A review of tonight’s The Americans coming up just as soon as I get a better wingman…
“She’s just a kid.” -Philip
“The Great Patriotic War” takes us to the halfway point of season six, and to a point of no return for Philip Jennings. Over the course of the hour, he sees his daughter getting sucked even deeper into spy world, and is asked by Elizabeth — in the least appealing One Last Job pitch in the history of filmed entertainment — to do something unfathomably cruel to Kimmy for the sake of the mission. He could very easily let his wife get her way on both, just letting Paige learn about honeypots and the easiest way to kill a man, and taking Kimmy to Bulgaria so she can be thrown into jail as a blackmail tool against her father. It would be easy. Time and again, he has backed down to Elizabeth’s desires about their family, and about the mission. She thinks he’s not as strong as she is, doesn’t have the stomach to do what’s necessary for the cause of Mother Russia, and he has spent much of this season looking every bit as impotent and weak as his wife takes him for, flailing about in civilian business and wrestling with the question of what to do about Oleg’s requests. So I spent much of the episode screaming at the television for Philip to stand up and do something, rather than letting both these young women be emotionally ruined in service to a country he barely knows anymore — screaming as much because I feared he wouldn’t do something as because I needed him to.
But Philip Jennings isn’t weak. He just believes differently from Elizabeth, can see nuance where she’s never been able to, can understand the human cost of what they do. The weak thing here would be to stay silent and let the plans proceed, especially at a time when things are finally starting to look up in the marriage, when husband and wife share their first tender moment together in quite some time when he puts his calculator aside to have sex with her. Just buy into Elizabeth’s argument that Kimmy will only be locked up for a few days, and will be unaffected by the experience, and continue to do and say nothing about Paige’s training. That’s what the weak man would do.
(*) Brian Grubb suggests that this is Elizabeth working Philip, already knowing that she’s going to ask him to help her with Kimmy. I bought the scene as genuine, but mainly because I want some good things to happen to Philip before all the inevitable awful things start tearing him up.
Instead, Philip steps in and tries to help both women in the only warped way he can, given the circumstances and his relationship with each. Recognizing that his words will fall on deaf ears with Paige, especially given what a masterful job Elizabeth and Claudia have done of indoctrinating her to sympathize with Russia, he instead gives her a scare, challenging her to spar and easily dismantling and even hurting her to demonstrate just how unprepared she is when her opponents aren’t a couple of spoiled college boys at a bar. And, having already done the monstrous thing of sleeping with Kimmy to make her want to see him during her Greek vacation — the hardest Americans scene to watch since Annelise got packed into the suitcase, if not ever — he casts her aside like a man who has finally gotten what he wanted out of her and has no more use for her company — no doubt messing up all her future relationships in the process.
The Americans: a show where the most heroic character this week is the guy who beats up his daughter and has manipulative sex with a surrogate daughter figure!