The Americans Pests – RECAP: The First Episode of Season Five brought us back into the 1980s and a new character named Tuan, a Vietnamese KGB agent posted with the Jennings The Jennings are using Tuan to get close to schoolmate Pasha’s family. At the head of the family is Pasha’s father, a dissident Russian named Alexei Morozov. That first episode of the new season also sees Philip and Elizabeth with a team of Russian agents digging up agent William Crandall’s coffin. William died by infecting himself with the killer Lassa virus when he was arrested. The KGB agents cut a chunk from Williams body to send back to their scientists in the Soviet Union. These are all part of the dirty tricks and countermeasures the CIA and the KGB engaged in during the long years of the Cold War.
Review and recap The Americans Pests
In Episode 2 of Season Five, Elizabeth and Philip hand over the cooler containing the virus sample to Gabriel. They regret to explain the death of Hans, the agent who accidentally infected himself. There was no treatment for it in that era. Elizabeth shot him in the head to save him from an ugly and painful death.
There’s no glamor in “The Americans.” Espionage doesn’t get the Hollywood James Bond treatment with dashing heart-throb agents and Barbie Doll beauties. It’s a grimy and emotionally destructive mess that takes it toll on Philip and Elizabeth and on their U.S. counterparts as well.
Dispatched to the U.S. and made to act like a married couple, the Jennings do fall into a deep emotional connection as they spy on America and steal secrets when they can. So it’s back to work at the Morozovs and another dinner. The head of the family, Alexei Morozov, is working on a secret CIA project to develop a method of destroying the Soviet Union’s wheat crop.
A plan to starve another country’s population into submission is not something to be proud of, and the U.S. never implemented such a plan. As with horrors like biological and chemical warfare, these despicable plans were kept on the shelf, experimented with, and held in reserve.
Yet, it is true that President Jimmy Carter used food as a weapon in his 1980 wheat embargo of the Soviet Union during a year when the wheat supply fell 48 million tons short of what was needed. The embargo had little effect and was lifted by Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan. The Carter plan of wheat protest didn’t hurt the USSR nearly as much as it hurt American farmers when wheat prices collapsed due to oversupply in the U.S.
Gabriel exhibits justifiable cynicism as he contemplates the CIA’s secret wheat research: “To think they once had a Lincoln. Now they have a Reagan.” I suppose President Carter was already forgotten. And surely, Reagan was a far bigger threat to Soviet communism than Carter.
In any case, Elizabeth and Philip must now find out what the U.S. government is up to on a farm in rural Illinois. Through their infiltration of the Morozov household, they have located the facility.
Elizabeth disguises herself as an unattractive dowdy pickup driving farm wife as she creeps upon the facility at night. Slipping inside, she sees the wheat laid out in rows of containers. There is a control group of wheat which looks fine, but in another part of the greenhouse, Elizabeth is attacked by biting insects. The insects are swarming and destroying the wheat plants.
Back at home, Elizabeth cleanses herself of the pest infestation in a scene that is both symbolic and mesmeric. The pests and the evils of the world swirl into the drain at her feet. Elizabeth’s body and her internal and usually well-hidden vulnerability are equally bare. No body double there, boys and girls, and je ne regrette rien.
In going out to the edge, the show’s writers and actors perform above all expectations of television. They seem to do it invariably well, and always without a safety net.
When returning from the day’s dreary business, Philip and Elizabeth find Paige sleeping on the floor of a closet instead of her bed. She’s feeling awfully insecure and it worries the Jennings that even FBI agent and neighbor Stan Beeman has noticed.
Stan is delighted at the positive effect Paige has had on his son Matthew but tells Philip that she appears troubled. Now Philip and Elizabeth feels it’s time to have another talk with Paige. They’re not worried about Paige having sex with Matthew. What they’re worried about is what Paige might say to him in pillow talk after letting her guard down.
Stan Beeman is another character on the edge in “The Americans” and Noah Emmerich captures his inner turmoil perfectly. Straight up agent of the FBI and all-around red-blooded American male, Stan doesn’t quite get that he’s sipping beers with a KGB agent neighbor.
