This episode’s title, “Divestment,” doesn’t make sense within the context of any of the subplots—except, perhaps, in the case of Eugene Venter, the Afrikaner intelligence officer who was executed by anti-apartheid agent Reuben Ncgobo by being drenched with gasoline and set on fire. Philip and Elizabeth watched the execution as it was carried out by their black South African colleague—so the three of them “divested” themselves of Venter. However, that execution was the only actual “divestment” that occurred in the episode. As for the other story lines, a better umbrella title to tie everything together might have been “Investment”—as many characters become invested in their situations by devoting something to their cause time, interest, authority, et cetera). For instance, as Philip and Elizabeth are investing their own time in interrogating Venter and his Afrikaner protégée, Paige is at the local library looking through microfiche records to see what exactly happened to her parents’ social activist comrade, Gregory Thomas—with whom Elizabeth had an affair and who committed suicide by proxy (or suicide by cop) in “Only You” (episode 1.10). Paige is fascinated that her parents were social activists in their younger days. In actuality, of course, they were what they have always been—KGB agents in the United States—but they recruited Americans who supported a Marxist ideology and who were actual social activists. Gregory was one of those American social activists—one whom Elizabeth was tasked with recruiting to the Soviet cause, and she fell in love with him during their time together. In reading about her mother’s deceased comrade, Paige is surprised (and concerned) to learn he was a drug dealer and career criminal—a background that doesn’t match up well with the white bread form of social activism she has been involved with through her church. She struggles to come to terms with the idea that some social activists don’t just break the laws she disagrees with; they might also commit actions that she disagrees with. Later, when she questions her mother about Gregory’s criminal past, Paige is essentially told that life is complex—leaving the 14-year-old girl to ponder that truism on her own. It will be interesting to see if Elizabeth will be able to move her daughter away from her church’s Manichean view of politics and society to an extent that will allow Paige to embrace her parents’ KGB lives, or if Paige’s dualistic view of reality will cause her to reject her parents and report them to their next door neighbor—FBI agent Stan Beeman. To some extent, the answer might be indicated if we see Paige move from reading Dr. Martin Luther King’s Why We Can’t Wait in favor of The Autobiography of Malcolm X or A Lonely Rage: The Autobiography of Bobby Seale—or, even more significantly, if she ends up reading something by Karl Marx or even Emma Goldman. (Side note: Notice the box of Post Alpha-Bits cereal in this next image; it’s a problem that I mention at the end of this review.) Speaking of children struggling with the views of their parents, I want to quickly insert a brief mention of a little joke in this episode that amused me—not LOL or LMAO amused, but a joke that brought a small smirk to my lips (which means I was really quite amused). In a previous episode, KGB officer Oleg Burov was ordered home by his father, Igor Burov; he was ordered to abandon his post at the Rezidentura in Washington and return to Moscow. The elder Burov is a powerful Soviet political figure who probably wants Oleg to return to Russia because he knows his son well enough to know he could be easily seduced by the American way of life and culture. However, Oleg has refused his father’s orders. Thus, in this episode, the elder Burov called Rezident Arkady Zotov on a secure line to put political pressure on him to send Oleg home. Later, as Arkady tells Oleg about the conversation he had with his father, Oleg seems concerned for his boss’s position should he refuse to acquiesce to the pressure. Arkady’s response is amusing . . . but we shall have to see if his flippant attitude about the elder Burov’s political power is a wise response or not: It’s also amusing to think the Soviet Union didn’t just have a position akin to the US Secretary of the Interior—such as the Soviet Minister of the Interior. Instead, they must have a lot of very specific cabinet-level positions like Minister of Railways—such as Minister of Roads, Minister of Bridges, Minister of Parks, et cetera. If it had that much bureaucracy in the government, it’s no wonder the Soviet Union collapsed due to political and economic instability. However, a more serious situation is the political pressure that OPR agent Walter Taffet is causing as he starts to interview FBI staff in his investigation of the electronic listening device that was found inside Gaad’s office pen. In keeping with the motif of people of black African heritage aligning themselves with Marxist ideologies, Taffet’s interview of Agent Aderholt implied that an African American FBI agent in 1983 might resent a white agent’s easier path to success—and that would then be a motive to commit espionage. However, the real pressure is placed on Martha—who, as the secretary of Gaad and the wife of “Clark” (one of Philip’s alternate identities), is the person actually responsible for planting the bug in her boss’s office. In a scene that was brilliantly written, directed, and acted, Martha seems to do a convincing job in answering all of Taffet’s questions in a way that would not