The concept of truth on The Americans is ever changing; lies mask the reality and confessions come pouring out in the strangest of settings. Season 4 delves even deeper into this blurring of the lines as a result of revealing real identities to Paige and half identities to Martha. When Paige asks Elizabeth where Philip has gone in the middle of the night Elizabeth tells her the kid friendly version that doesn’t include information about her father’s other wife or the man he has just killed; it is part truth, part sugar coated lies.
Kicking off where we left these characters at the end of last year and so many precarious situations need to be handled. First up Martha and the last time we saw her Philip dewigged and showed his real face. Philip also killed Martha’s co-worker staging it as a suicide and placing the blame for the bug in Gaad’s office on him all in an effort to protect her and ultimately protect the whole mission. Getting woken up in the middle of the night to be told by your husband with his new face and different hair that he’s killed someone and not just a random person, but a co-worker/friend is not the best wake up call and Martha doesn’t take it so well. She doesn’t go for the gun she keeps in her apartment so that is an automatic win for Philip. It is a delicate situation and he can’t push her too hard; he has to trust his persuasive techniques that have so far worked like a charm, but this is next level emotional manipulation that must come into play. Ultimately it works and the face reveal, while incredibly disorientating has strengthened their relationship and as Elizabeth explained to Paige in the most PG version of what they do it is all about getting people to trust you. Philip’s other confession to Martha about the childhood incident that plagues him is part unburdening of his soul, part pealing back the layers to give Martha the feeling that she really knows him. It is also interesting that he tells Martha the same anecdote about the toys in Gene’s apartment that he told Elizabeth in “March 8, 1983” and he can’t quite get out the reason why this struck a chord with him.
Elizabeth may come across as the more inaccessible one of the pair, but we know far more about her past and childhood experiences than we do Philip so it makes sense at this point to visit his origin story especially as his soul continues to be eroded by the things he has done. Season 2 saw his kill count go up by a great deal and it almost broke him; last year he got a respite and it was left to Elizabeth to drop cars on innocent dude’s heads until the finale when Philip offed Gene. The burden returns. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the turning point for childhood Philip or rather Mischa is a story that he half shared with Elizabeth back in the season 2 finale and one he didn’t get to finish because their asset had just been shot. All we got to hear back then was that some older boys would jump him as he walked home with his families milk and he made the decision to not let it happen again; it turns out he certainly did just that in a moment of explosive violence.This moment that haunts Philip throughout the episode is one that he discusses in front of a whole bunch of strangers at EST leaving out certain important details, but giving just enough that he can unload in this form of very public therapy. The one person who he could reveal the unedited story to is the one person he keeps telling he is fine when clearly he is the opposite. EST gives Philip an outlet of sharing he doesn’t feel comfortable with doing at home and there is definitely this worry that Elizabeth will judge him; as Paige points out to Pastor Tim her parents aren’t really big talkers. Philip isn’t alone in using other outlets to share his secrets and worries as we have seen Elizabeth do this with plenty of assets in disguise; from how she talked about her rape to discussing relationship quandaries. They both talk far more to other people than they do to each other and this stoicism with each other is the one habit they find hard to break. Maybe Philip needs to get stoned again.
Part of this is down to the many years that they inhabited the same space, but were not in the kind of relationship they now are with each other. Trust is not something that needs to be won here and yet there is still a wall between them when it comes to sharing thoughts, feelings and painful memories that might read as a weakness. It is this aspect of The Americans that makes the show sing; the spy stuff is great, but the depiction of marriage is exceptional and hats must go off to Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell and Alison Wright who deliver such incredible performances in this season opener in a variety of ways. Wright has the most overtly emotional material and yet she also has shades of subtly while at work doing Clark’s bidding that Philip made seem as if it was her idea all along. After all while I think that Philip does care for Martha and feels the weight of responsibility he still also needs her for information otherwise this operation is pointless. Subtly is an art for both Russell and Rhys and the reason why these characters don’t always say too much to each other is because their expressions can say so much more.What Philip should do is take the lessons from his conversations with Martha and the advice of Sandy Beeman and tell Elizabeth what is plaguing him and I expect she will be far less judgmental than he is expecting (maybe not about EST). Plus it would be much better than the very obvious lie of “I’m fine.” The problem of course is finding a time to have this chat as they’ve got a laundry list of problems including Gabriel being pissed at them for lying about the Germany trip, keeping an eye on Paige (not doing a great job there, guys), Martha and now biological weapons! This latter issue is and the meeting they are meant to have involves a number of dangers such as coming into contact with said weapon and getting caught be a surveillance team. Plus there is also this new asset to deal with and William sure is sassy; I am so happy to see that Dylan Baker is a regular this season in this role. The strain William gives them isn’t even the thing they’ve been inoculated against and there is the added bonus of having to store it in their freezer. Plus a surprise visit from Stan.
