'The Americans' Recap: Nightswimming - Rolling Stone
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‘The Americans’ Recap: Nightswimming

It’s another day, another mission for the Jennings – but a dangerous foe is hot on their trail

Keri Russell Elizabeth Jennings The Americans

Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings on 'The Americans.'

Patrick Harbron/FX

This week’s conundrum on The Americans: Is being a shitty parent a viable trade-off if it means you’re cold-hearted enough to fulfill your mission without an emotional breakdown? I guess we really won’t know the answer until Paige‘s therapy bills start coming in once the Nineties hit (what I wouldn’t give to see a flash-forward where Sally Draper is Paige’s shrink circa 1995) – or she joins the family business (as a spy, not a travel agent).

‘The Americans,’ A to Z

Just as Henry proved an innate ability for breaking and entering a few episodes ago, now Paige is showing herself to be quite adept at forgery. It’s just a shame Elizabeth sees her teenage daughter’s talents as disrespectful instead of a source of pride. What Mom fails to notice is that Paige, after being confronted over her mother’s discovery that she’s been practicing her “Elizabeth Jennings” signature, doesn’t cower in terror. All Elizabeth’s intimidation tactics (trash duty, barring Paige from attending church camp over the summer) seem to do is raise Paige’s defiance level. A fearless attitude, being firm in her resolve — who could Paige have possibly learned that from? Cue up the Harry Chapin!

It’s that austere outlook that allows Elizabeth to complete her duties in a clean and timely mission. But it’s not so easy for other spies, as “Yousaf” demonstrated this week. Over a brilliantly filmed, tense sequence, Pete Townshend’s “It Must Be Done” (the much-hyped original composition the Americans fan/Who guitarist wrote for the episode) soundtracks Elizabeth’s assassination of a Pakistani diplomat, Javid, while one of Philip’s recruits, the sexy, blond Annelise – last seen in Season One’s “The Clock” – seduces Javid’s colleague Yousaf. Both women’s tasks appear to go off without a hitch. An unseen Elizabeth bursts out of the water while Javid is taking his nightly swim, putting him in a body hold long enough to grab a syringelike device hidden in a fluffy, white towel poolside and release its poisonous gas. As she leaves Javid’s lifeless body floating in the hotel pool, we watch Elizabeth exit the area without looking back, our perspective shot entirely from beneath the water, which only added to the scene’s chilling vibe.

Anneliese, however, never had that important emotion-repression training. After sleeping with Yousaf, she storms into Philip’s hotel room (where he was monitoring her mission) and unleashes a torrent of anger and regret on the KGB agent. Unable to reconcile what she did, she pathetically tries to kick Philip’s ass while shaming him not only for pimping her out, but for accepting that his own wife sleeps around on a regular basis for the cause. But just when you think Philip is going to add Anneliese to his body count, he calms her down, admitting that it “kills me to watch the woman I love sacrifice herself…give herself to another man….It is not something I take lightly, ever.” It’s just too bad Philip couldn’t shower this kind of affection onto his intended recipient, Paige. At the start of the episode, Elizabeth dissuaded him from apologizing for last week’s temper tantrum, and as a result, the Jennings’ relationship with their daughter is more strained than ever.

The question now is, will Philip’s decision to keep people like Anneliese – who obviously can’t hack it as a spy – alive end up putting him and his family in more danger? Remember, it’s easy to hate on Elizabeth for alienating her children with her über-strict parenting style, but it could mean the difference between graduating high school or ending up like Amelia Connors. Speaking of that unsolved murder…

It now looks like it’s going to be a race against time (or the final three episodes of the season) for either Stan to crack the Connors case, or for Andrew Larrick to reveal himself as the murderer. So much for Jared Connors‘ healing process – now that Stan suspects a connection between Oleg, the Stealth Program meetings with the Department of the Defense and the Connors family deaths, the poor grieving kid is now getting interrogated by the FBI. To his credit, Stan is as sympathetic as can be, despite Jared offering very little to go on. But the nail-biting is just getting started: When Stan shows Jared sketches of an in-disguise Philip and Elizabeth, the scene cuts off right before Jared says anything. Both families did pass each other on that fateful day at the amusement park. That doesn’t mean Jared is going to put two and two together.

Meanwhile, Larrick has cut his Nicaragua gig short to return to the D.C. area with a vendetta he’s hardly keeping to himself. Within minutes of landing back on American soil he’s spewing boasts to a fellow soldier like, “There are some things in life you can only handle yourself.” In this case, he means staging a one-man attack on Directorate S’s basement dispatch center – you know, the one that houses about 50 rotary phones and a middle-aged guy who regularly places calls to the Jennings household in the form of Columbia House reps and fundraiser volunteers. (Psst! They’re coded messages!) Well, now that guy is dead and new handler Kate‘s phone has been bugged. From the moment Larrick appeared on the scene, it was obvious he was going to be a worthy adversary for Philip and Elizabeth. And now we can’t wait for what is sure to be an epic showdown between these three.

Previously: Church of the Poison Mind


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