jae: (theamericansgecko)
[personal profile] jae posting in [community profile] theamericans
Aired:
16 May 2017 in the U.S. and Canada

This is a discussion post for episode 511 of The Americans, intended for viewers who are watching the show on the U.S./Canadian schedule. (Feel free to dive in to the discussion even if you're coming in late--and you should also feel free to start a new thread if it seems too daunting to read through what's already been posted first. If you're reading this at a point where you've already seen subsequent episodes, though, please take care to keep comments spoiler-free of anything that comes after season five, episode eleven.)

Original promo trailer

While watching thoughts

Date: 2017-05-17 10:14 am (UTC)
lovingboth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lovingboth
Things are bad if you need to ask your teenage son where your wife is...

Unsurprisingly, Philip is ok about the school idea, even if there's a significant pause outside the door.

Watching in silence with Tuan is an echo of previous father / son scenes. Oh, and an excuse for a happy flashback.

Quiet moment during the meeting with Claudia then, 'Oh, we want to execute someone... probably the right person'.

Get lost that they could weaponise the virus so quickly. Or would tell P&E.

Pointed Soviet failing in front of Oleg.

Ha! at getting Henry in the FBI office. Is the cliffhanger going to be Henry seeing inside the Vault and going 'those two look like my parents...'

Ha2! at the mail robot again.

A bit of Soviet failing that Oleg is more or less ok with.

Yep, Philip is right about Paige and the photos.

Not at all convinced by her being shipped off to Germany to be treated for VD, no matter how many Soviet soldiers she's shot. (Not that I'm even vaguely convinced by that either.)

Interestingly the conversation between Henry and Stan doesn't feel clunky now, whereas it would have been a couple of seasons ago.

She's being honest...

Stan being a downer again again. Obviously he has reason to be, being the cause of one woman's death.

I wonder if we're going to get an echo of Oleg's mother's 'you do what you need to do to survive' when they confront Mrs Traitor to the People.

'Even if it is her' - shocking thing for Philip to say.

It looks like she's lying - the details should be unforgettable. Instead, she's echoing what they've said. Why? Because she thinks she's dead and it will save her husband? And then she comes up with all the details when he's back?

'There was no reason'.

Nice 'Oh FFS, get on with it' look from Elizabeth who then, typically, shoots the husband first.

And another - unreturned - look from her in the car going back.

'I want to get out of here' - an even more shocking thing for Elizabeth to say..


.. this is the cliffhanger - a couple of episodes 'early' like the reveal to Paige.

Re: While watching thoughts

Date: 2017-05-17 03:43 pm (UTC)
lovingboth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lovingboth
Looking at one scene again, has the wall paper always been in such bad repair in the safe house that has the meeting with Claudia?

Re: While watching thoughts

Date: 2017-05-17 09:06 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] treonb
I don't know about the wallpaper, but the apartment in general wasn't in good condition

Re: While watching thoughts

Date: 2017-05-17 09:32 pm (UTC)
quantumreality: (americans1)
From: [personal profile] quantumreality
Yeah, same place as Gabriel, and it always looked kinda clapped-out to me.

Re: While watching thoughts

Date: 2017-05-20 06:33 pm (UTC)
saraqael: (Default)
From: [personal profile] saraqael
I don't think that we've seen the wallpaper peeling off the walls so badly in previous episodes. In scenes with Gabriel, the rooms always look spare and somewhat run down, but not falling down. Seeing the wallpaper in this condition was jarring enough to me to make me wonder if this is even the same safe house.

Re: While watching thoughts

Date: 2017-05-17 09:34 pm (UTC)
quantumreality: (americans1)
From: [personal profile] quantumreality
I think Philip's "if" was looking for any excuse not to have to shoot someone again.

Elizabeth doing it this time felt like it should happen both because she's always been more fiercely ideological and because she's less fed up with the toll it takes - marginally, anyway.

I LOLed at Henry's mellifluous prose re the FBI, BTW. XD

Treon's thoughts

Date: 2017-05-17 10:18 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] treonb
The Russian song in the beginning sounded very familiar. I looked it up, but I don't think I've heard it before: "Cranes" by Mark Bernes, a major Soviet WWI memorial song, which nicely links Philip's "pilot" persona, his memories of his father and the Nazi collaborator plot.

