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WashingTelevision: The Americans Recap, Episode Three, “Gregory”
Elizabeth’s past comes back to help/hinder her, while a Directorate S secret also emerges.
I really would have preferred this episode be called “Joyce,” if only as a testament to the cruel end that poor woman met at the hands of a not-so-motherly KGB agent named “Granny” (played by Justified’s Margo Martindale), but as Gregory learned in this week’s episode of The Americans, you can’t always get what you want. Particularly if what you want is a devotee to the USSR cause who’s inconveniently falling in love with her husband. Jane Austen never taught us how to deal with situations like that, is all I’m saying.
Anyway, “Gregory” opens with Stan and Philip playing racquetball, and there’s a lot of masculine posturing and also a lot of spyish subtext. “Thing about racquetball is,” Stan says, coming off oddly like Ron Burgundy, “it’s not about speed, it’s about strategy … you tire your opponent out, let them make a mistake.” I mean, fine, give Philip your FBI playbook if you must. Luckily his ginormous pager goes off before the two physically come to blows (P gets “aggressive” when he’s playing sports because he has a lot of “work tension” to let out), and Stan goes off to meet his new mole inside the KGB, Nina, who lets him know that one of Directorate S’s members was killed two weeks ago. Stan’s eyes immediately gleam.
Paige and her father are having breakfast in a diner; she reads Girl World and he scans the paper while a sweet-looking lady nearby (Martindale) unexpectedly sets off his radar for trouble (a.k.a. his spidey-spy sense). But he gets distracted by an ad in the classifieds, and immediately heads off to the travel agency to consult with Elizabeth. What do you do when you get a signal from a man who’s been dead for two weeks? You send “Gregory” off to the meet in Philadelphia. Gregory, of course, plays chess in the projects a bit like D’Angelo from The Wire, only he’s a KGB helper instead of one of the Barksdale crew and he collects contemporary art. Oh, and he and Elizabeth used to have an affair. That bombshell got dropped without so much as a flashback to help us process it.
Elizabeth tells Gregory she can’t “do this anymore,” because things are changing with Philip. “He’s your cover,” Gregory spits. “He’s my husband,” she says back. She refuses to smoke his weed or his cigarettes and goes home to P while Gregory and his crew go to the meet and identify a woman with a baby as the person who placed the ad. She’s Robert’s secret wife, whom he neglected to tell the KGB or the other members of Directorate S about, and the baby is his child.
The FBI have also identified Robert and his wife, thanks to a whole lot of overtime by DMV agents (I tried hard not to scoff at this point), except they think Joyce is KGB too, despite her authentic history as a Puerto Rican who’s been living in the US since childhood. Stan’s boss, a.k.a. Richard Thomas, a.k.a. John Boy, tells Stan and his agents to follow Joyce and her son, Oscar, closely, which they do, but Gregory’s people are too good with their cars and their yelling and their distracting subterfuge, and they manage to whisk Joyce away before the FBI can get to her.
Joyce, it turns out, doesn’t know a whole lot about her husband’s double life—she just thinks he’s a drug dealer because of all the traveling (drug dealers can frequently be identified by all the extra pages in their passports, in case you didn’t know). Elizabeth, tapping in to her maternal instincts, tells Joyce they’re going to take care of her and the baby, while Gregory and Philip spar over who Elizabeth likes more (there’s some very awesome secret message decoding with chemicals that look like Alka-Seltzer, and it gives us the chance to admire Philip’s shaky, stressed face while he’s working). If you don’t love Elizabeth, Gregory says, set her free. And if you do love her, set her free anyway. Philip, obviously cognitive of the fact that this a) is a lose/lose for him, and b) makes no sense, declines to do so.
The decoded message gives them a name and phone number. Gregory wants to kill Joyce and the baby to tie up loose ends (cold), but Elizabeth and Philip, softened by years of air conditioning and Coca-Cola, are more into protecting them because Robert was their friend. P puts on a hat and stomps out of the apartment, where he runs into the motherly woman again and puts an arm around her throat, demanding to know what she’s doing there or he’ll snap her neck. And then it’s awkward, because she’s their new KGB contact/boss, and he’s just threatened to kill her. Nevertheless, she reveals that Robert (I love how all KGB agents shun abbreviations) was about to buy intel on the new American missile-blocking technology from a source, and Philip’s new boss wants him to go in his place.
Joyce is now watching herself being mentioned on the news as a “person of interest” and looking pretty horrified. She says she came home early once and found Robert listening to a weird radio channel and writing down numbers, and he said he was just doodling, but it didn’t seem like it to her. “He was a spy,” she says. “You’re all spies.” Her voice drops. “You’re going to kill me and the baby… .” Elizabeth says no, but she’s saved when Philip comes home and tells her about their new contact, whom he’s named “Granny.” Then conversation obviously turns to the modern-art appreciating, chess-playing elephant in the room. Philip is outraged that he has never lied to her once and yet she’s neglected to tell him about Gregory for 15 years. “Don’t do me any favors,” he says, furious. “We’ll just keep going the way we were.” It’s all fun and games until someone in the spy partnership gets hurt.
P goes to meet Robert’s contact and gets very upset when thugs keep standing in his blind spot. So he lashes out and beats them all up in another brilliantly choreographed Matthew Rhys fight scene (with a bonus element of cash flying everywhere). Then he persuades the contact to make the deal anyway and picks up some blueprints that say “Classified Nuclear X Laser and Ballistic Missile,” as if this were Austin Powers and he’s Scott Evil, just wanting someone to love him for who he really is.
Elizabeth has her Dear John conversation with Gregory while Stan’s sixth sense tells him a “hood” in Philly is watching him, leading him to wonder why such a person would care about the KGB. E and P deliver Joyce and the baby to Granny, who assures them that they’re going to Cuba, with lovely white sand and Spanish-speaking people (and her family can even come visit!). As the van door slams shut, there’s a sense of foreboding in the air. Our spy couple go home to their kids and hash out some of their marital problems, with Elizabeth confessing that she was only 17 when she met Philip, and 22 when they moved to the US, and that kind of thing can really make a girl susceptible to someone as “passionate” as Gregory. She didn’t feel that way about Philip, she says, but she’s starting to now.
And in Donetsk, Robert’s parents receive the gift of their grandson from Granny, who tells them their son was a hero. And Stan finds Joyce’s body in a car with a tourniquet wrapped round her arm, and his eyes are as dead and dull as they were sparkling at the beginning of the episode.
What did you think of last night’s episode of The Americans? Let us know in the comments.