You’ll never believe who was in tonight’s episode of The Americans… Henry! At first, when they said he was “in the bathroom,” I thought they meant he’d be there the whole episode, but then he walked right into the kitchen as though he were a series regular! Astounding!
Anyways, when we first join them, Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) are freshly back from Oklahoma with the address for Agricorp, the evil corporation working to starve Russia (as far as we know). The company is based in Topeka, Kansas, and Gabriel (Frank Langella) wants them to go there and seduce two single staff members to gain access. The Jenningses hem. They haw. They are already so busy indoctrinating their daughter into their ways, managing their mission with the Morozovs and Tuan, keeping tabs on Stan… they don’t have time to seduce some Kansan eco-murderers! Unfortunately, Gabriel isn’t impressed, and the new mission is locked in.
The looks between these two while they try to wiggle out of the gig are killer. Their exchange in the car on their way home is killer. Are they finally so happy in their marriage that they don’t want to sleep with other people anymore? Are the emotional spectres of Young Hee (Ruthie Ann Miles) and Martha (Alison Wright) so present that they can’t stand to become intimate with anyone else they’re planning to betray? Or are they just so affected by the thought of these people messing with the USSR’s grain supply that they don’t want to touch them?
The elephant of impending extramarital relations is present in the room the next morning while Philip and Elizabeth make breakfast and interact with Henry (Keidrich Sellati) in the kitchen– right on screen! Henry’s math teacher wants them to come for a conference, and Henry claims not to know why. For some reason everyone assumes it’s because he’s failing, but I’ll bet you a dollar (figuratively) that when they finally meet the teacher, they’ll find out that their barely-there son is exactly the kind of math genius that Mother Russia craves.
Cut to sad Philip, wearing a new, brown wig and some glasses just like the ones my dad wore back then. He’s left on a jet plane and is obviously not stoked about what comes next. When he arrives in Topeka, he apparently makes a beeline for the gym, where his target, Deidre Kemp (Clea Lewis, A.K.A. Ellen’s friend Audrey on Ellen!), is vigorously riding a stationary bicycle. He charms her with his lack of knowledge of Topeka’s nightlife, and she comes back with a list of boring job tasks. This seduction will be super fun.
Philip and Elizabeth have a little debrief in their travel agency when he gets home. He tells her the mission will go well if he doesn’t die of boredom first, and she tells him she’s going to Topeka for the upcoming weekend. Still unresolved: Henry’s math sitch.
When Elizabeth goes to Topeka, she makes her move on her mark (Brett Tucker) by deliberately spilling carob all over a health food store. (Health food store? Gym? Why are these supposedly evil people so obsessed with health??) He finds her food waste and clumsiness charming. She pretends to find his beard merkin (copyright: me) charming as well. She eats carob off the floor and declares it delicious, which we would know to be a lie even if she weren’t eating dirty floor food while being undercover.
Back home, Philip tends the Morozov mission by having beers with Alexei (Alexander Sokovikov). In addition to idle bar chit-chat wherein Alexei reminisces about drinking Russian bread soda from a communal mug and Philip lies about getting his pilot’s license as a child, we learn that the reason Alexei loves his job in the US is that everyone he works with thinks him a genius for his knowledge of Russia’s ports and food transportation systems. He remarks that although Russia has all the same assets the US does for food production– land and climate– the system is so broken that sometimes food is still transported by horse, that it can take a month to move what the US moves in a day, and that the food is often rotten by the time it’s delivered.
When Philip gets home, he changes out of his wig and mustache and kicks back to watch a documentary about how bees work together to procure food. Elizabeth finds him on the couch and gifts him a tiny bottle of liquor a man bought her on the plane. She’d had to make a big show of how she’d give it to her husband. They cuddle, and Philip tensely asks how her trip went. It went fine, and she’ll be returning to Topeka soon to go hiking with her new fella.
I wish I were enough of a wordsmith to convey everything these two express silently in each episode. Why haven’t they both won every Emmy???
We jump from Philip looking discomfited on his sofa to the Jenningses out on a double-date with Stan (Noah Emmerich) and his definitely-a-spy-for-someone gym girlfriend, Renee (Laurie Holden). She’s like, “I’m loud and brassy! Here are some stories that establish my knowledge of America’s industries and leisure activities!” Philip and Elizabeth obviously hate her, and Stan is smitten. The Jennings’ faces while they’re pretending to like her for Stan’s sake are priceless. Emmys all around!
That weekend, sad Philip calls Deidre to try to schedule a date while Elizabeth is hiking with her bearded quarry and laughing at his hilarious nature facts. They wind up back at his place for some necking on the couch, and Elizabeth looks like she’s really phoning this one in. He’s so into it that he doesn’t notice, but when he starts moving towards second base, she pretends to have a work thing she needs to get away to and asks him if they can see each other again the next time she’s in town.
