The Americans has been exceptional this season, but it’s at the point in this slate of episodes where things are beginning to slow down before the big turn towards the finale. “Yousaf” had Philip and Elizabeth treading water, so to speak, while their foes moved against them. Larrick has returned to the United States with murder on his mind, and a newly-returned-to-work Gaad helps Stan out with a clue that is bringing him exceptional close to the truth. Everyone is out for the Jennings, and for once, they’re the ones in the dark. “Mutually assured destruction, keeps the world spinning.” Hit the jump for more.
“Yousaf” felt a lot like a first season episode of the show, by which I mean it was full of Spy Stuff. The extended sequence where Larrick broke into a house so he could follow the junction box (after getting the information from the telephone company by posing as a police officer) was chilling, and reminiscent of Emmett and Leanne’s death along with their daughter: going about their business as an assassin stalked in the shadows. The scene when Larrick came upon the Soviet communications man was straight out of Bond. He shoots him, but not before the man can hit a self destruct button on the equipment (it was a cool moment). Unfortunately for the Soviets, Larrick was able to piece enough of it back to get a line to Kate, and who knows who else. The Jennings may be his ultimate target, but he’ll surely take out as many as he can until then.
As for the Jennings, both Philip and Elizabeth were involved in a new, one-off mission that felt like the capsule missions of the first season. Philip tried to keep Elizabeth from having to seduce their mark, Yousaf, and instead asked for the involvement of one of his old marks, Annelise, the wife of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense. It was an obscure reference, as Annelise only appeared in one (possibly two?) episodes last season, and the idea that Philip (as Swedish intelligence) would still be in contact her came out of nowhere. Another important factor was her unstable personality, which also burst forth after her coupling with Yousaf, calling Philip a pimp and a liar. When he returned to Elizabeth at home (she had successfully completed her own mission to kill Yousaf’s boss), they were both tired and beleaguered. Are they the only spies in town?
Oleg talks to Nina about balance, and there doesn’t seem to be much of it with the Jennings at the moment, despite their time together to bookend the episode. Philip acquiesced to Paige’s Christian summer camp, while Elizabeth put the kibosh on it without discussing it with him. She told him she’d rather have Paige drink or do drugs than go to the camp, which makes Elizabeth seem as hard-lined as she’s ever been this season (whereas Philip, after a violent and explosive time last week, seemed to have calmed down entirely to meekness). Are these meaningful character changes, or just unevenness in the writing? Paige is right to call our her parents’ hypocrisy, though: Henry got off with a warning for a break-in, while she’s mopping floors through the night and taking out all of the trash because she wants to be a camp counselor.
Paige would have been able to answer the questions Stan posed to Jared in a much different way than he did. She could have spoken to trips out of the country, not having any friends (something they were working on in the first season, but never really succeeded in), and many, many secrets or strange happenings. Jared, on the other hand, was reticent. Was it because he knew there were ambiguities, or because he sought to protect the memory of his parents as wonderful people? (Or both?) Stan’s careful interrogation got him what he needed: Jared’s trust in his ability to find the killer. Gaad, like Martha before him, also gave Stan a crucial piece of the puzzle that allowed him to realize Emmett and Leanne might have been “illegals” (spies), and also an understanding that their end-game is the stealth technology (which Oleg confirmed to Nina).
This season of The Americans has been deep and layered emotionally when it comes to the Jennings work and marriage, but things had stalled out regarding Stan’s suspicions of them (or his knowledge of any current Soviet plots). Meanwhile, Larrick has been a wildcard all season — did he kill the other couple? Regardless, how much destruction will be wreak before attempting to kill the Jennings? “Yousaf” was important in establishing these last few lines of inquiry as being extremely important as we move into the last few episodes of the season. The Jennings have grown somewhat complacent, focused on their other missions. Now they have become the prey.
Episode Rating: B
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Paige was really nonchalant about Elizabeth finding her attempting to forge her signature, wasn’t she?
— Some kinda interesting historical notes about Afghanistan’s role in Cold War politics, but the spy story in “Yousaf” largely left me cold.
— “This whole thing Is going to all be own or lost in the third world” – Elizabeth.
— This time, Elizabeth had the rachet wig, and Philip’s hair was decent. Where do they keep all of those wigs??
— The meetings between Gaad and Arkady are interesting. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them.
— Great little conversation between Nina and Oleg about the old days in the old country (reminiscent of a few scenes between Philip and Elizabeth). I’m still not completely sure where Nina stands when it comes to Oleg and Stan. I don’t know that she does, either.
— I fear Kate may not be long for this world.
— Very nice montage to the dueling scenes between Elizabeth and Annelise. The song, FYI, was an original for the show composed by Pete Townshend and Emmy-nominated series composer Nate Barr: “It Must Be Done.”