When it comes down to it, neither Elizabeth (Keri Russell) nor Philip (Matthew Rhys) will ever really be “The Americans,” will they? She finally says out loud to him that she hates America and Americans in “Urban Transport Planning,” and as we get a closer look at his life, we can see that Elizabeth isn’t the only one who’s beginning to show cracks from strain.
The episode opens with Elizabeth in full-on Lady MacBeth mode, out-out damn spotting the blood and brain matter blown all over her face and into her hair when she turned General Rennhull’s (Victor Slezak) gun on him. This is her “moment in the mirror” for the episode, scrutinizing her reflection in the aftermath of a horrific act.
When she gets home, understandably exhausted after a serious mission failure, she finds Paige (Holly Taylor) there with Philip, on the brink of receiving some much-needed consolation after bearing witness to Elizabeth covered in gore. Philip is relating to Paige like a concerned dad would, but when Elizabeth walks in she takes a firm stand against coddling her underling who failed to adhere to protocol when the mission went south. She sends Paige home, frightening in her frostiness, immediately after Philip had suggested that Paige check out EST’s successor, The Forum, and rely on Elizabeth as a confidante and partner.
Philip comments to Elizabeth after Paige leaves that now she’s seen it all. A grim Elizabeth responds, “Not all of it.”
He gets her to talk a little about what happened, inadvertently pointing out that now Elizabeth has lost her source. She understands this won’t be the end of the mission. She recognizes that she rushed it, but she believes there’s trouble back home with Gorbachev, and she’s committed to continuing her work.
The next day, Elizabeth takes Paige for a walk-and-talk to debrief about the botched mission. In addition to re-emphasizing how completely Paige blew it by deviating from her orders, she takes responsibility for what happened– without being totally frank about the fact that the General did not commit suicide.
Once they’ve hashed things out, it’s time to get back to the business of team-surveilling Glenn Haskard (Scott Cohen) while he’s at work. Elizabeth and her little sparrows follow him and a group of Americans and Russians working on the treaty, leading to Elizabeth eavesdropping on them in a pizza joint. It seems the biggest newsflashes over this lunch are that Haskard is really into baseball, and that it also makes him sad because he used to enjoy it with his dying wife.
Then it’s time for more Russian culture immersion at the safe house with Claudia (Margo Martindale). This time, she and Elizabeth are teaching Paige how to cook traditional Russian “peasant food,” sharing not just the heritage of the recipes, but the bond with ancestors who developed these foods as a way to survive harsh conditions. Claudia sends Paige off to the market so she can give Elizabeth the details on her new target to get the radiation sensors, and the mission is back on track.
In a moment if uncharacteristic sentimentality, Elizabeth brings some of the Russian peasant stew home to Philip– a huge no-no for these deep-cover spies. He’s just eaten a ton of Chinese takeout, but he manages to try a little of the zharkoye before Elizabeth puts the rest down the garbage disposal to prevent it being around the house.
Philip suggests that soon they won’t have to hide things like zharkoye– that maybe they’ll even be having Stan (Noah Emmerich) and Renee (Laurie Holden) over to eat it someday. This makes Elizabeth’s blood boil. She says how much she hates America and how she doesn’t want to be anything like Americans. She doesn’t want American culture changing Russia, and she doesn’t think the people back home do, either.
Philip disagrees. He mentions the prospect of a Pizza Hut opening in Moscow and the ways that youth culture is effecting change in their homeland. He points out that Elizabeth can’t know what people back home want, because she hasn’t spoken to anyone there in 20 years. “Neither have you,” she shoots back, unaware of his recent conversation with Oleg (Costa Ronin).
When it’s time for her to go back to work, this time she’s posing as a security auditor for a company on the supply chain for the radiation sensors, interviewing an unwitting employee in a nondescript hotel suite. He’s terrifically helpful in identifying all of the weaknesses in his warehouse’s security systems, and he’s about to walk out safely when he makes the mistake of wondering aloud if “Tracey” knows his girlfriend, who works in the company’s security. This makes him Mr. Three-For-Three in Elizabeth’s by-episode body count. She jumps up on him (he’s very big and tall!) and chokes him to death, then looks at him with dismay, as he’s just become another complication in her mission.
In the first couple of episodes of the season, it looked as though Philip was having an easier go of it than his tired and violent wife. Tonight, he was the one looking 10 years older as he examined his own reflection in their bathroom mirror. In addition to the strain of trying to decide if he’ll agree to Oleg’s request and begin actively working against Elizabeth’s mission, it turns out that he may have over-expanded the travel agency.
Where’s Henry (Keidrich Sellati)? Still at boarding school, and doing great at hockey. How long this will last is uncertain, though, because Philip has to call the headmaster to beg for an extension on this term’s tuition payment. Turns out that Henry’s scholarship doesn’t cover the whole cost of the schmancy school, and that the cost of taking over the office next door to the original travel agency and hiring new staff has left Philip low on funds.
In the office, Philip is reading self-help books on actualizing your goals with positive thinking and giving uncomfortable pep talks to his awkward staff. When he eats Chinese food alone at home, he does so poring over a pile of bills. It looks like his current undercover role as “American businessman” might not be a good long-term fit.
Who knows if it’s Elizabeth’s anti-American outburst, getting a taste of home or having a sense that he’s better at espionage than running a business, but Philip decides to say yes to Oleg before the episode ends.
How will his decision affect his marriage? Elizabeth has apparently been visiting Father Andrei (Konstantin Lavysh) and confiding in him. Their conversation suggests that they see each other with some consistency, and he suggests that she bring Philip next time, even though he isn’t a spy anymore. The priest who married them might be able to help reunite them.
Meanwhile, over in Stan’s storyline, stupid Sofia (Darya Ekamasova) still wants a divorce and tells Stan that the new man in her life has told her she shouldn’t listen to everything Stan says. Or: She has told a guy at work about her FBI contact. This forces Stan and Agent Aderholt (Brandon J. Dirden) to abort using her and Gennadi (Yuri Kolokolnikov) immediately, out of a concern for his safety.
They bring both of them in, as well as their son Ilya, under the guise of granting them “political immunity.” They’re on their way to witness protection, but it looks like Stan has to spend some more time stuck in the middle as their marriage counselor before they go all the way away.
If the stress of these two jokers complicating his work life isn’t enough, at home he’s got Renee, who is DEFINITELY A SPY, lamenting how dull her job is compared to his. She thinks she’d make a great FBI agent, and she wants to switch careers. (WINK!) Fortunately for Stan, she’s too old to make it in as a new agent.
And then it isn’t just Philip who is meeting with Oleg. Prodded by Agent Aderholt, Stan seeks Oleg out at his hotel to let him know that his presence is on the FBI’s radar and to apologize for the trouble caused by his tape and the CIA a while back. Oleg admits nothing about why he’s there, forgives nothing about the danger Stan put him in and reminds Stan harshly of what happened to Nina. Still sure Oleg isn’t just in DC to attend a class, Stan advises him not to do whatever it is he’s there to do, which we know is to help ensure an end to the Cold War.
Notable music placement of the week: Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love.” I don’t see a lyrical reason that jumps out, but the music is pitch-perfect as it underscores Elizabeth doing murder in a hotel and Philip heading out to meet with Oleg.