Guilt can do funny things to a person and Philip has been feeling increasingly bad about all the terrible things he has done over the years starting with the moment he killed someone when he was 10 years old that we saw in the season 4 premiere of The Americans. More recent events have left their mark including what happened to assets like Anneliese who ended up broken and shoved into a suitcase to the random strangers who have ended up dead at their hands. Martha is the embodiment of everything terrible he has done with all the lying and violent acts committed and Philip’s ability to deal with the possibility that Martha has been compromised is soaked in the guilt of everything he has done for his country.
At the end of last week’s episode “Clark’s Place” we saw Martha alone in bed with Stan and Aderholt keeping watch outside while across town Elizabeth and Philip were letting off steam in an entirely different way. This was in part a reaction from Elizabeth to seeing (and maybe lip reading the “I love you”) Philip’s face after he called Martha and she was both acting out of jealousy, but also comfort and this was a way to take both their minds off everything that is going on right now. This diversion doesn’t last long and the episode opens with them in bed entangled in each other with the conversation quickly shifting from nipple size observations to the status of Martha. Elizabeth reassures Philip that nothing has changed since they fell into bed. Soon everything will be very different as Philip’s increasingly twitchy feelings about whether Martha has been blown or not cause him to do something impulsive that could jeopardize everyone. Philip has in fact already been incredibly impulsive with Martha; when he removed his disguise and didn’t inform either Gabriel or Elizabeth that he had done such a thing. Now Philip has scooped Martha off the street rather than waiting for their Tuesday appointment time and we are in uncharted territory. Promises that all will be okay and the repeated trust assertions are all well and good, but there is very little to back up anything Philip is saying and his actions are getting increasingly desperate.
Here Philip is very much the married man having an affair making promises he knows are unlikely as a way to keep his mistress on side and once again The Americans takes a very unlikely spy problem and makes it relatable in a relationship sense.
The act of removing his Clark face is something he can’t quite put into words when Elizabeth confronts him and the mixture of hurt and betrayal is all over Elizabeth’s face when she turns up to the safe house and sees him as he is; now it probably feels like he is cheating on her. This is one hell of an awkward set up with Gabriel, Philip, Elizabeth and Martha all under one roof and I half expected we would see a contender for most fucked up dinner party with Philip, his two wives and his handler/dad substitute. Instead Philip insists that he stay because that makes most sense for keeping things on an even keel with Martha and Keri Russell delivers a mixture of sadness, confusion and acceptance at what Philip has done by taking off his Clark disguise. Luckily for Elizabeth she doesn’t have to hear what Gabriel does later.
One other striking thing Keri Russell does here is change her voice from her Jennifer tones to her regular Elizabeth voice when Martha realizes she isn’t really Clark’s sister. She is giving off reassuring Elizabeth and it sounds exactly the same as how she has been talking to Philip about Martha’s safety.Not only has Philip shown his face, moved ahead with the extraction plan before they have a clear idea of what the FBI does or doesn’t know, but he has done the one thing he really shouldn’t and that is reveal who they work for. My reaction to Philip uttering “KGB” caused a full out loud gasp and I still can’t believe he went so far as telling this truth. I am looking forward to seeing just how Elizabeth will react to this one especially considering what happens at the end of the episode. This is a betrayal of who they are not only as agents, but as husband and wife.
But first back to this sharing scene and it seems like Philip sheds another layer of his Clark persona every time he thinks he needs to give Martha something to convince her she can trust him; but the more he spills, the more he risks everything.
Philip feels responsible for Martha and now she is in a position of no return there is this extra element of culpability and it all started with the pen discovery and has spiraled since then. Blaming Gene was a good distraction, but that never quite sat well with Stan and so ultimately that was another needless death. Martha can’t go back to work or the way it was before now that she has called in sick because Stan and Aderholt keep on digging and keep finding things that could be suspicious. They now know Clark’s name and this whole web is unraveling at a quick speed. They have even put two and two together with Amador’s murder and how it might be connected to all of this, which it is. And somehow this is all happening by the mid-point of this season and I can’t get over how the writers can crank up the tension this much, this early. Everything teeters on the point of oblivion and Philip is getting closer to the edge with every move he makes.Last week Philip told Elizabeth that it can all move so fast and he has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as he is the one who is making this happen. When he has no secrets left to share – Martha asks if he is involved with Jennifer and all he says is they have worked together for a long time, which is technically not a lie – things lead to a moment of comfort and an embrace. One thing leads to another and sex is a distraction tool once again; however this is more desperate and sad than the passionate release we saw between Philip and Elizabeth in “Clark’s Place.” And Gabriel has to listen to it all.
