THE AMERICANS Recap: “The Oath”

     April 24, 2013


Things really picked up this week on The Americans as we barreled towards next week’s finale.  It’s hard to believe we’ve spent twelve weeks with the show, but the payoffs are finally coming, and, meanwhile, they are developping in very strange ways.  Philip, as Clark, takes things to a whole new level with Martha, leaving both him and Elizabeth wondering what went wrong in their marriage, while Nina finds out the information she has been seeking, even if it wasn’t offered.  Many have died for the cause so far, both American and Russian, but The Americans was quiet on the action this week, though high on emotion.  Hit the jump for why if she sounds like Pat Benatar, she probably is righteous.

the-americans-season-1-episode-12When Clark asked Martha to marry him, my first thought was, “that escalated quickly.”  Even though Philip is working her to get information about Gaad, is he pushing her too hard, too fast?  But Martha, having spent a lifetime dating unfortunate men, is willing to hitch her wagon to Clark’s crazy anyway, even though he swears her to full secrecy about their relationship, even their marriage, and has her put a bug in her boss’s office for him.  Philip manipulates Martha by preying on her insecurities, giving her everything she thinks she wants, minus the ability to talk about it.  He even pulls the old, “do you want me to tell you about it?  Or do you trust me?”  It shouldn’t have to be an either / or, but Martha goes along with it for the reason Elizabeth tells Paige later: sometimes we see what we need to see in people.  Things that sometimes aren’t there. [Depressing truths]

Elizabeth then tells Paige that that thing was there with Philip.  So what went wrong?  Philip tells Martha that he and his ex-wife didn’t know how to be married.  When Elizabeth watches Philip takes his vows with Martha, it strikes an important chord in her — the same chord that the oath Nina said struck her, that made her confess her spying.

I don’t think things are over yet for Elizabeth and Philip, but Martha for sure has nothing but heartache in her future.  Philip has never seemed to care about her as more than a pawn, but maybe it would have been interesting if he had.  As it is, she’s a proxy for everything he wanted his marriage to include — meeting parents, exchanging vows, etc.  Instead, a woman he really wanted to share those things with is standing next to him as he says the words to someone else, pretending to be his sister, and the daughter of their Soviet handler.

The Americans is rarely humorous, but Granny / Claudia’s scenes this week were hilarious.  Playing Pac Man?  Dressed up for the wedding?  Fantastic stuff.  Even through the sadness of the event (one of the most heartbreaking weddings ever?) Granny Claudia provided some interesting background humor.

the-americans-the-oathWhile on the subject of these three women, and Nina, it’s striking how the U.S.S.R. welcomes women into the highest ranks — Nina is entrusted with Directorate S, Granny Claudia is a pretty elevated superior, while even Elizabeth is entrusted with matters of national security.  Juxtapose this with what we’ve seen at the FBI: one woman, Martha, a secretary.  No women in the situation rooms, no women as operatives.  As oppressive as the Soviet regime was and is portrayed to be, they are shown in this series at least as being equal opportunity.

Nina played her confession card well with Arkady.  He’s not a reactionary man, and her confessing, saying she should be tried and punished for her crimes and that she has no defense was quickly followed with the intimation that she could be useful as a double agent.  I’ve liked seeing Nina grow from being more than a sacrificial lamb to actually calling Stan out for killing Vlad, and more or less telling Arkady what’s what.  I still don’t know if she’ll survive much longer, but I hope so.  She gives us an interesting perspective on Soviet women who are not Elizabeth, and she’s matured so much.

I can’t help but think that the other female in this episode, Paige (who had some of the best scenes, per usual) will be key in things coming up between the Jennings and the Beemans.  Then again, maybe her flirtation with Matthew is just a way for us to hear Elizabeth talk about Philip, or that her and Henry’s quasi-kidnapping was just to augment the idea of all that the Jennings have to lose when they were kidnapped by their own.  Still, I think Paige deserves more than that.  We’ll see.

“The Oath” was a really great episode in a string of solid offerings, and I’m interested to see how many loose ends this first season will tie up next week with the promise of a second season on the horizon.  The FBI know they are looking for a couple, which is a big step, and Philip and Elizabeth can’t evade Stan forever … we shall see.

Episode Rating: A

Musings and Miscellanea:

— Ladies and gents, if your significant other wants to move really fast in a relationship and makes you swear you won’t tell another living soul about it … um, beware.

— I thought Elizabeth’s practical tone with Paige regarding her crush on Matthew was a little cold, but then again, Paige is probably used to it.

— Even though I’m Team Paige, it was kind of a refreshing subversion to have the girl be the awesome guitar player, and the object of affection, rather than the groupie (sorry Paige, I love you girl, but Sara is righteous!)

— Philip continues to give Elizabeth numerous opportunities to take him back, and she continues to refuse to show any emotion about it.  I’m tired of it!

— Granny killed it in this episode.