Note: Do not read on unless you've seen Season 1, Episode 10 of "The Americans," titled "Only You."
I don't hate this show because it's bad, I hate this show because every time I start to think it's silly, it surprises me. Clearly, and strangely given the premise of the show, the action-packed, mission-centric episodes that highlight the turmoil of the Cold War are not the show's strong suit. Instead, it's the slower, character and plot-building episodes like "Only You" that shine and make me look forward to seeing how they're going to close the season. The suspense!
I'm not sure I totally understand Gregory and Elizabeth's relationship or how he became so attached to "the Cause." But instead of some throwaway plotline, as I snarkily assumed the Philly episode was, the fact that his crew messed up cleaning the car after dropping Amador, and that Beeman finally picked up the lead, highlights just how similar Team Russia and Team America are. Everyone is scrambling to stay in the game.
Both Granny and Beeman assume that one lonely hotel room is just like another. Sending Gregory to Moscow to save the Jennings seems like an easy fix. But it's not. He may be a traitor, but he's no fool. As Elizabeth processes his takedown on the evening news, and as her cover marriage falls apart, I wonder what she's thinking. Would she, if she had to, return to Russia? She lectures Paige about how good she has it as an American teenager; you get the sense that, if faced with the same decision as Gregory, she would make the same choice. You can never go back, right?
Because she respects and understands Gregory more than she respects or can ever understand Philip. Philip battles the Cause even as he lives for it -- he daydreams of defecting, sees promise in the American way of life, and, probably subconsciously, botches every mission he's tasked with. His emotions get in his way.
Elizabeth and Gregory work within the KGB system even though they know it's senseless. The system -- the one that frames Gregory as much as it tries to save him -- is as cold and removed as they are. Gregory says as much to Granny, that he just wanted something to live for. Being a female in Soviet Russia and a black male in D.C. lend themselves to this attitude. Everyone else, from Philip to Beeman and his wife, seems to have more choices. One place could be just as good as another, they could make it work. For Elizabeth and Gregory, it's more about a sense of purpose and survival. At least within the Cause, there's a sense that they have power over their respective situations. Cold War Moscow's no place for a grown man like Gregory as much as it's not a place for a teenage girl.
The final montage was great. Everyone in the fight is looking for a bit of escape. The battle that led to Amador and Vlad's purposeless deaths has everyone wondering what they're doing. We all know Beeman likes to get deep and emo staring into his cubicle, but for the first time, even Elizabeth seems shaken. No one has any control, and no one knows what they're fighting for anymore.
"The Americans" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.