When I saw the title of this episode of The Americans, “Stingers,” I made an assumption about the overarching theme of the story. I assumed that Stinger missiles would be involved, but that the title would also apply to personal incidents in the characters’ lives that gave them an emotional “sting” of some sort. This episode takes place sometime in 1983 before January 22 (I’ll explain at the end of this review why it has to take place before January 22), so one of the first things I did was look up the history of the missile to see if Stingers even existed in early 1983 or if this episode would contain yet another of the many anachronisms I have seen this season—such as maps, books, and pharmaceutical drugs that did not exist in 1982 or 1983. Fortunately, the Stinger missiles did exist at that time, so their reference in this episode would not be an anachronism. In fact, Stinger missiles date back to 1972 when they began to be developed, and 1975 when they began to be produced. I then noticed that General Dynamics, the defense contractor who developed and produced the weapon, had started production on the second generation of Stinger missiles in 1983—the FIM-92B, which had an improved seeker with a combined infrared and ultraviolet (IV/UR) scanner. “Oh,” I thought, “that’s it! Philip and Elizabeth will have to get one of the IR/UV scanners to send back to the Soviet Union—and the fact that it allows targets to be scanned in the invisible light at both ends of the spectrum will be a motif that factors in thematically to being able to see “hidden” aspects of people’s lives or hidden aspects of relationships. Those formerly hidden aspects will factor into the emotional “stings” the characters will experience—causing a sense of isolation and insecurity. Oddly, I was both incorrect and correct in my assumptions. The Stinger missiles were not involved in the story at all. However, several characters did have insights into previously “hidden” aspects of other characters that caused emotional stings. In fact, that emotional sting quality was such a strong motif in this episode that it caused me to wonder if the Stinger missiles and the IV/UR scanner wasn’t originally part of the story that was then cut for some reason—possibly due to time limitations, but there may have been other factors involved, such as a real-life KGB connection to the 1983 production of the FIM-92B. In any event, various characters had insights that “stung” them—such as the drunken insight Kimberly Breland (Kimmy) had about her life. Kimmy is the 15-year-old daughter of a CIA officer with whom Philip, as “Jim,” may have to develop a sexual relationship so he can continue to gain access to her father’s home office and the tape recorder he has planted there. Kimmy’s insight comes after Philip has to go to a party to retrieve Kimmy and take her home. As she tumbles to her bed in a drunken stupor, Kimmy says to “Jim,” “You know, I think you’re the only one who really cares about me.” Whether it’s true or not is immaterial; if Kimmy believes her observation is true then it would sting her emotionally. However, she’s too drunk to fully feel the sting of her observation—though it would hurt even more if she were to learn that “Jim” is just a cover for Philip, who doesn’t care about her as much as she believes he does. Stan Beeman, on the other hand, felt the full effect of the emotional stings that came with his insights. The first comes as he is continuing to realize his marriage is actually ending. After he pointed out a few weeks ago that that they are still married, Sandra (his wife) has started divorce proceedings. Stan must now go through all of the items in his home and mark the ones he wants to keep—and Sandra will then go through the items and determine what she wants. The process is emotionally painful for Stan, and I suppose the “sting” may become inflamed if both he and Sandra choose some of the same items. However, Stan is thankfully interrupted from his task by Henry Jennings—Philip and Elizabeth’s 12-year-old son who is returning a pirated video of Tron and who wants to play Strat-O-Matic Football with Stan. (I’ll explain why Henry’s presence in the scene was an important thematic interruption in a few paragraphs when I discuss Henry’s “sting.”) Later, back at FBI headquarters, Walter Taffet interviews Stan in connection to the ongoing investigation into the electronic listening device discovered in Frank Gaad’s office. Taffet begins to question Stan about his divorce, which I expected Taffet to then spin into a motive for Stan to have planted the bug in the pen. However, Taffet seems to accept without suspicion Stan’s answers about his marriage—even though Stan actually did lie about some of the details (such as claiming there wasn’t another woman with whom he was cheating on Sandra). The “sting” came after Taffet asked if Stan could think of anyone who might have planted the bug. Stan admits that several people had the opportunity, but he can’t think of anyone who could have done it . . . but then he stops in mid-sentence and hesitates. It’s obvious he just had an insight that made him realize who it might have been. However, when Taffet asks him if he was thinking of someone, Stan hesitates, shakes his head, and says “no.” After the interview concludes, Stan walks toward his desk but stops and stares at Martha’s desk for a few seconds before asking Agent Aderholt where Martha is. Aderholt replies that she “left early; some family thing”—an answer that seems to sting Stan yet again due perhaps to both his own “family thing” (the divorce) and his sudden suspicion of Martha as the spy in the office. Henry has his own insight and subsequent “sting” regarding Stan’s divorce. The episode opens with Henry pulling out a box that he hides in his bedroom closet. In the box are various pictures of lingerie and underwear models from pages he has torn out of catalogs. Henry is 12 or 13 years old, so his hormones have recently become active. Actually, they became active last season when he started spying on Sandra Beeman with a telescope he was given as a birthday present. He also broke into the Beemans’ house twice during the second season, and he found a family photograph in their house that showed Mrs. Beeman wearing cutoff blue jean shorts and a bikini top. After stealing the photo and tearing it to get rid of Stan and their son Matthew, he now keeps that torn photo of Sandra in the box with the pictures he has torn from lingerie catalogs. Obviously, part of his hormonal awakening is an