This episode’s title, “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” doesn’t make sense as either an allusion to Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or as a reference to anything within the episode’s story other than our protagonists needing to place an electronic listening device on the FBI’s mail robot to take the place of the listening device that was discovered in FBI supervisor Frank Gaad’s pen. In a world in which most natural animals have been eradicated, Dick’s novel has androids who desire to own robotic animals. As far as I know, the FBI robot (which is programmed to wander the corridors of the J. Edgar Hoover Building delivering mail to various FBI departments) is not dreaming of anything—electric sheep or otherwise. It’s a stupid title for an episode that is primarily about trust. If the producers and writers wanted to allude to Dick’s novel (for whatever reason), a better title might have been “Do Mail Robots Trust?” Yeah, that’s a stupid title, too. I know! They could have just titled it “Trust.” Sure, an episode of another FX series (Justified) had that same title one night earlier, but so what? Having two FX Network shows use the same episode title on consecutive nights could have come across as a . . . well . . . as a coincidence, I suppose. Anyway, this episode of The Americans is about trust—though the business with the mail robot took (either directly or indirectly) about a third of this episode’s 44 minutes. The first trust issue arose when Philip told Elizabeth the FBI had discovered the bug in Gaad’s pen, and that Martha (Philip’s other wife when he is posing as Clark) knows that “Clark” is a cover identity for someone who is spying on the FBI. Elizabeth quite 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.” Based on her tone and facial expressions, Elizabeth seems to agree with me. However, killing Martha isn’t Philip’s plan at all; he’s going to give the situation more time and see what direction it takes—and he plans on going back to Martha’s “tonight.” When Elizabeth asks him how he can be sure Martha won’t report him—that she won’t have FBI agents on hand ready to arrest him—Philip tells her, “Because I trust her.” Elizabeth then gulps—possibly because of the danger Philip is placing himself in by trusting Martha, but probably because she knows the implication of his comment is that Philip doesn’t trust her. Due to the way Elizabeth has handled their daughter’s introduction into possibly becoming a KGB agent, Philip trusts his “fake wife” more than he trusts his actual wife. Philip’s trust in Martha is on display later when “Clark” arrives at Martha’s apartment. However, as he enters, it is evident that Philip does not fully trust Martha. He glances around cautiously to make certain no one is there to arrest him, and he looks pensively at Martha to see her reaction to him coming in. However, everything was relatively normal—with Martha cooking pasta and telling “Clark” she no longer wants to bring a foster child into their home because it wouldn’t be right at this time (with Clark being revealed as someone who has been using Martha to spy on the FBI, and with the government investigating the espionage). It’s clear, too, that while she doesn’t want to know the details of what he is up to, Martha trusts “Clark”—which stands in contrast to Elizabeth’s lack of trust in Philip’s decision to not put a bullet in Martha’s brain. Other issues of trust in the episode included FBI agent Stan Beeman having to trust Oleg Burov—the KGB officer who has worked out a plan to see if the Russian woman Stan has been protecting, Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya, is the Soviet defector she claims to be or if she is actually a Soviet spy whom Stan and Oleg might then capture to exchange for Nina Krilova. Unfortunately, Oleg’s perfectly executed plan does not prove whether the woman is actually a spy or not. However, to sell the plan’s deception to both the FBI and the KGB, it did allow Oleg to give Stan a huge blow to the forehead that left him bloody and dazed. The biggest issue of trust, though, was the plot line that comprised about a fourth of this episode—Elizabeth’s conversation with Betty Turner (played by Lois Smith). After Philip and Elizabeth break into the machine repair shop where the FBI’s mail robot has been sent for repairs, Betty Turner suddenly shows up to work in the office. Even though it’s about 10:00 PM (Paige and Henry are still awake back at the Jennings’ house), Betty likes to come to the office after hours to pay the bills because it’s quiet and she can feel the presence of her dead husband who started the company (her son now runs the business). As she starts her bookkeeping work, Betty suddenly sees Elizabeth in the doorway and makes a move to phone the police, but Elizabeth stops her. After seeing Elizabeth’s holstered handgun, Betty realizes she had best do as she’s told and remain quiet and calm—so she decides to pass the time by telling Elizabeth of her late husband. Notice the similarities between the names of the two women in this scene—Elizabeth and Betty. One of the diminutives of Elizabeth is Betty. Thus, in all likelihood, this is a conversation between two women named Elizabeth—and their lives are slightly similar as well. Though Betty is about 50 years older than Elizabeth, Betty’s experiences in life as a younger woman have parallels in Elizabeth’s current experiences. For instance, they learn they both came from working-class backgrounds. However, when she asks