The metaphor of the new car
Obviously, a new car on “The Americans” is more than just a new car. It’s a symbol of the best and the worst of the American lifestyle that Philip and Elizabeth have to both fight and embrace on a daily basis. The car is amazing and beautiful and worthy of air-guitar solos. But it’s also an unnecessary luxury and a symbol of a system that values objects above people a lot of the time.
After all, Philip can give Henry a ride in a sweet car, but he isn’t around to stop the kid from breaking into the neighbors’ house to play video games.
The car is easier, but it’s not — as Elizabeth says — necessarily better.
Pay more attention, Stan
Poor Stan Beeman really doesn’t get anywhere except deeper into the hole he has been digging with Nina and Oleg. The FBI agent hands over Oleg’s files and then happily celebrates with Nina. It’s like he doesn’t even see his own betrayal, now that there’s a beautiful young woman to love and protect.
The lack of observation is growing too — Stan barely notices that his wife is on the verge of leaving him and expects nothing of her husband these days. Instead, all Stan thinks about is getting revenge on Oleg (either with an operation or with straight-up killing) and how the world just won’t let him do what’s right.
In this episode, Stan’s car takes the brunt of the anger, but there’s certainly more than enough to pass around the FBI, the Department of Defense and even the Soviet Embassy.
The best and the worst of Soviet times
She is getting commendations from Arkady and flirting from Oleg, but Nina’s life is still in plenty of danger. The KGB officer has to keep dealing with Stan, after all, which is essentially playing with fire. And then there’s the fact that Oleg’s powerful family can either help or destroy her.
Meanwhile, back in the USSR, Nina’s former boss/lover Vasili (who is not dead!!!) meets with the angry, repatriated scientist, Anton Baklanov, in a Siberian research facility. The men commiserate over their situations before Vasili offers a “make the best of it” pep talk.
Hopefully, Anton will go this route, because the Soviets are having a rough time otherwise. It turns out that that propeller design stolen by Philip and Elizabeth a few episodes back was faulty and planted expressly for espionage purposes. Installed on a submarine, the flawed propeller has just killed 160 sailors.
Revenge and espionage are dangerous bedfellows
The mission with Larick and the Martial Eagle camp to train Nicaraguan militants is ongoing, but there are several wrinkles. For one, Lucia’s deadly need for revenge can no longer be denied. She breaks into Larick’s home and tries to tranquilize him.
Taking a dart herself, Larick gets the upper hand and demands that Elizabeth trade Lucia’s life for his own freedom. Elizabeth is willing to go for that, but their negotiations prove pointless when Lucia tries to finish the job with a corkscrew.
It doesn’t go well. With Elizabeth watching, gun pointed at Larick’s head, the military man chokes the life out of poor, passionate Lucia. Elizabeth’s later sorrow is fully understandable, even if she did the right thing for the mission.
No one wants to be the bad guy
A lot of the tensions between people and nations may be caused simply by the desperate human desire to see oneself as the hero of every story. Henry may have been the only one to sum it up simply — he hates that the neighbors see him as a criminal when he still thinks himself to be good — but they’re all trying to bring about good in the world.
Stan thinks he needs to protect Nina, even as he betrays everything he once believed in. Well-intentioned espionage kills scores of young men. In the name of freedom, the United States works to topple an unfriendly democracy. Larick strangles a girl (who only wanted to avenge her family) for some strange bid to be free.
Everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing. It’s just those others — or sometimes even a car — that get in the way.