The kitchen is the hub of most households and for Philip and Elizabeth this is no different as The Americans uses this location to bookend “Yousaf” and to reunite the pair after another day of emotionally draining spy work. It’s a significant location as it’s where most of the interactions with the kids take place – we barely ever see their living room – and this week Philip and Elizabeth are taking risks with what they are doing in this communal and open space. In the last episode Philip went to a dark place as he continues to add innocent bystanders to his body count and while he is far from being in a good place, his ability to compartmentalize has kicked in.
Danger comes at them from all angles and as we head towards the climax of the season certain threads are coming together including Stan’s investigation into the illegals he was pursuing last year. That’s not the only threat as Larrick is back in the country and looking for revenge; he is a truly formidable foe who seems capable of doing anything to get what he wants. Personal feelings are threatening the balance of everything and it is only going to get messier as everyone has their finger on the trigger and it only takes one person to ruin the whole precarious environment they are part of.
Philip and Elizabeth are certainly in more tune with each other this year and yet there are still plenty of things they disagree on with how they approach work and family responsibilities. Let’s start with work and Philip’s attempts to protect Elizabeth have left him in a vulnerable position. Elizabeth shows she is more than capable with the assassination end of the business and yet she’s been less comfortable with some of the more intimate activities they have to partake in. It is not something Elizabeth has explicitly pointed out to Philip and yet he’s definitely picking up on her hesitance when it comes to this kind of work, even if she assures him she is more than capable. This is also the first time we have seen them get intimate since Elizabeth’s misguided desire to sleep with ‘Clark’ and what better place to hook up than in your kitchen. Philip is more worried about the kids smelling Elizabeth’s cigarette at the end of the episode than he is of them walking in as they do it on the dining table, but hey after what Paige saw in the premiere there will be no more sneaking around the house in the middle of the night for her.
Last week Philip pretty much cut himself off from everyone as he emotionally spiraled and by coming home and reaching out to Elizabeth in this way he becomes stronger again. It’s more complicated this season as their new found shared love is both a hindrance and a savior. It’s what we saw when Philip came home after his night with the Mossad agent as he found peace with his wife on the sofa in a brief quiet respite before the day started all over again.
Home is rather fraught as the Paige religion debate rages on and Philip’s feeling pretty shitty for his outburst last week; Elizabeth reassures him that what he did wasn’t wrong as Paige was disrespecting them and she tells Philip about the middle of the night kitchen cleaning punishment she dished out. Philip’s back in fun dad mode, including a super adorable, but maybe trying too hard pre-April Fool’s joke on Henry as he tries to repair some of the damage from the Sunday meltdown. He is open to Paige’s request to go to a Bible camp for 3 months, way more receptive than her mother who finds the perfect reason to tell her she can’t go when she discovers Paige’s attempts at forging Elizabeth’s signature. Their parenting styles differ greatly and Elizabeth accuses Philip of letting Paige walk all over him – tell that to the Bible that is now missing several pages. Paige is also pretty pissed and rightly so as the reason behind their distaste for religion is vague, we know why they are so worried, but to Paige they’re being completely unreasonable. It’s also hilarious that drinking or taking drugs are activities that are probably preferable to Elizabeth when it comes to her daughter, to her religion is a drug. Factoring in Henry’s recent break and enter jaunt and his lack of punishment beyond guilt and she’s right to tell her mother it is bullshit. I am disappointed in Paige’s terrible attempt to get rid of the evidence; she might get her ability to lie from her parents, but not this piss poor evidence disposal.
Discussions about Paige going to camp and Elizabeth’s fear she will come back a “Jesus freak” are intersected with mission talk. So when Elizabeth is done talking about it she simply changes the subject to Anneliese. Anneliese is someone we haven’t seen since the second episode of season one even though Philip has been maintaining this relationship and between Martha, Anneliese and Elizabeth, Philip is juggling a lot of fake declarations of love with one real one – no wonder he looks so tired. Instead of putting Elizabeth in a potentially dangerous sexual situation he palms it off to Anneliese who appears to be a willing participant. This is until she sleeps with Yousaf and is disgusted at what Philip got her to do asking “What kind of man are you?” It’s a question that keeps coming up and this time he uses his fake love and the cause as an excuse. Philip’s assertion that this kind of work is “not something I take lightly, ever” is an honest one, it’s just he’d rather use case anyone but Elizabeth to be the honeypot, even if she has the more physically dangerous mission this week.
