For all the facades and lies that have been told on The Americans there are some truths that can’t be shaken; the family that was started as part of their cover is very real despite the double life they lead. Paige has been at the heart of much of the discord between Philip and Elizabeth this season as they vehemently disagree about the Centre’s interest in their daughter as a future asset. Elizabeth has been itching to tell Paige who they really are all with Philip firmly in the keep her in the dark camp (a camp of one).
This season has been building towards Paige finding out inching forward a tiny amount at a time with the nearest Elizabeth has got involved talking about their activist past. Rather than going all in at once Paige has lingered in the background as the constant elephant in the room with Philip questioning his wife about her projected time frame; would he come home one day to find a now all knowing Paige? For all Elizabeth’s desires to go ahead and tell Paige, she has also been concerned about Philip because they are now very much husband and wife. This love is very real and she is considering his feelings in the matter whereas in the past she wouldn’t have given him a second thought if it meant defying Centre’s orders. Things are different now and Elizabeth even apologizes for her trip down memory lane with Paige and Elizabeth Jennings is not one for apologizing.
In the end it isn’t a decision made by either Elizabeth or Philip to tell or not to tell as Paige confronts them of her own volition. It isn’t out of the blue as Paige has been questioning what her parents have been up to since the end of season 1 when she made the trip down to the basement to check the laundry. With the counsel of Pastor Tim she asks them what their big dark secret is opening with an emotional kicker of “Do you love me?” Paige pivots on this and uses it as a reason for them to tell her what their deal is and doubles down on this by using love as a reason for them to be completely honest. If they really love her then they would tell her the truth and she’s backing her parents into a corner. Yeah they could lie their way out of this situation, but the question is out there now and this is actually the perfect time to do the thing one of them has been aching to do all season.
What makes this scene so incredible is how all the pieces move; from shock at Paige’s forthright question to how they decide to tell her. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are so good at the face parts acting, it sounds like such a simple notion but I can’t think of two other actors at the moment who can convey so much through the smallest gesture or reaction. After Paige lists off all the possible reasons there can be for their behavior/lack of family – witness protection, they killed someone, drug dealers, she’s adopted, they’re aliens – and turns her back on her parents there is a long beat and Philip nods at Elizabeth giving her the go ahead to reveal who they are. So for all their fighting it ends up being a joint decision.
Even the telling process is in sync as Elizabeth starts the confession with Philip actually being the first one to explain they weren’t born in the US after Elizabeth stumbles on her words. This back and forth of finishing each other’s sentences shows their united front in this and while Elizabeth has wanted to do this, it still doesn’t make the actual telling any easier. I’ve watched this scene a couple of times now and it is incredibly powerful seeing them share the burden and highlighting how important it is that Paige doesn’t tell anyone; not Pastor Tim, not Henry. The moment after with Elizabeth and Philip left alone in the kitchen deconstructing what happened includes Elizabeth asking Philip if he hates her (he doesn’t) and Philip pointing out how Elizabeth thought the kids finding out would “kill them.” Everything has changed since then as this was a line uttered in the pilot when Philip suggested defecting and that time seems worlds away now. This season they have been talking about Paige a lot as “my daughter” and now they are back to using “our” and “we” showing this all important unity. In this they are very much a team once again.
The morning after is just as impressive for everyone involved as they tiptoe around their daughter; asking her what she needs, whether they should stay home and it is all about not pushing her no matter how much they want to. This isn’t just about finding out your parents have a different job and it is entirely world changing. Nothing is what it seems and praise should be heaped on Holly Taylor for how she conveys Paige’s confusion towards this monumental news. She doesn’t scream, shout or burst into hysterical tears (all of which would be perfectly understandable in this situation) and she plays it with the right level of incredulity. This is earth shattering and changes her perception of her entire upbringing; her parents are nothing like the idea she had of them and spies wasn’t even a consideration on her list of possible reasons why they behave so strangely.
In the final scene she sits transfixed by how her parents are with Stan. Stan who is an FBI agent and who they are technically at war with. It’s like she is seeing them for the first time and now everything teeters on a knife edge even more than it already did. The balancing act just got a lot harder and this is one which includes seducing teens, a huge forthcoming mission and another marriage which is in a precarious position. Henry is of course oblivious to all of this and he barely takes his nose out of the electronic computer game to register what is going on. That’s not completely fair to the younger Jennings sibling as he watches a pirate copy of Tron courtesy of Stan and when returning the VHS he chats to Stan about his forthcoming divorce. The Stan/Henry relationship is rather sweet even if Henry has a photo of Sandra Beeman in her bikini stashed in a box with other illicit pictures beneath his floorboards – showing signs of being a good spy. Henry also does impressions which Philip and Elizabeth have no time for even pretending they are the least bit interested in. Oh, Henry.
So if Philip has been so strongly opposed to telling Paige why did he give his blessing in this moment? Early in the episode he has to leave before dinner is even served to go get a drunk Kimmy from a house party. When he takes her home there is no one there and she drunkenly mumbles “I think you’re the only one who really cares about me” as her friends were a no show. This alone is so tragic because he is using her for the intel which he goes to get while she is probably puking in the bathroom; this girl has no one and the sad family shot of Kimmy, her dad and step-mom in her dad’s office further highlights this. A few episodes ago Kimmy laid out how desperately alone she feels at home and I think Philip can’t bear to have Paige feel like this. So when Paige gives her ‘if you really loved me you would tell me the truth’ ultimatum it really hits Philip and revealing all is the only option even if it pushes her away initially.
Gabriel informs Philip that Mischa has been secured an early return from Afghanistan (thanks to Elizabeth) and it is one he has refused; they can force him to if Philip wishes and it is something Philip turns down. How can he make a decision this huge for a child he has never met and I believe that Philip doesn’t want to exert this power even if it might save his life. And he probably doesn’t want to be in debt to Gabriel in anyway. It will be interesting to see how Gabriel reacts to this Paige news and particularly the united front from Philip and Elizabeth. Philip has already told Gabriel that he can see through his manipulation and the tension is simmering away.
Heavy exasperated sighs puncture several interactions in this episode as everything continues to stack up against them from Philip’s audible groan on the phone when he has to leave to deal with Kimmy to Elizabeth not being able to hide her anxiety before they sit down and tell Paige. There is even talk of sleep at one point and when Philip returns with the tape from Kimmy’s – note how quick he is telling Elizabeth what happened, or rather what didn’t – Elizabeth offers to send the signal because she has had sleep. Philip insists as he knows the Yousaf protocol and later on she mentions how Yousaf only has eyes for Philip. Elizabeth meanwhile has the hotel plan on lockdown as she uses her charms with Neil the concierge, securing him for when they will need him later on. Elizabeth hasn’t had to seduce anyone all season and I think it is worth pointing out that Philip hasn’t had to kill anyone so far this year either. Soon it feels like both of these things will change.
More is at stake now and while one burden has been lifted, they also appear deflated because they are going to have to watch what Paige does in an entirely different way now. We see Paige calling Pastor Tim and for a moment it looks like she might spill all, but she hesitates ultimately heading her parent’s words about ending up in jail for life. I’m so excited as to where this story might go now that Paige knows and I figured this was going to be a season finale kinda bombshell. Instead there are three episodes left to play with and I cannot wait to see what happens next. This episode has made me so giddy.
Other storylines are simmering away in the background with the revelation that Zinaida is indeed a double agent and not really a defector. Good instincts Stan. Arkady is worried that because the mission is so secret someone from their own side is going to fuck things up not realizing it is part Oleg and the reason is Nina. Speaking of Nina she is slowly earning Anton’s trust first by speaking in English and then mentioning living in America. In the bug in Gaad’s pen investigation Stan is interviewed and has a moment where it looks like he is starting to suspect Martha, dude has a good gut for this kind of thing. Well except for the neighbors across the road (and he was originally suspicious of them, they are just very good at deception).
Shot(s) of the Week
I could easily have gone for far more than two shots this week but otherwise this would just be an endless page of photos. First up Paige the morning after; wearing the same clothes and she’s still in a state of disbelief. If you looked at this image and didn’t know it could be from a different kind of drama that would lead to a teenage daughter turning her back on her parents and refusing food. It also highlights the amazing production design and the Jennings house feels so lived in. This is also the scene where Paige asks them to say something in Russian as some sort of proof that she didn’t dream up their story. Philip can’t quite bring himself to do so, he tries but he looks like he is gagging on the words. Elizabeth does so for them both with Philip translating that they love her very much.
Elizabeth stands and watches Paige when they get home from work with suspicion and fear, which makes such a striking image. The truth has set them free but at what cost? And it’s like she is looking at the spot where everything changed and the way they use the different rooms in this house is so good.
Disguise of the Week
Outfit I Would Wear in 2015
The morning after and Elizabeth’s earrings are rather whimsical large star shapes. What this says to me is that Elizabeth wasn’t necessarily thinking about what she was putting on in the morning, but also that she has subconsciously gone for something inviting/silly. I don’t even have my ears pierced but for these I might.