Synopsis of The Americans 3.04 “Dimebag” from the FX network’s Website: Phillip faces a moral dilemma while developing an asset. Phillip and Elizabeth’s friction escalates. Stan develops a theory with serious repercussions. Paige makes a surprising birthday wish. The “previously on . . . [insert name of series] that precedes each new episode of TV shows can be so very helpful in connecting the dots for viewers who aren’t capable of connecting them very well on their own. A couple of weeks ago in my review of Justified 6.03 “Noblesse Oblige,” I indicated how such a connecting of the dots helped me understand a plot point that had completely baffled me (because I was an idiot). Well, just such a dot-to-dot connection took place in the “Previously on The Americans” that preceded “Dimebag.” Fortunately, I don’t think the reason I missed it on my own was because I’m an idiot. It wasn’t as obvious as the point that baffled me in Justified. I think I could have made this connection on my own if I had re-watched the previous two episodes of the current season. However, once the connection was made for me, it colored my entire viewing experience of “Dimebag”—so here’s the setup with information that is needed from the previous episodes: In episode 3.02 “Baggage,” FBI agent Stan Beeman is assigned to escort and protect a defector from the Soviet Union, Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya, who is smuggled into the United States in a packing crate. Stan must then tag along as she makes the political talk show circuit while discussing the cruelty of the USSR’s Marxist system and how the Russian people do not want to be communists. Near the end of episode 3.03 “Open House,” an African-American FBI agent, Aderholt (played by Brandon J. Dirden), asks Stan about the undercover work he did in Arkansas when he infiltrated a white supremacist group. Agent Aderhalt asks Stan what it took to fool the white supremacists into accepting him into their group. Stan’s answer is a point I’ve heard before about undercover work, but it’s worth repeating, “Tell them what they want to hear. Over and over and over again. . . . People love hearing how right they are.” See the connection between those dots? Stan suddenly saw it when he was watching Zinaida being interviewed on yet another TV talk show. It’s a connection that causes Stan to doubt the validity of Zinaida’s defection, as he now suspects she is a Soviet spy who is using her celebrity status to set up appointments with powerful American political figures—including President Reagan—for an undetermined purpose. In his attempt to turn up evidence against Zinaida, Stan returns to a diner where the two of them ate dinner earlier that evening so that he can tear up the women’s restroom to see if Zinaida left a dead-drop package for her KGB handlers. He doesn’t uncover any evidence, but he does take a hard tumble during his attempt to look at the space above the ceiling panels—an awkward tumble that clearly shows his groin landing hard on a toilet-roll dispenser. Yowza! That had to hurt! Anyway, I suddenly realized that most of the interactions in “Dimebag” involve one character telling another character something he or she either wants to hear or does not want to hear—or, in one scene, perhaps telling a character what she thought she wanted to hear, but she then discovered she didn’t want to actually hear it after all. This motif of telling people what they do or do not want to hear gets started when Stan and Phillip attend another EST meeting together—such as the one they attended in episode 3.01 “EST Men.” Phillip goes to these meetings as Stan’s support person, and Stan goes to them because his estranged wife, Sandra, is a die-hard EST enthusiast and he is trying to reconcile with her. At this particular meeting, Lawrence, the man running the EST seminars in DC, calls up Stan in front of the group so that he can imagine saying to Sandra exactly what he wants to tell her. To coax Stan into revealing himself before the group, Lawrence has Stan close his eyes so he can imagine being with Sandra in their kitchen while Lawrence speaks for her: Lawrence (as Sandra): Stan, what do you want me to know? Why shouldn’t we get divorced? Stan, come on; tell me what’s on your mind. (Stan mumbles hesitantly) Stan, come on, don’t be an asshole, tell me what you want. . . . Stan: Don’t call me an asshole, asshole! This is bullshit! That’s what I want to tell you! It’s bullshit! Afterwards, one attractive woman at the EST seminar, Tori, was so impressed by Stan that she asked him to go out for drinks after the next meeting on Friday—but Stan tells her what she does not want to hear. Phillip then asks Stan if he’s crazy. Obviously, Stan’s focus is on reconciliation with Sandra, so it makes sense that he indicates to Tori that he’s not interested. After all, he has already done the extramarital affair thing with Nina Krilova—which is partially how he became so estranged from Sandra—so in response to Phillip’s comment about being crazy, Stan reminds Phillip that he and Sandra are still married (even though she’s living with a man named Arthur). Meanwhile, back in the Soviet Union—in Lefertovo Prison where she is awaiting eventual execution—Nina is offered a deal by the government. If she can get her Dutch cellmate with the American accent, Evi Sneijder, to open up about the circumstances behind the dead-drop espionage package she was caught making, Nina will be given a lighter sentence. As far as I can tell, Nina’s current sentence is eventual execution, so a lighter sentence must mean she won’t be killed—and Nina seems to consider it a good deal. Later, in their cell, Nina tells Evi what she wants to hear—the tale of the crime