When she gets home, Philip and Elizabeth are in bed, and he asks about her weekend with Hikey McBearditon. She doesn’t want to talk about it, but he presses. She tells him that the guy likes birds and is nice and funny, and a stoic Philip tries not to give away that he’s crushed as he says, “You like him.”
She gives him a look that’s the equivalent of saying, “You’re cray,” and says: ” I have to sit there with him while he makes his jokes. The guy is laughing while he’s trying to starve an entire country.” And oh, the pain in the quiet that follows.
Meanwhile, in Russia, Oleg’s (Costa Ronin) boss (Oleg Shtefanko) has brought in an interrogator (Ravil Isyanov) to go back to the bleak grocery warehouse with Oleg and squeeze a name from the pretty blonde who offered Oleg tangerines. (Don’t get your hopes up- no Martha in this episode. She doesn’t *live* at the grocery warehouse, silly!)
Later, Oleg desperately needs to unburden himself about his trouble with the CIA. Finding his loving mom (Snezhana Chernova) alone at home, he vaguely confesses to her that he trusted someone he thought was a good man in the US, and now “they” are trying to make him do things that could get him sent to prison. Instead of comforting or advising him, the poor woman breaks down in tears, and he winds up comforting her and visibly questioning why he burdened her with more than she’s already carrying. (Gut: wrenched.)
He carries on with revisiting the grocery warehouse boss lady, and the interrogator steps quickly over a line it’s hard to imagine Oleg approaching. He tells the woman that she and her husband could both lose their jobs and asks her how her children will survive when she’s in prison. He assures her that giving up the name of the person she’s bribing for the best groceries will never lead back to her… and she crumbles.
Oleg and his new partner return to the boss to report that they’ve had the blonde grocery lady’s information confirmed by others. The interrogator points out that the corrupt man has a weakness– a son in Afghanistan. Oleg’s demeanor changes visibly as his colleagues agree to exploit this, as though they don’t know his brother just died there. He asks if they can’t find another way to influence the man in question, and his boss accuses him of being soft. Oleg says that it’s just the decent thing to do, which makes it clear that he and Stan are cut from the same imperfect cloth. The interrogator smarms the boss into agreeing to let them look for another way, but we’ll see…
And here’s where Oleg’s story takes the gut wrench to a gut punch: home alone with mom again, she comes into his room and sits on his bed. She tells him that before he was born, “they” took her to a camp… and she was there for five years. Sometimes they took the wives and not the husbands. She lived. Others didn’t, but she did… things… to survive. She urges him to do whatever he needs to do to survive, and suddenly her character has 100% more dimensions than ever before.
Over in Stan’s world, when he isn’t definitely being played by Renee, he and Agent Aderholt (Brandon J. Dirden) seem to be stalking another dude to try to turn for the FBI, sharing coffee and confidences while staking out someone who is getting a haircut. Aderholt tells Stan a story about how when he was in San Francisco, they blackmailed a man who was cheating on his wife into cooperating, and now that guy and his family live in a big house in Tucson– so Oleg will be fine, too. Everybody won! Stan doesn’t seem convinced.
Instead of chilling out after hearing from his sketchy partner, Stan calls another meeting with the Deputy DA (Cotter Smith) in the soundproof room and confesses to shooting Nina’s friend in the head a while back. He says that if the CIA doesn’t back off of Oleg, he’ll confess to the media and create a huge shitstorm by outing a US government agency for killing foreign innocents on American soil. Stan + Oleg forevah!
Paige’s (Holly Taylor) big story in this episode is that she’s babysitting for the creepily bewigged Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin) and his prim wife, Alice (Suzy Jane Hunt). It seems to be the first time they’ve left their infant daughter with a sitter, and Alice is a bundle of nerves. (Good instincts, Alice!) Pastor Tim, however, is calm and cool. Before heading out with Alice, he offers Paige his dogeared copy of Marx to read so she can better understand her parents. (What’s your deal, Pastor Tim??)
Instead of reading Marx, though, Paige starts sneaking about. She looks in all the drawers in the house until she comes across something– Pastor Tim’s diary. She later tells her mom, who is NOT happy that she risked getting caught doing something so shady, that she wanted to find something that would help them recover the tape Alice claimed to have left with a lawyer when Pastor Tim was missing abroad. What she found instead was the Pastor’s notes on church members, which may come back around.
Finally, Mischa (Alex Ozerov) is in the United States! He hid under some refrigerators in a coyote’s car to get over the border to Austria, and now he has landed in New York. Look out Philip! Here comes (more) trouble!
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