Since the series began, The Americans has been seeking an answer to the question of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings' marriage, and just how, after nearly two decades, it stood up to the importance of the Cause and the commands issued to those recruited into Directorate S.
Briefly, it seemed as though matters of the heart – whether they were related to family or the love of an adopted country – would eventually win out over their commitment to the Cause. Philip and Elizabeth's cozy union was threatening to become all too real and, with the emotional significance of nascent hitchhikers Paige and Henry thrown in for good measure, the total package that is the Jennings' domestic bliss just might be something worth defecting over.
After a few days apart, it appeared that Elizabeth had finally come around after years of preferring the company of Gregory to that of her fake husband, and she was now ready to give Philip her all. Much of that likely had to do with Philip being away in New York doing all sorts of sordid things with Irina. But when pressed about it, Philip assured Elizabeth he only had eyes for her. His statement was convincing enough that by the time 'Mutually Assured Destruction' gets underway, the Jenningses are cuddling playfully in the kitchen when, months ago, such a movement by Philip would have been met with the flash of a knife blade and a hardened glance suggesting the term "wife" was little more than a four-letter word.
But successful domestic partnerships mean little to those running Directorate S – not when the U.S. is so close to developing an anti-ballistic missile shield. And as folks like Claudia (now demoted back to the title of "Granny" after her role in kidnapping and torturing Philip and Elizabeth) know, these marriages are just a part of the job. "If you start to think of them as real, it doesn't work," she tells Elizabeth after dropping the bombshell that a West German assassin is on the loose with orders to kill top U.S. scientists. Even though the Russians have had a change of heart, they can't seem to put the genie back in the bottle.
Seeing that Philip and Elizabeth have become something of a united front, Granny fills Mrs. Jennings in on exactly what her husband was up to while he was in New York – which demonstrates the fact that if it were as easy to destabilize entire nations as it is to upset the martial bond between two operatives, then Granny would have brought down the U.S. a few weeks after she left Stalingrad.
Considering just how long they've been playing house, it comes as a bit of a surprise that Philip mistakes Elizabeth's cold gaze for "drinking [him] in," but since he's probably still wondering whether Son of Misha is really back in Russia or if Irina was just using that as a tool to complete her own mission, perhaps Philip can be forgiven for misinterpreting his wife's nonverbal cues. But Elizabeth doesn't keep the silent treatment up for long; there's a question she wants answered, and to Philip's credit, he does so honestly, even though he knows the consequences will bring about a quick end to the fulfillment of his long-held fantasy.
One wonders, then, would Stan Beeman be as forthcoming with the truth if Sandra asked him what all the late nights at the office were about?
With all the marital discord, the KGB's underhanded manipulations and Agent Amador's suspicion/stalking of Martha, it seems like everything is either falling apart or is on the verge of it. Which is why it's nice to know that Philip and Elizabeth can still operate like a finely-tuned instrument when the job calls for it.
With little more to go on than a list of potential targets and a country of origin, the couple manages to track down the KGB's assassin and terminate him with a little help from his own explosive device – but not before he uses a prostitute to help him slip a bomb inside an agent's radio (if The Americans and House of Cards are anything to go by, soliciting a member of the D.C. working girl scene is as simple as sidling up to the bar in any four or five-star hotel within walking distance of the Capitol building).
In the end, Philip and Elizabeth agree to disagree on the success or failure of their latest impossible task – which is pretty much sums up the state of their marriage as a whole.
The Americans continues on Wednesday, April 3 with 'Safe House' @10pm on FX. Check out a preview below:
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