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The Americans: Walter Taffet

... in which the new South African operation moves forward, as another long-simmering Jennings’ op begins to fall apart.

It feels fitting that an episode focused on trust issues and hidden truths coming to the surface should be named after the man who’s role at the FBI is to ferret out such secrets. From start to finish, ‘Walter Taffet’ was all about trust and exploring the ways in which truth can sometimes lead to deeper understanding and stronger connections (as Elizabeth hopes for in the Paige situation), or it can destroy everything (as Philip fears will happen).

In Column A: in the wake of Sandra asking for a divorce, Stan opens up to his son about his undercover experience and how difficult it was for him, which seems to open the door for a better connection with Matthew going forward. In Column B: the bug Martha planted in Gaad’s office is discovered, which seems poised to destroy her life and possibly the Jennings’ as well.

Somewhere in between, we’ve got Elizabeth and Philip. Initially, Philip learning about Elizabeth’s field trip with Paige threatens to drive the couple even further apart. Things between them continue to deteriorate throughout the hour --- despite having to pose as a happy couple for Lisa --- as they continually find themselves on opposite sides of the “what it would mean to have our child dragged into this fight” debate. But then Clark’s aborted evening with Martha turns into an opportunity for Philip to open up to Elizabeth about his son, who is already in the line of fire. I’m not sure that this reveal put them on the same side regarding Paige, but it certainly seems to have deepened Elizabeth’s understanding of Philip’s perspective and to have somewhat repaired their broken bond. After spending the bulk of the episode being isolated from his family, and seeking solace elsewhere, Philip seems to have returned to the fold by the end. The Jennings are very much back in “normal family” mode as they get the kids out the door for the day, and as they speak to each other about the Martha situation it feels free of the bitter undercurrent that accompanied their earlier “kicking off the morning” discussion in the bathroom. Some truths can destroy, while others can set you free.

Other Thoughts

Paige: “What made you stop believing in change? Making things better.”
Philip: “I still believe in those things. You just get older. And, uh, other things become important. And you realize there are a lot of ways to make a difference.”

No Kimmy stuff this week. Thank goodness. I really needed a break from that. And the major developments with Martha were a welcome change of pace. Alison Wright was fantastic!

Although, I don’t quite understand why Martha is keeping the truth from Clark. Is she afraid this failure will ruin their marriage? Does she think she can cover it up somehow? I half expected her to kill herself after she returned to her own apartment, and was sort of surprised to see her in the elevator with Walter Taffet at the end. Where is all this headed?

Lots of visual flair this week from director Noah Emmerich, with numerous framing techniques to underscore the separation and eventual reconnection of Elizabeth and Philip. It felt a bit overdone at times, but that final sequence was great (see below), so I’m willing to let it go.

Philip: “And we trust him why? Because he’s a Communist?”
Elizabeth: “Gabriel said these guys go back to South Africa, do what they say they’re gonna do. A lot of them die. We trust them.”

Philip: “Honestly. Raising kids, and trying to agree on things. We’re on opposite sides all the time.”
Stan: “Well, you’re in a better place than me, pal. Hang in there.”
Philip: “Yeah.”

Elizabeth (re: their ANC contact): “I felt for him and his kids. Fighting this brutal, horrendous war. I, mean, it’s horrible, but it’s admirable in a way. It’s brave.”
Philip (pointedly): “They don’t have a lot of choices.”
Elizabeth: “[Sigh.] No. They don’t.”

Another week, another kickass final sequence. This one a visceral thrill ride that made great use of the tempo changes in Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ to ramp up the tension and pacing of the operation.

Hans gets his first taste of real action, and completely fails to follow instructions. (He was supposed to just tap the horn twice quickly if any squad cars were in the vicinity. Instead he panicked and went nuts on the horn when Philip and Ventor started fighting in the street.) I don’t know that he ultimately compromised the operation, but he sure did seem shaken up by the whole thing. I like how Elizabeth’s training work with Hans provides an interesting view into the work she might hope to do with Paige, and further underscores how being brought into the field is no walk in the park for a newbie.

Final Analysis: A strong exploration of the doubled-edged sword of truth at the heart of this season.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.

1 comment:

  1. This was a great episode, BUT... they had trouble selling me Philip's reaction to the whole Martha thing. Philip has spent his whole life dealing in deception: surely he'd realise something was very wrong with Martha, way beyond the child issue? Martha adores Clark and she never, never treats him that way. Also, there seems to be a plot hole: Martha says she wants to go home, and then the next scene is Philip at his real home, but wasn't Philip supposed to be spending the night with Martha? Instead, they conveniently skim over Philip driving Martha home, dropping her off then going all the way back to his own apartment: if we'd actually seen this, it would have been even more obvious how obtuse Philip is being for the sake of plot convenience.


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