Something comes up, because it always does and this means Philip has to leave Martha with Gabriel. Philip has concerns with good reason about doing this and once again he doesn’t divulge to his handler exactly what he has done and a heads up here would be useful. He takes Martha’s gun, perhaps for her safety and also so she doesn’t have a weapon to use against Gabriel, but all this does when Martha wakes is freak her out and give her reason to flee when she sees Clark has gone. Gabriel’s assurance that she can trust him means absolutely nothing and she threatens him with a weapon far more dangerous than a gun; revealing who they really are. Philip, you fucked up bad. Martha’s gun has been threatening to go off for two seasons now, but I am now getting a Chekhov’s Valium feeling with every time we see the bottle of pills. Martha has survived for this long and this is an impressive feat considering what a burden she now is to Philip’s mission; this is a much more interesting story to see how they back themselves out of what feels like an inescapable situation and the same goes for Pastor Tim. As with Nina it does seem like there is no way out and her time might be soon, but The Americans writers don’t do easy or obvious. I can’t see her on a ship to Moscow anytime soon and I wonder if instead she will flip and go back to the FBI. Or the Valium might come into play and if she is going to die then maybe it will be at her own hands.
We get to find out a little more about Martha’s backstory and why she was such an easy mark for Philip; she lives “a lonely existence” and with that Stan observation my heart broke a little more for Martha. It also turns out that she was engaged to her high school sweetheart and he broke up with her when she fell pregnant. Martha had an abortion at a time when it was dangerous (as it was illegal) and my heart breaks even more when I think about how much she wanted to foster a kid. If she does survive I wonder if there will be a pregnancy storyline down the road as she did have unprotected sex with Philip and if there is something Philip doesn’t need then that is a fourth child. William is another person we find out a little more about this week; the partner he used to have was also a wife who got sent back home. Her name is/was Eliza and it is unclear whether she is alive or dead. I suspect the latter. All that is clear is William wishes he hadn’t kept quiet and had done something to stop it and the dream of Philip and William as BFFs is coming closer to fruition as William is very interested in asking Philip about his life. Although now I type that out I wonder if there is an ulterior motive at play because this is The Americans after all. Hopefully this suspicion is incorrect and I happy Philip and Elizabeth have both found people they can call friends this season. They sure need this kind of connection.
Using the hero line on William to inspire action gets a snarky response about how he will return in a coffin, but he comes through and things are back to being fraught when meeting with him as they no longer know when he is being surveilled. Hence the disguises and Hans with his binoculars. William and Philip chat like any co-workers who are annoyed at their bosses lack of awareness at what they actually do and William points out that the powers that be have no idea what they are doing. Everything is reactionary and it doesn’t matter how much any of these characters get reassured as the shit could hit the fan at any point. Martha is very much this in action.
Stan’s hunch is playing out and it is time to bring Gaad into the fold and he is in shock at this revelation as Martha has worked for the FBI for over 10 years. Later on he is still ruminating about this development and he questions how he didn’t see it; Stan might wonder the same when/if he finds out who Philip and Elizabeth really are. Performance wise this is another stellar week for all with Matthew Rhys and Alison Wright edging out in to MVP territory. There are a lot of different emotions swirling around and there is one moment where Philip’s entire body sags after he sees that Martha has a gun, which is pretty much the pure expression of mental and physical exhaustion at what is going on. The Americans doesn’t normally play within a time frame that is this tight, but it has only been 3 weeks since the wig removal and so much is stacking up in a small period for these characters. Alison Wright has been playing Martha as part defiant, part nervous wreck this season and walking the line between these two aspects is hard without coming across as hysterical, but she is doing just this and crushing my soul in the process.
The use of TV in Martha’s morning routine provided some fun historical timeline information including Princes Charles and Princess Diana’s trip to Australia and New Zealand with Prince William (Princess Diana would have been pregnant with Harry at the time, but this would not have been public knowledge at this early stage in the pregnancy). This is followed by a segment about three different women – single, divorced, widowed – and how all three are loving life; Martha switches the TV off just as the single woman mentions she has never felt the need to be married. Martha’s single life was definitely less fraught/complicated than the one she lives now and ultimately less lonely.
Expectations of a different kind are occurring in the Jennings house and Henry is not giving up on his Epcot quest and he even comes up with a new slogan of sorts – “EPCOT: Don’t Kill the Dream.” Pastor Tim might feel differently about this.
For now Henry should just be happy his parents are not in jail because if this Martha thing goes south then that will be where they are headed. The hunt for Martha from both sides will be on and while The Americans is too tense to be a good binge watch show, with this cliffhanger I really wish I had the next episode available now.
Shot(s) of the WeekThe lighting of this scene and the weight of this moment are both important and every single action Philip makes is causing everything to spiral further out of their control.Shots of hands are repeatedly used in “The Rat” and here Philip and Elizabeth’s bodies are tangled up together with Philip’s wedding band taking a prominent position in this moment of unity. Close ups of reassuring shoulder squeezes from Philip to Gabriel, Philip to Martha and Tatiana to Oleg are all significant in their affection, but this is the one that stands out in its intimacy.
Disguise of the Week
I did consider the return of Jennifer as she is one of my favorite Elizabeth disguises, but as we got a couple of new ones this week it made sense to give them a spin. First up Elizabeth rocking a slightly Felicity-esque curly hair look.A close up on the star earrings (which we have seen before) is necessary.
Meanwhile…Philip goes blonde again for William.
Outfit I Would Wear in 2016
There’s not a whole lot of options this week, but I do really like Elizabeth’s paisley dress as she cooks a dish that Young Hee showed her how to prepare as she tries to push down feelings of resentment as to where Philip is in this moment.