The centerpiece of this week’s episode finds Philip and Elizabeth stuck in a situation they did not anticipate, but have the ways and means of getting out of. It is a portion of the episode that puts everything aside, as far as the disagreements the two have been having about their daughter, in an effort to show that these two are very capable spies. At the end of it all, Philip and Elizabeth manage to reunite and even show some passion for each, except for that lingering feeling of pain. It is the tooth that has been bugging Elizabeth, since her close encounter with the feds, and Philip goes through and yanks it out. Whether or not this represents stopping the pains and irritation these two are having about their daughter’s future, The Americans is plenty capable of showing just how well it can be at balancing the spy work and the family drama, which is part of why “Open House” is another fine installment in a season that can only be building to even more greatness.
Before getting to the sequences I described, the episode begins with some fun double-talk between Gabriel and Philip, as the two play a game of Scrabble. There has not been a whole lot to talk about with Frank Langella this season, as of yet, largely due to an understanding that he will clearly be incorporated in some more substantial capacity as things move forward. That is, after all, why you get Frank Langella to be here; not just to sit around and play Scrabble. That said, given that he is also featured towards the end of this episode and gets to a point where he has to raise his voice at Philip, before Philip storms out, I do like the approach of having a person the Jennings are familiar and comfortable with be a way to expand upon the situation they face at putting Paige’s life somewhat in the hands of the county they are spying for. Whether or not it leads to tragedy is what we will find out, but the development here is wonderful.
While things are getting heated, in regards to Paige, the basic mission work, this week, involves setting up a trace on one of the members of the CIA Afghan Group. This is what the previous week’s dealings with Yousaf have led to, but it unfortunately leads the Jennings into the surveillance trap. What is neat about all of this spy-based stuff is how matter-of-fact it is. The Americans has always been a show that knows how to portray its stylized sensibilities in a subdued manner. Yes, sometimes you get down and gritty with things like the ‘baggage’ scene from last week or even the tooth yanking this week, but all of the focused scenes, be they somewhat gruesome, more action oriented, or focused on stealth, are handled in a process-focused way. We see the mechanics of Philip sneaking around a house, while Elizabeth provides a distraction. A phone call is made to set the wheels in motion on how Elizabeth can escape the CIA and FBI tails behind and around her car. Given how unflashy it is (aside from the occasionally fun soundtrack choice), it is pretty cool to see this show continue to pull this kind of stuff off.
On the domestic side of things, we get some friction at first, followed by what would appear to be some form of reconciliation. It starts with Elizabeth’s approach to telling Philip about how her new recruit, Hans, has the hots for her. Knowing that her husband is still irritated by the Paige situation, she decides to bare all, while discussing things. This is the kind of scene that is pulled off incredibly well by more than just the dialogue, and no, I’m not speaking to Keri Russell’s naked form. We know both of these characters well enough and the actors are strong enough to inform the scene in their mannerisms and tone. The dialogue is heated, but it serves its purpose, which is what makes the later parts of this episode so effective, because at the end of it all, Philip and Elizabeth need to know that their differences aside, they just want the best scenario for both themselves, as they love each other, and for their daughter, who they obviously love more than anything.
While we only get the start of a conversation, when Philip finally lets go of the anger and simply asks his wife, “What are we going to do about Paige?” but it does inform other parts of the episode as well. Elizabeth has to be upfront and shoot down Hans and whatever sort of attraction he has for his handler. Philip has to completely shoot down poor Martha’s thoughts on taking in a foster child. They may be scenes that start up various plotlines for the supporting characters and story arcs for the rest of the season as well, but I love the way The Americans can have its main story and central characters inform how the branching off of this series goes as well.
By the end of this episode (and I guess I’ll just be summing up a lot of other things in the shownotes), the two plots divide once again, as Paige talk will have to wait, upon the discovery that the member of the CIA Afghan Group they are following has some sort of relationship, innocent or potentially otherwise, with the daughter of the head of said group. This is not portrayed as an explosive reveal, but one with many implications. So once again, in a series that balances the drama involving a relationship and the espionage work both parties are involved in, it is not about having big theatrics at the end of every episode, but keeping the ball rolling and leaving us intrigued by the nature of multiple stories and where they can go. Deception is key for the Jennings and it certainly leaves me wanting more, in a good way.
Other Things Behind The Red Curtain:
- Disguises galore this week, by the way!
- I hope there is a follow-up scene at some point this season, where Elizabeth tries out stonewash jeans.
- Poor Martha gets flattered at work this week!
- Oleg gets a small story this week about whether or not he goes back to Moscow. He takes a stand and stays, which will also lead him further down this storyline about the Stealth bomber being developed, which may be pretty cool.
- Henry news: He has a crush on Mrs. Beeman! Oooooooh!
- The use of the American National Anthem behind Philip and Elizabeth, as they reconciled things was totally great. I love those little touches.
- Things Philip could have said this episode: “Is it safe?”
- Not much Stan this week, but I liked his brief conversation with the other agent. – “I’m not much on war stories.”