I'm not sure what to think about the execution scene. Philip was ready to let her go even before he knew whether it was her or not. I guess he's got a guilty conscience now too, and that's the logical conclusion of the path the show is taking. First we feel bad for Philip's father (had no choice), then for Gabriel (it was confusing times), and now for a Nazi collaborator who killed hundreds of people.

This story reminded me of the mail robot woman they murdered. They sit with an elderly woman who tells a sob story about WWII, then kill her horribly. The mail robot even made a cameo appearance in this ep.

And also, in both cases they took a very familiar story to most Jews and twisted it around. As much as it annoyed me last time, this time is way worse.

I just took a quick look at some of the reviews, and unsurprisingly, everybody feels sorry for the poor woman and see her as a victim. I feel that this is an insult to the people who complied with the Nazis hoping to save whoever they could. We see them as murderers too, even though they generally didn't even kill people, just helped the Nazis do it.

Like all the previous cases, we didn't get the story from the victims, we got it from the perpetrator. When Gabriel confessed to his sins, I said they wouldn't dare do the same thing with a Nazi. So we're not up to that stage yet, but I'm starting to think I was wrong - they would dare, and people would feel sad for them.

Btw, maybe the US wouldn't have cared, but I think the Soviets could have asked to extradite her.

Re: Treon's thoughts

Date: 2017-05-18 02:10 am (UTC)
quantumreality: (elizabeth)
From: [personal profile] quantumreality
Personally, I thought that while she was a teenager in a tough no-win scenario, there were likely ample chances for her to refuse to go along with the executions, or change her mind. Sometimes dying is the most morally correct choice, as hard as that is to accept.

Elizabeth and Philip grew up learning that over 20 million Soviets died to keep their country safe (that number is actually probably an understatement; I believe the currently accepted figure is 27 million). Someone once snarked that in some ways the USSR became one giant World War II memorial, and they certainly would've been affected by that.

Finally, the Soviets might have assumed rather reasonably that the USA might say the evidence was rather thin and inconclusive, so they decided to go for an extrajudicial confession/execution.
Edited Date: 2017-05-18 02:10 am (UTC)

Re: Natalie's execution

Date: 2017-05-18 03:25 am (UTC)
sistermagpie: Classic magpie (Default)
From: [personal profile] sistermagpie
Yeah, I think they could have asked to extradite her--which would probably better so it would be public. I mean, this way probably nobody's going to know the truth. But as QR said, the US may not have seen enough evidence to do that.

I just took a quick look at some of the reviews, and unsurprisingly, everybody feels sorry for the poor woman and see her as a victim. I feel that this is an insult to the people who complied with the Nazis hoping to save whoever they could. We see them as murderers too, even though they generally didn't even kill people, just helped the Nazis do it.

Yes, I think especially when the person is old there's a tendency to figure they're not the same person anymore. But that's basically rewarding the person for getting away with it. Also I think people don't think of her as a Nazi because they consider her a victim of same, forced to do things for them. In a way just now it reminded me of Martha in a small way. There's a lot of people who really don't think Martha is a spy because she never actually believed in Soviet ideology.

I was also talking about this elsewhere and it came up that Philip should have stood up for what he thought was "right" but I thought he agreed with Elizabeth that this woman was guilty. He raised his gun at her. I think he more just couldn't bring himself to shoot anybody not that he couldn't see the logic of Elizabeth's position.

I mean, the woman knows she committed this crime, even if it was in extreme circumstances. She chose to kill others for the Nazis to keep herself alive. When these people showed up this was the result of that action. She maybe thought there was a statute of limitations, that if she'd gone this long she wouldn't get caught. But probably early on she was often looking over her shoulder for exactly this. She was ready to lie. Iirc, wasn't she still pleading to live after her husband died? In that sense Elizabeth was right. Her instincts were still the same. She wasn't tortured by guilt about what she'd done, she wanted to keep her husband's good opinion of her.

