Wednesday, March 4, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Americans' - Paige Gets Baptized & Philip Receives Some Surprising News from Gabriel in 'Born Again'

FX's The Americans - Episode 3.06 "Born Again"

Gabriel has surprising information. Elizabeth begins to take family matters into her own hands. Stan receives upsetting news from his past and turns to Sandra for support.

Finding church and religion gave Paige a sense of direction. She was starting to come of age and be curious about the world. She wanted to expand her understanding of the life around her. The church gave her focus and something to be passionate about. It's something that is completely her. She choose to spend her time there and it has become a vastly important part of her identity. "Born Again" opens with her being baptized. It's a celebration that she wanted to have. She wanted to stand in front of the entire congregation and declare her love for Jesus Christ. That's terrifying for her parents because they don't believe in a higher power. They don't believe that prayer will help improve their lives. They believe that hard work is what makes things better. They can't just hope that something will come true. They will act and make it true. That's the nature of their profession. They need to have control otherwise they would end up dead - which would only hurt the cause. They've been struggling with the idea of telling Paige who they really are. She is growing up quickly and picking up more and more things that they do. Philip and Elizabeth aren't hiding as much from Paige as they realize.

Paige has had to become an independent spirit because her parents are away "working" all the time. It's a lifestyle she's used to. However, Philip and Elizabeth aren't fully away of how much their absent has effected their children. Elizabeth still believes that she needs to hide the fact that she smokes from her children - even though they've already known for years. That's an easy secret to reveal. Yes, it's an unhealthy habit but something easy for the children to comprehend. Revealing their true identities is a much weightier subject. Philip wants Paige to be the one to decide which direction to take her life in. She has many opportunities and he wants her to discover herself without having to become a part of the family business simply because of a decision her parents made years ago. That choice is a part of Paige's identity though. She wouldn't exist if Philip and Elizabeth didn't decide to become these covert operatives in America. It's a fact that Elizabeth thinks Paige should be proud of. It's the truth.

As much as Philip and Elizabeth don't identify with Paige's religious ways, it's actually become sort of a blessing for them. It's a tricky slope, for sure. Her embracing this lifestyle at the church could wind up hurting the family as much as it could potentially help them. It provides an excuse for Philip to use when he's in the field as James with Kimmy. And later, it helps Elizabeth begin opening the door to Paige on the type of activities she and Philip have done in their lives. Whenever Philip and Elizabeth try having an honest discussion with Paige (albeit in vague terms), she always jumps to the conclusion of them attacking her religion. That has become a core part of who she is. Sure, we didn't quite know the scope of how active she is in the community until Pastor Tim started providing examples before her baptism. But it's something she cherishes. It doesn't line up with the believes of Philip and Elizabeth. However, they are trying to use it to help define the version of her that they want her to be.

Philip enjoys that Paige is standing up for something so strongly because she believes in it. She is in a non-religious family and she's making sure that her voice is being heard. She's standing up for herself. That's something that Philip is incredibly proud of. His life is chaos right now. He has this tension with Elizabeth over Paige. He has this mission with Kimmy with which he is getting increasingly uncomfortable. Plus, he still has to keep Martha happy. It's been awhile since his position with Martha has provided useful information. However, it's important to keep that connection active. The immediate focus right now is on Kimmy. That is difficult for him because he knows what's expected of him for the mission. He needs to keep Kimmy happy because she provides access to her father. That's their in to the CIA Afghan Group. It's going to be a longterm mission that requires weekly updates. Not only that but Gabriel reveals that Philip's former love, Irini, has been captured in Brazil and that their son is currently serving in the army. That is rough for Philip because he can only reasonably delay sleeping with Kimmy for so long. This news gives him personal stakes in the cause for which the mission is fighting. Finding religion is a good cover for him. It's a tactic to convince Kimmy not to act on their attraction physically. But it's also deeply rooted in Philip's present. He doesn't believe in prayer but it's what he needs to do in order to keep things running as smoothly as they can. Eventually he'll have to sleep with Kimmy. This mission is too important for him to waiver. But that doesn't make it any less unsettling.

In comparison, Elizabeth's life right now is pretty easy. Yes, she's worrying about what to do with Paige and what's happening with Philip in the field. But as an operative, her missions are relatively minor. Her new trainee makes a find that may be important later on. It opens up a conversation about the United States' relationship with South Africa and apartheid. But it is merely surveillance at this point. She is simply developing photographs. That leaves her pretty of time to think about her life and her family. She had a plan to get close with Paige through church in order to better break the big news to her. It's a plan she has faltered from because of Philip's reaction to it. He viewed it as her simply working their daughter like any other asset. She is much more than that though.

And more importantly, "Born Again" is really about conversations. Nina is able to survive in jail because she gets her cellmate talking. EST has been helpful to Toni because she was able to talk about her issues from her childhood. Both Toni and Sandra just want Stan to be honest and then their relationships with him can be something more genuine. Those are the minor stories of this episode. But it's all building towards a pair of big conversations at episode's end. Philip has to become more open with Kimmy. He has to reveal this bigger backstory about his son and about finding religion. He asks her to pray with him in order to lure her in some more without having to have sex with her. And yet, she is willing to keep the prayer going after he's said all he is willing to say. This bond is growing stronger. He is open in that moment. Even though he doesn't believe in prayer, he still wants his son to be safe out there in the world. And then, comes Elizabeth's big plan to showcase a bigger part of her identity to Paige. She takes her to the part of town where Gregory lived and died. He was very important to her and the truth is big for her right now. She wants Paige to have a better understanding of who her parents are. She's trying to show that doing illegal acts isn't always so bad as long as they have a cause for which to fight strongly. It's unclear how much more of the truth Elizabeth is going to tell Paige. However, this is a huge first step to be making with her and she does so without Philip's consent.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Born Again" was written by Tracey Scott Wilson and directed by Kevin Dowling.
  • A guy who Stan used to work with died in a plane crash and the first person he wanted to talk to about it was Sandra. Even with him starting to move on with Tori, he still needs Sandra in his life. She knew him as well but she largely wants to make sure that Stan is okay.
  • Henry sure is inquisitive about a lot of things. He doesn't really get most of it but the family doesn't really give him the opportunity either by just saying its grown-up stuff.
  • Also, isn't it a little weird that Stan and Tori are having a dinner date with the entire Jennings family?
  • Agent Aderholt and Martha continue to flirt by the file robot. It's just a brief exchange this time about no documents being on the top of it. But it is still something!
  • Nina was scarfing down that food like it was nothing.
  • It's just nice to see Philip and Elizabeth share a laugh. There's so much tension between them right now that a lighter moment like that is so important.