The Americans: Operation Chronicle

“Being a parent’s hard, but so is having parents.”

To misquote Bette Davis, adolescence ain’t no place for sissies. The world, which until now has been fairly limited to the confines of the family, begins to open up. As a result, those whom we believed were magic and infallible, our parents, we discover are simply people — flawed and keeping secrets. Adolescents want to be adults while they cling to the safety of still being a child.

The cold open is a wonderful example of this tension. Paige asks some obvious and adult questions about why Elizabeth must go off to the office and Philip snaps at her, obviously frustrated and worried. But, the child that is still in Paige is hurt that her mother is breaking her promise to help her pack. Ironically, Elizabeth is breaking that promise to help the child of another couple with secrets.

Jared needs help. Larrick is single minded when it comes to following him and he is good at what he does. I must admit to being a bit confused as to why Larrick is so intent on Jared. The kid is obviously an innocent; he couldn’t have killed Larrick’s friends. Larrick’s endgame alludes me.

As does the Centre’s. Why was Kate out of disguise and why did she tell Jared the truth? Elizabeth and Philip discuss the fact that the Centre will take care of them and take care of their children, but will it? This is the same organization that has taught its spies that the mission comes before everything. Elizabeth, the more committed of the two to the organization, recognizes the danger. Philip, less committed and more invested in their lives as Americans, appears to be ignoring the obvious.

The irony of helping one child at the expense of her own is not lost on Elizabeth. She is becoming increasingly worried about what will happen to her own children and she is right to do so. My fear, however, is that Elizabeth does not see that the true danger is within her own family.

Paige is suspicious of both parents and is doing what she can to discover the truth. She tells the guy on the bus that she doesn’t believe a word that her parents utter and I believe her. She seems particularly focused on discovering the truth.

Jared, on the other hand, is the opposite of Paige. He is placid, resigned, willing to do whatever Elizabeth tells him. His acceptance that his life is going to change completely is almost too good to be true. What kid just throws everything away without asking some of the questions that Paige certainly would under the circumstances? What does he know and how much does he understand?

What makes Elizabeth’s story resonate this week is that all three of the children involved are true innocents. They are in danger simply because they are the children of people who made choices a long time ago. Unlike their parents, their lives can unravel completely and they must deal with consequences they had no way of preventing or even foreseeing. They will have to pay for the sins of their fathers… and mothers.

Speaking of children, Martha finally asks Clark when they can begin a family. Clark makes it very clear that it will never happen and, once again, breaks Martha’s heart. It occurs to me that this is a conversation that should have taken place before she married the man, but Martha made an assumption that is now backfiring.

Martha is a woman, I must admit, I have underestimated. Clark has as well. The reveal that she knows he wears a wig was surprising as were the files she has brought home. For the first time ever, I wondered if Martha knows more than we have given her credit for. Telling a KGB agent about all those unsecured files was dangling a huge carrot. The thought crossed my mind that she might be setting him up.

If she is, she is working with Gaad who was acting oddly in this episode. Is he suspicious of Stan? He certainly seems to be. Gaad couldn’t look Stan in the eye in his office.

Stan has lost everything. His boss is acting oddly, his son is all but ignoring him, and his wife is leaving him for another man. The scene between Stan and Sandy was affecting. These two people have been married for decades and have a son. The end of their marriage was civil and polite. The passion is gone, but Stan still care enough to ask if the new man is a good guy. He may no longer want to be married to Sandy, but he wants her to be well.

It’s easier for Stan to walk away than it might have been because he loves another as well. This love, however, has put him in an impossible situation. Not able to get Nina out quickly enough, he now has to choose between the country he has served his entire adult life and the woman he loves. When it comes right down to it, will Stan commit treason? He may choose to, but not be able to. The fact that Echo is so secure may save him from himself.

Nina is doing everything she can to save herself, including allowing herself to be badly beaten. Her loyalties are also a mystery to me, especially now that Oleg has called off their romance. The scene between them was reminiscent of the scene between Stan and Sandy. Yes, they were in a bugged room and had to be discreet, but the end of their romance was Oleg wishing her well and helping her out.

One final note. Did we learn who the Cardinal is? He has been an unknown since the second episode this season. But Arkady’s message was fascinating: Rezident [Arkady] was present. Subject Oriole [Stan] response appropriate for circumstances. Directorate S agents [Philip and Elizabeth] confirm Cardinal [George???] ready to move forward on sample acquisition.

This was an exceptional episode, filled with fun spy stuff and affecting emotional beats. Something tells me that next week’s finale is going to be quite something.

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.

2 comments:

Suzanne said...

Great review ChrisB. I love this show! It is probably my favorite of the currently running shows I watch. I am looking forward to what looks to be an awesome finale.

Anonymous said...

Cardinal is Fred. And Oleg was not ending his relationship with Nina. He was trying to save her life by giving her some escape money. In fact, he was putting himself in jeopardy in order to do that. He still loves her.