“The Great Patriotic War,” in which The Americans goes two-for-two in making me cry out “Oh no! Oh no!” at my TV, to the likely concern of my neighbors.
Let’s start by eliminating your concern about Henry (Keidrich Sellati). He doesn’t even get to make a phone call from a boarding school hallway this time. Nobody mentions him. This is a no-Henry episode in every way.
Now that that’s settled, you should really be concerned about everybody else.
Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) are a mess- individually and collectively. She has two heavy tasks in front of her: determining whether the CIA has a Russian informant and eliminating the courier who has apparently defected, Gennadi (Yuri Kolokolnikov).
To accomplish the first task, she pulls Philip back into active duty by pressuring him to meet Kimmy (Julia Garner) on her Thanksgiving trip to Greece, where he can facilitate her wrongful arrest on a side-trip to Bulgaria and give the Russians some leverage over her important father.
This is terrible in many ways. First, she breaks the news to Philip after their first night of marital intimacy in ages, bringing her motives for sleeping with him into question and further shaking their marriage’s stability. Second, Philip doesn’t really have the stomach for these things anymore. Third, all of the ways to make it work go against every stand he’s ever taken with Kimmy.
Philip’s creepy friendship with Kimmy has been just that– a friendship. He sincerely cares for her, but he also put the brakes on a physical relationship she wanted, because she is too dang young. He pretend-converted to Christianity to redirect her energies from sex to prayer, for gosh sakes! She’s Paige’s (Holly Taylor) age, and he can never forget that.
Elizabeth twists his arm, though, so he drops in on Kimmy at school in Michigan and takes her out for the evening. He mentions that he’ll be on business in Rome when she’s in Greece, and he could come meet up with her. She declines the offer, because she’ll be there with her girlfriends. This forces his hand. He tells her he’s proud of her, pushing her old “daddy issues” button, and that she’s grown up into quite a young woman, then he kisses her. It’s everything she’s ever wanted, and in a minute they’re in bed, her blissed out on finally consummating their relationship, and him looking like he has just crossed a disgusting line. And yeah, he’s invited to Greece now.
In order for Elizabeth to execute her second task, she has her team surveilling Stan (Noah Emmerich) in hopes of discovering the safe house where he’s keeping Gennadi. They succeed, and she steps in to assassinate him.
Her first attempt is foiled by his keeper intercepting him while he’s out on a rogue grocery run. The next time, she’s determined to get the job done. She sneaks into his apartment via the fire escape, knife drawn and ready to get to work, but she’s surprised in the kitchen by Sofia (Darya Ekamasova).
In the face of being relocated to Oklahoma, where she knows nobody, Sofia has softened about the whole divorce thing. She’s over for the evening, taking a step towards reconciliation. Elizabeth hides from her, and as soon as Sofia leaves the room, Elizabeth makes a beeline for the window, ready to abort.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly when Gennadi walks in. She hides again, but he sees her, and she has no choice but to act. She jams her knife up through his head, bringing the big hockey hero down. She tries to bolt, but Sofia comes to see what’s happening in the kitchen, leaving Elizabeth no choice but to dispatch her, too. (Which is where I started exclaiming at the TV.)
And that’s when she notices that seven-year-old Ilya is in the apartment as well.
She doesn’t kill him, but you can see the struggle with what she’s done and what she should do playing on her face before she retreats. She and Philip have both robbed children of their innocence, and they’re both going to have to carry that.
Their choices are punctuated by Paige having an altercation with some drunk young men in a bar she frequents. On an evening out with her friends, they go home early and Paige stays behind to let these guys buy her drinks. She is cocky. She knows she can protect herself if she needs to. Her mother has been dissuading her from pursuing the connected intern who poses so much temptation as a source, so she’s reckless in flirting with a seemingly ordinary guy.
The guy’s friend is an a**hat, though, and he starts spouting off in a way that makes Paige want to go home. When she gets up to leave, she advises her suitor to get a better wing man, which the friend takes offense to. He stands in her path and puts his hands on her, and she shows him what her mom’s been teaching her in the garage. When the suitor follows, she bloodies his nose before making her escape.
The next day, she shows up unannounced at home, ready to work out some of her frustration in a sparring session with her mom. This ends in both parents having a sense that she’s lost her cool too publicly– and that she’s creating danger for herself. Elizabeth’s response is to acknowledge to Philip that Paige might not be cut out for their line of work. Philip’s is to show up at Paige’s apartment and engage her in some sparring with him, taking the edge off of her confidence that she could take anyone who came at her.
Philip marches straight from that confrontation to a phone booth, where he breaks it off with a shaken Kimmy for good and advises her not to leave Greece for a communist country during her trip. (Think she had daddy issues before? Oh, Philip…)
Backtracking, Paige and Elizabeth visited Claudia’s (Margo Martindale) safe house twice in this episode. The first time, they taught Paige about WWII from the Russian perspective, telling her that where the United States lost about 400,000 people in WWII, Russia lost 27,000,000. Claudia lists everyone in her family whom she lost and shows Paige a photo of a post-siege Stalingrad, and Elizabeth nods affirmation that everything Claudia is saying is true. Later, Elizabeth tells Paige that when she was studying WWII in ninth grade, Elizabeth used to read her history book and want to rip their version of the war right out of Paige’s head.
Their next visit is after Paige’s incident at the bar. Claudia shows her how taking a generous shot of olive oil before drinking can help prevent getting too drunk, then they split a bottle of vodka three ways in a tolerance-building exercise.
Once they’re all feeling loose, they start talking about their early sexual experiences. Claudia had only had sex with her husband before the war, but after he was killed her next sexual encounter was with a soldier who offered to share his food rations with her. Skeptical, Paige challenges her assertion that she would trade sex for food, but Elizabeth backs Claudia up by remembering how her family ate rats during the war because they were starving.
Then Elizabeth shares that her first time wasn’t really her first time. They lived in an apartment with so many other families that there was no privacy, and her paramour was so worried they’d be walked in on that he failed to remove her underpants and actually had sex with the space between Elizabeth’s body and the sofa.
The look on Elizabeth’s face during these apartment sessions, which invariably introduce Paige to the hardships she knew in the USSR, is one of pure homesickness. This is the first time in 20 years that she’s been able to talk and think freely about home, and it’s the first time she’s ever been able to share her true self with her daughter. Between these walks down memory lane and Erica (Miriam Shor) forcing her to look at the world differently in order to draw it, Elizabeth’s perception is definitely shifting, but I’m not sure how yet…
In other news, Oleg (Costa Ronin) gets a visit from an old friend while leaving class. He’s still in DC, and now the Russians want him to know that they suspect he’s not there just for school. Tatiana (Vera Cherny), whom Oleg betrayed when he tipped Stan to the biochemical weapons caper, has been stuck in the same, dead-end job since Oleg ruined her operation. She’s interested in some vengeance, so when he doesn’t confess to his motives for being in the US, she advises the Resident to tell Moscow that they don’t know why he’s there, but that they don’t trust him at all.
Also, Stan has come up with an option for Renee (Laurie Holden) to pursue her new dream of working for the FBI: coming in through the personnel department instead of as an agent. This would be good for her, because she is DEFINITELY A SPY.
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