February 18, 2015, 9:00 p.m. (EST), FX
So much of The Americans happens in the back of its characters minds. So much of this show is buried behind layers of scheming and obfuscation that when the truth begins to reveal itself, viewers are trained to remain unsure of whether they should trust it. The scene where Stan ransacks the bathroom in that diner is one of several perfect encapsulations of this idea. Zinaida didn’t see the Milky Way bar, so she must have been using the bathroom as a dead drop. Yet he finds no shred of evidence to back up his theory. Maybe she was, maybe she wasn’t. Stan is no closer to knowing her than he was before, and at least a few steps closer to the losing sleep phase (not that Stan sleeps much anyway).
There’s a level of creepiness to what Philip has to do with Kimberly (who of course prefers Kimmy) this week that registers at the corner of is eyes, in the little pauses “Jim” takes, in the moments where Philip is trying to figure out some way to not do what he has to do. All of that is great stuff, but what makes “Dimebag” incredible is the way Philip manages to use Kimmy as an angle to get one up on Elizabeth in their increasing war over Paige (and make no mistake, this is a war). He uses Yaz and birthday party planning as an excuse to sidle up to his daughter, to literally become a wedge between Paige and Elizabeth. His framing between the two of them in the scene in Paige’s bedroom is no mistake. That’s exactly where he wants to be. And if he is already plumbing the depths with his seduction of Kimmy, he might as well at least gain an advantage in the battle over Paige’s soul in the process. The way Philip turns things in his own favor in that sequence, the way he plays Paige just as he has accused Elizabeth of doing, then plays innocent so poorly with his wife later, is breathtaking. There are battles going on in this season in unsaid spaces, in unarticulated thoughts. Wars are being waged in quiet passive aggression. Alliances shift without a work being spoken.
While domestically, the characters use silence as an advantage in their conflicts, Nina Sergeevna breaks hers, using tales of her treachery as pretext for yet another in a series of betrayals. We talked a lot last season about how Nina has spent the entire series pushed into corners with no real option to consider morality. Her choices are constantly dictated by the bare need for survival, and here, she chooses to try to throw her cellmate to the dogs for a shot at a more lenient sentence.
Stan, on the other hand, is spouting the truth and finding it gets him nowhere. He tells Gaad his theories about Zinaida, which Gaad seems to politely find absurd, he tells the EST man he thinks the whole thing is bullshit, and he tells Sandra about his affair. Stan’s downward spiral began last season, but on The Americans, the truth is a crutch for the desperate, only to be deployed as a method of last resort. And Stan is speaking only the truth to anyone who will listen, whatever the consequences.
What is going on in “Dimebag” is a continuation of the theme of isolation that is slowly coalescing over this season. If season one was a bout a marriage coming together, and season two was about a family coming together, season three is about what happens when everyone alienates themselves and is left alone. Stan is left outside the house his estranged wife shares with her new boyfriend, standing alone on the lawn with his regret. Nina is left sobbing in the arms of a person she is plotting to betray. Elizabeth is left alone in her marital bed, by a man who has just outplayed her and has to go sleep with a teenager. And Philip, though his arm is wrapped around Kimmy, has a look of utter disgust and loneliness on his face. The weed isn’t even good. The high won’t protect these people from their various betrayals, nor from the loneliness that they find as a consequence. The comedown is harder than any of them expected.
- “Capital of Arizona.” “Tuscon.” “Phoenix.” “Oh yeah.”
- “How are the burgers here?” “Fair.” “That’s not a ringing endorsement.” “You want a ringing endorsement, or you want to know how the burgers are?”
- “Her legs go straight down to her feet!”
- “You wash away your old self, and make yourself clean for Jesus Christ.”
- “If you tell her no, this will all blow up.” “But at least she’ll know who she is.”
What is going on in “Dimebag” is a continuation of the theme of isolation that is slowly coalescing over this season.