THE AMERICANS Episode Recap: “Duty and Honor”

     March 13, 2013


The subject and nuances of marriage were again at the forefront of this week’s The Americans, and this time it seemed to focus mostly on loyalty (and also, you know, “Duty and Honor”).  The Jennings’ uneasy marriage can sometimes be a reflection of their own complicated feelings about their lifelong mission for their country, of which their marriage is an integral part.  After several weeks of seeing Elizabeth’s side of things, from her affair with Gregory to hints from her childhood and her initial hesitations at being with Philip in the first place, we finally got to see some of Philip’s background, including a former love, Irina, with whom he is now reuniting.  The two were coming together to enact a scheme that would help to discredit a Polish resistance leader who was being sheltered in the United States during his Polish exile.  And that was just the beginning — hit the jump for more on why “I’m sorry I didn’t kill you.”

the-americans-season-1-episode-7This was another complicated episode of The Americans that also held a lot of emotional resonance.  Many duos this week had to put things behind them to keep moving forward — as Stan’s wife Sandra said to Elizabeth, it’s about choosing to move forward every day, though Sandra’s starting to appear like neither she or nor Stan are really moving anywhere.  Stan has a fling with Nina that we all saw coming, and she tells him it never has to happen again.  It was just something they both needed to do; it was what it was, and now life goes on.  Whether that is the end or not remains to be seen, but the other choices about moving forward were much harder this week.

Philip had the most complicated emotional journey this week, fresh off of his spat with Elizabeth over trust issues between them (and between their home country and themselves as spies).  Philip meets up with Irina who tells him they have a son (do they truly?) and the two reconnect briefly before Philip beats her up (as part of the job) and then sends her on her way.  She wants out of things, and so does he to a large extent.  But his own duty to the family he has built, with difficulty, means more.  And a part of him still seems to believe in his mission as well — whereas Irina wants out because she’s tired or “ruining good men” like Andrzej, for Philip it’s more of an escape to somewhere he can have a real life.

That “real life” is something Elizabeth wants to fight for, and wants to move forward on a foundation of truth, which Philip agrees to and promptly lies to her.  But isn’t that also an important part of his duty to Elizabeth, to protect her?  Besides, since he’s chosen to go back to her why bring up a situation he knows will be painful for her?  I loved the moment when he came home, though — Elizabeth wasn’t there, and his kids barely acknowledged him.  The house had a dark sense of the doldrums, and his kids were almost silently playing chess and ignoring him in a way that seemed to rip at him a little.  Did he make the right choice?

the-americans-season-1-episode-7-imageElsewhere, Elizabeth carried out business with Sanford Prince, the contact who would be taking Dormer’s place in the Department of Defense, but while her squashing that bookie’s balls was fun, the bigger scene was her confrontation with Claudia.  No longer is Claudia “Grandma” here, she’s someone Elizabeth wants to kill, though not enough to really go to war with her about it.  Their relationship is surely never going to be warm after this, but Claudia also should, on some level, feel good about Elizabeth’s commitment to the cause.

While Elizabeth exerted exacting control over Sanford and the man he owed his debts too, she has become helpless at home.  It was a devastating moment when she called Philip in the night to tell him she missed him — though including “I didn’t want to, but” — and then after asking him to come home having him hang up on her.  The portrayals of the marriages of the Jennings and the Beemans are dark and often a little suffocating, but maybe that’s what makes them resonate.  Still, did a little happiness ever kill anyone?

The fact that Philip was directly responsible for stopping the momentum of Polish independence was a little muted I thought, but the way he executed things was as suave and cool as usual (and shocking, like the beating of Irina).  The Americans continues to balance the spy stories and the relationships well, although it still could use an occasional cheering up.  It’s not like there’s a war at stake or anything!  (Oh, wait …)

Episode Rating: A-

Musings and Miscellanea:

  • — Despite this being about Russians and Americans, tonight had a distinctly British sentiment to it.  Stiff upper lip and that.
  • — “I don’t care what you do to be, KGB Lady!  I’m already done!” – Sanford
  • — Oh Stan, not home for dinner in a week?  You are not even trying!
  • — Nina is so sweet (and hot).
  • — “You Americans think everything is black or white, but for us, everything is grey” – Nina
  • — Was Matthew Rhys lip-syncing that Russian in the flashback scene?
  • — “You know there’s not TV on during the day unless it’s boring” – Jennings Family Rules
  • — I love that Henry’s conception of New York City is just hobos and drug dealers, and Philip just kinda agrees.
  • — Paige was killing me with her vocab and one-liners towards her brother.  Such a typical teenager.
  • — “Only duty and honor are real” – Irina