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The Americans 6.08 “The Summit” Review: Ill Communication

17 May

Communication is essential to a good marriage. It is one of the core pieces of advice that has been consistently dispensed in magazines, self-help books and in many conversations you have before you get married. Communication is also really important if you work in the spy business. Whether getting information from a source or relaying it an effective manner, being effective at dispensing intel is a vital work skill to have. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are very good spies. They are not always the best communicators when it comes to their relationship, as we have seen during six seasons of The Americans.

King and Queen of the wordless conversation; however when it comes to using their words, they could do better.Compartmentalizing is a skill required in a job that involves this much violence, lying, sleeping around and maintaining a double life, but it has often led to the greatest fractures between Philip and Elizabeth. Prior to this final season, their marriage had been in its strongest and now legally binding place. The flashback to the secret ‘just for them’ ceremony last week makes even more sense in context of “The Summit” opening scene. Because holy shit, Philip spills all about his Oleg betrayal and it goes over about as well as expected.

The last time Philip kept something from Elizabeth was when he slept with Irina in season 1, which ended in temporary separation. This cuts even deeper because it isn’t just about lying about sleeping with an ex. It is about their work, their life. He has been spying on her, reporting his findings to someone they don’t even know. It doesn’t matter that his reasons were for the good of their country, he has been lying for two months now. Pointing out that he tried to tell her on a couple of occasions—dude you really didn’t try that hard—is far from a valid excuse.

Dead bodies and tooth extractions are nothing in comparison to the pain in this scene. They have been together for over twenty years, which means they can communicate through nothing more than facial expressions. But words don’t come so easy. They let it hit breaking point before addressing an issue. Here it took Philip having to cut off someone’s head and hands before he tackled the problem head on (no pun intended).

Over this season he has been trying to reason with Elizabeth, but neither of them have been in possession of all the information; Philip didn’t know exactly what or why Elizabeth was racking up a high body count, Elizabeth didn’t know that she is being used as a way to get Gorbachev out of office. Again the speech Elizabeth gave to Tuan at the end of last season comes into play; they are so much better when they are working together. Yes it was better for Philip’s mental well-being to get out, but it has been at the cost of Elizabeth’s. There are so many moments in this opening scene that feel like a stab to the back for Elizabeth, it is also truly a pleasure to watch Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys in this scene, even though it is heartbreaking to see this relationship hit the point of almost no return. He can barely look at her at first, knowing full well how she will react. This is an act of infidelity. The way Russell says “And?” at the mention of Oleg’s information request, followed by the sucking in of her cheeks is chilling for anyone who has been on the Philip end of this conversation. Again, the spy stuff is not relatable, but the essence of this conversation is universal.

The calm tone, the measured words all initially mask the anger at this betrayal. A prelude to her spitting out, “go to hell!” Or when he makes sure he mentions that he told Oleg she was amazing and loyal. Like she wants to laugh at how he tries to find absolution in a compliment.* That ain’t gonna work buddy.

*I just rewatched this opening scene because it’s truly stunning. You notice something new every time. After that attempt at buttering up Elizabeth, Keri Russell does this amazing thingwhere she stops an eye roll midway through it. The gut punch sound when Philip reveals just how long all of this has been going on. It’s all just so good. And so heart-wrenching. 

Honestly, I could go line-by-line, but I won’t. It is that good. In fact this entire episode should be Keri Russell’s Emmy submission because the things she does with her face. There aren’t enough words to describe just how good she is at showing the swirling conflict within Elizabeth.A season of every operation going bad with an ever growing body count is going to take its toll. While Elizabeth doesn’t spend much time with her husband in this episode, his words gnaw away at her. They aren’t always great communicators, but now his voice is inside her head. That statement about getting her to think about what she is doing, why she is doing it, is so important to in Elizabeth’s decision making throughout “The Summit.” This is why they were such an effective team; she would react on instinct, he would question their orders. You need both.  He tells her he would do anything for he, he just did. Nothing says romantic overture quite like dismembering someone so you can protect your identity. But he has hit his breaking point.

“You don’t think I’m a human being?” The hurt in her voice at her interpretation of what Philip said is clear, but even if she hasn’t understood what he said right away, her actions over this season have been pretty extreme, even for Elizabeth Jennings. Her body count stands at eight—nine if you count Rennhull—she could have added another two to this tally this week, but something stopped her. And that something was probably this conversation. That eight does include Erica, which isn’t really fair as this one was out of kindness. Using Erica’s paintbrush is poetic, even if this scene is incredibly hard to watch.Another incredible moment in face parts acting from Russell, Erica like Young-Hee before her tapped into a side of Elizabeth we never really see. The kind of bond that Philip developed too easily with is sources, Elizabeth fights against. Again, this is why they are so good together. They complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Orders come from above, but they pull the trigger. They take the knife and shove it in the jugular. Not the Centre. They are not just a mindless automaton, they are the ones who ultimately make a choice to kill or not kill. It is why Elizabeth doesn’t go through with her orders to kill Nesterenko. It is why she doesn’t kill not-Chalamet* aka Jackson the intern. With Jackson she has already seduced him; he has delivered what she needed him to do, even if he did take a peek inside the box discovering the recording device. She could easily kill him and no one would be any the wiser. Instead after a moment deliberating, she lets him go. The chin quiver trick has never worked on her before, but here she relents. It is sloppy of her to not tie up loose ends, but it is the human thing to do. Philip is in her head.

