Wednesday, March 23, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Americans' - Philip Encounters Many Difficulties in Trying to Hand Off the Bioweapon in 'Pastor Tim'

FX's The Americans - Episode 4.02 "Pastor Tim"

Philip tries with increasing desperation to get rid of a sensitive and dangerous package. Family tensions in the Jennings house reach a boiling point when Paige shares a secret of her own.

Philip and Elizabeth are in more danger now than they've ever been before. It comes at a top when the work is more important and crucial than any previous mission. The world is slowly closing in on them as they do their best to protect their family and succeed with their latest mission. It's a very precarious situation for them. "Pastor Tim" brings a number of secrets to light that complicate the narrative and the character dynamics. And yet, these secrets also bring these characters closer together as they face a very uncertain future that could lead to disastrous results any number of ways. Philip and Elizabeth need each other now more than ever. They need to rely on each other and protect each other. The stakes are very high with every aspect of their lives right now.

However, Philip was keeping a secret from Elizabeth. He has been going to EST a couple of times now and hasn't told her about it. It's a place where he can go to in order to deal with his feelings. He can't openly talk about all the horrifying things he has done - and continues to do - in his life. But he goes in order to deal with what his life has become and the actions that have brought him to this point. It's an environment that Elizabeth would not understand at all. She's fully committed to the cause. Her unwavering support has been a very crucial detail for the entire series. But she too is facing some devastating loss. It's meaningful that when Elizabeth pries this information out of Philip due to his confrontation with Stan in the season premiere she asks him if he wants her to go with her sometime. She wants to understand what he sees in this program. To her, it just seems silly. But to him, it has been an important part of life. She questions whether or not this is the reason why he has become more cautious in the field lately. It's certainly a part of it but Philip is still hesitant to share everything about the world of EST with her. However, he remains open to the idea.

Because Philip is in this headspace right now that's filled with death, he needs an outlet to handle those emotions. The memories of being a 10-year-old boy and killing a bully have been haunting him. It's a reaction to killing Gene in order to protect Martha at the FBI office. But it's still a memory that has been weighing heavily on his conscience. He has killed many people over the years. And yet, his mind has become fixated on this one event. He's struggling to understand why and how to deal with these feelings. But at least he's being open about it. He shares the horrifying tale with Elizabeth who doesn't listen with judgment. She hears what he has to say and makes sure that he is doing okay. Of course, Philip still has to act swiftly and lethally in the field when the situation requires it. He has to in order to preserve the mission. He's not conflicted about it in the moment. But he's still struggling with his emotions and actions later on.

Philip's mission is so sensitive and critical right now too. He is tasked with getting the bioweapon out of the country. He needs to hang onto it and do a handoff in person because of how dangerous it could be in the wrong hands. It's a very precarious situation that rises the tension very nicely throughout the episode. The vile did not break apparently during his big confrontation with Stan. And yet, both Philip and Elizabeth are very concerned about this dangerous disease just sitting in their basement. Every time they try to get rid of it, it doesn't pan out. Gabriel can't be the person to hand off the vile. And then, the pilot who Philip meets is very paranoid. First, he believes that his co-pilot suspects that something is up with him. And second, a security guard becomes worried about his mental condition as he's about to fly a plane. It's a situation that quickly becomes deadly. Philip is cool under pressure. But the pilot is not. So, Philip decides to kill this security guard in a sequence set to Soft Cell's "Tainted Love." That moment was brutal and continued the show's strong streak of using great songs from the 1980s to score horrifying moments with the characters. And it was all for nothing too. The pilot left the vile on the seat for Philip to continue to deal with - which only furthers his growing frustration too.

Elizabeth has her own concerns about the safety of the family as well. She gets the devastating news that her mother has died. She's grateful that she and Paige were able to visit with her one last time. But it's still very emotion to hear that she is gone. Philip is there to comfort her. But they can't deal with these emotions for very long. Elizabeth has also discovered that Paige has told Pastor Tim the truth about them. She's very afraid for the future. She knows she needs to contain this situation before it gets out of hand. And yet, it's a very delicate situation because Paige has so much trust in the man. She is starting to learn just how dangerous and complicated her parents' real jobs actually are. Elizabeth has opened up a little more because she wants Paige to know more of the truth. But now, she's plotting on how to handle the threat from Pastor Tim. She doesn't want their secret exposed to the world and this family to be torn apart. She has risked too much to go down now.

And yet, Elizabeth never could have expected Paige to come clean to her about what she did. Paige sought out Pastor Tim because she needed to talk to someone else about her feelings. She's been given many new responsibilities because her parents are finally being honest with her. Her entire world has turned upside down. She doesn't know how to make sense of any of it. That's why she reached out to Tim. But that action has her equally torn. She still has so much respect and love for her parents. She betrayed their trust and it's eating her up. She learns of her grandmother's passing and needs to tell Elizabeth the truth. She can't keep bottling everything up inside. She doesn't know how to handle all of those emotions. But it only further complicates the situation. Elizabeth wanted to stage a little accident for the pastor. Kill him before he could destroy their lives. But it also had to be done in a way where Paige wouldn't be too suspicious about it. Neither Elizabeth nor Philip want Paige to lose her trust in them. They don't want to push her away any further than they already have. But with Paige telling them the truth, it creates a situation where she'll immediately blame them if anything happens to Pastor Tim. So, Philip and Elizabeth are trapped with no easy way out of this mess. They have the comfort of each other. But the threats against this family are increasing and they won't be able to handle all of them forever.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Pastor Tim" was written by Joel Fields & Joe Weisberg and directed by Chris Long.
  • With all the added pressure on the family right now, just how quickly will Philip and Elizabeth be going to an EST meeting? They have so much to do that it may take awhile for it to actually happen. Though it should be amusing when it finally does.
  • Nina meets with her husband, Boris, only to get a message out of the facility and back to the United States. She wants Anton's son to know that he is okay and didn't choose to leave his family. It's a nice gesture that immediately fails. But it's enough to lift Anton's spirits and for Nina to admit that she's no longer the same person that she was.
  • Stan finally tells Oleg that his government is not interested in going through with the trade for Nina. Also, Oleg's brother dies and he's very emotional about it. Stan tries to bond with him through that but it doesn't really pan out.
  • Despite the tension between Stan and Philip right now regarding Sandra, Stan is still more than welcoming to Henry. In fact, it seems like he is becoming more and more like a father figure to the young man. Henry is still living a normal childhood. The rest of the family is dealing with some heavy emotional material and he's just wondering if his science teacher would be into him.
  • Philip agreed to continue working with Gabriel but things are still not totally friendly between them. They have a back-and-forth regarding the vile and who should handle the upcoming hand off.
  • More details about William's job are revealed as well. He has a Level 3 clearance level and the Centre wants him to rise to Level 4. But his personality keeps him from doing so. That means Philip and Elizabeth have to find a way to get the access codes for him.