In 'The Americans,' Why is Elizabeth Crying to Pastor Tim?

Keri Russell's character is either doing the best acting job she's ever done, or having honest doubts.


Obviously, the most shocking thing that occurred on The Americans tonight was Paige (Holly Taylor) witnessing her mother kill a man — one who appeared to making sexual advances toward her, or threatening violence — in the final moments of the episode.

The fallout from this shocking moment remains to be seen. The Jennings have convinced Paige that they are agents working for peace. The fact that her mother has the fighting skills of a ninja warrior of sorts will doubtless be cause for concern and doubt for Paige: Her parents are probably doing a little more than working with priests from El Salvador.

Then there was the unexpected conclusion of the Don/Young-hee operation. The supposed suicide of Elizabeth’s (Keri Russell) alter-ego, and Philip (Matthew Rhys), Gabriel (Frank Langella) and Theresa’s (Marceline Hugo) infiltration of the military facility and Don’s (Rob Yang) office, yields no hard copies of the “codes.” So it may have been all for naught, unless the Center can pull something from Don’s computer.

Matthew, Gabriel, and Theresa, before making the final move on Don

Eric Liebowitz/FX

Elizabeth, at the mere thought of the mission, gets misty and despondent. She seems to be legitimately crying when she lies to Don about her character’s pregnancy. Indeed, its hard to see why it couldn’t have been done a simpler, and less brutal way.

This leads to the most confusing element of Episode 10, which is the numerous private exchanges between Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin) and Elizabeth, in private as well as in a group — i.e. at the dinner table with Stan (Noah Emmerich), when he reveals to Tim and Alice (Suzy Jane Hunt) that he’s an FBI agent). Elizabeth seems to be seeking his wisdom, describing at first how she felt like she was “coming apart after Alice made her threats, following Tim’s disappearance. In the first couple of scenes, it seemed to be a more obscure ploy — a high-level form of emotional manipulation, in the interest of further endearing Pastor Tim to them.

Yet as the episode moves on, and the conversations keep happening (weirdly), it seems that Elizabeth is actually fishing for insight that applies to her debilitating guilt about Don and Young-hee (Ruthie Ann Miles). She seems to be experiencing what Philip has been going through for at least a season and a half, and what Stan is working through in his conversation with Oleg (Costa Ronin) this week: the ol’ “everything I touch dies” kind of feeling.

She asks Tim how to grapple with something she can’t stop thinking about, or let go of, and reveals she doesn’t believe in God. He tells her, surprisingly enough, that it doesn’t matter — what matters is how you treat people, and how that makes you feel. Of course, this is the thing that Elizabeth is, precisely, doing the worst at in life.

Yet when she walks away with Paige, she seems level-headed, focused on discussing how well they are keeping Pastor Tim and Alice in check. She reiterates how important this is to the family, and Paige seems to, for once, be picking up exactly what she’s laying down.

Then, of course, Elizabeth stabs a guy in the neck, and leaves him to bleed out in a parking lot.

Elizabeth, forever and always


It’s not the climax we expect; it never is. That would have been the dinner table scene, or Pastor Tim showing up at the Jennings’ house, unannounced at the beginning of the episode. Yet both things passes quickly, and uneventfully. We worry, once again, about Paige. Will she continue to side with her parents, or deduce that, as Philip himself has been thinking, they are doing more harm than good?

“You don’t even know…they do things you can’t imagine,” Stan says to Philip, sipping his whiskey.

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