Making the Statue of Liberty or a compromised agent disappear is a tall task, but what about all the guilt that has been building up over the years on The Americans; what is to be done about that? Philip has been exploring this through EST this season and yet he is still visiting the grave (or an adjacent one) of the man he killed to protect Martha’s position at the FBI.
All killing Gene did was buy them slightly more time and Martha’s freedom has ultimately still been sacrificed. She won’t be sitting in a jail in the US, but what is her box of loneliness going to do when she makes it to Russian soil and she doesn’t even know the language? The mostly dialogue free opening sequence of Martha’s departure is incredibly heartbreaking before a word is uttered and then comes Martha’s plea for Clark to not be alone. Which as you can see in the photo below he is far from that and no matter what disagreement is taking place Philip will always have his family. It wouldn’t be a Martha farewell without an emotional kicker. With the Martha problem sorted everything goes back to normal, right? Well not exactly and even though the weight of that operation has been lifted there is plenty of guilt and resentment swirling around. Part of this comes as a result of Philip and Elizabeth being terrible at telling each other how they are actually feeling. While they have been getting better at this with last week’s declaration of love and Philip’s first kill confession earlier this season, there are still moments where they don’t get each other at all.
Martha is a significant example of this and it doesn’t help when Elizabeth tries to describe what kind of woman she is using words like nice and simple. Philip is protective of Martha and the sacrifice she has made explaining that she was much more than that and how people underestimated her (which I would definitely agree with). Philip and Elizabeth are coming at this from two very different angles and there is also an element of (understandable) jealousy on Elizabeth’s part and the things Philip shared with his other wife. Philip isn’t giving Elizabeth much to respond to on the sharing front and this is why she attends an EST meeting to see why this is giving Philip an outlet.Skeptical face is on the menu for Elizabeth as she pieces together the point of the seminars and it is not surprising to see she comes away thinking it is a con. She sees it as a way to endlessly reach into your wallet as there are no answers and more seminars are required to delve a little deeper.
This conversation turns into the most explosive argument Philip and Elizabeth have probably ever had about their marriage begins with Elizabeth trying to give Philip her understanding, but he can sense she is holding something back about her EST opinions. Which she is and she calls the whole endeavor manipulative and when she underlines how American it is, he takes that as her way of calling him an idiot for trusting this process and ultimately liking the country they live in.What follows is a series of deep cuts from both as Gregory’s name comes up and unlike Martha he died in a hail of bullets. For every Gregory there is an Irina and this wouldn’t be a fight about their biggest emotional betrayals without a reference to the woman who broke them up in season 1. It is a painful exchange, but one that needed to happen for them to move forward. This is not a week where they will be fucking the pain away.
This fight only ends when the phone rings and the resentment spills over into their meeting with Gabriel and he has had enough of their bullshit. I mean he is recovering from glanders still so it is understandable why his patience for their problems is lacking.
In one of the most delightful scenes of this very tense episode Gabriel and Claudia chat it out about Philip and Elizabeth’s petulance. Gabriel is a fan of comparing what he has been through with how easy they have it in America and rather than agree with him Claudia instead takes the neutral path by pointing out that no one has the answer. She pretty much boo hoos his complaining and she doesn’t even bring up how lucky he is that Elizabeth hasn’t beaten his face in yet.Claudia’s words obviously have an impact as instead of admonishing Elizabeth for losing another asset in Lisa – who in a badly timed moment threatened to tell the police about her secret filming of the plant she works in – he instead goes for the sympathy angle.
Part of this is probably down to seeing just how broken they both look and Elizabeth comes in smoking and in a daze with blood on her neck; at first I assumed this was Lisa’s, but it looks like a defense wound and maybe Lisa put up a fight. Gabriel has been referring to them as children and in this scene they do look like kids who have had too much thrown at them. When Gabriel tells them things need to change it sounds like a threat; instead he is going to talk to the Centre about giving them no new operations so all they will have is Kimmy (who Philip is still getting tapes from) and Young Hee. Plus the small matter of their at home operation with Paige and their cover jobs as travel agents. This will be the closest they will ever come to having a vacation and boy do they need it. Epcot even comes back into play, but this time not as a code for murdering someone.
They even manage to get home in time for David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty disappear and finding out the reason why he wanted to do such a thing. It is all about what Lady Liberty represents and this land of immigrants (which Philip and Elizabeth are) as well as a fancy trick. Freedom or lack of comes in various forms this week from Martha’s resigned trip to safety to the lack of freedom Paige now has regarding her Pastor Tim related activities.Paige couldn’t have picked a worse time to miss a Bible study session as Elizabeth is particularly on edge after her fight with Philip and everything that has been going on. The excuse of ‘not feeling like it’ does not work now that there is this much at stake and Elizabeth makes it crystal clear just how vital it is that Paige keep up appearances no matter what. Feelings can be controlled and in this scene Elizabeth is releasing a whole lot of rage (for the second time this week) and anger is not something we are used to seeing at this level, which really underscores both her state of mind and how important this is.
