Friday, April 25, 2014

"The Americans" Update: "Martial Eagle."

More about the show that makes you wonder, "So is there a TV show in Russia about CIA spies with perfect Russian accents living in Moscow called, 'The Russians'?"

WARNING:  Spoilers-a-plenty ahead.  

So what the....what is going on with Phillip!!!!???

I'm still trying to find human beings in this show.  The winner of the no-lies-here award this week goes to Paige, the daughter of Elizabeth and Phillip (Nadezhda and Mischa), the KGB agents (who does not know they are KGB agents, miraculously).  Even though Phillip and Elizabeth accuse her of being dishonest, especially when she gives her savings over to her church.  

Things seem to start out all chummy-wummy with the family at the beginning of the program; Paige, who's been reading the Bible, learning about Jesus, and attending a youth group ("It's the opiate of the masses!!!!" Elizabeth complained to Phillip a few weeks ago--yes, she really said that, and it sounded very stupid), had convinced her mother, dad and brother to join her at church.  Elizabeth seemed to be genuinely interested in the proceedings, maybe wanting to learn something about her daughter, maybe she was just playing one of her "spy" roles (apparently a lot of spying is theater).  For a second there I thought there was hope for Elizabeth's soul, but that was short-lived.  

But Phillip had something going on with his eyes that I hesitate to contemplate.  It was different than looking daggers, different then "X Ray Eyes"; he was staring and scowling the whole time he was there, and when he broke in to "visit" Tim the pastor in break in-murder-escape clothes, leaving after the pastor had a one-way heart to nothing talk, just pointing and saying "stay away from my daughter!"  I kept expecting lasers to come from his eyes like those of a Star Trek humanoid on some scary outside planet, or for them to become circles whirling in on each other while he said, "I am programmed to KILL!"  It was altogether odd.  

I had a bit of stomach bug at the beginning of this week that took its time going away, so it could be 100% that; but I had all this anxious nausea all during the show; at these times and when Phillip and Elizabeth tied up a utility truck driver and "borrowed" his rig to get into the Contra training facility, where they offed a few Contras and illegal American trainers.  Phillip had really, and counter to type, wanted the truck driver to NOT be hurt, but he died before they got to him and I'm not really sure how that happened or whose fault it was.  He continued to have an atypical feeling of remorse for the death of the guy (not for the Contras or their Washington trainers). 

Rotsa Raughs among the other riff raff, though.  Stan Beeman wept this week!  What a baby!  I so can't muster a feeling of empathy for him.  But his wife finally grew some balls (somebody had to in that house) and spoke what has been unspoken for almost 2 seasons now:  "Yeah, I"m having an affair.  I"m sure you are.  And no, I'm not going to leave you.  But I'm not going to sit around and  wait for you to leave me."  She left with a suitcase, and Stan sat on the bed, chin all a-tremblin'.

Stan-oh is making some progress on his current project, though,tracking down the KGB agents responsible for stealing stealth technology from the Air Force.  He's been talkin' with the scientists, playing on their ostensible sympathy for the Jewish Russian guy that Phillip sent to the gulag a few weeks ago, who was their main brain.  And John Boy had a nice heart-to-heart...well come to think of it was also a heart to nothing talk, or at least to no response, with the ambassador cum residentura from the USSR, who handles Nina, Stan's affair and informant (who, you'll remember, is reporting back everything he says to the residentura). 

John Boy (who goes by Gad in this incomprehensibly drama filled with oohs,, ahs, and surprises) is apparently trying to mop up his and Stan's reputation after the killing of a "walk-in" to the Russian embassy...walking in, that is, to ask for help in trading his US citizenship to USSR citizenship, making a lot of mean complaints about the Land of the Free in the process.  This guy had offered all sorts of information the Russians were attracted to, so this wasn't a "I'm a Russian in my heart, I must live in the land of Dostoevsky and Glick!" moment in the least.  

Somehow, even though they LOOOOOVE it usually when their agents kill people, the higher ups in the FBI were less enamored of Gad's and Stan's plan.  Anyway, Gad put the residentura on the alert that he was mopping up, and that he would be seeking and finding information about the failed emigrant's conversations with the Russians, and if the residentura did anything to mess this up, Gad would make sure he went down along with FBI staff.  I'm not sure how that would work, but maybe after I get over the flu bug it will make more sense.

I wonder when John Boy decided to work for the FBI?  Isn't he supposed to write "The Homecoming" at some point?  I can't see Gad writing "The Homecoming".  Maybe this is John Boy's second career.

Now I have some serious questions about Elizabeth and Phillip's lives in the eyes of their kids.  And in their presentation to the world around them.

These are supposedly two people who, in their teen years or early twenties, both decided to join the KGB. They are native Russians.  They may have studied English since they were 10, but you know what, I've studied French (and I mean study; I work on it daily) since I was 12, and I still have an accent.  

Maybe their dad or their mom was one of those "worker's paradise" fools from  the American dustbowls who thought Soviet life would be better.  But from what I understand, those people all ended up dead or in the Gulag during the purges.  And the flashbacks show Nadezhda (Elizabeth) and her mom in a humble apartment, but itjhy doesn't seem like the Gulag.  We've seen nothing of Mischa's (Phillip's) former life except for his initial meeting with Nadezhda.   (That's another disappointment for me, the collector of Soviet kitsch, the mourner for the days of sabre rattling with  our worthy foe:  extremely little, like two or three short scenes in two or three different episodes.  I want to see little Nadezhda in her pinafore and apron at school, sitting next to a boy at their double desk, and hearing the teacher lecture on the evils of capitalism.  I want to see Mischa listening to samizdat Beatle recordings on a used X-ray film in his friend's garage.  Give me the Soviet Union!!!!!  But only in virtual reality, thanks.)

