The Americans: Yousaf

… in which the Center assigns Philip and Elizabeth a new target, while fallout from previous missions begins to catch up with the Rezidentura and its agents.

Nina: “I loved my pin. I was so proud of it. You know, we didn’t have anything, no luxury. My life was simple. I liked that. Here, my life is so … tangled.”
Oleg: “You mean your job?”

As I’ve been thinking over this episode for the last few days, this is the quote I keep coming back to. Not just because Nina’s life, job, and loyalties are so tangled, but because everything in this spy world is. Nearly every perceived victory or “well-intentioned” deed turns into a moment of anguish or pain for someone else. And every action supposedly taken in service of one’s country or an ideal is also motivated by something deeper and more primal. Love, jealousy, vengeance. For many of the players in this game, their lives are their jobs, and everything is muddled.

Elizabeth told Philip last week that the things she does for the cause aren’t any easier for her than they are for him. So this week he tries to spare her having to use sex as a weapon, but ends up devastating another woman in the process, even though they succeed in their mission. “You’re a pig! You turned me out! God, I hate you! I wish I’d never met you!” (Shades of what Stan did to Nina.) His motivations are just as tangled as the outcomes, because Philip is only partially doing it to protect Elizabeth. His actions are also very much about his own feelings on the matter. “You don’t think it kills me to watch the woman I love sacrifice herself like that? Give herself to another man? Even if it is for a cause bigger than either of us. It’s not something I take lightly. Ever.” It’s been said many times and in many places this season, but falling in love was a terrible professional development for the Jennings and their colleagues. This week, it was poor, unprepared Annalise who paid the price for their growing intimacy.

Elsewhere, Stan and Gaad discover that Emmett and Leanne were intelligence operatives, and begin to investigate their murders. What seems on the surface to be a great development for the Americans, is ultimately just going to bring tremendous pain to Emmett and Leanne’s son, Jared --- a boy who loved his parents and believes them to be good people. I was so relieved when Elizabeth burned the letter from Leanne instead of giving it to Jared back in ‘The Walk-In,’ but now here comes Stan to tear the lid off that well of pain. Supposedly in the name of justice and protecting American interests, but again it’s much more tangled than that, because what Stan is really trying to do is to screw over Oleg for threatening Nina. Here, it’s an innocent, deeply traumatized young man who will have to suffer all the more so that Stan can protect his country and the woman he loves. (And now he won’t even have his mom’s words to try to explain the “why?” for him. Another “good” deed that will only pay dividends in pain.)

But collateral damage and vengeance is part and parcel of the spy business, right? The Americans and the Soviets killed 160 young submariners in their attempts to one-up each other. Larrick is on the hunt after Philip was forced to take out American soldiers during the “very successful” Martial Eagle mission. And as Arkady and Agent Gaad remind us (and each other), the pain those at the Rezidentura feel over the loss of Vlad --- a good young kid who wanted to be a doctor --- is matched by the pain felt by those at the FBI over the loss of their well-liked colleague Agent Amador. “You target our people, we target yours.” Mutually assured destruction, indeed.

Other Thoughts

The other quote that keeps springing to mind is Claudia’s line from ‘Behind the Red Door’: “Blackmail, however, seldom leads to happy conclusion.” Larrick was blackmailed into being a Russian asset, just as Stan was blackmailed by Oleg. And now both are on missions of vengeance that promise to create serious problems for the Rezidentura.

Gaad (to Arkady): “Is that why you’re here? To congratulate me on my reinstatement? Or you trying to tell me you know where I live?”

Elizabeth: “I can do my job, Philip.”
Philip: “I know you can, but this time, you don’t have to.”

I constantly find myself wondering about Nina’s true loyalties. Has she really developed feelings for Oleg, or is she working an angle with him to try to protect herself? In keeping with her tangled life, it is probably a bit of both.

Oleg: “I think you’re one of those people … who can do anything.”
Nina: “I know. That’s what I’m afraid of.”

So Stan revealed to Nina that the FBI knows Emmett and Leanne were Directorate S. He also revealed that he has the security clearance to take down Oleg and get him removed from the country. It will be interesting to see how the Rezidentura responds.

Kate: “If you mess up, my head will roll, not yours.”
Philip: “No, if we mess up, we’re dead.”
Actually, it looks like Kate might be right on this one, as Larrick now knows where to find her.

Paige: “I’m so sick of this. Henry breaks into the neighbors’ house and it’s no big deal, but I want to be a better person and I’m the bad guy?”
It’s definitely funny that Elizabeth and Philip find religion more threatening than Henry’s misbehavior.

Larrick creeping around that family’s house was intensely upsetting. I was really concerned he was about to kill them all.

So did Jared recognize Philip and Elizabeth? He saw Philip before he found his parents, and he wasn’t wearing a disguise, so Jared probably wouldn’t recognize him from that drawing. But Elizabeth? He got a very good look at her as the social worker. Was her disguise different enough from the one in the drawing?

The intercut scenes of Annalise working Yousaf and Elizabeth killing Javi were really well done. The music choice was perfect --- “But it must be done” --- and the parallels in the positioning of the “couples” were quite striking. The way Elizabeth wrapping her legs around Javi from behind and his struggles and gasps were juxtaposed with Annalise being held by Yousaf and gasping in supposed sexual pleasure was very effective. As Javi died, something inside Annalise also died a little.

Final Analysis: All the tangled threads are starting to come together in wonderfully horrible fashion.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged. More of Jess’s musings on her favorites.

2 comments:

ChrisB said...

This was an intensely sad episode. Everyone is unhappy, doing things they must (or believe they must) for a greater good that seems more and more elusive.

Another parallel I caught between the final two scenes. Both women smoke when they are finished, as if to clear the even worse taste from their mouth.

Fantastic review, Jess. I am looking forward to seeing how this all comes together.

Dustin said...

If either Claudia or the Jennings had received a wrong number phone call, their spy radar would have instantly gone into overdrive, but not young inexperienced Kate, who just shrugs it off.