cause suspicion to be cast on her. However, Taffet’s reactions to her answers seems to indicate to Martha (and to us) that he is growing more suspicious of her—not less. In real life, I have no doubt that such interviews are conducted in this way to see if the subject becomes nervous when she or he believes the answers are under heavy suspicion—and Martha becomes subtly but noticeably nervous the more Taffet questions her and seems to become negatively responsive to her answers. By the time she gets home, Martha is convinced that “Clark” is not who he says he is, and that she has been participating in illegal espionage (rather than the legal espionage she had previously believed she was helping Clark conduct). When Philip (as Clark) arrives at Martha’s apartment, she tells him the pen was discovered and that she is being interviewed as part of the process of finding the person responsible for planting the device. Then, in what was probably the most assertive and straight-forward approach Martha has ever demonstrated, she asks him, “Who are you?” Clark’s response is the same basic bullshit answer that most men throughout our culture and history have probably always given to their wives or girlfriends (or perhaps to their wives and girlfriends) when asked a similar question or when then need to respond to the statement “I don’t even know who you are anymore!” I’m the same man I was when we met; the same man you fell in love with and married. It’s interesting that Philip, a professional spy (and, thus, a professional liar) could not come up with a better lie than the same basic line men have traditionally told their wives and girlfriends. I don’t think Philip’s inability to come up with a better lie is a fault of the writers of the series; this is a very well-written series after all. Rather, I think Philip is actually flustered in the way that most men become flustered when facing this line of questioning—and so he resorts to the unimaginative answer most men provide. At this point I fully expected Philip to realize that Martha has been burned as an operative. She will not be able to avoid being found out during Taffet’s investigation—or, if by some miracle she is able to avoid Taffet identifying her as the spy in the FBI’s office, there is no way Philip will be able to use Martha as an operative going forward. Thus, he really only has one option; it’s time to put a bullet in her brain and get out of there. However, taking the obvious option isn’t what he does. Instead, Philip tells Martha he loves her and will protect her, and then he gives her a hug to reassure her that all will be well. With only five episodes remaining in the season (and no renewal notice yet being issued), it could be that Philip’s reaction to Martha is the path toward a possible series-ending conclusion. It could be that Philip has actually fallen in love with Martha—as he tells her (as Clark), she is the nicest and most loving woman he’s ever met. He’s probably not lying, and those sentiments could indicate actual love. They could also be the sentiments that lead to his own destruction. He really should cut his losses and put a bullet in Martha’s brain. Instead, the episode ends with the two of them lying naked in bed after obviously having had passionate sex (Martha’s back looks sweaty). However, neither looks relaxed after such a passionate release. Instead, Martha is turned away from “Clark”—perhaps feigning sleep, but with her eyes wide open and a look of nervous fear on her face. Meanwhile, Philip has a look of heightened anxiety on his face while his fists are clenched in a visible sign of tension. I certainly hope The Americans is renewed for a fourth season, as each episode continues to impress me more than the previous episode with just how excellent the series is in all aspects of its production (save for its props department using anachronistic books and maps that make it seem like the characters are getting these items from the future).* However, if the series is not renewed, it seems we might have the beginning of a couple of loose threads with Paige and Martha that can easily cause Elizabeth and Philip’s life as KGB agents to completely unravel. Rather than Martha getting a bullet in the brain, we might be heading for that fate with Elizabeth and Philip—while Paige and Martha watch on in complicit-based horror. * In this episode, the “problematic prop” was a box of Post Alpha-Bits cereal that seemed to have a “front” on both sides of the box with no “back of the box.” Obviously, it was a case of the same box being filmed from the front with one camera and then being filmed from the front again with the reverse-camera angle. Either that or the prop department created a phony box of Alpha-Bits that had two fronts. However, I was not able to determine if it was an anachronistic prop. Did the box of Alpha-Bits have a 1983 packaging design or was it a box of future cereal? Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 2 Responses The Americans 3.09 “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” - Psycho Drive-In April 1, 2015 […] correctly concludes that Martha is a liability that must be eliminated—which I pointed out in my review of “Divestment” where I noted that Philip “really should cut his losses and put a bullet in Martha’s brain.” […] Log in to Reply The Americans 4.01 “Glanders” - Psycho Drive-In March 27, 2016 […] my review of episode 3.08 of The Americans, I noted how we seemed to be heading toward a series […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.