The Americans: On my way

“Riffifi”, episode 6 of the final slog toward doom that is The Americans, is named for a film in which most of the protagonists die. This week Elizabeth doesn’t kill anyone, but she comes close to braining her husband several times.


After a hard day at mayhem or maybe art lessons, the world’s last Bolshevik comes home. Is she greeted as the hero of the people she truly is? Nope. Philip tells her how Stan was upset about that couple what got slaughtered in front of their kid. Rather defensively, Elizabeth tells him she didn’t do it in front of the kid, who as we all know had fallen asleep in front of the TV and was just fine! But is that good enough for Mr. American All About the Feelings who wasn’t even there? Apparently not.

Just once, couldn’t Philip give her some credit for the people she DIDN’T kill?

Philip tells her he’s not doing the Kimmie thing, and Elizabeth’s head just about explodes, or at least that vein on her forehead. She doesn’t ask for much! She tells him he just wanted to fuck Kimmie because he’s not getting enough action at home, which is crazy talk because we all watched how he managed to avoid screwing Kimmie for years. Then Philip, using a tone, tells her he warned Kimmie never to go to a communist country and he’s never seeing her again. Operation rebellious teen is over!

Elizabeth can’t even process this, and walks away, going into Paige’s horrible little room and closing the door. First bed death, then separate rooms!

Speaking of resenting your spouse… Over at the FBI, Stan gets surly when Dennis comes around for help on counterintelligence. And here’s another parallel between Philip and Stan that hasn’t been mentioned much: They both got out of the spy game because it was too dark, and they both keep getting pulled back in.

Stan and Dennis share an elevator with Mail Robot because the fans must have their Mail Robot!

Which one gets top billing?

Seems like Geddany’s pouches finally paid off. The x-ray showed a circuit board, which was traced to an Altheon plant in Chicago, and they’ve put that together with the local warehouse break-in. They know that the Soviets are trying to get the tech. They’re also watching a suspected illegal in Chicago who was honeypotting a guy working at the Chicago plant. They may be taking down the whole network. Dennis has a Carrie Mathison-style wall going and the photos include General MacClendon. Stan wonders if Oleg is involved. Look closer, Stan!

Philip, who will always disappoint his entire family, goes to pick up Henry at the Greyhound station because it’s almost Thanksgiving.

What was your name again?

Henry warns him he’s going to be stuck in his room studying most of the time. So no need to ask, “Where’s Henry?” like they always do. Also, he’s going to get a summer job, and he’s looking at scholarships, and would his dad maybe consider getting advice from one of his friend’s fathers who is maybe good at this capitalism thing because it would be a complete waste if he had to leave school after three years with no degree.

Elizabeth in a blonde wig and sexy librarian glasses chats up a boy (literally) at a screening of Riffifi in an old-timey art house movie theater. We’ll see more of him later.

Coming attractions: The Graduate.

Henry, whom we see more of in this episode than in years, notices stuff like how his mom is now smoking a lot, and also how when he asks to bum a cigarette, she very inappropriately offers him one because she really has no clue how to do this parenting thing. He watches how Philip leaves the table when Elizabeth comes inside, and how his parents aren’t sleeping in the same room. The next day, Philip plays hooky from work and takes Henry to some old time emporium like they had in the ’80s, where people race tiny model cars. Do they have an anthropologist helping them write this stuff? Philip keeps crashing his model car, which is a metaphor for all the failures in his life.

Meantime on the metro, Elizabeth bumps into the boy again. He’s an intern at Sam Nunn’s office. Is this the guy Paige boinked? Who wants to go back a few episodes and take a look? Elizabeth has moderated her approach. At the movies, she wanted to take him out for pizza, which her being twice his age, might have wigged him out a bit. On the metro, she’s more about business and mentoring, less desperate stalker trying to live out some version of that art house incest classic Murmur of the Heart. She tells him she’s a consultant, and gives him her card, which I’m sure is perfumed with some pheromone the Soviet scientists thought up.

“They’re showing Harold and Maude next week. Interested?”

In this week’s shocker, Philip fires Stavros. Maybe his sales numbers sucked, but this guy was running the travel agency when Philip and Elizabeth were both AWOL. Okay, here’s a twist that could totally happen: Stavros, with nothing to lose, could make an anonymous tip to the FBI about how his boss was never there, and there were years they didn’t book a single trip, yet cash flowed in, and he’s pretty sure the business was a front for something. This would fit in perfectly with the ongoing FBI investigation piecing together how the Russian operations ran.

What if this guy flips?

Claudia has a new assignment for the hardest working spy in spybiz. Elizabeth has to go to Chicago because the guy being surveilled by the FBI knows they’re close and needs help. When she tells Philip, he suggests they talk about the big wide gulf between them and she tells him to take his “Forum [EST] shit and shove it up [his] ass. Once again, Elizabeth’s frustration is completely justified from Elizabeth’s point of view: a fellow agent is in trouble, she has a job to do, and her so-called husband didn’t do the one thing she asked him to, and now he wants to talk about “feelings” again.

Thanksgiving is at Stan and Renee’s. Philip doesn’t even sound like his heart is in the lie he tells two FBI agents about how Elizabeth had to fly to Houston to deal with a corporate client. I’m assuming they’re assuming his wife is visiting her sidepiece. Poor Philip!

Later, Philip goes into the garage to check out Elizabeth’s spyware and see what she’s up to. He sees sketches she drew and looks puzzled. There’s also a Mexican passport. He writes a coded message and leaves it at a drop.

Elizabeth is in Chicago with Marilyn, who presumably has no life or family and has now taken on the spy gig full time. Elizabeth goes over her plan. Marilyn asks about the chances of pulling it off. Elizabeth tells her they’re not good. Even more depressing, Marilyn, who also works with Erica, tells Elizabeth she should try rubbing Erica’s feet with patchouli oil, and Elizabeth feels all kinds of hurt because Erica doesn’t let her even touch her feet. Resting alone in the room, Elizabeth starts to sketch.

Over at the FBI, they’re pretty busy considering it’s the day after Thanksgiving. Dennis tells Stan that the illegal had contact with a Russian priest in Chicago, so they’re going to start talking to Russian priests in the DC area.

That night, Elizabeth calls Henry of all people. Of course, to Henry it’s just another example of his mother being weird and clueless.

Oleg picks up Philip’s message and takes it to his room, where he uses aftershave and or mouthwash to activate the invisible ink because it’s not just something you find in the back of old time comic books.

Henry tells Philip he got a phone call from his mom, so Philip figures that Elizabeth must be in big trouble because why else would she want to speak to her only son? He calls her, and she’s desperate enough to drop the anger and admit she’s not sure she can do it. First, he asks her to come home, but that just sparks the resentment. Then he tells her he’ll come to help.

Oh crap! Now it really sounds like one final mission, but is he going to help her, or does he have another mission?

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

TV Show: The Americans

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