She knows she had choices, even if they were bad ones. She could have refused and been murdered with her family. She could have turned herself in at the end of the war. Instead she ran away, changed her name and made a happy life for herself.

Had she changed? Of course--she's an old woman now. Everyone changes in that time. But that's not really the question. They weren't hunting her for crimes she was committing now but the ones she'd committed then.

This story's reminding me of that Christopher Plummer movie...is it called Remember? He's an old man hunting an escaped Nazi.

Btw, this woman does seem to have been mostly based on a real person. The difference was that they made her younger and killed her family. The real woman was in the army, in her early 20s, and did not regret either shooting citizens or sleeping with Nazis. I think she was caught and executed just a few years after the war.

Re: the real life 'Natalie'

Date: 2017-05-18 04:40 am (UTC)
saraqael: (Default)
From: [personal profile] saraqael
Pretty sure the real woman this episode was based on is Antonina Makarova. The Soviets continued to look for her after the war but they didn't catch her until the 1970s.

Re: the real life 'Natalie'

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Re: the real life 'Natalie'

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Re: the real life 'Natalie'

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Re: the real life 'Natalie'

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Re: the real life 'Natalie'

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Re: the real life 'Natalie'

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Re: Natalie's execution

Date: 2017-05-18 05:29 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] treonb
Martha was really a victim. For most of the things she did, she believed she was helping her country. The US government/courts would probably expect her not to be so naive and punish her accordingly, but at least it came from naivete. Natalie does not have that excuse. She stood in front of hundreds of people, and for each and every one, she made a conscious decision to shoot them dead.

We don't really know if she's changed, we'd have to put her in the same situation to know. But as you say, that's not the question.

She wasn't tortured by guilt about what she'd done, she wanted to keep her husband's good opinion of her.

Good point.


I mean, this way probably nobody's going to know the truth.

Exactly. Even though she deserved to pay for her crimes, it was still a senseless killing.

Re: Natalie's execution

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Date: 2017-05-18 04:35 am (UTC)
saraqael: (Default)
From: [personal profile] saraqael
Is everyone on this show doomed by the events of their childhood and the sins of their pasts? It seems so. Sweet old grannie housewife Natalie Granholm was actually a Russian named Anna who became a Nazi collaborator and murdered hundreds of Soviets back in WWII. Like Gabriel, she was terrorized and did terrible things as a result just to survive. Was it fair to mete out justice to her so many decades later?

Well, yes, IMO it was. But it wasn't fair to to delay this woman's execution until her innocent husband came home. Elizabeth clearly wanted Natalie/Anna to confess her sins in front of her husband. And it wasn't fair or just to murder the husband before shooting the woman, so that she got to see him die and have his blood on her hands, too. Shooting Natalie Granholm might have been a form of long delayed justice, but shooting John Granholm was flat out murder. And this is where I constantly go in circles with Elizabeth. I admire her dedication to her ideals and to her duty, but at the same her dedication easily flips over into judgmental, intolerant, bloodthirsty zeal. Then there is Philip. He can't bring himself to murder people anymore, even (to Elizabeth's disgusted disbelief) a Nazi collaborator, but he also can't bring himself to stop Elizabeth. He just stands by passively, stewing in his own misery but not doing anything to stop what's happening.

When Elizabeth shot that couple, my first thought was that this could be them in another couple years: retired, trying to live a quiet normal life, but then snuffed out when they least suspect it, either by their own people for some real or perceived error, or by Western agents who are dealing out 'justice' for all of the murders and dark deeds these two have done. Elizabeth has finally had enough and wants to check out and go home to Russia, but can they ever really go home? The episode ends with them driving into darkness. Signs point to no happy ending for these two.

Regardless of what happens next, this episode really felt like the beginning of the end. Philip mentally checked out of the job years ago. Everything has hinged on what Elizabeth wants. Now she has had enough.

Other thoughts:
Did Paige want them to read what Pastor Tim wrote about her or was she 'moving too fast'? Philip and Elizabeth don't know because they haven't asked Paige. At least they're thinking about it and talking about it. At some point, I'm convinced that Paige is going to find out the truth about what her parents really do, and then the damage that Pastor Tim wrote about will be complete.

