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TV Recap: The Americans, Season 3, Episode 4, "Dimebag"

Dance yrselves clean, Jenningses.
Not a happy household. Photograph by Michael Parmalee via FX Networks.

For a series that deals out so many doses of weird subtlety, The Americans is never more unsettling when its at its most overt—which is basically the deal with the fourth episode of Season 3. “Dimebag,” referencing a possibly lousy conveyance of subpar marijuana that appears at the end, features some of the most on-the-nose storytelling the show has presented so far.

Not that that’s a bad thing. Philip and Elizabeth have arrived at their limits with regard to their spymasters’ order to bring Paige into the fold; coyness has no place in the Jennings household right now. It’s Paige’s birthday, and she wants to celebrate with a simple family dinner, but with the company of pacificst Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin). Because what she wants most of all—more than Yazoo’s Upstairs at Eric’s LP, even—is to be baptized so she can “get [herself] clean for Jesus Christ.”

“Jesus Christ,” any militantly atheist Communist spy undercover in a country with deistic language woven into the national creed might mutter under his or her breath, possibly with the addition of a seven-letter middle name that does not appear in mainstream versions of the Bible.

Turns out Paige is just as good a schemer as her parents, even if her plot doesn’t jibe with their agendas. Fortunately, there’s another teenager for those ends this week. Enter Kimberly (Julia Garner), the teenage daughter of the Jenningses’ CIA mark introduced last week, and her quest for a decent fake ID so she can get into DC’s nightclubs. (The venue on the dingy block she and her friends are trying to enter is never named, so let’s just fantasize that it was a stand-in for the original 9:30 Club.)

After some playground scouting by Elizabeth, it falls to Clark, posing as a skeevy lawyer-lobbyist-DMV fixer named “Jim,” to recruit Kimberly, who despite her protestations of being an 18-year-old Georgetown student, is obviously closer to Paige’s age.

“We’ve never used someone this young,” Elizabeth says in the bedroom later. They’ve also never used such an obvious proxy for their daughter.

But that’s OK! This is not a subtle episode at all. We even get Stan blowing his stack at those dopey Erhard Seminars Training meetings when the host calls on him to confess his wrongdoing.

“Don’t call me an asshole, asshole!” Stan fumes instead. “This is bullshit!”

Indeed, but Stan’s honesty earns him an invitation to get a drink with a fellow traveler played by Callie Thorne. But that’s as orderly as Stan gets this week. He’s melting down at work, with his guardianship of Soviet defector and Milky Way fan Zinadia bringing back memories of Nina. In Stan’s partial defense, though, it is a little suspect to jump for a Milky Way bar before ordering dinner.

It all winds back to Clark’s recruitment of Kimberly, though. By the episode’s close, they’re alone at night in park, with Clark advising her to buy better weed and Kimberly cluing him in on early 1980s synthpop, just like Paige did earlier when he gave her the Yazoo album. Clark, as “Jim,” wraps Kimberly in his coat for warmth. It should be creepy, but as that lousy joint sparks up, the look on his face is strictly paternal.

Field Notes:

  • Henry Jennings sighting, with actual dialogue! He wants cheesecake (shot down by Paige) and needs to study hard for his big quiz on state capitals.
  • Turns out Evie from Belgium is in jail thanks to a spying boyfriend, and the regime wants Nina to break her.
  • Yazoo had to call themselves Yaz in North America to avoid a legal dispute with blues label Yazoo Records.
  • Upstairs at Eric’s, which was released in the UK in August 1982, peaked at No. 92 on the Billboard 200 chart when it came out in the United States. But tonight’s tracks were choice, especially the thumping, album-opening club jam “Don’t Go” used to score Stan’s fruitless bathroom search. Plus, if synthpop acts like Yazoo are what Paige and her friends are listening to, I fully expect to hear a New Order song or three by season’s end.

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Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.