“March 8, 1983” is the name of the final episode of “The Americans” for the third season, which aired on Wednesday. It is also the date that President Ronald Reagan threw down on the Soviet Union with his now famous “Evil Empire” speech before a meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida. Finally, it is the date that Paige betrayed her parents to the now likely doomed Pastor Tim.
The episode tied up a couple of loose ends, those being Stan’s op to expose a Soviet defector and hopefully use her to trade for his beloved Nina and Philip’s op that delayed the delivery of Stinger anti-aircraft weapons to the Afghan mujahidin. The main story arc concerned a trip that Elizabeth took with Paige to see her dying mother, left behind in the Soviet Union all those decades ago. The trip and the meeting is going to have dire consequences for the Jennings family.
Contrary to previous expectations, Elizabeth and Paige do not go to Mother Russia. They find themselves in West Germany. The KGB, irate that one of their best agents has done this thing, reluctantly bring Elizabeth’s mother across the Iron Curtain for one last meeting. The emotional reunion causes Paige, now a devout Christian, to pray for her grandmother, something Elizabeth never expected.
Something else Elizabeth expected occurred when they got back, that being a sobbing telephone call to Pastor Tim in which Paige revealed that mommy and daddy are Soviet spies and have been lying to their offspring all their lives. How Pastor Tim will react will be left to the beginning of season four, some months hence.
In the meantime, Philip and Elizabeth are watching President Reagan slam the Soviet Empire and cast the Cold War as an epic struggle between good and evil with their side being evil.
“Yes, let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness — pray they will discover the joy of knowing God. But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world.”
Elizabeth’s face is a mark of fury as the president goes on to say, “I believe we shall rise to the challenge. I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written. I believe this because the source of our strength in the quest for human freedom is not material, but spiritual. And because it knows no limitation, it must terrify and ultimately triumph over those who would enslave their fellow man.”
Not on her watch, she seems to be thinking. She has determined to do anything, even turn her own daughter to the dark side, to further the cause of the Soviet Empire. But we know what will happen and, perhaps, it will not be the communist mother that corrupts the Christian daughter, but the Christian daughter, through faith, that will save the communist mother.
The “Evil Empire” speech, by the way, sent many a liberal to the fainting couch for its stark portrayal of the Cold War as both a political and a spiritual struggle. Only years later, as the self-same evil empire lay in ruins, did most gain an appreciation of how historic it was. The speech was a turning point in world history and Reagan became a world historic figure as a result. One suspects that the spiritual aspect of the Cold War struggle will soon be played out in the Jennings household in miniature.