Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The Americans 1.03: "Gregory"

“I was seventeen when I joined the KGB. I never had a boyfriend. They put me with you. We didn’t know each other. When we got here, I was twenty-two years old. I was living in a strange house in a strange country with a strange man. And I met Gregory, and he was passionate about the cause. He was passionate about everything. He was passionate about me.”

“Gregory” was another fairly self-contained episode of “The Americans.” I think when I say it was self-contained, I’m really comparing it to the second season. Season 2 doesn’t seem to have as defined episode stories as these early season 1 episodes did. I actually didn’t remember that the events of this episode happened so early in the season. Mostly I didn’t realize that Phillip and Elizabeth’s marriage started unraveling so early. Gregory, after whom the episode is named, is an old friend of Elizabeth’s with whom she had an affair. She converted him to the KGB cause in her early years living in the United States, and sometimes she enlists his help for Directorate S missions. This episode would be one of those times. It’s an interesting framing device through which to learn more about Elizabeth’s past and about Phillip and Elizabeth’s relationship.

While I feel like this episode is fairly self-contained, it does have a connection to events that occurred in the pilot. Nina gives Stan some intel that the man who died of the stab wound in the pilot (Robert) was actually a Directorate S agent. At the same time, while Phillip is reading the newspaper, he sees a signal from Robert in a classified ad. Since Robert is supposed to be dead, to say this is troubling would be an understatement. Phillip and Elizabeth need to respond to the signal (Robert was one of Phillip’s best friends), but they need some distance to do it. They enlist the help of Gregory. When Elizabeth visits Gregory to make the request, it’s immediately clear that they have a romantic history. Since Elizabeth has been married her entire time in the United States, and we don’t yet know much of the Jennings’ backstory, this is a surprise.

Gregory is kind of pissed off when Elizabeth tells him that things are finally going well with Phillip for once (he still seriously carries a torch for Elizabeth), but he offers to help with the Robert situation anyway. It turns out that the signal was placed by Robert’s secret wife, Joyce. Joyce is being tailed by the FBI thanks to her late husband’s ties to Directorate S, so Gregory and his team stage a really elaborate series of distractions on a Philadelphia street to get her away from the FBI agents. Part of the ploy involves a big produce truck, and the whole thing is pretty impressive. Joyce is hustled away into the store room of a nearby building. Phillip and Elizabeth are concerned because Robert wasn’t supposed to have this secret life. They’re worried that Joyce knows too much. It turns out that she just thought Robert was a drug dealer, although all the shadiness that has happened since Robert’s death helps her put the pieces together that he was actually a spy.

The FBI is pissed that they lost track of Joyce, and a higher-up (somebody above Stan) leaks Joyce’s picture to the media along with a story that she is wanted for kidnapping. Joyce is not at all happy when she sees this on television, and it’s really the final piece that helps her figure out her late husband was KGB. Joyce gives Phillip a note that Robert instructed her to turn over, and while Phillip is trying to decode it, Gregory starts grilling him about his feelings for Elizabeth. Gregory goes for broke, telling Phillip that Elizabeth deserves something real instead of her KGB-arranged sham of a marriage to Philip. Phillip is clearly getting irritated, and he goes for a rather long walk after giving looks of death to everyone in the safe house. While on his walk, Philip sees a woman whom he also saw at a diner early in the episode. He confronts the woman, who turns out to be Claudia (Margo Martindale), their new KGB handler. She instructs Phillip and Elizabeth to make contact with the person from Robert’s secret note.

Phillip and Elizabeth are clearly in a bad place now thanks to Gregory, but they don’t really have time to work things out because Phillip has to investigate the note. Phillip goes to a warehouse basement, where he is confronted by two henchmen. After the fight, Phillip winds up with some very important military plans, for what I believe was “Star Wars” (aka Reagan’s missile defense pipe dream). This fits with Claudia’s intel that the United States was developing some sort of weapon that would hamper Soviet nuclear efforts. Turns out they didn’t really have much to worry about, but they couldn’t have known that at the time.

In the vicinity where Gregory pulled off the disappearing Joyce operation, the FBI are still searching like nobody’s business. Stan and Amador, while they are working, notice that they are being followed. The followee is a “hood,” and Stan wonders why an African American person would be involved in the KGB. This all happens while Elizabeth is trying to end things romantically with Gregory once and for all. Claudia takes Joyce’s baby (yes, did I mention Robert is a secret father, too?) and loads Joyce into a van. She tells Joyce that she is going to Cuba, and she is going to love the beaches there. I know I’m a naive person, because I actually believed that Joyce and the baby were going to Cuba to lay out on the beach.

Elizabeth and Phillip finally have a big conversation about the Gregory-shaped elephant in the room. Elizabeth explains how she never really experienced romantic infatuation as a teen/young adult because of her KGB experience, and when she met Gregory at a rally, it was something new and intoxicating. She tells Phillip that she’s starting to feel passionately about him (Phillip) now, which she hadn’t before. We also learn that Joyce did not actually go to Cuba. We see KGB folks delivering the baby to his grandparents in Donetsk. Thoughts to the people of Donetsk, by the way, as they continue to be right in the middle of the instability in Ukraine. Stan finds Joyce dead in the car, tourniquet around her arm. We all know she didn’t die of a self-inflicted overdose, though.

No comments:

Post a Comment