THE AMERICANS Review: “The Midges”

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THE AMERICANS dig deeper into the connection between grain shipments to Russia and “The Midges.” Gabriel identifies the bugs Elizabeth found in Illinois as a grain eating insect called a midge. He sends the Jennings’ to Oklahoma to investigate more and find links to grain shipments headed to the U.S.S.R. If true, it’s diabolical stuff, Russians are starving.

Oleg begins his investigation into food distribution and corruption by checking in at a local supermarket. The shelves are mostly empty, there isn’t a choice of anything, families make do with the little available. He meets with one of the department heads. She has a caged office in back surrounded by bags of fresh fruit and vegetables. Oleg asks her a few questions about how her shipments work. The woman says she in an order once a week and the baza ships it. Oleg isn’t stupid but he doesn’t come down hard on her either. He explains most people are starving because of institutional corruption but they can build a case to level the field so everyone gets more. She doesn’t give him any names, but she does offer him a bag of delicious tangerines as he leaves. Oleg takes a pass, he isn’t there yet. Then again, his family isn’t suffering like most Russians.

THE AMERICANS -- "The Midges" -- Season 5, Episode 3 (Airs Tuesday, March 21, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: (l-r) Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings, Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings, Holly Taylor as Paige Jennings. CR: Patrick Harbron/FX

We get a brief scene at the same market with Martha, Frank Gaad’s former secretary, Philips trusty fake wife. Martha looks like she’s hanging in there, she’s strong. However, she didn’t deserve to end up like this. I wonder if Philip ever considers how she’s doing. It’s possible the Russia he left decades earlier wasn’t as desperate a place as 1980’s Russia. Oleg skips the invite he had to meet with CIA in Moscow, so they approach him again. This time, they leave him with a cassette tape of a recording between Stan and Oleg that could get him in big trouble. I know they feel like they’re forcing Oleg’s hand, but he’s very clever and could figure out a way to fight back.  He knows the Soviet government executed Nina in prison and they’re starving their own population. Oleg may not choose that side. Then again, the CIA is threatening his own family; there’s no reason to trust them either. It’s good to see Martha again, but I’d love to see Arkady back on the show, he’d be a big help to Oleg.

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We catch up with Mischa briefly this week as he checks in with a friend, Luka, in Yugoslavia. Luka has been arrested, but the man living at his address tries to help Mischa anyway. He introduces Mischa to a smuggler who can help him sneak into Austria for half of Mischa’s traveling money. I can’t wait to see how this reunion turns out. Philip may be willing to listen to Mischa’s reasons for defection, but Elizabeth? I don’t see her throwing her arms around Mischa.

Philip is worried about Paige letting something slip with Matthew, he thinks telling her about their current mission, derailing a plot to starve the Russian people, will distract her. Elizabeth agrees and they explain a little about their operational secrets, the way they pose as a fictitious couple, lie to get Alexei and Pascha to open up. This sounds like an exhausting lifestyle to Paige. She goes on a date with Matthew but he can sense she’s stressed, when he asks her to open up about what’s bothering her, she uses the trick her parents taught her to keep control of her emotions. She lies. Paige took a giant leap into adulthood, deceiving to protect the people you love comes with the paycheck. Paige could turn out to be a real surprise down the road, there’s no telling what she may do when the real threats present themselves.

THE AMERICANS -- "The Midges" -- Season 5, Episode 3 (Airs Tuesday, March 21, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: (l-r) Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings, Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings. CR: Patrick Harbron/FX

Elizabeth and Philip muster their Urban Cowboy and head to Oklahoma where they break into a lab that grows special bugs. It isn’t just flies, like the midges; they’ve got butterflies, moths, bats, and plenty of other creepy things they’re working with. Philip finds a file, but soon after, Randy Chilton, the Deputy Director of bugs returns to the lab. Randy is startled by Philip and Elizabeth, he tries not to tell them anything about his work but fear and Philip get the best of him. Randy’s company was hired by Agricorp, to create a weed eating bug. He doesn’t know much else and he convinces them he didn’t ask. Philip snaps Randy’s neck and puts him in the trunk of his own car. I don’t follow how weed eating bugs could do anything except help secure a crop.

Philip is also having second thoughts.  The stories Alexei tells of Russia are much more unjust and corrupt than the land Philip works to protect. He tells Elizabeth that Oklahoma looks a lot like home. If the ground is pretty much the same, why can’t they produce enough of their own grain? Elizabeth seduces the suspicions right out of him, but she knows he’s on to something.  Why doesn’t she care?

Season 5, Episode 3 (S05E03)
The Americans  airs Tuesdays at 10PM on FX

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Eric lives in a world where the television is great, the smiles are warm, the pizza is hot, the puppies are playful, and the zombies are slow and meander while he reloads.
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