The sweet moment when Philip told Henry that he could go away to the boarding school instantly turned sad when Philip had to leave his real son to go sit and watch tv with his fake son and pretend to be Tuan's dad. (BTW, in this scene, I swear that they are watching the original version of 'The Fly' on the tv. I tweeted the J's to ask them. If they answer me, I'll post here. If I'm right about the movie, that's a very sly comment on the whole, "Are they monsters?" question from Pastor Tim's diary.)

Nice to see Mail Robot again.

I appreciated the gentle but effective way that Stan explained why the FBI was not the shiny, awesome place that Henry thought it was.

Variant V for Vitaly, William's real name. Good grief. Enabling the Soviet government to weaponize Lassa was exactly what William wanted to avoid. Now it's been memorialized forever with his name. Tragic. And Claudia thought that was a good thing.

Back in Russia, it appears that everyone is corrupt and dealing on the black-market except for the KGB. Not sure what this is going to mean for Oleg, but I'm sure it won't be good.

Pastor Tim's diary

Date: 2017-05-18 05:41 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] treonb
I'm sure Paige wanted them to read the diary and see the words for themselves, because it reflects what Paige herself feels.

Re: Pastor Tim's diary

Date: 2017-05-20 07:19 pm (UTC)
saraqael: (Default)
From: [personal profile] saraqael
I agree. I think that Paige wanted them to read Pastor Tim's words because this is how she feels. She's been expressing her misery all season but always in a passive way. "My life has turned to shit." Not, "YOU turned my life to shit." Pastor Tim points the blame directly at Philip and Elizabeth. They have done monstrous things to Paige by lying to her so profoundly. They turned Paige's life upside down. They are destroying Paige's ability to trust anyone, or even to know with certainty what is right and what is wrong.

Whether or not they absorb these words and take direct responsibility for what they're doing to Paige is still unknown. They've gone along with it because it's what the Center wants, willingly in Elizabeth's case or passively/unwillingly in Philip's case. They have both shirked their responsibility for what they're doing to Paige by pointing at the Center and saying the Center made them do it. All the while, they withhold the real horror of what they actually do, and lie by omission about the wheat situation in order to deceive their own daughter into becoming a second generation agent.

If Paige is this messed up simply by the tiny bit of sugar-coated deception she's already had to deal with, what will happen to her if she ever finds out the real truth about what her parents do?

Date: 2017-05-18 06:08 pm (UTC)
sistermagpie: Classic magpie (Default)
From: [personal profile] sistermagpie
He just stands by passively, stewing in his own misery but not doing anything to stop what's happening.

He was the first person to raise his gun, so I'm not so sure he wanted to stop what was happening. He didn't want to kill anyone but I don't think he saw an injustice necessarily happening. Philip has spoken up and taken action to do things he thought were right. I don't think this was one of those times.

When Elizabeth shot that couple, my first thought was that this could be them in another couple years: retired, trying to live a quiet normal life, but then snuffed out when they least suspect it, either by their own people for some real or perceived error, or by Western agents who are dealing out 'justice' for all of the murders and dark deeds these two have done.

I suspect if that happened they'd either try to defend themselves physically or accept their fate. They probably wouldn't beg for their lives or not take responsibility for their actions. Just based on what we've seen of them.

BTW, in this scene, I swear that they are watching the original version of 'The Fly' on the tv.

Someone elsewhere thought that's what it was. I was totally confused because I thought the song was what they were watching on TV and I was like...wtf are they watching there? And why? But yeah, we had Pastor Tim's monster comment, Elizabeth throwing that insult back at Natalie, and Philip, as ever, probably applying it to himself and his father.

And Claudia thought that was a good thing.

Claudia was quite the boob in that scene. William wouldn't be happy about it, and obviously P&E wouldn't either. She's getting more and more detached from intelligent thought here!

Date: 2017-05-18 06:46 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I got the vibe like claudia thought it would win P&E over with that little tidbit about "Variant V". Who knows if it's even true?

