THE AMERICANS Recap: “A Little Night Music”

     March 19, 2014

the americans season 2 keri russell matthew rhys slice

“A Little Night Music” (which sounds like it should be the title of a Bob Seger song) brought another narratively and emotionally twisty hour of The Americans.  There are several things that are haunting Philip and Elizabeth, and potentially affecting their work — something Claudia notes.  But Claudia is also a little off, and like everything on the show, suspicion abounds.  Emmett and Leanne’s deaths set off a chain reaction that resonates from the Jennings to Claudia to the Center, Arkady, Stan and everyone.  No one is above the potential for treachery, but the emotions behind each case are bubbling to the surface in a way we haven’t seen before.  Hit the jump … unless you need a higher security clearance.

“A Little Night Music” traded a lot in deceit, including self-deception.  Elizabeth and Philip explode over Paige lying to them, when they themselves do almost nothing but lie to their children.  But truths are bleeding out more now than ever before.  Claudia seems genuinely relieved that the Jennings are still alive, though Elizabeth (rightfully) mistrusts her emotional fervor on the subject.  Stan blurts out to Philip about his affair, something Elizabeth can’t understand.  “We’re friends,” Philip says cavalierly.  Even Philip, as Clarke, manufactured (or let out?) marital resentments on Martha.  He doesn’t understand the concept of a lazy morning, though makes a valid point of Martha talking on the phone to her mother.

the americans a little night music keri russellStill, Elizabeth seems somewhat resentful that Philip has both a friend and another wife he can confide in and “lazy around” with.  After the loss of Gregory last year, she has no one.  Elizabeth tried this softer approach in her seduction of Brad.  Her description of the rape seems pulled from her own experience when she was undergoing training.  It was something she needed to talk about, and did.  But it also served a purpose: “We are trained to use everything we have,” Oleg says to Nina.  “That’s hard on the soul.”

Though Elizabeth did seem genuinely shaken up, or at least affected, in her connection with Brad (shades of Gregory?), her commitment to Russia cannot be questioned (even though with the way it played out, the writing felt uneven).  She rants to Philip about letting their children down when it comes to keeping them away from the indoctrination of consumerism (and religion), and later, is so overzealous in her physical attack of the duo who had been lying in wait for them that their mark, the Russian physicist Baklanov, was driven away.

Baklanov’s devotion to the United States was enough that the Jennings recommended he would not be able to be turned.  In his personal life, though, he has dual allegiances, just like Stan (and Nina, and just about everyone).  Monogamy of any kind, it seems, is hard.  The fact there was a duo waiting for the Jennings also suggests that the snooping Oleg might have had a hand in it.  Was Arkady not tipped off that Oleg was able to quickly raise his security clearance to read files about expatriation just in time for Baklanov to escape?  His interest in Nina might mask it for the short-term, but not forever.  If he finds out though about her once being a spy for the Americans, he too might use her — or help her give Stan an out if her emotions cloud her mission on that front.

the americans a little night music margo martindaleArkady notes that Oleg has adopted Western ways, like using nepotism to get ahead (I feel like that’s probably universal, but what do I know?)  Elizabeth, too, is horrified that Paige might be adopting a religion, and that Henry is too focused on TV and video games.  For Baklanov, all of this is seen as a blessing rather than a Western poison, and The Americans continued to done a good job of subtly (and not so subtly) undermining the strength of the Russian ideals that should be keeping the loyal close.  Remember last year when Philip seemed like he was enjoying America a little too much?  Didn’t he seem like he was relating to Baklanov’s speech a bit, about an “unseen people” (spies, in his case) who have left Russia and are fortunate to be in the land of freedom and plenty?

One of the most difficult things about The Americans last year was its lack of emotional connection.  This year, the emotions are everywhere, and they are compromising what would otherwise be some very cold and mechanical missions.  Speaking of missions, the ones Elizabeth and Philip are on this season, for the most part, continue to add layers to their personal experiences, which makes each episode that much richer (and can lead, like in this hour, to their being so much more to tell).

Episode Rating: B+

Musings and Miscellanea:

The Americans may remind us over and over again in the “previously on” about Emmett and Leanne’s deaths (of which we are quite aware), yet could be more helpful in reminders about some of the holdover plots from last year.  Elizabeth and Philip keep track of an enormous amount of lies, but it’s hard to remember the nuance and significance of many of them (especially within Stan and Martha’s plots).

the americans a little night music jonathan white— Of course Stan never picked up his medals.  Now for commendation he gets “a letter. In a very nice box.”  But there are some deaths that need to be atoned for, and the U.S. Senate is not about to let them go …

— “We’re doomed” – Stan.  The conversation between Stan and Philip about the affair felt natural.  The show always hits its mark when it comes to marital issues.  Speaking of, “Clarke’s” freakout about the hair in the sink was justified.  Who does that, Martha?!  (She’s so understanding, though).

— Martha’s plot arc seems like it’s going to come to a head soon as she continues to rebel (slowly) against Clake.

— Wig Watch: that blonde hair piece and those blue eyes made Philip look like a vampire.  Also, Elizabeth’s wig for her interactions with Brad was janky.

— I hope I look as young as Keri Russell when I’m 37.  She could be 22, I swear.

—  “Will you stop being so reasonable?” – Elizabeth to Philip.

— We’ll see about this Paige-is-a-Christian thing.  It works on one level for this show, because it flies in the face of communism (though how Elizabeth could say “opiate of the masses” with a straight face, I don’t know).  Other shows, like the Good Wife have introduced it with a young character, but ultimately let it slide.  If it goes somewhere here, that will be interesting.

— So Oleg is working for American forces, right?  It seems obvious but then again, who knows.

— “It’s fine. He’s a geek” – Elizabeth re: Brad.  I think she does like him, but her hero-shaming him was low! (Though she does need those files).

— The Jennings use a LOT of water to cover up their spy talk.