erotic fixation on Sandra, so it stings Henry when he realizes the Beemans really are getting a divorce—that Sandra is not going to return to living across the street from him, and that Stan may end up selling the house and moving out of the neighborhood once the divorce is finalized. Oh, to be 13 years old again and at the mercy of awakening hormones! However, the biggest insight, and the most painful sting, is reserved for Paige. Paige has been suspicious of her parents since midway through the first season. She has gone through their private belongings when they’ve been out of the house; she has skipped school to take a bus to Pennsylvania to visit her mother’s supposed “aunt”; she has believed her parents’ late-nights away from the house are due to them having affairs; and she has investigated them in the various limited ways that were available to a 14-year-old girl in the early 1980s (no Internet). Finally, she has had enough, so after Philip and Elizabeth return from a late-night mission, Paige confronts them, “Do you love me?” After assuring her they do, she says, “Then tell me the truth.” She then rattles off all of the suspicious aspects of their lives she has observed for the past two years along with all of the various scenarios she has concocted to explain their suspicious lives—such as asking them if they are in the Witness Protection Program, are they drug dealers, are they aliens (by which she meant extraterrestrials, not people from another country). Philip and Elizabeth then tell her the truth—they are aliens (people from another country, not extraterrestrials). Slowly, piece-of-information by piece-of-information, they reveal to her that they are KGB spies from the Soviet Union. They also warn her that if she tells anyone . . . they will spend the rest of their lives in prison. I half expected them to say they would have to kill whomever Paige tells, and they may have actually been thinking that before hesitating and saying that they would spend the rest of their lives in prison. As Paige heads off to bed to contemplate the sting she’s received, Philip and Elizabeth remain in the kitchen contemplating the stings they received by being confronted by Paige, and that they then delivered back in response—with Elizabeth finally asking Philip the opposite of what Paige asked them, “Do you hate me?” The next morning, Paige decides to skip school, and Philip and Elizabeth hesitate to leave her alone in the house while they go to work, as they clearly aren’t sure whether they can trust her to not tell anyone. However, Philip finally tells Elizabeth, “We go to work; we hold our breath.” While her parents are at work (they own a travel agency), Paige calls the pastor of her church to tell him what happened when she confronted them and demanded they tell her the truth. It seems she might tell him what she discovered, but she stops short of in the middle of a sentence. In all likelihood, if the series had not been renewed for another season, all of these various elements were going to start coming together to bring about the series-ending conclusion: Martha knows her husband “Clark” is a spy in some capacity and Stan is suspicious of Martha. Philip is going to have to make a decision about whether or not to have sex with Kimmy; either way, that decision could become part of what also helps bring him to the attention of the US authorities. Paige is contemplating turning in her parents. She didn’t tell her pastor; however, when he arrives for dinner at the end of the episode, Paige seems to be thinking about telling Stan about her parents—or she may be wondering if they live across the street from Stan so that her parents could spy on him. Stan even asks her if anything is wrong after he notices her staring at him. All sorts of thoughts could be running through Paige’s mind, and Holly Taylor plays the scene very well in revealing her character’s confusion as a teen whose world has suddenly turned 180 degrees from what she thought it was. As Paige hesitates in answering Stan’s question, Philip speaks up and dismisses his daughter’s behavior as something she has been doing following her baptism a few episodes earlier. Paige allows her father’s answer to stand as “the answer” to Stan’s question—but it might in part be due to her father brandishing a carving knife that he has been sharpening. If she has not yet figured it out, she’s eventually going to come to the realization that her parents have murdered people in their jobs as KGB agents. I wonder what her reaction would be if she knew her mother forced an elderly woman to take a lethal overdose of an ACE inhibitor just a week ago. Of course, now that The Americans has been renewed for another season, these various elements won’t be coming together to bring the series to an end. However, it’s going to be very intriguing to see how these potential series-ending elements will play out as this season heads to its conclusion and speculation about next season can begin. Finally, the reason I know this episode takes place early in 1983 but before January 22 has to do with events in previous episodes that clearly date this season—such as the Salang Tunnel fire and Leonid Brezhnev’s death that occurred in November 1982 and subsequent details that indicate that the show has moved into January 1983. In this episode, Henry imitates a skit that Eddie Murphy performed on Saturday Night Live on October 17, 1981—which could be dismissed as another anachronism in which Henry watches television shows from the past, but which I will dismiss as Henry watching a rerun episode of Saturday Night Live. I have not been able to determine whether NBC showed that particular episode of Saturday Night Live during the time this episode is set. However, I do know that NBC would have aired reruns of Saturday Night Live for five weeks during the Christmas and New Year period. The latest Henry could have watched a rerun of the episode with the Eddie Murphy skit is January 15, 1983, which means the latest he could have performed the skit for his parents as he was leaving for school was Monday, January 17, 1983. Here is the skit Henry watched and subsequently performed for his father: Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response The Americans 4.01 “Glanders” - Psycho Drive-In March 27, 2016 […] discovered the true identities of her parents in episode 3.10 (“Stingers”) and felt the need to disclose that information over the phone to her church minister, Pastor Tim, […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.