It’s more the Jennings’ ability to blend in than Stan’s naivete that makes the whole thing work. Who expects to have KGB spies move into the house next door. They seem so normal, so. . . .. American!
Plus, Stan has bigger problems. He’s got an excellent job rating for his work with Oleg Burov. CIA man Alan Streider comes by to FBI headquarters to praise him, but also to press Stan to get more information about Oleg’s work in Russia.
Oleg’s domestic job, investigating public corruption in the area of food supply, is not as safe as it appears, especially when the CIA pressures Stan to continue his contact. The CIA man presumes that Stan’s acquaintance with Oleg will turn him into an asset. Stan is unnerved, angry that the CIA agent doesn’t really understand the nature of his business with Oleg.
“I didn’t recruit Oleg Burov,” Stan says. “And he can’t be turned.”
CIA man Alan Streider either doesn’t get it or doesn’t want to. He tells Stan they could apply pressure on Oleg by threatening his parents. Another idea the CIA man has is to threaten to expose him for the information he’s already given to Stan. This makes Stan even angrier:
“You’re going to get him killed! You need something to do? Why don’t you spend your time figuring out who killed Frank Gaad in Bangkok – instead of going after a guy who gave us the tip of the century and then went home to live his life.”
Stan registers his complaint with the Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. but the complaint falls on deaf ears. It also subjects him to unwanted scrutiny:
“Why are you worried about protecting a KGB officer?”
Who can you trust these days? Or any other days? That’s the atmosphere in which every episode takes place. A murky atmosphere where everything and everyone is suspect.
Some levity is granted when Philip and Stan meet at Stan’s gym for racquetball and Stan introduces a woman he’s interested in. She looks perfectly normal but all we know about her is that she’s middle-aged, pretty, and her name is Renee.
Everything is so off-balance, paranoid, and uncomfortable in the series that the imagination can’t rest anywhere. We’re as wide-eyed and quietly desperate as Paige who wants so to have a ‘normal’ life. But there is no ‘normal’ in “The Americans.” There is only an exquisite sense of danger and moral inversion.
Other reviews of The Americans by TV Eskimo:
5.1 – Amber Waves
Characters and cast of The Americans Pests include:
Elizabeth Jennings – Keri Russell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Felicity, August Rush, Mission: Impossible III, Dark Skies, Austenland, Leaves of Grass, Waitress)
Phillip Jennings – Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters, Titus, Love and Other Disasters, Death Comes to Pemberley, The Edge of Love)
Stan Beeman – Noah Emmerich (The Truman Show, Little Children, Warrior, Super 8, Blood Ties, Pride and Glory, Miracle, Windtalkers, Cop Land)
Henry Jennings – Keidrich Sellati
Paige Jennings – Holly Taylor
Oleg Burov – Costa Ronin (Agent Carter, Red Dog, The Last Resort)
Agent Aderholt – Brandon J. Dirden (Public Morals, Good Friday, Ir/Reconcilable)
Gabriel – Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon, The Ninth Gate, Superman Returns)
Matthew Beeman – Danny Flaherty (The Wolf of Wall Street, Hope Springs, King Jack, The Leftovers)
Wolfe – Peter Jacobson (House, Transformers, As Good as It Gets, Cars 2, Ray Donovan, Colony)
Yelena Burova – Snezhanan Chernova (The Louise Log, No Love In the City)
Mrs. Morovoz – Irina Dvorovenko (Forever, Power, Flesh and Bone)
Pasha Morovoz – Zack Gafin
Igor Burov – Boris Lee Krutonog (The Hunt for Red October, The Italian Job)
Tuan Eckert – Ivan Mok
Alexei Morovoz – Alexander Sokovikov (House of Cards)
Norm – Russell G. Jones (Traffic, A Most Violent Year, The Night Of, Turntable)
Renee – Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead, The Shield, The X-Files, The Majestic, The Mist)
Deputy Attorney General – Cotter Smith (Mindhunter, REvolution, Person of Interest)