is there to run Willow.

On Kimmie: Couldn’t P break into this house at will or, even if we ignore that, get Kimmie’s keys cut while she’s flaking out to Pink Floyd or something? Okay, sure, in storytelling terms we do need the contrasts with Paige.

Is Oleg going to help get the photos for the plane? How do we get from Oleg to Northrop lady? Interesting that Nina mentioned how difficult it is to get photos, it takes “sometimes years” she says to moody computer genius.

Tootsie? I guess people presenting themselves as one thing but being something else.

Agent Anerholt is now … Dennis Anerholt: “Hey Dennis” says Stan. Hey and yay to Dennis the Menace!

Martha is away on family business. I suspect she isn’t but we’ll have to wait a week to find out what she’s been up to.

(Very belatedly added the 5 stars rating thing tonight (Sat, 11th April). Up top – please do use!)