WashingTelevision: The Americans Recap, Episode Seven, “Duty and Honor”

Philip takes a trip, Elizabeth faces Claudia, and Henry tries to change the channel, but to no avail.

By: Sophie Gilbert

Ah, Solidarnosc. You were as much a part of the 1980s as Madonna, androgyny, and Paige’s 16 pairs of legwarmers. I remember you from my ninth-grade history lessons much the same way I remember perestroika and glasnost—as concepts to be cherished, recalled only in the vaguest terms, and filed alongside obscure Olympic medal winners in the brain for future games of Trivial Pursuit.

Luckily for peace and freedom, Lech Walesa was never framed as a brutal rapist by two members of the KGB posing as American travel agents at a conference in New York. In last night’s episode of The Americans, Philip took the spotlight when he traveled to NYC and staged an elaborate mission to undermine a Polish national hero attempting to set up an opposition to the communist government while in exile. The twist was that his partner in crime was his ex-lover, Irina, whose photo he ripped up when he was first introduced to Elizabeth, and who dropped quite a bombshell on him during their Big Apple trip—that she’d borne his son all those years ago (despite the fact that the actress who played her, Marina Squerciati, is maybe 29 at most).

She’s a clever one, that Claudia. Not content with kidnapping and torturing the Jenningses in episode six, she’s now attempting to turn them against each other by reuniting Philip with an old flame, a fact that makes Elizabeth distinctly nervous (hence the legwarmer hyperbole and the hiding of the remote control from Henry). In the car, she attempts to talk to Philip about the fact that not only do the KGB not trust the two of them, but they now don’t trust each other. But he brushes off her concerns and hops on the northbound Amtrak.

Elizabeth doesn’t have all that much to do in this episode, save sporting a vampy black wig and purple eyeshadow and embodying the very definition of a ball buster. She busts in on “Sanford,” a potential source, while he’s in the men’s room at a casino, and figures out he’s heavily in debt, which is compromising his role as a replacement for “Adam.” More to the point, he seems immune to her threats, saying, “Just put me out of my misery. I’m dead already.”

Elizabeth also has to face Claudia after rearranging her features last week, and Claudia doesn’t seem to be in a forgiving mood (the shiner probably doesn’t help). She does offer a cursory apology, which E rebuffs, saying she wishes she’d have killed her when she had the chance. “Better luck next time,” says Claudia grimly, before revealing E’s real name—Nadiesta (or Nadia?).

We finally get to see Matthew Rhys speak Russian in flashbacks, and the voice lessons must have paid off because he sounds to my inexpert ear as authentically Slavic as they come. Young Philip’s thrilled to tell young Irina he’s been selected for an elite position (presumably to come to the US as a spy), and he doesn’t seem to realize this means the end of their affair. Flash-forward to the 1980s present, where Irina, wearing a sassy red dress, tells Philip he’s as handsome as ever. They briefly discuss their target, who’s described as a potential “fuse that lights the Polish street” and sparks revolution against the USSR, before ending up in bed together.

Later, Irina heads out on a date with the exile, and this all leads to a plot which could have gone wrong in a number of ways but somehow doesn’t. Irina gets the Polish target drunk and tries to seduce him; when that fails, she drugs his wine, not to kill him, but to frame him for assaulting and raping her. Before this all goes down, Philip pretends to be a mugger after Irina’s handbag, which ends up with her having a grazed knee and getting blood all over the exile’s hotel sheets. Then Philip beats up Irina with her consent (although given that this comes immediately after she told him about their son, it’s hard to tell at the time). The target wakes up with a horrible roofie hangover, remembering nothing, and is confronted by a Russian journalist who tells him he’s been very bad indeed. The Polish exile abandons his plans to form a government in exile and is rejected by the US government faster than you can say “Western bloc.”

Back in DC, Stan gets drunk with his partner and is encouraged to hit on a girl at a bar for some “strange.” He downs his shot, but the next thing we know he’s drunkenly calling Nina for a meet, and then all of a sudden Nina’s naked and assuring him she won’t use this against him, and that while he sees things in white and black, for her, it’s all gray. Stan doesn’t seem to feel all that guilty, but he does ask his boss if he can extricate Nina from her situation as a KGB mole. “She’s not an ingĂ©nue, Beeman, she’s a spy,” says Agent Gaad/John Boy. “She could have you and me for breakfast. Has she had you for breakfast, Stan?” He’s no slouch on the spy stakes, that one.

Irina asks Philip to run away with her, apparently disgusted at the way the KGB has used them both to ruin a good man’s life and reputation. Is it a trick to test his loyalty? We’ll never find out, because he rebuffs her and returns to Elizabeth and his two adorable chess-playing kids. “Did you see any hobos or drug dealers?” Henry asks, to which Philip responds, “A few.” Elizabeth tells him that when the two were kidnapped last week, she blamed him for what happened, but now she knows it wasn’t his fault, and that she wants their relationship to be real. But she has to figure out something important first. “Did something happen with you and Irina?,” she asks. “Nothing,” he replies. “It’s only you. It’s always been you.” And the camera zooms in on his not-so-truthful face as he embraces her.

Thoughts:

I liked how we learned both Elizabeth and Philip’s real names this week (his is Mischa). This series is unpeeling like an onion—gradually, and with no apparent end to its layers.

Poor Mrs. Stan. The glimmer of hope we got about her marriage at the end of last week’s episode has been snuffed faster than a KGB mole with an attitude problem.

Paige has 16 pairs of legwarmers? What restraint!

What did you think of last night’s episode? Let us know in the comments.