Being deceptive is part of the spy life; it is how information is gathered and compartmentalizing is one way to mentally survive. How long someone can do this job for effectively comes into question this week on The Americans and Gabriel announces his plans for retirement, which in turn gives Philip an opportunity to ask the questions about his past that have been plaguing him this season. Nope, not about the son who came to America and has now been sent back to Russia, but regarding the father Philip never really knew and yet has recently been the main feature in Philip’s memories.
When Philip and Elizabeth signed up to the jobs that would become their lives they were told to forget everything about who they were and to keep this information to themselves. A mandate that they kept to until their faked union turned into something real; at the end of the pilot Elizabeth tells Philip her real name and from this point on a new layer of trust was introduced into this partnership. Since then there have been snippets of stories from icicles to caring for a parent and the barrier that once existed between past and present self has dropped. They are now a couple on every level and this includes who they once were.Philip is the one who has been preoccupied with thoughts of his parents and specifically the father he has all but forgotten; previously the only information the audience has been given is that he died when Philip was 6 and he was a logger. This also happens to be all Philip can remember until recently when he has been getting flashbacks of grainy images. In these moments we see his father bringing back clothes and food, which Elizabeth suggested was a good thing but Philip was hesitant. Other aspects have been playing on his mind including the way some of the local men would stare at him and his brother. As Gabriel is leaving soon it doesn’t give Philip much time to ask about his past and when he steels himself in the car this is another case of Matthew Rhys delivering in the ‘saying so much without saying a thing’ department.
“Crossbreed” is an acting master class from all the major players with Rhys, Keri Russell and Frank Langella delivering in the sighs and silences alone. When Gabriel first announces his departure plans there is a shift in Philip and Elizabeth’s stance that is reminiscent of their breakdown moment from last season. They haven’t hit this low point, but there is something childlike in their response; Philip immediately thinks he is to blame because he has been difficult and pushed back and Elizabeth looks distraught. Philip is part of the reason, but for something Gabriel can’t tell him and this lie about Mischa Jr. has hit Gabriel hard. Gabriel has been much more a father than either Philip or Elizabeth had when they were growing up and Philip finds out a difficult truth about his father’s occupation that has him questioning why the KGB chose him in the first place.The logging story was a lie cooked up by his mother and in reality he worked at a prison camp as a guard. It is likely that those items he brought home were from some of the prisoners and the bloody water from those boots is a very bad sign that there are more buried memories to come. Gabriel has no information on the kind of person Philip’s dad was and quashes Philip’s thoughts that because his dad killed people then that’s what they saw in Philip too. The sins of the father and all that.
In reality Philip’s father “was nobody. We were all nobodies.” A problem Philip now has is that because he is actually a somebody in the KGB and doing some very important work rather than just being a cog in the machine any concerns are noted in his file. And there has been cause for concern regarding his shaky standing in the past; they’re always going to be keeping an eye on him regarding his ability to effectively carry out the forever growing tasks and operations.
It is also interesting to note that while we don’t know how Philip’s dad really died – something to come? – he is referred to as coming from a trustworthy family whereas Elizabeth’s father was a deserter. In this relationship it was almost Philip who turned his back on his country and Elizabeth is the stauncher soldier, perhaps because she grew up with the stigma of what her dad did.Gabriel feels bad for lying to them about his reasons for going home and their other thought is that he must be sick. Instead he tells them that they don’t need him anymore as they have each other. But his guidance is valuable and the information he does divulge to Philip leads to a very big first meeting at the end of the episode. Philip sits dejected in the Camero after learning about the prison camp and tells Elizabeth that he didn’t know anything about who his parents really were. He was the most resistant about revealing their real identities to Paige and yet this is something he never got at home, which brings us to the end of “Crossbreed” and Paige meeting the closest thing to her grandfather.
Meanwhile, Henry the math genius is still very much on the outside sharing stuffed peppers – at first he thought they were gross until he realized they were pretty much cheeseburger – with Stan and talking potential girlfriends. Will this change their behavior toward their often forgotten son? Philip might be concerned that his troubled life will rub off on his pretty carefree child; there’s got to be one member of this family that isn’t plagued with guilt or doubt.
