Previously on The Americans, “Rififi”
As they enter the home stretch, The Americans crank up the tensions and remind us of how far we’ve come and all we’ve invested. (Excuse me if I miss anything, I watched this episode through my fingers.)
“I had a good life. An interesting life”
This show does relationships so well, but they are also pretty great at action. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a thrilling example. Thank you, Show.
The Jennings meet in Chicago to rescue their comrade from FBI surveillance. They eat dinner in wigs. They make plans to execute the job. Elizabeth shows Philip the cyanide capsule. You know, couple stuff. Philip and Elizabeth, working together, what could go wrong?
It goes wrong. Marilyn gets shot and Elizabeth just barely manages to take the wheel. Their rescued comrade gets shot in the gut. As he bleeds out he gives Philip messages of love for his mother and messages of hate for this father. Philip realizes he’s taken… a cyanide capsule. He looks at the dying man and then at his wife. Yeah, yeah, we get it.
Despite the casualties, the Jennings get away and begin the clean up. They take the car to a garage and Philip finds an axe. Long pause on Philip and the axe. In an ode to the infamous suitcase scene in season three, Philip whacks his comrade’s head and hands. This time it’s behind a car in a public garage and they leave the body behind. The looks between Elizabeth and Philip throughout were almost as touching and disturbingly romantic as the teeth pulling also in season three. Oh, only this show.
As Patti Smith’s Broken Flag plays, The Jennings dispose of the body. Philip looks brokenhearted and Elizabeth actually notices. What’s more she talks to Philip about it once they get home. No roses and candy for this woman. Headless corpses do it every time.
Philip and Elizabeth are back as a team. Or are they? Will Philip try to work behind Elizabeth’s back to rescue her from herself? When will Stan make the final connection? Will Elizabeth swallow the pill?
“She’s pretty. He’s lucky.”
After all the lies his best friend and neighbor has fed him, Stan finally starts connecting dots. He doesn’t quite buy Philip’s tale about his (very real) business woes. He stares after a departing Philip with The Stan Huh Face. A face we’ll get to know well, this episode.
Its next appearance is in the car with Henry. Henry gripes about his friend’s mother’s dietary habits and his parents’ non-parenting. Stan asks starts in with some pointed questions. Henry answers readily enough (Philip and Elizabeth are nothing if not thorough), but Stan spidey senses are a-tingle. The gears are turning.
Fueled by the knowledge the Jennings are both out of town and Aderholt’s description of a white couple in Chicago, Stan breaks into the Jenning’s house. He stares at a picture of the happy family and remembers Walter Taffet’s babblings on his hospital bed. “Huh” says Stan’s face. He goes through the house, finding nothing. He ends up back where he started in the pilot episode of the show. In the Jennings garage. Then, as now, he finds nothing. But this time, Stan isn’t likely to be appeased.
Let’s take another look at those profile sketches. Elizabeth Jennings has pretty distinct bone structure…huh.
“You need to bring all of yourself to it.”
Elizabeth is still trying to draw. She shares her attempt with Erica who gives her sage creative/life advice. Advice Elizabeth ponders, twists, and shares with Paige as they mother-daughter walk-n-talk in the rain. She warns Paige that this is a life commitment and she has to be all in or nothing. Paige has no friends and wants to be like her mother, so she agrees. “If you do this, it has to be forever” (or at least until 1989).
In a show about relationships, in an episode of coming together, everyone is alone. Paige isn’t afraid of death. She’s afraid of being alone. Philip sits on the couch, remembering his (real) wedding to Elizabeth and smiles. Then frowns. He is alone. Elizabeth may have help from Philip, but she is alone on her Summit mission and if she dies-by-cyanide, it will be alone. And Henry… well, Henry has always been alone in his family. Hopefully, his love life will pick up.
This episode was The Americans at their best. No surprise, as they called back to a few of the best episodes in this show’s history. My stomach was clenched and teeth gritted. I feel the inevitable coming. Only three more episodes of torturous, agonizing goodness.