Dobry den, my comrades – The Americans got real tonight, da? Philip and Elizabeth’s story took a surprising turn (quite a few turns, though not quite how I expected), but even they were overshadowed by the tricks Stan pulled to keep Nina from harm, not to mention that haunting interlude where Paige and Henry decided to hitchhike. This was a pretty flawless episode from top to bottom, building off of what we have experienced in the last five weeks (Elizabeth and Philip’s relationship, Stan’s protectiveness towards Nina) and rewarded us for staying true to the cause. Things are coming together as much as they were split asunder this week, and per usual I’m not sure what to expect going forward (one of the series’ greatest traits). But for now, hit the jump for why “I believe in God, not coincidence.”
As soon as Philip was tied up in that warehouse space I wrote down “Homeland.” This was the moment, I was certain, where Philip would be turned into a double agent, or a triple agent, because like Elizabeth, I ultimately doubted his commitment to the cause (but not to his family, who I thought he maybe, maybe would compromise himself to protect). I like how Philip always defends his “soft” attitude towards America with the really heartbreaking assertion “I fit in!” It’s a point of pride and a point of confusion for him, and it’s also a way to wound Elizabeth who has never, it seems, quite fit in.
I knew something wasn’t quite right when Elizabeth was put into the Picture Pit and brought out to face Philip. As soon as Claudia ordered their release, I absolutely wasn’t expecting her fit of violence (her rage at the thought of her commitment being questioned, with all that she had given up to attain it), but it made sense afterwards that Philip accused her of throwing him under the bus. Why else, I thought, would Elizabeth be mostly spared and Philip beaten so harshly? He and Elizabeth had prepared their whole lives for that moment, and they were prepared to die for it. But to be questioned by their own? That was an insult not even Elizabeth could take.
The parallel story of Vasili though showed why Claudia, or the higher ups who ordered the ruse, were right to turn an eye to their own operatives first. The Russians were right to suspect that the mole was on their side, in America. But it was whip-smart of Stan to turn things on Vasili not only to take the heat off of Nina, but also in a weirdly heroic way that was able to stop her feeling she was physically beholden to him. It’s tricky, because while Stan never did tell Nina to, in her words, “suck his cock,” what other option did she really have in order to establish trust? It’s the same game of sexual politics that Philip and Elizabeth play on a regular basis with their marks, and it always seems to work.
The Americans is fun because it’s sleek and there are big victories sometimes that have to be played as small-time. It was a great moment with Stan and his wife at the end of the day where he had to explain in very general terms that it was a scary day for someone (not him for once) and that in the end it worked out. Nina was safe, Vasili was being sent back to Russia (to be executed, one can only suppose — or will he crop up again?) and the Americans won this round.
Our “Americans” though were not so lucky, and I thought the second best part of “Trust Me” was another manifestation of misplaced (and lost) trust, in the story of Paige, Henry and the Creeper. I don’t think anyone watching thought that Creeper was going to drive them directly home, and for a little while I thought he might be employed by whoever had picked up Philip and Elizabeth, and that the children would be held somewhere. Much worse, Creeper took them to a park, hit on Paige, drank beer and started talking about how Americans had lost faith in a way that just felt off. When little Henry saw that knife though, he smashed his head with a bottle and they took off home, keeping a secret between them (like, unbeknownst to them, their parents do). That whole riff was so realistic and haunting — it felt like something from the last season of Mad Men, honestly (which kept a shadow of death all year). You could really feel Paige’s struggle: her being upset at her parents not being there, at having to walk, and no one picking them up on the way, and then her slow realization about her mistake, and her growing discomfort at their situation and how to get out of it. Terrifying, great TV.
I trust you, Americans. I do.
Episode Rating: A
Musings and Miscellanea:
- Digression time: Stan gives the FBI a much better profile than Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) does on The Following, where the FBI could not be more inept at figuring out the next step when it comes to a notorious serial killer. In The Americans, the FBI has an amazing covert network and great resources (and brilliant minds, like Stan’s) in order to infiltrate and unravel these kinds of threats, whereas in The Following everyone stands around holding their asses. Stan sitting there with the two old-school telephones, routing calls to Vasili from different phone booths across the city after he had gotten some body-cavity-found diamonds dropped into an order of tea was better than anything and everything the modern might of the FBI is shown to possess on The Following. And nobody mentioned Edgar Allen Poe even once.
- I loved the moment where Henry reveals he had had an accident, and Paige calmly told him how brave he was, and handled it. Again, it felt like a very real moment.
- Poor Vasili. Kinda.
- Good to see Gregory back! Glad he’ll have his eyes on Jennings.
- The moment with Stan and Nina and the experimental film was kinda beautiful.
- Car crash cover up. Smart.
- I really love the fashions on the show. Vintage without being in your face. The kids’ fashions were particularly great in this episode.
- Hurtful moment when Philip needed a necklace to give to Martha and Elizabeth offered one that I assume had been a meaningful gift from him at one point. Oof.
- I jumped out of my seat when Philip was hooded and snatched!
- Elizabeth beating Claudia and calling her a “stupid bitch” was one of the craziest moments of the series.
- Elizabeth: “I was hurt by the people I trusted the most.” Philip: “That says it all.”