After weeks of Rust Cohle’s brother disguises and various workmen uniforms, it’s good to see Philip looking rather debonair in his fancy suits and think rimmed glasses. I wonder if it’s going to be a problem that Anneliese has seen pretty much his real face (sans glasses) and with slightly more slicked down hair.
Not to be outdone on the hot stakes is Elizabeth’s Yousaf seduction outfit as she borrowed his newspaper in a jacket showing off the true hero of the 1980s – shoulder pads – she caught his attention as well, before Philip chose to go in a different direction. At the moment Philip is the person who decides how they’re playing the spy work, while Elizabeth rules the roost at home.
Most shows have cute moments over dinner or drinks; The Americans does this while discussing how to give someone a heart attack and the pill that will stop Elizabeth from being affected. Elizabeth is the most unassuming of the pair with something like this and it goes off without a hitch – a rarity this season. Elizabeth’s costuming is dominated by white and black in “Yousaf” and the white swim cap is a striking part of her inconspicuous look. It’s also one of the simplest disguises yet as the goggles obscure her entire face. If only everything they did took place in a pool.
Respect is something Philip and Elizabeth demand from their daughter and yet they are both rather dismissive of their handler Kate. The problem with Kate is her inexperience and her lack of intuition as she complains that if they mess up her “head will roll” in the figurative sense, with Philip hammering home the point that if they mess up then they’re dead. Not that it looks like Kate is particularly safe as Larrick’s trail leads to the KGB’s phone intelligence service in DC with Kate’s phone being the one he calls. Larrick is a terrifying foe as he’s a trained killer and he doesn’t appear to have many scruples. Larrick’s also a man of many faces, except he uses his the entire time and just changes his clothes depending on what information he needs to access.
Mutually assured destruction is discussed in an explicit manner between Arkady and Gaad as the Vlad case has been put to bed with Gaad getting reinstated. There’s a cycle of actions that took place by mistake in a way as the murder of FBI agent Chris Amador had nothing to do with the Cold War; it was at the hands of a KGB officer, just for very different unfortunate reasons. A covert war means not owning up to things and the domino effect from one mistake can be huge and it’s why everything is in such a heightened state. At the moment Larrick is running around trying to find Philip and Elizabeth, as is Stan and even though they’re on the same team their motives differ greatly. Stan has also stumbled onto something with the Emmett and Leanne murder case as thanks to Gaad’s briefcase observation they now know there’s way more to this crime than a simple unsolved murder. When Stan questions Jared about any secrets his parents had it is heartbreaking to watch this boy get defensive and then soften to Stan as he believes Stan wants to find out who was responsible. In a way this is exactly what Stan wants, but he’s also manipulating him to help with his illegals end game.
As you can see in the shot above the snow really adds to the aesthetic of The Americans and both this and Hannibal are benefiting from the heavy snowfall the East Coast had early this year, even if it’s probably a nightmare to shoot in.
Nina is going full 80s with her hair as she continues to live the tangled life she was bemoaning to Oleg about earlier in the episode as Stan tells her about his illegals theory and Sandra’s affair. Stan doesn’t know why he is telling her about his marital problems, but secrets are there to be shared and he has to unburden his soul to someone. If only he knew that Nina is also sleeping with Oleg and not as part of a ruse, they actually look like they’re enjoying each other’s company even if they are from very different backgrounds. With the Russian characters there is always a push/pull between what they didn’t have growing up and what they have access to now and Nina is very much like Elizabeth as she longs for the simplicity, even if she didn’t have much beyond a pin of Lenin from Young Pioneers. Everything is a commodity on The Americans and stealth technology is the biggest of them all at the moment. It’s what Oleg is investing all of his time in and it’s what everyone is risking their lives either to protect or obtain.
Ending the day with an illicit cigarette in communal spot like the kitchen is the least of Elizabeth’s concerns and I love that a scene this quiet ends such a frantic and tense episode. It is only going to get more fraught and so Philip and Elizabeth should enjoy this momentary peace while they can.