The Americans: New Car

Henry: “I’m a good person, I swear. You know that! You know that! I’m good. I am. I’m a good person! I swear I’m good!”

Last season, we watched as Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, together for years, fell in love and began to create a marriage in more than name only. This season, we are watching as they navigate that marriage and begin to wed their differing idealogical stances along with the effect these views have on their children.

From the beginning, we have seen that Elizabeth is much more committed to the cause of Mother Russia than Philip. Although he will do anything required of him, Philip has become the greater capitalist, the one who loves what living in the United States enables his family and him to have. The opening scene drove home (couldn’t resist) these differences.

Philip has succumbed to temptation and bought a new car. Not just any new car, mind you, but a Camaro Z28. This car is everything that Philip wants. It is fast; it is flashy; it is American made. He loves it; Elizabeth is bemused by it all. Philip tries to get her to admit that there are aspects of their life that she loves. She resists, merely admitting that it is different. Ironically, this is hardly a car that will blend in, but Philip has a new toy and he is overjoyed by it.

Until he meets with Kate and learns that the plans he stole for a submarine have proven faulty and that 160 submariners have died as a result. We subsequently learn that perhaps it was the fault of the military who rushed the development of the sub, but Philip will most likely never know that. He feels incredible guilt at the death of his countrymen and conveys it by the look of near disgust he gives his car as walks up to it after meeting with Kate.

He may feel torn between his mission and his respect for the country in which he lives, but Philip is still willing to do just about anything to accomplish the mission. It is becoming more clear with every episode that “Clark” is deeply unhappy in his marriage. Throughout this season, we have seen him barely able to be civil to Martha when they are together. When she threatens to stop spying, the raison d’ĂȘtre for the marriage, what Philip is willing to do to get her back on track is cruel.

Thankfully, all this poor woman wants is her husband. By doing something as simple as coming home for breakfast, Philip is able to get Martha to continue helping him. It is clear from the relief on his face that he didn’t want to play his doctored tape. I have no doubt he would have done it if he needed to.

Elizabeth is the true believer, the one who continues to put the mission in front of everything and everyone else. The scene with Larrick and Lucia proved just how far Elizabeth is willing to go. Lucia is not just some random stranger; she is someone with whom Elizabeth has spent time and come to know. Allowing Larrick to kill this young woman rather than risk Larrick’s use to the cause is all the proof we need.

Yet, neither Philip nor Elizabeth is immune to the decisions and choices they are making. Elizabeth is devastated by what she has done, so much so that both she and Philip postpone dealing with what their son has done to discuss Lucia’s death in the privacy of their bedroom. The guilt carries over to their next mission, the driver of the sanitation truck. Although both know that they should kill him, neither is able to do so. I believe the fact that Philip had to kill the young man in the lab last week is also still haunting him.

Everything Philip and Elizabeth are feeling comes together in the final scene with Henry. Fully aware of what he has done, he sobs on his mother’s lap, begging them to believe that he is a good person. While my heart broke for this small boy, it also broke for his parents. The looks they exchange show us just how clearly they understand. They, too, want to be good people, not the monsters they so often must be.


— Henry was right. The Camaro Z28 was Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 1982. Watching Philip and Henry air guitar was a wonderful moment.

— This was the first episode that had a scene set in Russia that was not a flashback to either of the Jennings. Anton has arrived home and is not happy about it. Our old friend Vasili is back and is giving Anton exactly what he wants. Expanding the story not only beyond the Jennings but beyond the borders of the United States could prove interesting.

— The fact that the Russians are interested in Stealth technology is an interesting juxtaposition to a world where everyone is behaving in stealthy manner.

— Stan is a train wreck and all we can do is sit back and watch the crash. He is well on his way to being turned and has become so involved in the world that includes Nina and Oleg, he is oblivious to his wife and pushing all the wrong buttons.

Voices on Tape:

Clark: “You can’t put me in a position where I have to choose between my responsibilities to our country and you.”
This quote wins most ironic of the week. There can be very little doubt what that choice would be if Elizabeth were involved. Martha’s response is also ironic, “Other people have important jobs and wives. Doesn’t always have to be a choice, Clark.” Poor woman.

Henry: “Dad just bought it. Isn’t it awesome?”
Philip: “Ahhhmazing. Well, at least it’s not a plane.”

Philip: “Don’t you enjoy any of this? Sometimes? This house, your clothes, all those beautiful shoes? It doesn’t make you bad at what you do. It just makes you a human being. Don’t you ever like it?”
Elizabeth: “That’s not why I’m here.”
Philip: “But, don’t you ever like it?”
Elizabeth: “We have to live this way. For our job, for our cover. Five miles from here, there people who are living…”
Philip: “Do you like it?”
Elizabeth: “You know how I grew up. It’s nicer here, yes. It’s easier. It isn’t better.”

Stan: “Maybe we kill Burov.”
Gaad: “Is that a joke?”
Stan: “Well, that would depend on your sense of humor, sir.”

Deputy Attorney General: “The D.O.D. handles their own security for their top-secret military projects. Are they good at it? I have no idea. Probably not, given all the shit the Soviets have stolen going back to the atom bomb.”

Stan: “But, the goddamn bureaucracy is killing us.”
Deputy Attorney General: “Beeman, I am the goddamn bureaucracy.”
Stan: “That’s why I’m here, sir.”

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.

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