Paige, if only you could know what activities your parents have got themselves in the mood for or best not as that would be pretty scarring. Also don’t walk away from your mother before she has finished as all hell will be unleashed. I’ve been watching a lot of iZombie this week and Elizabeth got so angry I half expected for her eyes to go red.This might also be a good time to point out just how incredible Keri Russell is this week and if any Emmy voters are watching then now would be an ideal time to recognize her work because we get the entire spectrum of emotions in “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears.” The way she spits out “goddamn church” with the slight break in her voice is next level. This scene is also reminiscent of the last time one of her parents went at her for church related antics when Philip tore her Bible up and also left her in tears. The lesson here is don’t betray your parents trust.
The transition from the actual reappeared Statue of Liberty to a miniature golf version is seamless and we have jumped forward seven months. What this does is free up the storytelling and from the end of season 3 to this episode only a month has been covered. Everything has felt so urgent and like the walls are coming down, which has been great as a viewer but seeing that we have moved forward this far is a welcome relief; now we can let out a deep breath mirroring Philip’s when Martha’s plane took off.
What this does is move beyond the immediate aftermath of Martha for both the FBI and Philip. They have had a chance to recover and the ‘vacation’ they have been given will surely be at an end when we return next week. Time jumps tend to occur between seasons, but Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields don’t always stick to TV storytelling conventions and this is what makes The Americans one of the best shows on TV. They go where the story does and screw conventions.
So now we see Paige is doing exactly as her mother told her too despite her real feelings and reporting her findings in a very matter of fact way that is kinda chilling. Especially when Philip and Elizabeth are doing the whole happy family thing with Henry out in the front yard playing hockey (which Philip mentions earlier in the episode about wanting to do again). With the FBI they are in a shambles in the days after the Martha reveal and have got no closer to either her or the mysterious Clark Westerfeld (he even has his own wall now).Stan confides in Philip about the disaster that is going on at work, but without going into the specifics Philip is already more than aware of. Now they are made up Stan has someone to vent about his Sad Stan marriage problems and a fridge full of beer to pilfer as his own supply is mysteriously depleted. Philip was right to pull Martha out and yet this doesn’t clear his conscience.
For Stan he has his own conscience related issues and when we jump forward a now out of the FBI Gaad gives him some much needed advice about his Oleg flipping situation. Gaad knows that what happened to Nina plays on his mind and this bonds him to Oleg, but he has to stop thinking like that and get rid of “feelings, sympathy, friendship” and not “lose sight of how these people are.” It is essentially a less terrifying version of Elizabeth’s speech to Paige and while these characters have enjoyed a respite, we are very much going to get thrust back into the action and I cannot wait.
Shot(s) of the Week This week marks Matthew Rhys’ first time behind the camera on The Americans (he has directed on his old show Brothers & Sisters) and not only was he a force on screen, but he delivered a powerhouse of an episode that got right to the heart of who these characters are while delivering some beautiful moments.
The above scene at the movie theater between Elizabeth and Young Hee was a moment of lightness that “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears” needed and the side of Elizabeth this friendship brings out is so charming and free. The use of the mirror and neon light as Young Hee reapplies her tear stained makeup gives this moment a whole other world feeling as it looks like it is from an entirely different show.And in contrast this intense scene between Philip and Elizabeth is very much of this world and the way they get closer to each other as the words become more hurtful increases the tension and it is only broken when the phone rings. I do wonder if an episode like this benefits from someone behind the camera who is very much in tune with exactly who these characters are. Regardless, both Matthew Rhys and Noah Emmerich have directed two excellent episodes this season.
Disguise of the WeekOnly one new disguise this week as Philip wears a Clark adjacent visage to spy on Gene’s grave. Maybe want to go for something vastly different from the dude the FBI are searching for.
The Americans Book and Movie ClubInstead of telling Elizabeth how he is feeling Philip is instead reading est: 60 Hours that Transform Your Life. Which doesn’t seem like the best way to transform his life.So Elizabeth does something she doesn’t normally do and goes to the movies with Young Hee. First they watch Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies followed by an impromptu sneaking in to The Outsiders. Now all I want is an episode of Elizabeth and Young Hee hanging out and Ruthie Ann Miles is bringing so much charm to this performance I still don’t care that we don’t know why Elizabeth is working her. All I know is whatever it is can’t be good for the future of this friendship.