The Americans Season 5, Episode 8 Recap: "Immersion"

Photo: Jeffrey Neira/FX.

Dad is gone, mom is back, and everyone is in trouble. This week, it’s all about parents and children (and parents behaving like children). The episode is titled “Immersion,” but by all rights should have been called, “I’m Not Mad, I’m Disappointed.”

Driving home from his ominous last meeting with Gabriel, Philip at first appears visibly, and rightfully freaked out. Gabriel’s last words to him were fairly terrifying: “You were right about Paige. She should be kept out of all of this.” But as soon as he’s in the door, he drops his jacket on the stairs and turns sulky. He’s all, I’m glad we’ll never see him again. He never loved us anyway! I’m not a shrink, but Philip’s daddy issues can be seen from space.

In Moscow, Oleg is dealing with the consequences of his own actions — and those of being his parents’ son. His dad is a bigwig, but his mom, we learn, was once accused of sabotage. Given his own indiscretions with Stan, Oleg is as vulnerable as he is protected. Officers from Directorate K show up to toss his bedroom, combing through his underwear drawer, looking for who knows what. (The scene goes on for a while, but we already know he burned the evidence, so I took the opportunity to google “Directorate K.” For those keeping track, this appears to have been the KGB equivalent of internal affairs, keeping an eye on its own agents — particularly those engaged in foreign missions.) Oleg’s been working in the US, so maybe they’re just double checking that he’s been a good boy. Or maybe not. We’ll find out eventually. Or not, who the hell knows? We’re halfway through the season and Oleg’s still in limbo. Maybe his punishment will simply be to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder.

Speaking of, how about this twist with Evgheniya? Remember, she’s gotten this incredibly convenient gig teaching Russian to potential US foreign agents. She tells Elizabeth she’ll be hosting a weekend “immersion class” at one of her students’ home. Really? The CIA is going to gather all the agents its training for Moscow in a private home for an off-site class party? Sounds a little too casual to be true, and, lo and behold, it is. Elizabeth and Philip tail her, discovering that she’s not actually teaching but sleeping with one of her students (who, it turns out, is about to be given a big-shot position in Moscow). Honestly, I can understand Evgheniya having an affair, after everything she’s been through, but she could not have picked a worse person to cheat with. Unless she chose him on purpose. When her student/sex-partner does get sent to Moscow, the center will want her back there too, in order to blackmail him. Just saying.

Okay, time-out, Claudia is back. True, she made the odd cameo this season, but now that Gabriel is gone, she’s handling the Jennings again. Probably not-so-great news for them, but I am pumped. I’ve (mostly) come to accept that Martha is gone for good, and Claudia’s terrifying, eyebrow-twitching, lip-pursing return is a balm on the Martha-shaped hole in my heart. Her reunion with the Jennings is a truly chilling one, the two of them squared off against her, defenses raised. Philip tells her they’d like to do it differently this time. No more mind games. Just instructions. “We know what to think,” Elizabeth adds. “You don’t want anybody inside your heads, fair enough,” Claudia replies. “Not my strong suit anyway.” Puh-lease. It’s so obviously not true that it’s basically a direct threat.

Her first and only instructions are to keep up their affairs with Stobert and Deirdre — orders which they promptly disobey. In fact, Elizabeth, surprisingly, is the one to suggest it first. “I’m going to cancel with Stobert,” she tells Philip in the office. He’s thrown for a moment but then says he’ll cancel with Deirdre too. “No, that’s not what I was…” Elizabeth counters. “No, I know,” he responds. She smiles. It’s a weird, awkward moment for them, in a season full of similar moments. It’s been difficult to reconcile both this sudden softness towards each other and their discomfort with seducing others. But it’s hard not to enjoy this scene a little, the two of them fumbling with flirtation, making eyes at each other between desks.

Watching Philip get dumped by Deirdre, though, is a whole new level of awkward, and entirely in keeping with their dynamic. “Listen, you’re a really sweet guy, but…” she begins, in the same utterly flat tone she’s taken with him since he first badgered her into a date. This is one of the most challenging relationships the show has presented us thus far, and as much as I hate to see it end, and hate to watch Philip’s face as he gets dumped via payphone, I also love that Deirdre is just not into him and isn’t afraid to say it. This role was sorely needed after four years of women flinging their undies off at the mere sight of him. So, it’s more than a little disappointing when she’s lured back at the end, Philip baiting her with a new bad-boy character trait (he tells her he’s married). Philip himself looks a little disappointed.

Photo: Jeffrey Neira/FX.
Pictured: Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings, Matthew Rhys as Phillip Jennings, and Ivan Mok as Tuan.

Once again, Philip and Deirdre are juxtaposed with Elizabeth and Stobert. This relationship, in contrast, may have gone a bit too deep. We saw a glimmer of this last week when Elizabeth was taken aback to see him with another woman. But jealousy isn’t really the issue. It’s that she’s seen the goodness in Stobert, and might in fact be looking up to him a little. She’s recognized him as a do-gooder, and now is forced to question the goodness of her own deeds in the world. She’s realizing the big picture is bigger than she thought it was, and is, for the first time, wondering what her role in it is. Paige asks what she would have done had she not been a spy, and Elizabeth admits (almost embarrassed) that she would like to have been a doctor in the third world. In this moment, the two of them seem more like girlfriends, and Paige the more mature one.

But, for all this flirtation and daydreaming, Elizabeth does have a powerful maternal moment in this episode. She reveals to Paige that she’d been raped as a teenager. This comes after one of their intense fight-training sessions in the garage, and Paige, understandably upset, rushes to embrace her mother. But Elizabeth holds her firmly at arm’s length, correcting: “No, Paige...I’m not afraid anymore. And you’re not going to be either.” One could argue that this is not the ideal lesson to teach your teenaged daughter about sexual assault: Just learn to fight back. But it’s certainly true to her own life. Elizabeth claimed this experience the best way she knew how, using it as a stone against which to sharpen herself. More and more, Elizabeth is recognizing (if not fully admitting) that her own story is not the one she wants for her child. Still, she wants to pass on the lessons she has learned. And however imperfectly taught, this is a good one to learn. As she explains to Philip, “I just wanted her to know that she won’t always be afraid.”

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