It’s amazing the amount of chaos that The Americans is able to spin out of Philip and Elizabeth’s recent decision to spend some time apart – or, as Philip tells Paige and Henry after the announcement forever tarnishes the glory of fried chicken-night in the Jennings household: it’s not a separation, per se; it’s more like “hitting the pause button.”
After the back-and-forth on defecting, the revelation about Gregory and, of course, Grannie spilling the beans about Philip’s not-so-professional interactions with Irina while on assignment in New York City, the Jenningses decided that, like so many other Americans, they’d give splitting up a chance – since starting over never really took hold.
In part, this separation is to remind Philip and Elizabeth that their union wasn’t born out of mutual respect and love; it was a union designed to infiltrate and destroy America. Philip’s feelings may have always been there – or at least had been there a lot longer than Elizabeth’s – but as soon as his wife started feeling the same way, things got awfully messy.
Grannie wound up with her face being rearranged, and when the Jenningses were asked to take care of an outsourced German hitman, they managed to spread him all over a hotel bathroom with the help of his own precautionary wad of C-4 – but he still managed to explode three FBI agents and a nuclear scientist. In short: the Jenningses failed.
The romantic portion of their marriage may be effectively on hold until further notice, but Philip and Elizabeth still have a professional obligation to one another, and part of that includes the two fried chicken-loving offspring that serve to solidify their cover as American citizens. The other part is a careful mixture of hanging around the Beeman household, hoping to pick up scraps of intel from Stan’s conversational tiptoeing around his day job and, when all else fails, digging into their private and very extensive collection of wigs to work information out of assets in any way they can.
However, on this particular occasion, the tables are turned, as Elizabeth is the one to confess to Sandra about her recent marital woes. Those feelings of wedded superiority she felt when Sandra spoke about Stan’s rampant absenteeism from the Beeman clan have now taken a backseat to a not-so-subtle request for privacy and a cold, dead-eyed stare at her neighbor’s fumbling attempts to get the inside scoop.
Falling back into her training as a spy and revealing nothing is one thing, but hanging out in a house full of vengeful FBI agents discussing some extrajudicial work on the current Rezident over Agent Beeman’s enormous plate of cold cuts means that someone will eventually take notice. And while Paige and Henry’s pleas for Philip to leave his motel and return home with them are regarded with about as much interest and enthusiasm as game 7 of the NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, notorious skirt-chaser Agent Amador certainly takes note of Elizabeth and the glass of wine she’s constantly looking through the bottom of.
But of course, Amador’s desire for some alone time with Stan’s fetching neighbor is soon sated – after a disastrous run-in with Elizabeth’s fake husband, who just so happens to have spent the night with Martha, Amador’s ex. An angry Amador, coupled with the revelation that the FBI plans to kill a member of the Rezidentura and the realization that he slept in his wig, makes Philip’s already questionable day a whole lot worse. Topping it off, Amador winds up with his own knife sticking out of his belly after he makes the mistake of tussling with Clark.
At this point, ‘Safe House’ takes the already blurred lines separating the characters’ personal and professional lives by putting Philip and Elizabeth at the dilapidated bedside of a dying G-man, so they can discuss the kids in between Amador’s moments of wakefulness. Meanwhile, Stan becomes increasingly convinced the KGB has his partner, and when Arkady’s potato-induced burns keep him from showing up in the park to be properly abducted, Stan gives the go-ahead to nab his running partner Vlad instead.
In the end, both the Jenningses and Beeman lose their detainees; Amador expires before Philip can offer him a fatal overdose of morphine, and after seeing his partner’s lifeless body, Stan offers Vlad a bullet in his brain to go along with his complementary mouthful of American fast food. As Amador once told Stan, “There are worse things than dying,” but in that moment, Agent Beeman just couldn’t think of one.
The Americans returns next Wednesday with ‘Only You’ @10pm on FX. Check out a preview below: