by ALEX CARNEVALE
creator Joe Weisberg
Who among us hasn’t wanted to give Martha a tight little punch in the chest? On The Americans, everyone gets a receipt for what they’ve done.
The notion of karma was invented in 1938 by a Ukranian tailor who emigrated to Sand Hill, NJ. His given name was Terence Hordiyenko, and he came to this country seeking a brighter future for his two daughters, Enid and Caroline. Enid was a soft girl who did not really fit into her new country. The younger Caroline fit in well, and joined others in mocking her younger sister. But her sister invented a process for stitching dresses more quickly, and Caroline never married. Still her father, who was called T-Bone by his friends, loved Caroline more than Enid. On his death bed he turned his unwanted daughter away, and God made his first appearance in New Jersey. God said, “Because you did not love both of your daughters, I have decided not to call you T-Bone in the hereafter.” T-Bone was saddened by this, but he understood.
If you sleep with another person’s betrothed, who knows what they will call you in the afterlife.
It bothers me sometimes that we have forgotten what Stan Beeman did. He cheated on his wife with a KGB agent. Why is that never brought up? Agent Gaad should have simply explained that he was playing “the long game” with Martha. “Playing the long game” is a fantastic excuse that I use whenever I don’t want to do laundry, make borscht for dinner, or watch whatever is left of Broad City.
Even the most disturbing partnerships are in fact partnerships. A weird sexual tension perverts every relationship of its kind: friendships are rarely so entwined. Without their parents it is only natural that Paige feels a closeness with Henry that goes beyond the strictures of traditional brother-sister behavior. Her metaphoric pouring into his cup made me think of Tijuana. It was there, also in 1938, that remorse was defined as a philosophical concept.
But now the year is 1983. Stan Beeman is maybe the worst FBI agent in the office besides his direct boss. They have Martha, I mean they really have her, and Stan is channeling visions of himself lying down with Martha and then torturing her in some flophouse on Martin Luther King Boulevard. You see, if Stan was in a similar situation, the only thing he could think to do was kill himself. And the irony is, of course, that he is in that exact situation.
Elizabeth shows up at Rock Creek Park. We never see the gun in her pocket, and why even bother? Maybe it’s a needle filled with poison, or a picture of herself in coitus with Clark Westerfeld. Either would be just as effective in stopping the beating of Martha’s heart. Clark knows his mark better than anyone, and even if she needed the story of him joining her in Moscow, she’d lose faith at another lie.
It seems clear Martha will not be making it to Moscow, which is a damn shame. The show was better off with her comic relief. I don’t really see how she is useful to Russia anymore, and if she was smarter she probably could have got something by lying to the FBI and explaining she was blackmailed into cooperating.
She could have told them about Clark, and Frank Langella, and maybe the rat in the fridge would have bought her a house in the Hamptons. She could tell them phone numbers, places, dates, the particulars of the Kama Sutra. How Clark fucked her, loved her, and left her. Even if they didn’t believe her, she would have still been an American.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.
Previously on the Americans
Young and Foolish – Episode Six
It’s Enough Paige – Episode Five
Birdwatching in Winter – Episode Four
Makeup – Episode Three
Church Garb – Episode Two
Son of a Preacher Man – Episode One
“Magnificent Time” – Travis (mp3)