(Some light spoilers ahead for the March 28 episode of “The Americans” on FX.)
This week on the FX original series “The Americans” we revisited one of the show’s most important conflicts: the uneasy alliance between the Jennings spy family and Pastor Tim.
Despite what Past Tim (Kelly AuCoin) and his wife Alice (Suzy Jane Hunt) know about the Jennings — namely, everything important — they’re once again playing nice, even going so far as to let Paige (Holly Taylor) babysit their new baby. It may not be the best idea ever, considering Paige ends up going through all their stuff and reading Pastor Tim’s diary while they’re out, but it doesn’t appear as though they know that Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) are bringing Paige into the Russian spy fold.
Pastor Tim, being the altruistic leftist that he is, decides to give Paige a gift that he says may help her understand her parents. It’s a Karl Marx book. Specifically, what Tim gives her is “Capital and Other Writings,” which contains abridged versions of various Marx manifestos, including “The Communist Manifesto,” as edited by Max Eastman and published in 1932 by the Modern Library.
The edition Pastor Tim has is the Random Rouse republication from 1959. It looks like this:
The passage Pastor Tim quotes is from one of those “other writings” — specifically “Alienation. ” Here’s the full paragraph of that book he decided to quote from (with the specific quote Pastor Tim read in italics):
“First, the fact that labor is external to the worker, i.e., it does not belong to his essential being; that in his work, therefore, he does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind. The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He is at home when he is not working, and when he is working he is not at home. His labor is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it’s forced labor. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it.”
Pastor Tim’s edition is, notably, well worn and full of scribbles. He tells Paige he made all those notes himself in college — which is in keeping with his hardcore liberal characterization that led fans of “The Americans” to initially believe Pastor Tim was himself a Directorate S spy for the Soviets.
That theory has long been abandoned by most fans because of the events of season 4 when a frantic Alice threatened to expose the Jennings after Pastor Tim went missing on a foreign mission trip. But it’s hard to watch him hand Paige a copy of a Karl Marx book and not think it’s still somehow a possibility that Pastor Tim is just another Directorate S agent. Especially after Paige digs through his journal and doesn’t find any mention of the Jennings themselves being spies. You’d probably expect a normal person to not worry so much about writing down incriminating information in his diary — but you know a Soviet agent wouldn’t.
That said, it’s still probably more narratively satisfying if Pastor Tim is just a natural born American commie, what with the whole “we’re really all the same” take on the Cold War that “The Americans” has always endorsed.
Still, handing Paige a copy of “Capital” is a big ole red flag. We’re gonna have to wait a bit longer to find out what it means, if anything, though.