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The Americans “The Deal” Review (2×05)

27 Mar

deal

I don’t remember much of my past, but what I do remember is wrapped up in nice, neat memories, little packages of bliss or pain that serve as a reminder of where I came from. It’s the same with Philip Jennings, who spends this fantastic hour of television struggling with himself, wanting to grasp onto a past he feels like he’s lost.

His interactions with Anton tonight are stellar, showcasing both actors’ talents and outlining the clashing of identities and cultures that weigh on Philip’s mind everyday. He’s sacrificed so much for this job, having to act stoic when he wants to help or malicious when he wants to be compassionate. His struggle here is interesting, given the beginning of the series portrayed a man who seemed to be coming around to the American way of life. He still wants to sink his feet in the sands of the U.S., but there’s always been a sense of doubt seeping into his–and for that matter, Elizabeth’s–mind. If he commits one way or the other, then who does it make him? Is he really Philip Jennings, or is he still stuck somewhere back in the Soviet Union? Who does that make Paige and Henry? What about his relationships? The Americans is excellent when it comes to conveying conflict over a sense of self.

Anton’s a guy who understands this conflict, and he’s able to poke and prod and make an impact on Philip–much like Philip himself did a few weeks back–in the short time they have together; the situation creates a sense of claustrophobia, of a ticking clock that’s counting its way down to zero as Philip is forced to make a choice between past and present. Yet, the problem is that he can’t necessarily separate this into black and white. Take a look at his pained facial expression as Anton is pleading with him from the backseat: he’s going to push through like the spy he is, but the words strike deep in his heart. Powerful words, they are.

We also see a similar expression on Elizabeth’s face as she listens to Martha talk about Philip’s sexual prowess–and trust me, no sibling wants to hear that kind of stuff–an expression of uncertainty and disappointment and sadness, one that conveys her realization that Philip doesn’t show her everything about him. Then again, it works the other way around as well, what with Martha believing that she knows Philip best. It’s, as expected, a very tricky situation to navigate.

Of course, that all culminates in that beautiful final scene, one that effortlessly and elegantly sums up the entire series. Philip and Elizabeth are curled up on the couch, reminiscing about the past before Paige’s voice serves as a wake up call, an alarm that pulls them back into America. It seems as if everything’s coming to a head, the walls closing in as Stan faces off against Oleg and the Jenningses reach their breaking point. However, in order to avoid the heartbreak of Anton’s fate, to avoid the loneliness he feels as he gets farther and farther from the place he wanted to call home, Philip and Elizabeth must soldier on. They’re parents and they’re spies, and they’d much rather be on the inside looking out than on the outside looking in. The cycle of life that they’ve built for themselves must remain unbroken, as broken as they might be.

GRADE: A-

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-“Is President Reagan personally scaling our walls wearing his cowboy hat?” “We are better at vodka; they are better at cigarettes.”

-So, ass-wiping. We got to hear every bit of that scene, too!

-Ooh, Oleg’s stirring up some trouble. I’m looking forward to where this goes next.

-I love the scene between Anton and Philip in the bathroom. There’s no cliched prisoner bathroom escape, and there’s a mutual understanding that the guy had to try to escape. If Philip was in that position, he’d have no choice but to attempt the same thing.

-The episode does feel a bit overstuffed, what with the Paige-Elizabeth drama and the Elizabeth-Brad storyline wrap-up.

-That Martha-Elizabeth scene is also comedy gold.

-Excellent work, yet again, by Rhys and Russell.

-Kate’s the new handler and replacement for Claudia. There’s something off about her.

-The deleted scenes for the season 2 DVD will contain a 20-minute segment of Elizabeth trying to get Martha to tell her what Philip does in bed.

-So many conflicting sympathies tonight. This show, man.

Photo credit: FX, The Americans

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