Then, we fast forward to Elizabeth (Nadezhda) and Phillip (Mischa)'s life in suburban Washington DC as they attend youth day at Paige's church, bake brownies for the neighbors, kill Contras and kidnap scientist to send them to the gulag.  How do they pull this off, exactly? Stan Beeman is stupid and not very attentive, but does he have no suspicions about the neighbors, after all the close calls they've had?  

And then the biggie.  How do young parents keep the fact that their main job is killing people and smuggling documents for fun and pleasure (and to aid the Soviet Union, of course) from their 2 kids?  This is absolutely the most absurd aspect of this show.  I could say, oh, the writers don't know anything about kids, but they DO!  Both Paige and Henry are real and show symptoms of being exactly the ages they're supposed to be.  Paige's rebellious back and forth---which has taken on a different tone since she's accepted Jesus as her personal savior, but is still questioning, entitled, and desperately feeling abandoned; typical adolescent female.  She desperately wants her parents' love and attention, but she's gradually going forward into her own opinions and choices.  Like getting addicted to the opiate of the masses, and giving them $600.00 of her own money for "missions".  Yes, Phillip really did have a cow, a pretty brown-eyed Russian cow, right there in the kitchen; then he started tearing pages out of the Bible, all the while glaring with those laser eyes at the pages, at Paige, and at Bessy.  No, not really Bessy.  He wasn't mad at the cow.

Another excellent scene by the writers, bringing together typical parent-teen angst, Phillip's Communist upbringing, fear of loss of control of his daughter.  Now, let's ask a few questions to predict the near future.  I have no doubt the writers will guess right.

Question 1:  You are a Marxist-Leninist Russian pretending to be American while you spy for the KGB.  You're a 30 something male.  You have a daughter who's about 14, 15, who has never known a life outside the US.  She's donated her savings to a CHURCH!!!  and you're very angry about it.  So, in front of her, you tear out the pages of her Bible.  How will she react?

a)      “Wow.  You’re right dad.  I can see your logic perfectly!”
b)     “Jesus is the only one who cares about me! You can’t take him away from me!”
c)     “Tina’s mom was happy when Tina gave the church A THOUSAND dollars.  You’re the worst dad EVER!”
d)     “Dad…you f’ing scare the hell out of me.  What’s going on with your eyes?
e)     “’re not a KGB spy, are you?  Coz you’re really acting like one.”
f)      “Where did this cow come from?”
g)     b), c), and d)


Question 2.  Is the average teenage girl aware that if you do exactly the opposite of what a parent says, you are allowing them to completely control you, as all your reactions depend on what they do?

ANSWER:  no.

Question 3:  Is Paige, who has already shown herself to be mature and independent during the show (oh, and oppositional, but probably no more than Tina), more or less likely to seek solace in the church and Bible (of which she can get a free copy many places) after these events?

I won’t insult you by giving you the answer to that one.

So, I’ve established the writers’ considerable bona fides in the portrayal and development of the relationship between parents and kids, or at least Phillip and Paige. 

Now here’s the big puzzle:  Why haven’t Paige, and her little brother, Henry, figured it out yet?  How have they missed it all, and wouldn’t they at least have figured out a piece of it?  If I were Paige, or Henry, I would have the following questions:

1)     How come you don’t have pictures of when you grow up?
2)     What did your mom and dad do?
3)     Do I have a grandma and a grandpa?  Why don’t we ever go there for Thanksgiving?
4)     Where do you go at 1 in the morning when you come back at, like, 4?
5)     Is that blood on your shirt?
6)     When you were a little girl/boy like me, what was school like in America?
7)     Are you gonna vote for Reagan when he runs for re-election?[1]  Why or why not?
8)     I overheard you say, “From each according to ability, to each according to need.”  What does that mean?  Oh, and by the way….I think I need a video game/dress I saw at the Gap last weekend.
9)     We have Mexican food, Chinese food, Italian food, and that really crappy stuff you said was from Germany.  Why don’t we ever have Russian food?
10)  When I grow up, I’m going into the army so I can kill Russkies!  What do you think?
11) How did you buy a Corvette on a travel agent’s salary?
12) How come you get so mad at Paige for being religious?
13)  How come you weren’t in Vietnam, daddy?
14)  I’m afraid of the Russians….are they gonna kill us with a neutron bomb?  They’re really mean, aren’t they?
15)  Dad, how come you leave the house with glasses and a blond wig a lot lately?
16)Daddy….are you having an affair?
17) Don’t you have ANY pictures of when you were kids? 
18) Where are the snows of yesteryear…

Strike 18.  I’m getting away with myself here.

[1] Reagan is Elizabeth’s new nemesis.  She goes around saying “He doesn’t CARE!”  which raises the questions, “Is he supposed to care?  He’s a president, not a nanny.”  This may be an anachronism; my memory is that no one worried about whether a president “cared” or not until Bill Clinton started going around saying, “I feeeeeeel your paaaaaaiiiiinnnn!”  The second question is, “What do you care?  You’re a communism fan; don’t you expect ueber-capitalists to be not your cup of tea?  And btw does Chernenko or Andropov or whoever is the half-dead guy in the Kremlin now, care?”

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