THE AMERICANS Review: “What’s the Matter with Kansas”

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THE AMERICANS cozy up to new singles in “What’s the Matter with Kansas.” Elizabeth didn’t kill anyone this week. Yes, it’s a guilty pleasure. There was plenty of other good plot for her fans. One of the stand out story lines this season is Oleg in Moscow which offered some great developments this week.

First, Oleg’s boss, Col. Oleg, introduces him to an experienced interrogator, Raslan, to use in his food distribution corruption investigation. They start with interviewing Ekaterina Petrovna, the department head from last week who always has the best fruit. She denies any special arrangement with the baza at first, but Raslan talks about her losing her , her husband losing his , losing their apartment and sending her to prison. On the other hand, they just want one name from her. She gives them a name and they check with other department heads at other stores who identify the same guy. They build a file and present their findings to Col. Oleg. Raslan points out the common point of pressure are the people who have sons in Afghanistan. Oleg asks that they keep the soldiers in Afghanistan out of it, but his boss disagrees and thinks Oleg may be too soft for his department. Oleg corrects the Colonel and says it a question of decency, not about being too soft. There is a strong argument that Oleg has the most integrity of anyone on the show. Gaad and his Russian mirror, Arkady are up there too. Love to see Arkady return in some form.

THE AMERICANS -- "Behind the Red Door" -- Episode 5 (Airs Wednesday, April 2, 10:00 PM e/p) -- Pictured: Costa Ronin as Oleg Burov -- CR: Craig Blankenhorn/FX

Oleg doesn’t like the KGB’s dirty playbook, but he’s also the victim of the CIA’s blackmail. This week he tells his mother a little about the trouble he’s in over the tape Stan made. Right now, Oleg believes Stan is behind the blackmail. Oleg’s mom breaks down when he mentions he could end up in prison, but later she tells him a story about her past that he never heard. A few years after she married Oleg’s father, but before he was born, she was sent to a work camp for five years. It was a cruel place where she struggled to survive. She chose life but many others did not. She advises Oleg to do whatever he feels he must. You get the sense Oleg isn’t too proud of the motherland. People starve because of government corruption and apparently, families have always been torn apart as leverage. This message recurs in this episode as well as others.

Stan, Oleg’s free market mirror, has similar issues this season. Aderholt tells Stan about a guy the FBI blackmailed in San Francisco years ago. He tells Stan it all worked out for everyone involved, his intel was good and he received a huge payment form the FBI. Stan considers the outcome but he goes a different route. Stan heads to the Deputy Attorney General’s office and tells him if he doesn’t convince the CIA to drop their Oleg campaign, he’ll out himself as the agent who assassinated the Russian Embassy employee. I love it when Stan gets tough about what he wants. He isn’t perfect but what makes him an intriguing character are those times when he corrects his own course.

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Philip meets Alexei Morozov for a beer and talk about his in America. Alexei tells him how much the land in the Soviet Union is like the land here. They should produce the same amount of grain but their logistics is a mess, often, the grain is rotten by the time it reaches its destination. Gabriel gives Philip and Elizabeth new targets in Kansas, both single and work for Agricorp. Philip asks if they can send someone else; flights to Kansas may stretch them too thin with all their other concerns. It’s a bold move by Philip and Elizabeth backs him up, but Gabriel sends them anyway.

I know the world of The Americans shouldn’t be a competition, but Philip strikes out with Deirdre, the logistics expert he’s supposed to get close to.  Elizabeth scores with outdoorsman, Ben, her charming scientist target. When Philip asks about her Kansas trip, she says she doesn’t want to discuss it. When he suggests that she likes Ben, Elizabeth replies how she has to laugh at his jokes while he plans ways to starve a nation. Elizabeth seems like she’s hiding something, but they’re both in for a big surprise. Mischa’s contact succeeded in smuggling him out of Yugoslavia and he makes it JFK; he’s dangerously close to knocking on the door and having Paige answer.

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Paige really ups her game this week. Elizabeth gets a call from Henry’s math teacher, he wants them to come in for a meeting. Philip says he spends a lot of time on the phone, but has no idea who he talks too. Paige says she hears him talking to girls, more than one. Elizabeth is surprised to hear he has a girlfriend, he’s so spoiled. Paige babysits for Alice and Pastor Tim. While they’re away, she snoops through his desk, bedroom, and reads his journal with session notes. She tells Elizabeth about the spying. Elizabeth is proud of her but tells her never to do it again. However, later she presents Paige’s extracurricular to Philip as an opportunity to get leverage against Pastor Tim and Alice. I’d love to see goody Paige get her hands dirty.

Season 5, Episode 4 (S05E04)
The Americans  airs Tuesdays at 10PM on FX

Read all of our reviews of The Americans here.
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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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