The Americans Watch: Episode 7, Duty and Honor

I think one of the big allowances we all need to make for The Americans is that the justifications for some of the missions are always going to be paper-thin, but that’s not really why any of us tune in; those are subplots (if that, even), and we keep coming back because we’re fascinated by this marriage and the bigger ideas of secrets, lies, and double lies. With that in mind…

This week centered around an outspoken Polish critic of the Soviet Union who’s arrived in New York to address the UN about Polish affairs and establishing an exile/protest government in Paris. So, that paints a big ol’ target on him. Philip and fellow sleeper agent/old flame Irena head to New York to discredit and eliminate the gentleman, and once again, the plan involves sex, in the form of framing him for a rape via GHB, some assistance from the KGB, and a well-timed mugging (because New York was dangerous back then, kids). Philip and Irena then celebrate by knocking boots and rekindling a romance after a two-decade absence. She’s emotionally in a very similar place to Philip—with a few exceptions. Namely, she’s living in Canada, her sleeper partner/husband is deceased, and the son she’s raised isn’t her dead hubby’s—it’s Philip’s lovechild.

While Philip is off playing spy, we get an episode at home with Elizabeth. Stan’s wife invites her and the kids over for dinner, which Stan declines due to being “busy” at work. The kids are all pretty much brats, which means that Sandra and Elizabeth down a few bottles of wine and gossip about their marriages. Sandra admits to being jealous of the Jennings, which is sort of the theme of this show—the fake marriage somehow looks and feels better than the real one here. Elizabeth is skeeved by this, somehow, and drunkenly calls Philip in New York…who’s in bed with the love of his life.

Meanwhile, Stan has been avoiding coming home for family dinner for some time, and goes out drinking with his partner instead. He just sits in his car and avoids coming home, which is sort of sad, but man, do I know people in this boat. There’s also an odd fart joke I didn’t get. Anyway, he’s been taking in a lot of me-time…which leads to him finally breaking down and calling Nina, and the theme of “drunk dialing” in this episode comes home. Nina gives us a forced metaphor about black and white and shades of grey, and we know this show is all about that.

We end with Elizabeth finally coming to the table and wanting a real life with Philip, but now, he’s got an alternative and his head is perhaps not in the game, because his passionate childhood romance—complete with child—wants to defect. She offers him what he begged of Elizabeth seven episodes ago…except he doesn’t take it, for some reason. Irena defects alone. We watch both Jennings deal with their double lives in very real ways—particularly in that they both get called by their Russian names by people from their past in this episode. Elizabeth, interestingly, hates it—it’s used as a weapon and a threat by Claudia, and Philip, the American assimilator, seems to love it because it feels real and fiery and passionate. But in the end, he comes home to Elizabeth. He chooses this sham life that has nonetheless become very real…with the exception that he hides his fling with Irena from Elizabeth, and the fact that he’s got another kid out there.

A theme with this show that seems to return again and again is that nothing really stays buried; we saw it with their knifed comrade in the pilot, we’ve seen it with various elements of their past, and we have a whole new batch of land mines for this relationship to suffer through at some point in the future. When I started watching The Americans, it seemed the driving force that would keep us coming back every week would be how close to the edge of discovery this pair could get, and what happens if they get caught. I’m glad that this idea has been pushed to the wayside for the more interesting and more personal angle of what lies like this do to a relationship, and how couples deal with secrets from one another.

I’m pumped for next week, friends. See you in seven.