And will meeting Paige change Gabriel’s plans to return to the motherland? This moment also counts towards what I am guessing will be Frank Langella’s Emmy submission.This idea of home and how it has changed comes up between Paige and Elizabeth after seeing her reading the Marx that Pastor Tim lent her. Paige shares a similar thought to her father in that because they haven’t been home in so long then how does Elizabeth know it is still like that. There is this idea of how things have changed since they were kids; the prison camps no longer exist except we’ve seen through the treatment of Nina, Mischa Jr. and now the guy Oleg has put away that things are not fair and certain elements of mistreatment still exist. The idea of home that Elizabeth has is wrapped up in this ideology when in reality they had so little back then and now they have everything. Equality is preached by Marx and Elizabeth mentions that while there are problems in Russian society there is an element of everyone being in it together. Except for all that corruption.
Philip and Gabriel are not the only ones suffering from the things they have done and Elizabeth’s post-psychiatrist eye roll is exactly the kind of thing that covers her torment from the mission that has deeply impacted her psyche. For Philip the killing is what crushes his soul and while this also makes Elizabeth feel some kind of terrible it is what she did to Young Hee that bothers her deeply. A visit from a Mary Kay rep dredges up these usually well buried emotions and this leads to her driving to Young Hee’s house to see what her onetime BFF is doing. Except another family now live there and there’s no closure for Elizabeth or the audience; we are all left to wonder what became of this marriage but it can’t be good.In the psychiatrist session the doctor does not ask about her dreams – much to Philip’s disappointment – and instead she bases her comments in reality while scoping out the room. She discusses the mugging and I’d say this is something that isn’t playing on Elizabeth’s mind. But she isn’t at this session to get anything from it other than information and she thinks the whole process is eye roll worthy.
Elizabeth laughs off Ben’s questions about what lies beneath; she’s in fashion so she’s not that deep and she’s giving burns to the cosmetic and clothing industry all over the place this week as a way to deflect. He then teaches her the art of tai chi and this guy is a full MPDG right now. Or a real Miss America as Gabriel jokingly points out. They still have to pursue their Topeka targets as the super-wheat will be really useful to their concern about hunger. Elizabeth audibly sighs about this assignment with a simple reference that she gets this is the work while mentioning that things are different. In what is another parent like moment Elizabeth asks “Is there something wrong with me?” Gabriel responds like any father telling her never and the only thing that has changed is the status of her relationship with Philip; honey traps are no longer guilt or emotion free.Investigation wise the FBI have got their potential bite after Stan and Aderholt use the tactic of opportunity, whereas Oleg and his colleague are opting for something less fun, but just as persuasive and the parallels between Stan and Oleg keep on coming. Oleg is still unaware of Stan’s intervention and when the CIA don’t show up again he burns the tape and map on a snowy rooftop. The Americans production team has filmed some exteriors in Russia and it really pays off in how good these Oleg scenes look. No dodgy green screen here and some of the Lincoln Memorial stuff suffers from this (though not the above shot) and it is not on the Scandal level of bad Washington DC landmark CGI.
All the pieces continue to fall into place and there’s still that signature element of building tension and impending doom approaching. It wouldn’t be The Americans without it.
Outfit I Would Wear in 2017
The only Brenda we get this week is mostly naked Elizabeth, but she does look pretty smoking in just Ben’s t-shirt.Other than that Paige is giving great exaggerated sweater shoulders showing the slight shift in fashion. Yep even sweaters were shoulder pad adjacent. I think I could make it work.
Shots of the Week
The travel agency office is a small space where Philip and Elizabeth have had a lot important conversations about both work and their family. At times it has seen them at odds with each other and great distance has been felt in their positioning even when they are in such a close space. Here they are at opposite sides of the room at their own desks and at times not looking at each other, but they have never felt more in sync. This united front doesn’t have to be about physical closeness and the framing of them as Elizabeth encourages Philip to talk to the Gabriel about his father shows just how united they are.
This is Roxann Dawson’s first time behind the camera on The Americans and she crushed it.