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‘Americans’ Values

Some life lessons from the most screwed-up family on TV

FX/Ringer illustration
FX/Ringer illustration

The Americans, at its core, is a family show. Yes, it’s also a show about sex, drugs, and stuffing mutilated human bodies into 4-by-2 foot suitcases — but if you look hard enough, you’ll find a few life lessons in there (probably next to a severed toe).

So, to celebrate the conclusion of the best season of the best show on TV, we would like to honor The Americans for its important perspectives on family. Below, a helpful list of marriage, parenting, and relationship lessons learned from the friendly spies next door. LEGO, COMRADES.

Lesson 1: Canceling Plans

FX/Ringer illustration
FX/Ringer illustration

The Scenario:
So, you have to bail last minute. Maybe you’ve been quarantined after contracting a rare and deadly virus, or maybe Bloodline Season 2 just dropped on Netflix. Doesn’t matter really … you just have to cancel.

Nobody wants to be those people, but here’s something I’ve learned from watching Philip and Elizabeth: Every couple, at some point, will have to be those people. It happens to spies. It’ll happen to you.

The Jennings pull this shit all the time. Dinner date with the neighbors tonight? Ah, the Glanders again! Movie starts in 10? Oof, the boss is pulling me into another ménage à trois! It’s all part of being in the KGB, and it’s all part of being an adult. It’s what inspired James Murphy to write “All My Friends” or Chance the Rapper to write “Same Drugs.” Bailing last minute is one of the final steps in the maturation process. Once you get over hating yourself for being a flake, you’re golden.

The Solution:
Don’t panic. Lie about why you had to cancel. Say you have to meet with a big client, or take it up a notch and lie about your mother’s sudden death. This is something that spies and regular adults have in common: no one will ask follow-up questions because they’ll probably do the same thing to you next week.

Lesson 2: Finding a Loved One

FX/Ringer illustration
FX/Ringer illustration

The Scenario:
You have lost a loved one and all hell has broken loose. The FBI is also possibly involved.

There are delicate situations, and then there are code red, nobody-move-or-everything-falls-to-shit situations. Phillip knows exactly what I’m talking about — he’s been on a thin thread with his other wife, Martha, since Season 1, and now she’s on the lam with the FBI tracking her every move. And the entire Jennings family could get arrested!

To Philip I say … there are worse things.

Quick question: Have you ever lost a child, even for a brief moment? If you’ve been inside a Ross Dress for Less with someone younger than 6, the answer is either “yes” or [sobbing noises]. When this happens, your mind always goes to the worst place and you immediately kick into KGB mode. You start screaming at complete strangers. Shoving Ross security guards. It’s a mess.

The Solution:
Seek out another loved one — your first wife, another kid, whoever — to help you find your loved one before the FBI does. Bring them back to safety via a punch to the gut and proceed with the extraditing.

Lesson 3: Keeping a Secret

FX/Ringer illustration
FX/Ringer illustration

The Scenario:
Your kid shares some personal information with your friend — perhaps your friend that happens to be a pastor. You do not want the friend to have this information.

Listen, children cannot be trusted, especially around hip, blonde-haired clergymen in thick wool turtlenecks. Philip and Elizabeth learned this bit of parenting gospel the hard way when Paige spilled the beans on her parents’ spy game to the always-gorgeous Pastor Tim. We’ll all meet the same fate unless we do the right thing: never speak honestly to our children ever again.

The Solution:
Most parents will advise you watch your words around your children, but let’s be real. Eighteen years is a really, really long time. Ask Yeezus. Nobody expects you to actually NOT slip up for almost two decades, right? That’s insane and sounds more exhausting than being a Russian spy. So contain the situation and consider having a man killed on your upcoming trip to Epcot. Just a thought.

Lesson 4: Staying Loyal

The Scenario:
You must use a close personal friend to get something for yourself, but you feel guilty.

Life rules: FAMILY FIRST

This is the only rule, actually. It can be hard at times. Hell, even Elizabeth was tested for a brief moment when she allowed human emotion to penetrate her heart and almost didn’t go through with a plan that would shattered her best friend’s life forever. Then Mother Russia called. All systems go.

Apply this lesson when you’re faced with something crucial to your family’s survival. Like, say when your AC breaks and the fam is huddled around an oscillating fan like it’s the God they worship. Then it dawns on you…

THE NEIGHBORS HAVE A POOL.

The Solution:

Do whatever’s necessary for your family. The Jennings would do it. Even if it calls for you to stage a fake pregnancy, which then makes your best friend’s husband demand an abortion, causing you to commit fake suicide so your real husband can — I … wow, this show is so fucked up. Just don’t become a Russian spy, and you’re good.