Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 1, Episode 7 of "The Americans," titled "Duty And Honor."
After spending too much time trying to figure out why the Jennings needed to slide around on cars for encryption codes, I have given up on paying attention to the intricate justifications for missions on this show. The details of the missions aren't so much the plot here, but rather subplots to drive along the meta narrative of marriage and what it means to live a double life. On that note, here's what you need to know!
- There's some Polish guy in New York to talk to the UN General Assembly because he's the Reagan administration's latest ploy in ... whatever. He was an "outspoken critic of Soviet interference in Polish affairs" and he's going to set up some exile government in Paris to protest Soviet Moscow. In any case, he's dead meat. Philip heads to the Big Apple to take this guy down, with the help of his long lost love, Irena. And he is all sly smiles about it. The pair manage to ruin the Polish guy's reputation with the Reagan administration by setting him up for rape with a little help from their KGB friends, a little Rohypnol, and a good old-fashioned New York City mugging. And then Philip and Irena get it on, just like old times. It's been twenty years, and she's pretty much in the same situation as Philip, except in Canada and her cover husband is dead. Also, she has a son. And it's Philip's.
- Paige needs new leg warmers. And new friends. While the Jennings' kids aren't whiny, little Beeman is. Mrs. Beeman invites Elizabeth and the family over for dinner and Stan ditches via a last minute phone call because he's "too busy." Matthew freaks out and stomps around with his headphones to go play foosball in the basement. This leaves Elizabeth and Sandra alone to drink two bottles of wine (did you catch those on the counter?), and talk about how hard marriage is. Elizabeth does a good 'desperate housewife' by lending her ear and cracking jokes about how she doesn't bake. But the real kicker is Sandra admitting that she envies the Jennings. "I know you can't judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a cover by its cover," she says, and the Jennings make a good team in her eyes. Gulp. Without knowing it, Sandra has pinned those crazy spies. Their cover marriage is actually better than her real one. Elizabeth goes home and drunk dials Philip, who's cuddling his soulmate.
- Stan hasn't been coming home for dinner in a while. And apparently he just sits in cars and farts. Ok, that's maybe not true. But his partner, Chris, is irritating as can be. He gets Stan to come out drinking with him by telling him his farts don't smell, and I couldn't stop thinking about this weird, and oddly placed, joke about Beeman's potpourri. His words, not mine. They head to a dark bar, and Chris tries to get Stan to "get some strange." Stop pressuring him, Chris! Instead, later on, alone and sitting in his car (and farting? He'll never be able to sit in a car again without me having to go there) he drunk dials Nina! And they do what we've been waiting for them to do. And Nina messes up another American idiom: 'with Americans it's all white and black," she says. Just adorable. But let's take her waxing philosophic seriously for a moment. I like the idea that everything, according to her, is gray, which is pretty much where this show sits. In the gray area between good and bad and loyalty and deception.
So! Elizabeth has now realized that she is properly dedicated to making a real life with Philip, and she says as much when he comes home. Philip and Irena's relationship is powerful and passionate. Not only does she maybe have his child, but she asks him to defect. She asks of him what he had asked Elizabeth for in the pilot episode, except that Irena actually went ahead and bought tickets. And he balks. He thinks about it, but lets her go alone.
Both Jennings have had to grapple with their past now, and both spent a good time during this episode being called by their Russian names -- Elizabeth by Claudia, Philip by Irena. The names are important, they ring little bells in their little spy hearts and make them think about where they are going and what they've done to get there. Elizabeth hates it, because she hates Claudia and her veiled threats, and turns to Philip. Philip sort of loves it, but decides to come home. He chooses Elizabeth. Or does he? By hiding the tryst and the fact that he might be a father to someone else, well, that leaves a lot to be reckoned with sometime soon. We don't know how it's going to come back to haunt him. I'm guessing it will.
One complaint: the trailer for this episode focused on Claudia and Elizabeth having it out on a park bench and a house blowing up. The girls did grapple a bit, but we still have the explosion to look forward to. Oh, the anticipation! And that gambler she's turned as a source? He's going to be just another problem they have to solve.
"The Americans" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.