Stan is hooking up with Tori the woman he met at an EST meeting last season and Tori also happens to see Philip with Sandy Beeman post EST meeting enjoying some dessert, which she infers as an intimate moment. I would go with friendly, but whatever. Of course Stan is furious and decides to confront Philip while he happens to have an incredibly dangerous chemical agent in his pocket (and one the episode is named after). Let’s just say there won’t be any Philip and Stan hangouts in the near future. We can add this to Philip’s already very long list of shit he has to sort out.Meanwhile back in Russia, Nina and Anton’s relationship continues to develop and she is playing the role we have seen her inhabit before; one where we can’t be certain how much she is playing each side. The conversations she has with Anton forever circle around his son and the many regrets he has about the manner in which he was taken leaving his family with no answers. There is something incredibly haunting about his fears that he will be sent to a camp and they will never know where he went or what he did. He doesn’t want to disappear and become just dust with “no one ever knowing.” At least for Philip and Elizabeth one of their children knows who they are even if it is just the surface details. It is also interesting that Anton has such warm and fuzzy feelings towards Russia from when he was a kid and his religion was not an issue whereas Philip’s own childhood recollections are filled with such horror. One is serving his country by choice whereas the other has been forced to do so.
Nina also has demands and she wants to see her husband; is this so someone remembers her or is there an ulterior motive?
At the Rezidentura Arkady is having his own power play problems including be kept way out of the loop on the whole bio-weapon situation as it turns out that Tatiana works for Department 12 (suddenly this sounds very Alias) and he is not happy about it. But he does have Oleg on his team and while he suggests that this environment would work better with everyone getting along he is not above getting someone to spy for him. Spies within spies within spies.
Shot(s) of the WeekThe wig cave! Or at least one of them was unveiled this week as I suspect they have several locations at their disposal and while I was hoping for a fabulous Cher from Clueless style revolving closet what we actually got is the exact level of grime and on the fly that it should be.
This location gives off a Sydney meeting Vaughn on Alias vibe as well as putting a physical barrier between Philip and Elizabeth as he continues the pretense that he is okay. And this shot does a good job of adding to how disconnected they are at the moment from his getting spooked into pulling out of the meeting (it turns out his bad feeling was just a feeling whereas Elizabeth does spot a real surveillance team later on). If only he could get his words out.
Disguise of the WeekA new disguise for season 4 and they get to break out this new blonde couple on three occasions over the premiere including a fake belly for Philip and a whole lot of skeptical face at Philip’s beard for Elizabeth. In one of the lighter moments this week the pair discuss Henry’s new disgusting cologne and there’s nothing more I enjoy about this show than when they have conversations like this while in heavy disguise. I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of this pair throughout the season with William coming into play and I am looking forward to seeing what other disguise treats costume designer Katie Irish will deliver this season.
Outfit(s) I Would Wear in 2016It doesn’t matter if it is 1983 or 2016 – a plaid shirt is always a win. This basement conversation is all about Paige and how she is complicated, which could pretty much describe everyone on The Americans and as tends to be the case they don’t get a chance to deep dive into this situation as they have other more pressing issues.Adding to my list of clothing obsessions the robe has now been added and scenes that take place in the heart of the Jennings home are always a favorite. Especially when they are over something so familiar as discussing jet lag mixed in with where Philip goes in the middle of the night. This is Elizabeth in full on mother mode and I believe that she believes what they are doing is for peace.