The Americans Anxiety Report is a weekly rundown of the people and things we are currently most worried about on the show. It will get weird because many of the people and things we will be worrying about will be tools in a plot to ruin America, put in motion by another country. Blame the show for this, not us.
10. Mikhail Gorbachev (Last week: Unranked)
The thing about shows set in the past, at least the ones that try to maintain the general idea of historical accuracy, is that history itself ends up being a spoiler. So like, we know that Gorbachev does in fact come home from this summit, and we know that he stays in power beyond 1987, and we know that he’ll introduce glasnost in 1988. None of that is a secret. It’s all up on Wikipedia. You can Google it and everything.
The fun thing, though, is wondering if The Americans, a show that thus far has maintained that kind of historical accuracy (mostly), will hang a hard left in its final episodes ever and just have everything go to heck and have the Centre and the military overthrow him and go all The Man in the High Castle on us, but with the Cold War. It won’t happen, obviously, probably, but it’s wild to think about. I’m picturing Claudia taking over all of Russia and Putin never coming to power. That would be a twist.
9. Stavos (Last week: Unranked)
There was a time, not all that long ago, that telling Philip you know that he’s up to something in his back room would earn you a one-way ticket to Murdertown. This is a different Philip, though. A broken Philip. One who shows up at former employees’ doors to pour his heart out. One who looks like he might start crying at literally any moment. One who screams out cuss words at toy car races like an unhinged maniac. You can say whatever you want to this Philip. Stavos could have looked him in the eye and said “I know you are a spy, you little pee pants baby,” and Philip would have probably slumped his shoulders and been all “Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry.” He’s like a handsome Eeyore.
So we don’t worry about Stavos getting killed. Or Stavos going to the authorities and getting the full Gennadi. No, we just worry because it can’t be easy for a man with a Russian accent to get a job in America in the middle of the Cold War, and we like Stavos and want him to be happy.
UPDATE: Stavos might be Greek, not Russian. Problem solved?
8. Stan (Last week: 1)
Let’s just skip over the thing where Renee is about to land a job at the FBI, provided she proves to be “a loyal American,” which was as close as this show has ever come to having a character look dead into the camera and wink at the audience. I’ve had it with her. Part of me hopes the show ends with Stan arresting Philip and then Renee shooting them both and pulling off her mask and revealing that she’s been Nina the whole time.
Let’s instead talk about the fact that he’s popping into Roy Rogers restaurants to question employees — and you are forgiven for not recognizing Curtis at first, because I did not either and I watch this show professionally — and show them pictures of his neighbors. I loved that conversation. It made sense to us because we have seasons worth of information, but pull a little context out and…
STAN: Do you remember working with a woman spy?
CURTIS: There was a real hot one with luxurious hair who smoked a lot of cigarettes.
STAN: That’s definitely my neighbor.
Stan is going to catch them or go completely insane.
7. Roy Rogers restaurants (Last week: Unranked)
Roy Rogers is about to go on a wild ride, man. In 1990, there were over 600 Roy Rogers locations. Today, there are under 50. In between, various franchises were sold to Hardee’s and Boston Market and Wendy’s and McDonald’s. I know this because I paused this episode dead in the middle and went to the Roy Rogers Wikipedia page, which contains all that information plus a section titled “1984 murder” plus this chunk of text, which reads like it was written by a bitter Roy Rogers megafan:
In 1990, Marriott sold the chain for $365 million to Hardee’s, a Southern chain seeking expansion into the Mid-Atlantic market again. Hardee’s converted the remaining non-franchised locations into Hardee’s restaurants, although many of the converted Hardee’s continued to offer Roy Rogers’ fried chicken. The conversion of the Roy Rogers chain caused a customer revolt and the units returned the Roy Rogers brand. The restaurants promoted new flame-broiled hamburgers, but they were not the same as the original Roy Rogers products and they later failed.
Online is nuts.
6. Henry (Last week: 4)
No sign of my sweet boy this week. He wasn’t even around to answer the phone when Philip called. Although that was probably good because Philip is hopelessly depressed and getting honest and Lord in heaven knows what he would have said. Henry doesn’t need all that. He’s got enough on his plate with hockey and school. Leave him alone.
5. Elizabeth (Last week: 6)
A breakthrough week for Elizabeth. After a season spent botching missions and murdering people, she’s starting to thaw. Examples include:
- Kissing Erica on the forehead before euthanizing her with a paintbrush
- Almost deciding to keep the painting even though it could be damning evidence
- Letting Jackson live despite him finding the bug and threatening to tell his dad
- Letting Nesterenko live despite Claudia’s orders to kill him
All of which was kind of nice to see. It’s strange. We shouldn’t be rooting for Elizabeth. She and Philip are monsters. Look back through that list I just put together. They’ve done so many awful things that “not killing someone” can be considered a surprising and heartwarming course of action. And yet, at the end of the episode, when Elizabeth told Philip she would get in touch with Oleg and go against the Centre and be what amounts to a secret bodyguard for Nesterenko, I was all happy about it. This show so rarely gives you anything resembling a win that whenever something not-terrible happens my heart grows three sizes. It’s weird. I’m fine.
4. Me (Last week: Unranked)
Anxiety Report Behind The Scenes
I watched the screener for this episode at 10:30 in the morning. I was eating a muffin. And then I got to the scene with Erica, which lasted forever and was painful and heartbreaking to watch, between the pained wheezing and the thrashing about and Glenn’s face and everything that happened with the paintbrush. That would have been rough to watch at any time but it felt especially rough with the sun out for some reason. Not a great way to start the day. I couldn’t even finish my muffin. The Americans is not a morning show.
3. Philip (Last week: 3)
2. Paige (Last week: 2)
Boy oh boy, is it ever gonna be awkward when Elizabeth sits Paige down and tells her that they’re now working against the Centre, after years of indoctrination and like three days after demanding her lifelong loyalty on a sidewalk. Poor Paige. The kid absolutely cannot catch a win.
1. Jackson Barber, the film nerd (Last week: Unranked)
Jackson has two problems. The first one is obvious and was written all over his clammy face in the car. He’s now got to live with all this, the fact that he spied on his own government, the fact that he was seduced by a woman whose eyes went a dead soulless black when he mentioned telling anyone and whose fingernails dug so deep into his arm that they might have dented his bones. Assuming he lives and goes back home and gets into the family business, this is all going to be scarring.
His second problem is that, if he chooses to tell someone about this, possibly a friend or coworker, many years in the future, possibly over drinks at a conference or something, no one will believe him. Not a single person. People will be all “Okay, Jackson. Sure. A beautiful spy seduced you and got you room service and then tricked you into bugging a big meeting about nuclear weapons. And then, when you confronted her about it all, she just let you walk away. Whatever you say.”
He’ll be the laughingstock of the pavement industry.