Missions go wrong on The Americans and innocent people have lost their lives along the way, but there has always been a big picture reason that acts as a way to placate the soul. They’re doing this to protect their country and for the people back home who are suffering. Other times it is to ensure their own safety and to keep up the cover; so when Philip’s wig was torn off at the start of season 2 and the young bus boy saw him there was only one option in Philip’s mind.
The wrong place/wrong time collateral damage has happened on numerous occasions and when they killed Randy in the lab a couple of week’s ago he was seen as being a cog in this evil famine causing machine; this death was justified by the bigger operation and his role in the war against the Russian people.Except the bugs weren’t being bred to destroy wheat abroad and instead they were part of a bigger project to create a strain of crops that is resistant to all pests. Elizabeth told Randy he should’ve asked what the bugs were for and while the outcome would’ve probably been the same – he’d seen their faces after all – there was a slim chance for survival. That is all academic now and Randy joins the long list of reasons why Philip’s soul has been shattered into tiny pieces; what makes this different from the last time he spiraled is the strength of the Jennings marriage. Back in season 2 when despair hit they had only really just got back together and there was still an element of hiding things from each other until boiling point hit.
When Elizabeth gets home from Topeka this week there’s this look of relief mixed in with happiness that she’s back. A long embrace leads to Elizabeth stealing herself to tell Philip the truth; a non-spy marriage might have this be revealing an affair, but not for this couple. Instead Elizabeth has to tell her spy partner that they got the whole bug thing backwards and this is their devastating consequences. Which means it is also time for my weekly praising of Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell for crushing things in the subtle emotional reaction department. Also the flag to the side is a nice production design touch as the only bit of bold color in the frame. The nature of their training and compartmentalizing means they will never be experts at spilling everything to each other; they’ve spent too long putting feelings into locked boxes for that. And yet “Lotus 1-2-3” shows just how far they have come as a couple who have to deal with known extra-marital affairs and the occasional death on the job.
Starting with the latter and the end of the episode as Elizabeth comes to Philip at the Eckert house (even though she doesn’t have to be there) to resolve their earlier conversation and Philip’s shattered reaction to how wrong they were about the researcher. Offering to do these kinds of things by herself as a solution is an act of kindness from Elizabeth that in the past she would’ve probably scoffed at or never even considered as an option.“It’s us, Elizabeth. It’s us” is Philip’s response; there’s no singularity anymore and despite how worn down this job has made him there is no way he is abandoning her now. Again this is very different from the Philip in the pilot who considered defecting. Claudia called Philip ‘shaky’ in relation to his patriotism and she’s correct, but there’s no one he’s more loyal to than his wife and for every second Elizabeth is still in this fight then so is he.
The issue of Mischa and how Gabriel resolved it after his chat with Claudia makes heartbreaking sense and Mischa represents the side of home that could continue to cause cracks in Philip’s beliefs about the motherland. And if Philip is impacted then so is Elizabeth. She’s still pretty all in on doing what needs to be done and yet if she was exposed to some more negative aspects this could start to shatter some of those beliefs.
Elizabeth’s eyes are open and she’s not blinded by her loyalty to country as she once was; Claudia knows that the scales are not tipped entirely in favor of the work. Of course Elizabeth still does what she is told to operation wise, but there is also resistance and questioning that didn’t exist in the past.Last week I talked about how the new honey traps are different to the ones we have seen in previous operations as their level of reluctance and how they are talking to each other about the mission at hand is in sync. Philip was quick to mention that his target is incredibly dull and while it looked like his halfhearted flirtation had little impact it turns out he is still good at the charm factor. Deirdre is all about the work and this is proving potentially fruitful with the mention of the Lotus 1-2-3 program which gives the episode its title. Sex with Deirdre is totally perfunctory and Philip also gets another memory flash from his childhood; by disassociating with the act he is doing his mind is wondering to other things.
The latter is something he brings up during Elizabeth’s checking in for no reason other than to tell her husband she misses him. This phone call is an incredibly sweet gesture from Elizabeth, which also acts as a way to reassure Philip after the conversation that ended “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” There’s no specific reason to call and at first an awkward silence fills the air before Philip mentions these memories. Identifying that food and clothes are good things turns what appears to be like desperate times (which they still are) into a positive interpretation and I have a feeling this is not the last time we will be seeing flashes from Philip’s childhood.Things are going well between Elizabeth and Ben; he’s pretty open about what he does and he seems like a decent guy overall. He cooks, he’s well traveled, he’s not selfish in the bedroom – giving Elizabeth time to scope out his room through her moans – and he wants to save the world. But there has to be something else going on, right?
Another person who seems pretty perfect is Renee and because of this Philip thinks she must be someone they’ve sent to spy on Stan. Poor Stan. He is less forthcoming about his work than Ben is and Renee’s questions could be more red herring than red flag. However I am more inclined to believe Philip’s line of thought as he’s given a lot of detailed reports on Stan to the Centre.
Plus the operation Stan and Aderholt are running is currently a frustration and yet you can bet it is going to transect with what Philip and Elizabeth are doing. But at least Oleg has been left alone by the CIA (for now) even if he has to contend with his parents setting him up with not one, but three dinners dates (at the same time).In fact I would say “Lotus 1-2-3” is the best episode of season 5 so far – and one which was directed by Noah Emmerich – as the threads are coming together and the tension continues to build. There is also some levity among the devastation as the meeting at Henry’s school is to talk about how well he is doing. It might be the one time both Philip and Elizabeth fail at giving good poker face and they can’t hide their surprise beneath their wide eyes and splutters. They just figured he’s been messing around and when they talk to Henry about how happy they are he pretty much whatevers them and mentions that of course Paige is the smart one. As a the younger sibling I very much identify with Henry in this moment and later on Paige has an insecure moment about her brother’s surprising academic achievement. Maybe they want to be training Henry up too.
Also it is a concern that they’re underestimating Henry so much and I am convinced that he is going to find out something about their real identity before the season is over.
There’s a lot of son action this week including the one who has traveled across the world only to be told that he can’t see his father because it is too dangerous. Somehow I don’t think this is the last we have seen from Mischa. Tuan is continuing to do good work, but there is an element of him wanting company from his fake parents. Plus Philip brings him McDonald’s (old foam boxes and all). He’s good at reading situations and knows to make himself scarce when Elizabeth unexpectedly turns up.So while their Topeka operations are hit and miss at the moment, they’re doing good things as the Eckerts as Alexei’s wife Evgheniya has now got a job teaching Russian at the Department of Agriculture. This was a case of Elizabeth giving good poker face as she gently gave Evgheniya positive reinforcement about going for this job while knowing what a goldmine this could be for them.And in other relationship news, Paige is finding it hard to be with Matthew and she plays this off to him as being scared as he’s her first proper boyfriend. While eating Chinese leftovers with her dad she goes deeper telling him that she thought Matthew would be a respite from her “garbage life” but that hasn’t proven to be the case; if Philip wasn’t already feeling terrible about their impact then this really hammers it home.
Cause and effect; so many consequences and the plates keep on getting stacked. Soon they’re gonna topple and when they do at least they will have each other and that double “It’s us” is an incredibly powerful statement.
Outfit I Would Wear in 2017 Pretty much everything Brenda and my obsession with her black/grey/white look continues. I wish we could see more of the coat/striped sweater in the phone box scene as this is a full heart eyes outfit.