Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The Americans 1.07: "Duty and Honor"

“I’m sorry I didn’t kill you. That’s my apology.”
“Better luck next time.”
-Elizabeth and Claudia

It’s appropriate that this episode of “The Americans” is called “Duty and Honor,” because it mostly dealt with fidelity in relationships. We learned about Phillip’s pre-KGB academy relationship, and Stan finally officially cheated on his wife with Nina (spoiler alert). This wasn’t one of the more intense episodes from a spy action perspective, but it was interesting from an emotional/character perspective. I found it especially interesting to learn about Phillip’s past. Before this episode, I never would have guessed that Phillip had such a full life before starting his Directorate S training. I guess I assumed he was more like Elizabeth, whose loyalty was initially fed by desperation in her family situation.

We already know Elizabeth’s other love interest, Gregory, and in this episode we get to meet Phillip’s. Her name is Irina, but she goes by Anne now, and she lives in Canada. A Polish priest who has been making noise about Polish independence from the Soviet Union is visiting New York, and Phillip is giving the task of stopping him. This involves going to a travel agent conference in New York City that Anne will also be attending. Elizabeth knows about Anne, which I found surprising. At least I presume she knows because she states some displeasure at the idea of Phillip spending a whole weekend with her and working on a mission with her.

The flashbacks of Phillip and Anne back in Russia, presumably in the 1960’s, are rather melodramatic. We first see them at a train station where they have a meet cute. There’s also a scene where Phillip delightedly tells Anne that he’s been accepted into a “Leadership Group,” presumably related to the Communist Party. They both think that this is the first step towards building a life together, although this first step involves Phillip leaving for a year. Clearly the whole being away for a year, then starting a life together thing never worked out for them. Which is kind of a shame, really. They’re cute together.

Anyway, the Polish priest just happens to be staying at the same New York hotel where the travel agent conference is being held. Before we get to him, though, Phillip and Anne spot each other at the conference. They have a rather cryptic conversation that says nothing about spycraft but clearly implies they recognize each other, and they’re both spies these days. Anne’s job is to get really chummy with the Polish priest. She is introduced to him as a Polish immigrant, and they bond over their shared language and her (obviously fake) story of leaving Poland as a small child. Phillip is completely in on this plan, too. While Anne and the priest are out for a walk, Phillip, hidden in a hoodie, steals Anne’s purse and pushes her down. When the priest tries to help her clean up from the ordeal, she gets blood all over his bed.

Phillip and Anne have a late night chat about their previous life and the life they could have had together going forward. Anne mentions that she really didn’t want to be the reason Phillip gave up going to the academy. She also mentions that he’s the father of her son. Holy bombshell, Batman! Phillip’s response to this revelation is to have sex with Anne. It’s super awkward when Elizabeth calls Philip later, saying she’s lonely and misses him. After reconnecting, Phillip next has to beat Anne up, which is pretty terrible. The whole thing is a set-up so that Anne can accuse the Polish priest of rape. This she does, and the plan works well enough that soon enough, the priest is giving a press conference to say that he is not going to ask the U.N. General Assembly to support independence and democracy in Poland after all. With the mission accomplished, Anne says she wants Phillip to run away from the KGB with her. Phillip thinks about it, but he ultimately decides that he can’t leave Elizabeth and the kids. Anne implies that her son might not really be Phillip’s after all. The world may never know!

Meanwhile, back in DC, Elizabeth has a comparatively mundane spy mission this week. She needs to help out Sandford, a man who used to report to the scientist/informant Elizabeth shot and killed in a previous episode. Sandford has serious gambling problems, and Elizabeth needs to sort out his debt. She does so by dressing in a rather provocative outfit and paying a visit to the holder of the gambling debt. This guy doesn’t really want to comply with Elizabeth’s demands until she steps on his lap in stilettos and literally twists his nuts. Pretty effective. The debtor doesn’t seem especially grateful, though.

Since she’s got such a straightforward (compared to Phillip’s, at least) mission this week, Elizabeth’s got some time to brood about Phillip not being around. She and the kids have dinner with the Beemans one night, and there’s some drama when Stan doesn’t come home for dinner. Matthew, Stan’s son, isn’t any happier than his mother about the situation. He whines about how the President doesn’t always miss dinner, and Stan is most definitely not more important than the President. I see where the kid is coming from, I suppose. He thought he would get his father back after the undercover St. Louis mission, but he really hasn’t. Those demons have turned Stan into a different person and a workaholic.

Stan’s planning to spend a late night at the office, but Amador convinces him to go out to a bar. At the bar, Amador tries to convince Stan to hit on a woman who keeps watching him from the end of the bar, but Stan’s not having it. He’s pretty much being a complete bore, which is probably not what Amador had in mind when dragging his friend out for a drink. At first, we think that maybe Stan’s reluctance is out of loyalty to his wife, but that doesn’t really seem to be the case. We next see Stan in a car with Nina. She’s confused why he called her if there is no mission, and she is a little irritated that he’s drunk. None of this stops her from sleeping with him, though. Nina swears she’s not going to expect any special treatment now, but the next day, Stan tries asking his boss to exfiltrate her. Apparently Nina is not going to be exfiltrated any time soon because she’s too valuable. Womp womp.

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