*At one point Elizabeth says “Later” to Jackson and it was impossible not to conjure up images of Armie Hammer cycling away

Nesterenko is saved (for now) because Elizabeth has listened to the tapes. He’s not dirty at all. He doesn’t deserve to die by Elizabeth’s hand. Philip’s confession was bad, but Claudia’s is a knife twist like no other. Elizabeth has always done what is asked of her, no questions. Now she wants to know. The stakes are so high. Claudia asks if she has lost her confidence, she scoffs at this notion. Instead her eyes are wide open.The look on her face as Claudia tells her everything about the plan to get Gorbachev out of office is again another Keri Russell showcase. The subtle flicker of betrayal as she finds out Claudia has been in on the whole Mexico plan the entire time, but she has been protecting Elizabeth—which I believe in a twisted way she does. Claudia is old school, everything we have learned about her in the Soviet History lessons for Paige this season has been preparing us for this. The way she looks at the TV when Gorbachev speaks is full of loathing. But Elizabeth is horrified that her work will be tampered with to make it look like Nesterenko is a traitor, that she is being used. Nesterenko is a good guy; he doesn’t deserve death by manipulation.

Elizabeth is warned not to throw away her many years of service over this. A threat she ignores. Not that there is any time for a warm and fuzzy make-up chat with her husband. She’s still super pissed off at him for fucking her over as well. He was disloyal to her in the name of their country, a tactic he hopes will soften things. Instead, Elizabeth is focused on the mission at hand; to get a message to Oleg, to stop Nesterenko from getting killed. Father Andrei wants to meet up, but she doesn’t have time for that. Little do they know that they are compromised in so many different ways.The garages they store things in—or burn things in, another heartbreaker of a scene—and a priest, maybe their priest has been singled out as being a potential lead. The priest Philip is now meeting up with. Stan has been watching the house; did he go to bed after Elizabeth got home? He will no doubt hear her leaving again.

Stan took photo of Elizabeth to one of Gergory’s guys who couldn’t positively ID her. All he remembers is her amazing hair and that she smoked like a chimney. It will be quite poetic after all this time (and the Felicity legacy) if Elizabeth’s hair is their downfall. The doubt continues to grow for Stan. Just two episodes left means a confrontation is coming sooner rather than later.

The Summit” is ripe for making viewers feel anxious, the tension is building, the match has been lit; we know how Gorbachev’s story will pan out, but these personal tales are still very much in play.

Movie of the WeekPhilip is adrift this week; his wife hates him, his son isn’t around to take his calls, he fired his most loyal employee. So as a distraction and a way to reconnect with his heritage, he rents a movie. But Philip has to put on a disguise to do so because he wants to rent Гараж (The Garage).  A movie that would be his downfall if Stan swung by unannounced. A movie Elizabeth only barely registers is on.

Employee of the Month

Ah, Stavos. Firing your oldest employee just before Thanksgiving is a dick move so it isn’t surprising to that Stavos won’t let Philip in. Philip tries to justify it by telling him the business is going under, he’s got out before the shit has truly hit the fan. The travel agency is of course mirroring the Soviet Union, Stavos is the Philip in this scenario. But he isn’t happier because he got out early. Also Stavos notes that he is aware of the dodgy backroom antics, to Philip’s surprise. But Stavos is loyal, unlike some. *mic drop*

What follows is a suit fitting, which feels so full of doom that I can barely bring myself to think about it.

A wall of Philip and Elizabeth sketches

This is a pretty good likeness to be honest. Philip and Elizabeth are so fucked.

Amazing artwork 

Miriam Shor has been incredible as Erica this season, but artist Alyssa Monks has been vital to this storyline. Her paintings are haunting and I’m so glad they got a lot of screen time this week. Even if ultimately Elizabeth did end up burning the one that tapped into her soul. Also, she definitely wishes she had asked for a smaller one.

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2 Responses to “The Americans 6.08 “The Summit” Review: Ill Communication”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Emmy Roundtable Season 2018 is Here! | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 23, 2018

    […] (The Deuce). A fantastic line-up, but my one quibble is the lack of Keri Russell considering how incredible she has been on this (and every) season of The Americans. The last time she appeared on this […]

  2. The Americans 6.09 “Jennings, Elizabeth” Review: Topsy-Turvy | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 24, 2018

    […] Jennings made a monumental decision last week on The Americans. She went against a direct order. In the penultimate episode she goes one step […]

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