that landed Nina in Lefertovo Prison. Most of what Nina says is the truth, as one of the key components of working undercover is to have a cover story that is close enough to the truth of your own life that you don’t have to put on too much of an act to make it believable. Whether Nina’s efforts will work is something a future episode shall reveal. However, when Nina and Evi first became cellmates, I thought (and Nina seemed to also think) that Evi might be the planted informant who is supposed to try to get information from Nina. In the end, it could be that the KGB is playing each of them off the other to get useful information by going down either path. Back in DC, Phillip and Elizabeth’s daughter, Paige, tells her parents something she has wanted to tell them for a while it seems. However, it’s news they did not want to hear. Beginning last season, Paige has become very involved with a non-denominational church and its youth group—and for her birthday dinner, Paige wants her parents to entertain the church pastor and his wife in their home. Last season, Phillip threatened to beat up the pastor if he continued to minister to his daughter—so tension at the dinner table was already inevitable. After dinner, and with the support of the pastor and his wife, Paige told her Marxist, KGB parents (but she doesn’t know their ideology and their occupations) that she wants to be baptized in the church—to wash away her old self and make herself clean for Jesus Christ. Obviously, this announcement was something Phillip and Elizabeth did not want to hear—but the pastor and his wife wanted to hear it, so I suppose this instance of the motif is a toss-up. The most ironic instance of this “tell people what they want to hear” motif is when Stan stops by the home Sandra is sharing with her boyfriend, Arthur. Late at night, in the dark, in the driveway of the house, Stan decides to embrace the EST concept and tell Sandra exactly what he has wanted to say to her. Furthermore, it’s something Sandra has been saying she wants Stan to do—to be honest and not hide behind his usual bullshit. However, it turns out Sandra may have only thought she wanted Stan to tell the truth—because, as the cliché says, “The truth hurts”—and it hurts Sandra when Stan tells her what she already strongly suspected: that he had been having an affair (with Nina, of course). She initially seems slightly pleased to know she was right, and that Stan finally confessed. However, she wasn’t prepared for what Stan then confessed: Stan: I was an asshole, and I loved her. (Sandra looks slightly stunned that Stan confesses he actually loved Nina.) I’m not saying that to hurt you; I’m just trying to be honest. After confessing a bit more about the nature of his affair, and how bad he feels about it, Stan apologizes—but it’s all too much for Sandra to bear, so she shakes her head and heads back to the house with a slight hint of tears in her eyes. Sometimes what we thought we wanted to hear may not be what we actually wanted to hear after all. Sometimes it’s easier to believe the half-truth we have in our heads than face the full truth that hits the heart like an ounce of lead. However, the biggest instance of telling people what they want to hear comes with Phillip working on the development of his new asset—and the moral dilemma he faces in the process. The new potential asset is Kimmy Breland—the daughter of the man in charge of the CIA’s Afghan group that Elizabeth and Phillip have been working on uncovering. In his role as “Jim,” a lobbyist working to keep the legal drinking age at 18, Phillip tells underage Kimmy (who is approximately 15 years old) exactly what she wants to hear—and which is leading the plot into some creepy areas. It will be interesting to see just how far the show runner and writers of The Americans are willing to go in this direction. So, as Phillip (Jim) wraps his arm around Kimmy to keep her warm after she complains two or three times that she’s “freezing” during the dark evening in the park where they have been smoking pot while listening to Upstairs at Eric’s by Yaz (known as Yazoo in their native UK), the episode ends with Kimmy’s favorite Yaz song, “Only You,” haunting us as it plays to the show’s final moment. If you haven’t watched this episode, go watch it now—or, if you haven’t been watching The Americans at all, you only have 30 episodes to watch to catch up. However, before you leave to watch the episode (or the entire series), let’s end this review with Kimmy’s favorite Yaz song. It’s my favorite, too—and its haunting words evoke all of the various relationships between the characters in this episode: Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings, the Jennings and their daughter Paige, Stan and Sandra, Stan and Nina, and (finally) Kimmy and “Jim.” Looking from a window above It’s like a story of love; can you hear me? Came back only yesterday; I’m moving farther away; want you near me. All I needed was the love you gave; All I needed for another day, And all I ever knew, only you. Sometimes when I think of her name, When it’s only a game, and I need you. Listen to the words that you say; It’s getting harder to stay when I see you. All I needed was the love you gave; All I needed for another day, And all I ever knew, only you. All I needed was the love you gave; All I needed for another day, And all I ever knew, only you. This is going to take a long time, And I wonder what’s mine; can’t take no more. Wonder if you’ll understand; It’s just the touch of your hand behind a closed door. All I needed was the love you gave; All I needed for another day, And all I ever knew, only you. The Americans 3.04 “Dimebag”0.0Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.