Elizabeth where her mother is and is told “Russia,” Betty suddenly realizes that Elizabeth is a Soviet spy whose “repair work” involves the FBI equipment in the shop. She also realizes there is no way Elizabeth can allow her to live; she has seen Elizabeth’s actual appearance rather than one of her disguises, and she has learned too many details of Elizabeth’s actual life. At this point, Elizabeth has Betty begin taking the pills in her prescription bottle of the ACE inhibitor Lisinopril—forcing Betty to overdose on her own medication. In past reviews of The Americans, I have joked about anachronisms in this series that is set in the early 1980s—such as Philip using a 2014 map of Frederick, Maryland or Stan reading a novel that wouldn’t be published until the early 1990s. Unfortunately, Betty taking Lisinopril for her heart condition is another of these anachronisms, as the drug is from the early 90s as well. Perhaps Betty’s Lisinopril came through the same time portal that brought through the paperback novel Politika that Stan was reading. In any event, overdosing on Lisinopril (even doing so 10 years before the drug will be available) will cause death, so Elizabeth is essentially forcing Betty to commit suicide—which Betty is willing to do because she knows she is going to die this night, and she would rather die in the least painful manner available to her. As she takes her pills one at a time, Betty continues to talk about her life—such as how she was married to her husband, Gil, twice. The first time was when they were young and too impetuous to make the marriage work. The second time was after Gil’s second wife, Helen, died. Betty refers to Helen as “the other woman” and her “nemesis,” but also as her “best friend.” In this way, Betty’s past situation slightly parallels Elizabeth’s current situation, as Elizabeth is jealous of Philip’s relationship with Martha and hopes that she and Philip can get to the point in their lives when they are no longer focusing on what Betty refers to as the “Why-can’t-you-be-the-person-I-want-rather-than-the-person-you-are stuff.” As the overdose begins to have its affect, Betty becomes lightheaded and confused. She asks if Gil sent Elizabeth so she could join her husband in Heaven (“yes”), and whether Helen is with Gil in Heaven (“no”). She then worries about her son, Andy—whether Elizabeth will kill him, too (“no”), which then leads to this poignant exchange of dialogue: Betty: Do you have children? Elizabeth: Yes. Betty: And this is what you do (referring to Elizabeth forcing Betty to kill herself). Elizabeth: Sometimes. Betty: By yourself? Elizabeth: With my husband. Betty: Why? Elizabeth: To make the world a better place. Betty: You think doing this to me will make the world a better place? Elizabeth: I’m sorry, but it will. Betty: That’s what evil people tell themselves when they do evil . . . things. This type of dialogue contributes to The Americans being one of the best shows currently on television. Despite the prop department’s constant anachronisms,* this series has some of the best writing and acting on any network not called HBO. It “currently has the top spot on critic aggregation site Metacritic, with a 92 out of 100 average.” Yet is has low ratings, but it was just renewed on March 31 for a fourth season. It’s a good thing the FX Network didn’t hold off the announcement for one more day. Everyone might have thought it was an April Fools’ joke. Finally, despite my overall love for this series, I must admit this episode has one glaring flaw. I really don’t believe J. Edgar Hoover would have allowed for the repair of a piece of FBI equipment to be outsourced. If the FBI didn’t have someone within the agency who could repair the mail robot, then a vetted repairman would have probably been brought in to repair the robot at FBI headquarters rather than allow the robot to sit overnight in an unprotected machinist shop. A similar problem occurred in episode 1.05, “COMINT,” in which Elizabeth and Philip acquire access to an FBI automobile by causing the car to be involved in a traffic accident so it will then be sent to a downtown Washington, DC auto body shop for repairs. Again, I really doubt that in the early 1980s the FBI was outsourcing these types of repairs to local, small businesses. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it just doesn’t seem believable. However, regardless of the anachronisms and the weird outsourcing of equipment repairs, The Americans deserved to be renewed, and I am relieved to have learned it will return next year once this season concludes. It’s also a great show that deserves more viewers—so spread the word about one of the best shows on television. * I’m actually starting to think the anachronisms are intentional—that the producers or the workers in the prop department are having as much fun inserting the anachronistic items into the stories as I am in finding them. They are like anachronistic Easter Eggs waiting to be discovered, and I really need to re-watch seasons one and two to see how far back these temporal anomalies have been affecting the story. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response The Americans 3.11 “One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov” - Psycho Drive-In April 15, 2015 […] episodes of The Americans having odd titles. Episode 3.09 had the nearly incomprehensible title of “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep”—which, of course, was an allusion to Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.