Film and TV

The Americans: "I'm Sorry I Didn't Kill You; That's My Apology."

It was comforting to see so much adherence to the traditional husband-wife dynamic in last night's episode of The Americans. Elizabeth went about wrangling the kids (and threatening loan sharks, it ain't Ozzie and Harriet) while Phillip was on a "business trip." Meanwhile Sandra dutifully prepared dinner for her FBI agent husband.

I say "traditional" because both Stan and Phillip strayed from their marital vows in significant ways. In Phillip's case, it served to give him a sense of closure with his former true love. In Stan's, he just opened a huge can of sultry Slavic worms. And by episode's end, it was apparent both of their situations are far from over.

The situation that Directorate S finds itself needing to handle this week concerns one of the USSR's pesky client states. It seems those uppity Poles are complaining about Soviet "oppression" again. Maybe they'd like the Germans back.

Tensions are still apparent in the Jennings household as they recover from their "friendly" interrogation. Oh, and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) is none too keen on Phillip (Michel Rhys) going on a mission to New York City to meet his old flame and do an unspecified something about Polish activist Andrzej Bielowski. Phillip flashes back to meeting Irina (you can tell because the scene is sepia toned), then travels to NYC and checks into his hotel for a travel agent convention. Conveniently, it's the same one Bielowski's in.

Elizabeth meets Sanford Prince, one of Dorwin's posse, ostensibly to lean on him, but he seems un-leanable. "I'm dead already," saith he. She then has a tense meeting with Claudia (Margo Martindale) about the guy's gambling debts (the source of his maudlin fatalism). Long story short, Directorate S ends up buying his debt, and in return she's now Prince's contact for missile defense tech.

"Ann," as Phillip's lady friend Irina (not his special lady) now calls herself, is also a travel agent, only from Montreal. If only we'd known the vacation industry was so hopelessly riddled with spies.

Ann's mission, if I'm reading the fairly obvious cues, is to bed Bielowski. And then I guess Phillip gets pictures? First he "mugs" her while she's strolling with the Polish guy. Mialowski's white-knight routine makes it back to the hotel, where Ann slips him him a mickey. Shenanigans are about to ensue.

Elizabeth takes the kids next door for dinner with the Beemans. Stan doesn't show, which is becoming a pattern, if his son Michael's whining is any indication. Sandra (Susan Misner) expresses admiration for Elizabeth's marriage. See, it's ironic, because...oh, never mind. Stan (Noah Emmerich), in the meantime, grabs a drink with Agent Amador, who advises his comrade (sorry) to "get some strange." Isn't that the kind of shit Feds should be watching out for? Compromising situations?

So he does the smart thing and...meets Nina (Anne Mahendru). Way to avoid those compromising situations, buddy. After engaging in a little personal perestroika, she assures Stan there are no strings attached. I kept waiting for the camera to pan up to a pinhole camera in the air vent, but she appears to be telling the truth. For now.

"Ann" tells "Phillip" they have a son? Whoof. Phillip is so proud he slaps the shit out of her. A-ha, that's the plan. Get Bielowski drunk and discredit him as a woman beater. Elizabeth calls Phillip that night and tearfully asks him to come back, a tender moment only marginally offset by the sight of a naked Ann lying in Phillip's bed.

After Bielowski is disgraced and withdraws from the Polish independence movement, Ann expresses her desire to leave Directorate S life and appeals to his love of apple pie and Billy Joel by asking him to come with. He declines, but at least is savvy enough to ask if their son is real. She's ambiguous.

Finally, a reconciliation. The Jenningses promise to try and work it out. She just wants assurances nothing happened between him and Ann/Irina. He lies and says, "Of course not." Great start.

The name of last night's episode was "Duty and Honor," a title with a nice duality of meaning, depending on if you're talking about dedication to job or to spouse. Phillip and Stan need a little work on the latter, it seems.

Next week: Directorate S is turning up the heat, and Elizabeth won't let Irina go just yet. Prediction: Claudia tracks her down and Phillip has to kill her to prove his loyalty.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar