The Americans: Philip acts

Elizabeth’s senseless murder spree continues, but she needs Philip’s help for one final mission. In pushing him beyond where his conscience allows, will she seal both their fates?


Episode 5, “The Great Patriotic War”, opens with Stan, tailed by members of Elizabeth’s team of useful idiots, visiting Sofia and offering her baked goods. It’s not so much that he sweet talks her into going back to Geddani. They’re sending her and the kid to Oklahoma, and Sofia, ever the opportunist, realizes it might take a while to meet her next husband, so she’s open to keeping the one she’s got.

“Where is town where single mothers find millionaires, please?”

Elizabeth, despite her many efforts, still has no idea about what’s going on with the white whale she’s chasing summit. Claudia shows her a photo of a CIA agent meeting with Nesterenko. Claudia’s take is he might not know the guy is a CIA agent, but Elizabeth suspects something else. Elizabeth mentions the wait on the tape from Kimmie’s because of her trip to Greece. Claudia doesn’t see it as that big a deal, but she’s not the one with the suicide pill, is she? Paige shows up, and here comes the episode title. Today’s lesson will be on the Great Patriotic War, known to us a WWII, the big one, in which twenty-seven million Soviets died, including Claudia’s first husband and most of her family. The suffering of the Soviet Union is old territory for anyone watching this show, but for Paige, a child mis-educated in the United States, it’s news.

Stan is still being followed, and arrives at a different location. This time he’s brought pizza, which he and Geddani eat while watching a hockey game. So in addition to being Sofia’s gay best friend, Stan is Geddani’s best fake friend. You’d think an FBI agent would have a real instinct about those cars behind him, but maybe Elizabeth’s not very merry band is that good.

Baked goods. Pizza. The FBI Russian detail is no place for an agent who’s gluten-intolerant.

After Claudia’s, Elizabeth and Paige get into a tiff about Paige’s new sex partner Brian, the intern. Elizabeth tells her if she wants to date him, that’s fine, but not to mix work and sex. Paige takes the lord’s name in vain. Remember when she was such a goody-goody crunchy lefty Christian? Those days are gone, but her missionary zeal is as strong as ever.

Elizabeth arrives home from a hard day of mayhem to find Philip in bed, with a calculator, trying to stretch a dollar. They wind up actually doing it! Is it love for Philip, or is he trying to build up intimacy to find out more about what she’s doing? He seems genuinely happy the next day while she’s back to smoking in the yard. Then she sits him down to tell him she needs his help. They can’t wait until Christmas for the tape from Kimmie’s dad. She has a plan. She was the one using the sex to soften him up! She wants him to meet Kimmie in Greece and get her to go to Bulgaria, where she’ll be arrested on some trumped up charge. Her dad will tell them everything to get her free. Philip at first says no. First off, Kimmie’s “just a kid.” Also, it’s dangerous, and as Philip points out, there are many ways it could go south, but Elizabeth insists it’ll be easy-peasy. Her father will cave and Kimmie will be out in a day.

“It’s just one final mission, Philip. It’s not like anything could possibly go wrong on a final mission.”

Paige is at a bar playing pinball, and chatting up a cute boy who doesn’t go to her school and seems to be of the working-class variety. As a communist, she should love that, right? He’s drunk, but his friend is drunker and an asshole, so Paige decks the friend because he puts his hands on her, and then she decks the cute one too, just because she can.

Meantime, Philip as Sleazy Jimmy what likes ’em young is in Michigan, where he’s wooing Kimmie to convince her to meet him in Greece. She mentions she gave up smoking weed two years ago, so what is the basis of their friendship? Daddy issues? Nostalgia? She’s trying to let him down easy, but then he kisses her. It’s a moment we’ve been dreading for years, and even though she’s no longer in high school, it’s still yecch when it happens. Wouldn’t it be awesome if just once, Philip completely failed in this department, and she’d just said, “This is weird. I’ve outgrown you.” But she likes it, and the kissing leads to sex, and though she has her eyes closed (as does most of the audience) Philip doesn’t, and if we peek through our own shame, we can see how much he hates himself.

We’re not enjoying it either, Philip!

Geddani seems to have escaped his keepers and is walking around a neighborhood that looks more Brooklyn than Brooklyn, including an elevated subway, but okay, let’s pretend it’s DC. Elizabeth in a wig and glasses asks him for a light, and we all remember what happened last time she asked a gent for a light, but then a G-man shows up, and she retreats. That was a close one!

Speaking of couples we’re not really comfortable with, what’s doing with Stan and Renee? In their customary one-minute scene, shot in the driveway because Lauren Holden was only available for a day, Renee asks Stan what time he’ll be home, and we’re immediately suspicious because even though it’s a perfectly normal question, we’re always suspicious of Renee. He tells her even though she’s too old to join the FBI as an agent, there are FBI jobs she could probably get, like in personnel. She looks pleased that he’s thinking about her. Three episodes to go. Will there be an end game on this, or will they leave us never quite knowing?

