This marks my first recap of FX’s ”The Americans” as I’ve just caught up thanks to a 3 day binge viewing (truly the best way to watch any series) of the first season as well as the first couple of episodes of Season 2. So now that I’m up to speed, and with “True Detective” over and “Game of Thrones” still a few weeks away, I thought that I would start recapping a show that has quickly become one of my favorites.
This week we see Paige act on her growing suspicions of her parents by taking a solo trip out to “Aunt Helen’s house” (the same “Aunt Helen” that Phillip and Elizabeth claimed to be taking care of when Elizabeth was being tended to for the bullet wound she suffered in the finale of Season 1). As Paige gets older and more perceptive to her parent’s erratic behavior she’s also becoming bolder in her actions to find out the truth: at this point she suspects that one of them is having an affair, but what’s important is that she suspects that anything is amiss. When Paige arrives at her destination what follows is a confusing scene in which a disoriented old woman, who happens to have a picture of Elizabeth holding a baby framed on her wall, and apparently thinks that Paige is her daughter. It turns out that “Aunt Helen” exists, however she appears to be a KGB plant just in case Phillip and Elizabeth needed such an out. Paige may be feeling twinges of suspicion, however her parents are very good at what they do and it seems that they are one step ahead of even those closest to them from finding out the truth.
Later on we see “Aunt Helen”, who’s not nearly as out of it as she seemed in her earlier encounter with Paige, phone Phillip and let him know that his daughter has come to pay her a visit. This results in Phillip calling Paige’s bluff and visibly becoming more irate with each lie that his daughter tells him with regards to her whereabouts earlier that afternoon. His entire adult life may be one big fabrication, but he’ll be damned if he’s going to allow his daughter to lie straight to his face. This scene also reminded me strongly of the relationship between Meadow Soprano and Tony. Both in terms of the “do as I say, not as I do” regard as well as in a fatherly desire to shield his daughter from the dangerous secrets that their line of work entail.
Speaking of that dangerous work, we follow Phillip and Elizabeth to a plant where they are to gather more information regarding propellers that honestly I have little idea about at this point. This scene becomes increasingly tenser as a mechanic finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and begins asking questions. Before long, despite being outweighed and recovering from injury, Elizabeth grabs hold of a tire iron and suddenly it becomes crystal clear to this man that he does not want to mess with these people. He even resorts to telling her that he has a family, complete with showing her pictures of his three sons (one of which Elizabeth even takes with her to drive home the point that he better keep his mouth shut). This is interesting for the fact that we’ve seen Elizabeth in the past simply react to situations like these with immediate action regardless of any collateral damage that may cause.
We find out in flashback scenes that Elizabeth never really wanted children, and much in the way that she “accepted” Phillip as her husband it seems she initially did the same with her children. They started out as simply more window dressing as her cover as an American while she carried out her duties for the greater good of Mother Russia. However, it’s clear that the deaths of her friends, Emmett and Leanne (and especially their teenage daughter) have really had an impact on Elizabeth. Echoing the sentiment that her mentor in Russia told her several episodes ago, regardless or not if you start out loving someone after enough time of taking care of that person you will grow to care about them. She and Phillip have always known that they may have to be forced to sacrifice their lives for the choices they have made, but it seems for the first time the fact that if that were to happen that Paige and Henry would be left to fend for themselves in an increasingly dangerous world.
Elizabeth sees a glimpse of this potential future in the form of Jared, Emmet and Leanne’s son who is now forced to live in a group home due to the fact that his parents (much like Elizabeth and Phillip) never made any “true” American friends. Although he seems to be adjusting as well as someone in his unenviable situation could be, Elizabeth decides to break her promise to her deceased friend and burn the letter that she was asked to give to Jared that would have exposed the true identities of his parents as Russian spies. Elizabeth seems to be tapping into a maternal instinct to protect the boy from further confusion and heartache. After all, like her own two children, Jared has grown up in a world in which “Commies” are the bad guys.
-I’ve been having a tough time getting a read on Oleg, the new brash new addition to the Russian KGB Center, but it’s becoming clear that he may be yet another person (in addition to Stan and Arkady) that has dirt on Nina. His seemingly innocent offer of scalping some hockey tickets could imply he knows about her past transgressions. Nina is already in a pretty delicate balancing act and adding one more person into the mix can’t be any good for her.
-Speaking of Nina, I’m also struggling to get a read on her. Her information regarding the “Walk-In” from last episode (a Purple Heart Vietnam Vet working for the World Bank looking for help from the KGB) ultimately leads Stan to foiling his assassination plot (of World Bank employees as well as potentially President Reagan). She has fulfilled her obligations to Stan, at the expense of her own country while she is trying to convince Arkady that she is really the one working Stan over. Also, as she is typing the report of the information Stan conveys to her during an intimate moment a slight smile appears on her face. Does she still have feelings for Stan, the man that she’s supposed to be plotting against, the only thing that can save her life after her confession to Arkady that she was the mole? This will be interesting to watch in the coming weeks.
-I’m not sure what we’re supposed to make of Paige’s new friend that she met on the bus. It is interesting that while her parents are busy being immersed in their work, she is able to sneak right out the front door. This isn’t the first time their children have been potentially been put into dangerous situations, especially last year when they were stranded at the mall and hitched a ride with that creep, and it promises to be a theme that resonates throughout the show.
-I had to Google Dennis Maruk after Oleg brought him up. Guy looks like he was an animal:
-I don’t think that Henry will catch the “Chris Brody syndrome” of the younger son becoming more and more irrelevant as I think that he has a major role to play before this story plays out, but this week’s Polaris subplot (although thematically relevant) wasn’t exactly enthralling.