Somehow, Philip and Elizabeth Jennings can make digging a hole scintillating.
The action on The Americans Season 5 Episode 1 was kept to a minimum as we caught up with the Jennings family, Oleg and Stan Beeman.
The Jennings are still in the US, although not happy about it. Paige and Henry are still hanging out at Stan's house and with Matthew Beeman. Oleg? He's returned to the Motherland.
The cold open with a new Russian immigrant to the US and another student attempting to befriend him with his own tales of coming to the US only came into focus when the friendly young man arrived home to his parents: Philip and Elizabeth.
It was disorienting coming into the middle of an undercover assignment like that, and it was fantastic.
It set the tone for the entire hour. We're back, but there is little by way of explanation as to what has happened or why.
I wouldn't expect it any other way.
Showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields know we're intelligent viewers, giving us the benefit of the doubt of following along.
No, Philip and Elizabeth didn't flee to the USSR when Gabriel gave them the opportunity. Just as we saw in the trailer for The Americans Season 5, Claudia and Gabriel have differing opinions on why their top agents chose to remain in America.
They're either afraid of nothing or afraid of everything.
My opinion is it depends upon what Philip and Elizabeth are facing.
Their current assignment with Tuon appears to be recruiting a new USSR student to their cause. When they met his parents, they were stunned at how poorly the father, Alexi, talked about the Motherland.
Elizabeth: Can't wait to have dinner with that family again.
Elizabeth: Sorry he had to wait in line to eat. He's old enough to remember having nothing to wait in line for.
Philip: My mother used to make us soup from a few onions, nothing else. It was really just hot water.
Elizabeth: After the war, my mother always said she wasn't hungry. I knew, but I ate everything. She was so thin.
Still, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which they would think rushing back with Paige and Henry in tow would be the best move. So while they're willing to do anything for the country they love while in America, would they be willing to toss it all to go back?
Philip: We'll get another chance...to go home. It wasn't the right time.
Elizabeth: What's the right time?
That has been one of the lingering doubts between Elizabeth and Philip in their marriage for a while. Philip has become accustomed to the easier life provided in America, while Elizabeth still dreams of returning to the country she loves.
Seeing images of the USSR with food lines ending at empty bins is hardly enticing.
But Oleg is the one who will experience it up close and personal.
Home with his family for the sake of his mother, he's working a job set up by his father that could potentially find his father and other members close to his family in trouble.
It's good to know the USSR was involved in trying to crack down on the government corruption that resulted in the lack of food available to its citizens. At least, if that's really what comes to be of Oleg's position.
Since Elizabeth and Philip are spending so much of their time raising a fake teenager, their own kids are at the Beeman house almost every night.
Paige is still sneaking in some time with Matthew, but she doesn't seem nearly as into him as he is into her. Maybe she's trying her best to brush off the young man to stave off a world of hurt when her parents inevitably do it for her.
Stan cooks them dinner and thinks a Jennings/Beeman pairing just what the two households need. It's painful to imagine the day he comes into the fold and realizes he's been living beside the very people he's been tracking for years.
By that time, Paige will be able to take care of herself a lot better than she does now.
Rightfully, she's still scared to death about what she witnessed in the parking lot with Elizabeth. Elizabeth's answer to Paige's nightmares is to teach her to fight.
First thing. You can't be afraid to be hit and you can't be afraid to hit. Ever. You don't want to get hurt, you have to be willing to do anything to protect yourself.Elizabeth
Does anyone remember the day that phrase held true for life in general? When there wasn't as much killing going on because if kids wanted to fight it out, they could and they would?
Yes, I realize Elizabeth isn't talking about fighting against other kids, but hit or be hit seems like an essential law of self-preservation. Attempting to talk it out leads to pent up anger, lawsuits, jail time and mass murders. In my not-so-humble opinion.
Teaching Paige to stand up for herself was something we just don't do anymore and made for an interesting throwback.
Spying isn't easy work, and William paid the ultimate price.
Elizabeth: He's a hero.
Philip: Maybe he'll get a stamp.
Philip didn't think much of his end, obviously wanting more for the man who became a friend.
I'm trying to imagine what his response must have been when he discovered William's final mission, but it can't have been a pretty reaction.
For some reason, it didn't dawn on me that group was digging down TO something nor that it would be William. It was a final humiliation for a man who had given so much for his country.
For the body to be buried so deep and labeled so dangerously, Philip and Elizabeth looked silly wearing simple surgical masks and carrying a Ziploc baggie. When are they going to be given more to work with under such harsh conditions?
It was comical when the poor guy fell off the rope ladder and into William's container, slashing himself with glass and releasing the contagion. His brief moment of hope that he was going to climb free for a little gauze and tape was ludicrous.
So, I was wrong. Cutting off a pound of William's flesh wasn't his final humiliation. He had yet more to suffer, including sharing his final resting place with a dude who royally screwed up William's final assignment.
I have no idea what's coming next. I could know but didn't want to going into this review. As I said above, The Americans can make 20 minutes of digging a hole into edge-of-your-seat television. Who else can do that?
Would anyone else even dare try? There is no place I'd rather be on a Tuesday night at 10 than with The Americans. For complex characters, moral dilemmas and conversation starters, look no further than The Americans Season 5.
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.