“We’re in a war, even if it’s a secret. Blood gets spilled. It’s the way it goes,” Gaad tells Stan this week on The Americans, and how true it is. But unlike other shows that depict violence, The Americans always makes it personal. The show has gone from being a little sterile to being very emotional, all in the same muted tones of the Cold War it depicts, but those smothering feelings, whispers and quiet anguish make it all the more visceral. A lot of The Americans is built on issues of trust — Elizabeth and Philip need to be trusted by everyone, but they themselves trust no one (not even, sadly, each other; at least, not fully). Stan lies to his wife and to Nina, but they are also forced to trust him whether they want to or not. In war there are always sacrifices, and as we experienced this week, martyrdom. Hit the jump for more about how “we’re not monsters.”
The press materials for this episode just said, “Gregory’s back …” That ellipsis was damming, and I had a feeling that his return wasn’t going to be the triumphant sort, with Elizabeth rekindling an affair with him. Vlad was not good enough as “an eye for an eye,” apparently, and Stan and the agency did not plan to rest until the actual killer, or at least, who they thought the killer was, was found. But I liked that poor Vlad was humanized a little more by Nina, who called him her friend and talked about his reluctance to join the KGB and his desire to leave and become a doctor. All he wanted was to go back to Moscow.
For his part though, despite tales of its springtime resplendence, Gregory was in no mood to be shipped off to the motherland. Maybe he never thought he would have to be, maybe all he did for Elizabeth was just for love, and not “the cause.” All things considered, the Moscow deal wasn’t so bad — a new life with a stipend and a network of support. Of course, one major issue not addressed overtly was a racial one. Gregory keeps saying how Elizabeth knows him well enough to know he would never fit in in Moscow. Is it an issue of race in a country and region that’s overwhelmingly Caucasian? Regardless, Gregory wanted to be a martyr, not a hero living out his days in a foreign land. And that was a tragic, tragic way to end our acquaintance with him.
Elizabeth and Philip dealt with some difficult issues relating to their marriage — or more accurately, their separation — in the kind of familiar and unresolved way of making rules up as they go. Elizabeth doesn’t want Philip to come without calling, but then thaws when the two begin discussing work over the running water in the kitchen. It is, per usual, complicated. I was trying to unravel how Gregory ended up dying for the Jennings, and I can’t squarely blame either one of them. Philip killed Amador, but Amador was stalking him and could have remembered them had he been released. Philip was spending the night with Martha in part because Elizabeth had kicked him out of the house, but that went back to this own lies. Of course, it was Elizabeth who recruited Gregory, and it was Gregory’s responsibility to “wipe” the car. A tangled web indeed.
On the flip side, Stan remains a shining example of an intuitive crime solver. He knew Amador well enough to know that he left that ring for them on purpose, and by some good fortune, the foolish junk man tried to pawn it. I had a feeling that Curtis would come back at some point after he got a little too exposed when tracking Stan, but that did tie up rather (too?) neatly. Even though Curtis didn’t know what he was really involved in, he could still point out Gregory, who in turn could point out the Jennings and, of course, the Soviet Union.
It was never foolproof, but the options once caught were clear: retire to Moscow, or die. Though Philip was there to clean things up with Gregory if Elizabeth couldn’t, Gregory preferred to go out in a blaze of glory, engaging in a suicide by police. Of course, Gregory also wounded or potentially killed some officers along the way, which makes it hard to feel sorry for him when he’s not on the right side … but we still do.
Logistically, the loss will be difficult for the Jennings, who relied on Gregory and his network for so much. Emotionally, it’s a devastating loss for Elizabeth, as Gregory was her one outlet to normalcy and true love, things she had never been able to feel. Gregory implores her to not take Philip back and to find someone “who makes you soft,” but I think what Gregory doesn’t see in Philip is that he does have that ability, if only Elizabeth will let him. We’ll see.
In the meantime, Stan sought comfort in his own marriage and in his very patient wife, who asked him to get them out of things. But once you’re in, no matter which side, you can’t leave easily. Stan at least had the satisfaction, presumably, that Gregory was dead. But I don’t think that he will rest completely until he has found out all he can about him and uncovers why he killed Amador. Not just beacuse he was his friend but because as Stan says to Curtis, “we don’t have much in common, but we’re both goddamn Americans.”
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I thought Granny Claudia showed a great deal of compassion in this episode. She’s soft when she needs to be and tough when called for. We need more of her!
— “J. Edgar’s genius: man power” – Gaad
— Stan dropping in to Philip’s place and bonding over beer and sadness was, well, a bit sad. But I like their friendship.
— Neat trick planting the evidence of Amador’s murder on Gregory, even though I don’t know how they procured that evidence given that he helped clean up the crime scene …
— Elizabeth and Gregory’s “last supper” was particularly painful.
— I don’t think that Elizabeth and Philip will actually get a divorce, but I think it will take awhile for them to come back around to each other. The look they shared after leaving Gregory’s apartment was telling.
— R.I.P., Gregory (the last minority on this show).