- QR who is too lazy to log in ATM

Variant V

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Date: 2017-05-20 07:06 pm (UTC)
saraqael: (Default)
From: [personal profile] saraqael
"He was the first person to raise his gun, so I'm not so sure he wanted to stop what was happening. He didn't want to kill anyone but I don't think he saw an injustice necessarily happening. Philip has spoken up and taken action to do things he thought were right. I don't think this was one of those times."

Philip has already admitted that he'll continue be the good soldier and show up and go through the motions, so of course he raised his gun. He accompanied Elizabeth on this mission, but that's just about all he did. Philip has already admitted that he can no longer bring himself to kill on command any more. Even here, if what seemed to Elizabeth to be a clear-cut case of justice, Philip couldn't act, much to Elizabeth's quite noticeable shock (and what looked like anger to me). She'd already volunteered to do all the killing on their missions going forward, but I think that even she was really shocked by Philip here. It's one thing for Philip to say that he can't kill any more. It's a different thing to witness it when they've put themselves in a situation where they must kill these people, if only to protect their cover identities.

I think that witnessing just how badly burned out Philip is caused Elizabeth to finally give up herself and declare that she wants to go home. Philip is a wreck. Paige is a wreck. Henry is moving away from them. I don't think that Elizabeth has given up on her dedication to the mission, but she's putting her family ahead of it for the first time.


Burned Out

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Re: Burned Out

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Re: Burned Out

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Re: Burned Out

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Re: Burned Out

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Re: Burned Out

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Date: 2017-05-18 08:27 pm (UTC)
beer_good_foamy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] beer_good_foamy
I'm pretty sure that's The Fly, yeah. The story of a man who tried to help humanity but got fused with a monster and gradually lost control of his own actions and wound up trapped in a web. (Viz also the woman interrogated by Oleg; everyone's in the same web, only the spiders don't see it.)

Help me. Help me. Help me.



Variant V for Vitaly

And also, possibly, for Victory in WWII. The episode (and much of the series) makes an explicit link between the two (or three, however you count the Soviet/Afghanistan war) wars; the same conflict goes on, the Soviets were still painting their opponents as heirs of the nazis (the official name of the Berlin wall? "Der Antifaschistische Schutzwall").

Date: 2017-05-19 09:42 am (UTC)
lovingboth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lovingboth
Because there's something else I should be doing, I checked - yes, that's definitely the teleportation box from The Fly on the TV.

(no subject)

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(no subject)

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The Fly

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Date: 2017-05-18 08:10 pm (UTC)
beer_good_foamy: (Sugarshock)
From: [personal profile] beer_good_foamy
The mail robot is totally a pre-miniturization mouse droid.

Thought: Is it a coincidence that they reveal the weaponisation of the lassa virus ("Yeah, you helped us kill lots of people, thanks") in the same episode that they have Philip and Elizabeth execute a war criminal? No one is innocent etc.

Granholm is a Swedish name. I'm not sure if there's any point to the husband of the Nazi war criminal having a name from a country that's been (supposedly) neutral throughout both WWII and the Cold War, but it's a neat detail.

Date: 2017-05-19 09:25 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Wasn't the man an American soldier? He is probably descended from Swedes though. It's a relatively minor point, however.

- QR who still can't be bothered to log in

(no subject)

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Lack of coincidences

Date: 2017-05-19 09:41 am (UTC)
lovingboth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lovingboth
It's also no coincidence that the programme goes straight from one woman betraying the motherland (by talking to the FBI) to the end of another one who did (via collaboration with the fascist invaders).

Re: Lack of coincidences

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Re: Lack of coincidences

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Re: Lack of coincidences

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Re: Lack of coincidences

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Belated Review

Date: 2017-05-19 11:31 am (UTC)
selenak: (The Americans by Tinny)
From: [personal profile] selenak
Due to RL business, sorry. Also, watching a show about Russian spies set in the 80s is increasingly weird when contrasted with the current day reality. If only the KGB had known back then how incredibly easy it is to get the entire Republican party to do their bidding…

Meanwhile, in the 80s: I wish they’d speed up Oleg’s storyline somewhat; there’s only so often that someone can tell him a variation of “you have no idea who you’re messing with” before I get bored. Though I assume the increasingly good relationship with his colleague will have a pay off once the inevitable happens and Oleg and/or his father will be made a fall guy for the forces of corruption.

