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The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 2, "Pests"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 2, “Pests”

Patrick Harbron/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 2, “Pests”

“Relax your shoulders, and follow through,” says Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) to her daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor), in tonight’s episode of The Americans, as they start their latest self-defense training session. The scene begins and ends with the metronomic sound of Paige’s fists taking turns smacking—not too hard but also not too soft—a duct-taped throw pillow. That sound, like the girl’s movement, is a canny corollary to Elizabeth’s methods as a spy, the perfection with which she must thread needles, and how they’re inextricably bound to her methods as a mother. Yes, Paige is frustrated by her parents not wanting her to date Matthew (Danny Flaherty), but when she agrees to continue their training session, one grasps Paige’s respect for her mother, for the way she broaches the subject of sex so frankly—which is to say, by pretending that it’s something that can actually occur.

The Americans Recap Season 3, Episode 13, "March 8, 1983"

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The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 13, “March 8, 1983”
The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 13, “March 8, 1983”

On March 8, 1983, President Ronald Reagan addressed the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida. His remarks ranged widely, touching on the Book of Isaiah and The Screwtape Letters, Alexis de Tocqueville and the Declaration of Independence, but his central subject, as he described it, was the knowledge “that living in this world means dealing with what philosophers would call the phenomenology of evil or, as theologians would put it, the doctrine of sin.” Though it was his invocation of the Soviet Union's “evil empire” that made waves, as we see in a nightly news segment at the end of tonight's episode of The Americans, it's Reagan's decision to cast Cold War politics in such stark terms, both secular and religious, that underlines the moral compromises on which the series has focused throughout its brilliant third season. In “March 8, 1983,” 48 minutes that come as near to perfection as television can, it turns out that the phenomenology of evil and the doctrine of sin are inadequate hermeneutics for the dark night of the soul.