Mar 19 2015

The Americans – “Divestment” Review. Ring of Fire.


Season 3, Episode 8

Air Date: Wednesday, March 18, 2015, 10 pm ET/PT on FX



Being married and being at war do not always go together.” – Reuben Ncgobo

Elizabeth has a lot to think about.

Elizabeth has a lot to think about.

Five minutes into this week’s episode of The Americans, I knew this was going to be an exciting hour of television. From the answer South Afrikaner Eugene Venter (guest star Neil Sandilands) gives Philip (Matthew Rhys), and Martha’s (Alison Wright) water cooler conversation with co-workers about Walter Taffet’s (guest star Jefferson Mays) interrogation of the FBI staff, to Nina’s (Annet Mahendru) new assignment, “Divestment” takes you on a roller coaster ride you won’t soon forget.

It’s interesting how all three of the people who were banished to Russia in earlier seasons are now in the same place—Nina; her previous boss at the Rezidentura, Vasili (guest star Peter Von Berg); and the Refusenik scientist Anton Baklanov (guest star Michael Aronov). Nina reminds me of a broken bird, doing whatever is necessary to stay alive, or in this instance, to reduce her sentence. While I hate seeing her like that, I understand her reasoning for accepting the carrot that is dangled before her. With a nice, new cell, complete with comfy bed, my only question is whether Nina will be successful in getting inside Baklanov’s head. He isn’t as easy to convince as Nina thinks he’ll be.

While the acting in “Divestment” is terrific, as usual, Wright absolutely steals every scene she’s in. From being calm, cool, and collected when answering Taffet’s questions about the bug found in Gaad’s pen in “Walter Taffet,” to portraying the angry, disbelieving, yet vulnerable wife when questioning Clark/Philip about who he is, Wright is an expert at conveying the wide range of emotions she goes through in “Divestment”—fury, betrayal, heartbreak, fear, and hope. It will be interesting to see where the writers take Martha in the remaining five episodes of the season. She could be uncovered as the mole, which means she’d spend the rest of her life in prison á la Nina; she could be turned into a full-fledged asset by Philip; Philip might kill her for fear of what she’ll tell Taffet; or, the mystery of who planted the bug may never be solved.

Speaking of Taffet, the way Mays portrays him is just plain creepy. Taffet has a robotic-like persona that scares the hell out of me, and obviously, Martha and Agent Aderholt (Brandon J. Dirden) too. Once again, the subject of racism in 1980s America is addressed when Taffet asks Aderholt about his “unique” background, and whether “other people here resent you for being…new.” I won’t be surprised if Taffet somehow manages to stick this on Aderholt given his disbelief of Aderholt’s upbringing.

Ventner knows he isn't long for this world.

Ventner knows he isn’t long for this world.

Now, to the reason I titled this review “Ring of Fire.” The way Elizabeth and Philip handle Todd (guest star Will Pullen), and Ncgobo (guest star Dwayne Alistair Thomas) deals with Venter are completely opposite, which speaks to their different upbringings and their feelings in the moment. Elizabeth and Philip see their kids—Paige (Holly Taylor) and Mischa (unseen), the son Philip doesn’t know—in Todd, and would hate for them to be in a similar circumstance. Ncgobo, on the other hand, recognizes Venter for what he is—a seasoned pro-apartheid assassin who slaughters people willy-nilly and laughs in the face of adversity, and Todd as a co-conspirator who does what’s he told without much thought. Let’s face it, Todd is a college kid who got swept up in the anti-apartheid movement, thinking he could make a difference. It’s obvious he’s scared. Who wouldn’t be? Elizabeth knows how easy Todd will be to control; hell, he can’t even withstand a little cold weather! Although, I don’t think he shivers much once Ncgobo sets that huge tire on fire in a particularly gruesome scene that is difficult to watch.

Other Observations

Agent Gaad kicking the shit out of the mail robot gave me a much-needed break from the seriousness of “Divestment.” I laughed my ass off—I actually had to pause the show in order to recover!

Elizabeth asking Gabriel (guest star Frank Langella) for help with Philip’s son Mischa shows just how much she truly cares for Philip despite their recent disagreements. She knows Mischa fighting on the front lines of the Afghan war bothers Philip immensely; I think if Gabriel is successful, somehow Elizabeth will use it when push comes to shove regarding Paige’s future.

I don’t know how long Arkady (Lev Gorn) is going to be able to fend off Oleg’s (Costa Ronin) father’s (guest star Boris Krutonog) request for Oleg to be returned to Moscow. At this stage, this plot point is becoming boring. Although, I do appreciate the way Arkady sticks up for Oleg, acting like the father Oleg always wanted his real father to be.

This Week’s Bits of Nostalgia

  • The Mail Robot—I have been remiss in my duty to previously report this bit of nostalgia. While robots were created thousands of years ago, the mail robot has been in existence since the early 1980s, and still is.
  • Necklacing, the practice Ncgobo uses on Venter, has its roots in 1980s South Africa. As I mention above, it is particularly horrific.


Mission accomplished.

Mission accomplished.

“Divestment” is one of The Americans’ best episodes of the season. It features a variety of inquisitions—the South African story line and getting the prisoners to talk, Nina working on Baklanov, Taffet grilling the FBI agents and staff, and, of course, Martha questioning Clark. Director Dan Attias does a fantastic job arranging angle shots but particularly with the pacing of the scenes, always linking them together in some fashion the viewer may not realize at first glance. What I am curious to learn is whether marriage is so important to Martha, she is willing to overlook her husband’s lies. How inevitable is it for Oleg to either die or go back to Russia at his father’s insistence? Will that happen before he sees his beloved Nina again? And now that the Todd/Venter story line is concluded, what will happen with Hans (guest star Peter Mark Kendall)? Will he go quietly into that good night, or will the Center find another job for him? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in another season of The Americans, just like “Divestment” brings back season two’s Vasili and Baklanov.

What did you think of “Divestment?” What would you do in Martha’s shoes? Leave me a comment below, or tweet me @SeasideTV. I’d love to discuss the episode with you!

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© 2015, Linda. All rights reserved.


Love TV, movies, and books--mostly mysteries, with a good love story thrown in every now and then. I have four adopted dogs who I adore. I love trying new recipes, and enjoy eating what I make. English language perfectionist. Reading in bed, Italian food, warm weather, the beach, all types of games = favs!

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