The first half of this season of The Americans mainly put the focus on Philip dealing with Martha. Seeds were planted to allow the arc of this season to expand when it comes to Paige and everything going on at the medical research center with William. Recently it has been Elizabeth who has received a lot more to do, specifically involving her emotional state and what it means to give so much to a cause and lose sight of humanity. “Dinner for Seven” seems to put something of a cap on Elizabeth’s relationship with Young Hee, but it is not without its consequences.
The title “Dinner for Seven” largely refers to the midpoint of this episode, where the Jennings are joined by Pastor Tim, Pregnant Alice (which should make it ‘dinner for eight’) and Sad Stan. There is more to get into with these characters, but let’s work off the various expressions Liz gives during this dinner and match them to how she presents herself to Don, Young Hee’s husband. Encountering him alone, Elizabeth assumes her role as Patty and tells Don she is pregnant with his child. As intended, it creates a nightmare situation for Don, who attempts to handle things in the most low-key way possible – delegating an out-of-wedlock child to an abortion clinic to keep from upsetting his own marriage.
Don’s actions are not great, though they are what Elizabeth expected to happen. Of course, this isn’t about Don’s actions, as he was playing on a rigged table to begin with. It’s what happens to Don next that could make for an interesting side story involving he and Young Hee, which we will likely never see. Philip shows up to Don’s work in disguise with Gabriel and another agent pretending to be Patty’s family. They alert him that Patty has committed suicide and demand money for the funeral. It gets Don out of his office with Philip, while the other agents copy all his files in order to get the level 4 codes for William.
I’ve expressed some mixed ideas of what I believed to be going on with Elizabeth and Young Hee over the course of this season and I apologize if I was somewhat inaccurate in those reviews. However, I do believe the show was purposeful vague on what the endgame was for Young Hee, as it was more important to see the happiness Elizabeth had in developing this relationship and the tragic ending that comes from getting close to a mark. We have clearly seen this with Philip plenty and even with Elizabeth in the past with Gregory, but the dynamic was different.
For all the drama Elizabeth has to go through with her actual family, you could see a relaxed bond forming with a girlfriend that was based around keeping things as pleasant as possible, before forcing herself to challenge another marriage by doing some dastardly deeds. We even realize it will happen early, as Gabriel quickly informs Elizabeth that the Center denied her request to approach this situation differently. Still, things play out as they were supposed to and Elizabeth is left with the guilt.
That brings us to Pastor Tim, who arrives early in the episode to apologize for the actions of his wife and by extension himself. We can assume the Jennings now have an advantage in this relationship that has Paige at the center, but the end of this episode certainly confirms that via dialogue. Regardless, it leads to both the dinner sequence and multiple meetings between Tim and Elizabeth throughout the episode. Just as Tim brings up his apologetic situation, Elizabeth builds up to asking Tim for advice on how to deal with a pain (Young Hee) that won’t go away.
For all the interesting routes The Americans could take in presenting Soviet spies living among Americans, it is interesting to see how religion has been incorporated. Given her history, we know Elizabeth is fairly cold towards this type of organization and she tries to challenge Tim by asking what to do, since she has no beliefs and doesn’t pray. This is why Pastor Tim, despite being a potential threat to the Jennings, has proven to be a good man not deserving to be dispatched so coldly like other victims. He tells Elizabeth what she needs to hear and likely makes it continually difficult for her to really figure out a solution beyond having Paige keep tabs.
The episode culminates rather violently, as talk with Paige is going well enough, only for her to witness just how capable her mother is. Thematically this botched mugging works. Elizabeth tries to hide her strength and give up a purse to some muggers, but they persist and threaten Paige, causing a fight. I’m not sure Elizabeth needed to go quite as far as she did, lodging a knife into the throat of one of the muggers, but now Paige will likely be more conflicted than ever. Or perhaps this is what she will need to sway her to her parent’s side. I doubt this (at least in the short term), but moves will need to be made, as this season wraps up.
“Dinner for Seven” is a fine display of work for Keri Russell, who has allowed the chinks in her armor to become more and more exposed. Seeing her wrestle with mixed emotions is not new, but it is a rarity compared to the other characters and comes from a place we have seen be properly developed. With only two episodes left in the season, we may be putting some of that on hold to wrap up the main story arcs, but this show has done plenty to deliver on fine character work that propels the story in exciting ways, no matter how low-key they may be.
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