The AMERICANS: “Dimebag”

The most dangerous threat is the one that you don’t see coming. It’s the one that you can’t prepare for.

Stan, this isn’t your night.

-Arthur, Sandra’s current boyfriend.

As seems to be the theme this year, much of “Dimebag” revolves around the seedier aspects of spycraft and what that could potentially mean for Paige. The episode is set in the days leading up to Paige’s birthday, as Philip and Elizabeth continue to debate whether or not she should be told about their true motives in the United States. Philip remains staunchly against it, knowing the dangers that would come with such a revelation. Elizabeth has already had two close calls with the authorities this year, and Annelise’s body is still freshly rotting in a suitcase somewhere in the Washington D.C. barrens.

Elizabeth, however, is prepared to reveal everything to Paige whether Philip agrees with the decision or not. She and Paige are closer than ever since Elizabeth has been attending church services with her daughter. Elizabeth’s attempts to bond seem to have found fertile ground. It all comes to a head when Philip buys Paige a new record – which is NOT her birthday present, he continually stresses to Elizabeth. Maybe he’s just jealous of the burgeoning mother-daughter bond, and wants to dote on Paige a little as well. Paige, for her part, just wants a quiet birthday at home. No party, nothing extravagant. Just a small dinner with her family and two friends: Pastor Tim and his wife. It’s the same Pastor Tim who represents the entire Christian movement that Soviet Communism is against. It’s also the same Pastor Tim that Philip once threatened to assault if he didn’t leave Paige alone. Aside from that, it ought to be a quiet dinner.

It’s no secret that Paige’s birthday marks her continued progression into adulthood, and the loss of her childhood innocence. That’s obviously not by accident since the episode also offers a nice comparing and contrasting point. While busy protecting an underage girl from the world at home, Philip’s spy mission is the exact opposite. Last week Philip and Elizabeth realized that their target was dating his babysitter – a teenage girl who also happened to be the daughter of the CIA’s Afghan group leader. She’s obviously a younger target that Philip and Elizabeth usually seek out, and that only adds another level of danger to the equation.

If she’s interested in older men, Philip sets out to use that to his advantage. He poses as a secretive man with connections who offers to help Kimberly (“Kimmy” to her friends, adding another level of underage creepiness to a storyline already dripping with it) acquire better fake IDs after she and her friends aren’t allowed into a DC club. It isn’t long before Philip is pouring the charm on thick, and Kimmy is falling for his “dangerous older man” ruse. The two are last seen huddling for warmth on the cold D.C. streets in the dead of night, smoking Kimmy’s cheap weed and listening to 80s synthpop on her boombox. Kimmy has eyes full of stars and a heart full of teenage love, but Philip seems to know better. What kind of a man would strive to protect his own daughter while corrupting someone else’s? The look of disgust on his face clearly belies his affectionate cuddling.

There’s an obvious attempt to make this storyline as uncomfortable as possible, and I wonder how far the show is willing to go. Is Philip really going to sleep with a minor? Sure, we recently saw a body brutally broken and stuffed in a suitcase, but some things are just beyond the pale! The show’s use of that insanely disturbing Love’s Baby Soft ad certainly didn’t help anything, either.

I actually think that Stan Beeman gets the better end of the deal with his story this week, but maybe that’s just because he isn’t cuddling up to a sixteen year-old. Stan remains at an impasse, clearly not understanding that Sandra may never be coming back. When an attractive woman (played by none other than Callie Throne) tries to invite him out for beers after EST class, Philip can’t understand why Stan shrugs off the invitation. “You’re single!” he reminds Stan. “No, I’m not,” Stan responds.

He’s still saddled with Zinaida the Soviet defector at work, but he’s starting to enter the territory of a man who’s spent too many nights lying awake. He tells Gaad that he worries Zinaida might have more ulterior motives than she claims, but Gaad simply waives him off. Unless he can provide proof, it’s a moot point. Stan doesn’t have any proof other than a feeling, and he can’t even find any when he tries. He shows up at a diner where he ate with Zinaida earlier in the night and ransacks the ladies room after it’s closed, looking for notes that she might be passing back to the Soviets. He finds absolutely nothing except the indication that he needs more sleep and a clearer head. There’s no evidence that Zinaida is anything other than what she claims to be.

That’s not all for agent Beeman, though, who can’t help but make another stab at trying to restore his relationship with his wife. Despite his continued aversion to the EST classes, he relies on their tenant of honesty and confesses his affair with Nina to a dumbfounded Sandra. That his confession comes while he’s standing in the middle of their lawn only underscores the idea that Stan is a little bit off his rocker.

But the real question for both of Stan’s storylines comes from something he said last week. When a fellow agent wanted to understand how Stan was able to infiltrate the white supremacists that he used to work with, Stan simply remarked that he just told them what they wanted to hear over and over again. Is that what he’s doing with Sandra? Just admitting to his faults and proclaiming an understanding of the EST principles? And is that what Zinaida is doing to the FBI? Stan has a lot of experience in deep undercover work. Maybe his radar isn’t as off as it seems.

The episode wraps up back at the Jennings house where the family and Pastor Tim have gathered for Paige’s birthday. Things are actually going smoothly until Paige drops the bomb that she’s been hiding: she wants to be baptized, and she thought having her pastor and her family together for her birthday would be a great way to broach the topic. Like I said at the outset, it’s the unseen threat that’s the most dangerous. Philip and Elizabeth are completely blindsided. Elizabeth was happy to indulge Paige’s church-going if it could offer them something to bond over, but this is a whole new level of commitment beyond what Elizabeth and Philip were prepared for. They agree to consider the baptism while everyone is present, but they’re much less certain once the party is over.

It seems like Paige might have a better mind for spycraft than either Elizabeth or Philip ever expected. She was able to work them both into a corner and take them by surprise. Whether she eventually enters into the spy game or not, it seems like the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.

The Dead Drop

  • We got a few more looks at Nina’s life in prison. The authorities offer her a reduced sentence if she can get any information out of her cellmate, who they believe to be a spy. Nina is making her first efforts to befriend the woman so that she can get the information they seek, but I honestly have no idea what to make of this storyline.
  • Has Callie Thorne joined the cast and I just didn’t realize it? She seems too big of a star to just have a small recurring cameo role. A steady love interest for Stan would be much more suited to someone of her stature.
  • This is another Thomas Schlamme-directed episode, and he again does excellent, if not quite as notable work.
  • Sorry for the somewhat rushed recap this week. Denver has some tricky FX scheduling issues that may result in such from time to time. Hoping to be back full force next week.

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