Otoh “what will it take for Elizabeth to want out?” was one of the show’s big questions, considering the mid s1 event where she and Philip were fake-interrogated didn’t do the trick, and the Paige situation didn’t once Elizabeth realized this was something she could share with her daughter. But things were piling up through the seasons, the one thing P & E could be genuinely enthusiastic about re: their job this season had been the prospect of saving the Russian grain from American bio warfare, which turned out not to be the case, she had a reminder of her Korean friend/mark whose life she ruined recently, neither Philip nor Elizabeth were glad about the prospect of having to run their current marks for years, and Pastor Tim’s comparison of the Jennings’ parenting of Paige to sexual abuse visibly hit home last week, as does this week Philip’s guess that Paige wanted them to read this. So I think it’s all of this in addition to what happens this week that makes Elizabeth say what she does at the end of this episode.

But what I love is that this last incident is just the kind of seemingly clear cut situation that young Nadeshda would have found to be a no brainer. Executing a Russian woman who collaborated with the Nazis – what could be more obviously right to her? And yet. The episode wrong footed the audience deliberately along with our antiheroes, making Natalya/Anna look innocent by the way she first admitted to her old identity to save her husband but could not name details as opposed to parroting what P & E had accused her of. But then she did tell her story. And it was one that was guessable not just from WWII. But what really makes the emotional power, imo, is that to the way the show presents it, it’s true what Philip said earlier: it doesn’t really matter whether this old woman is guilty or innocent. Elizabeth could see he was struggling with going through with it, and it wasn’t surprising she did it instead (these two were dead either way), but what was surprising, and yet sense making considering the above, was that this to Elizabeth was the straw that broke the camel’s back. And for the first time, the woman chosen because her superiors thought she would never give up says she wants out.

In other news: remember when Stan was the one who couldn’t talk to his own son and partly coped by hitting it off with Henry? Now Philip, at a loss with Henry, heads off to his “work” son Tuan, only to be silent there as well.

Re: Belated Review

Date: 2017-05-19 05:40 pm (UTC)
sistermagpie: Classic magpie (Default)
From: [personal profile] sistermagpie
Due to RL business, sorry. Also, watching a show about Russian spies set in the 80s is increasingly weird when contrasted with the current day reality. If only the KGB had known back then how incredibly easy it is to get the entire Republican party to do their bidding…

I just watched a clip from Seth Myers with two Russian agents meeting to chat. One's in Germany and he talks about the hell his life is as he tries to get info--he's got a fake family, his teeth have all been replaced by microchips etc. He asks how the guy in America gets info and he says, "Trump tells me."

Re: Belated Review

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Re: Belated Review

Date: 2017-05-20 06:00 am (UTC)
quantumreality: (americans1)
From: [personal profile] quantumreality
Getting a bit meta about the series, I have to say this is the long-term damage people like Nixon and Reagan did to the Republican party. By unhooking their conservative compass from the ideal of protecting social institutions and personal freedoms, and instead fastening it onto racism and the pursuit of wealth to the exclusion of all else, they created the conditions where a foreign intelligence agency with essentially unlimited funds can simply buy political influence over another country's leaders.

One indeed wonders what could've happened if Andropov had cottoned on to the idea of simply bankrolling a Republican politician with more of a nose for money than common sense. (in this vein, the deregulation of exchange controls also unwittingly let the KGB get experience dabbling in forex markets, and gave their personnel the key skills needed to accomplish the theft of billions of dollars worth of ex-Soviet assets for personal gain.)

That sexual abuse entry in Tim's diary has to be especially enraging for Elizabeth, who herself was raped, and whose worst fear is Paige being subjected to same, whether figuratively or actually.

Re: Belated Review

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Re: Elizabeth and sexual abuse

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Re: Elizabeth and sexual abuse

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