Another art lesson. Erica is coughing a lot. She’s determined to make Stephanie/Elizabeth draw, or at least begin to “see”.

Maybe there’s a postscript where Elizabeth kills Glen and Erica, and Dennis recognizes Elizabeth’s face from a painting.

And in another blast from the past, surpassing even the MailRobot cameo, Tatiana stops by to see Oleg. She wants to know what he’s doing there, and don’t try telling her he’s here for “classes.” She tells him she knows he was the one who told the Americans about her operation, and he’s the reason she’s still at the same lousy job. Does putting all her cards on the table and acting like a crazy person help her case? Maybe not. He doesn’t admit anything.

Anyone listening even if they donn’t speak Russian would just think, “Crazy ex-girlfriend.”

Tatiana then has a chat with her boss, telling him she doesn’t trust Oleg, and that he’s not loyal. She thinks they should put some pressure on his father.

Paige stops by Casa Jennings because she wants to spar with Mom. Philip hangs back, listening. Paige tells her mom about the bar fight. Elizabeth isn’t pleased that Paige exposed her super-powers in public, but Paige reacts like the surly teen she’s become and tells her mother not to tell her who to sleep with and then storms out, so Philip reacts with, “Whaaa?” And Elizabeth tries to explain that she was trying to tell her not to get close to someone, and then she admits that maybe Philip had a point, and Paige really isn’t cut out for this, but she’s got to go to work and really doesn’t have time for this parenting business.

What does going to work consist of? Elizabeth sneaks into Gedanni’s apartment through a back window, bypassing the person guarding the front of the building. It looks like Stan’s marriage counseling paid off, because Sofia and Ilya are both here. When Elizabeth hears multiple voices, she’s about to sneak out, but Gedanni spots her in the kitchen, so she silently puts a knife in his throat.

Unfortunately, before she can leave, Sofia comes into the kitchen, so she takes her out too. Ilya seems to have fallen asleep in front of the television like a normal American kid, so she doesn’t kill him, but it’s a horrible bloody mess that reads like a serial killer origin story. Dexter comes to mind.

Plausibility check: Would the KGB really have hunted Geddani down and killed him so that the US wouldn’t score a propaganda victory? In the middle of a summit? During Gorbachev’s reforms? They left far more famous defectors alone, even during more actively hostile times. Wouldn’t these deaths make Russia look really bad? It’s also not a move that endears her to viewers, either. At this point, watching Elizabeth is like watching final season Walter White on Breaking Bad. We’d be good with her getting caught, or killed.

Philip goes to visit Paige at her college-girl apartment. Did we know she has a roommate? How does she explain her odd hours? Fortunately, it looks like the roommate is never home, so no problem. She tells her father she’s not the same as him: in other words, she’s buying into Elizabeth’s version of Philip’s retirement, that he just couldn’t do the work anymore, and Dad’s not special like she and her mother are. Philip gives her a little dose of reality by sparring with her, and showing her all the ways he could kill her if so inclined. It’s an uncomfortable scene, but probably a good antidote to Elizabeth’s insisting that “the work” she’s doing isn’t dangerous or that her lessons are really going to keep her safe. There’s a difference between sucker-punching a couple of drunks, and actually climbing on top of a drunk ex-hockey player and surprising him with a knife to the throat. But will Philip’s lesson have the desired effect? Maybe not.

In this case, it really is for her own good.

Next time we see Paige, she’s at Claudia’s, and Claudia and Elizabeth are showing her how to coat her stomach with olive oil before drinking, so she’ll never get as drunk as everyone else. Then they all get as drunk as they can, and bond over bad sex stories the way real women do.

Speaking of same sex bonding, which this episode is full of, Stan stops by Casa Jennings to bond with Philip because he needs a guy-friend. Stan tells him about his last remaining Russian case: the couple, and how they were both slaughtered, and their seven year old son is now traumatized. Philip is jarred enough by this for Stan to notice.

Although he never met them, hearing about the young couple killed and their traumatized kid, and knowing how much can go wrong and does go wrong, finally gives him the push to act. He calls Kimmie and breaks up with her for good, but then he goes beyond that, and tells her that if on that trip to Greece someone tries to get her to go to a communist country, she shouldn’t go, and then he hangs up. That was pretty specific! And Kimmie isn’t stupid. Will she try to reach him at a number she has for him, leaving a message on a machine monitored by that lonely woman who never leaves the switchboard? Will she go straight to her dad, now that she’s no longer a rebellious teen? And would a sketch of Jimmy look enough like Philip for Dennis and maybe Stan to put it together?

No attempt to save himself.

Like Nina, Philip’s unselfish act to save another is purely that. He doesn’t try to barter the information to get a deal. It might cost him everything, but it’s also the end result of everything that’s come before, including his own attempts at spiritual salvation through quasi-religious self-help. All the talk of authenticity and pushing yourself beyond fear and the prison of your own making has brought him to the point of this phone call. He was a fragmented man who is finally whole, and we hope it doesn’t get him killed.

So many possibilities! Hard to believe they’re going to wrap this up in five more episodes!

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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