"The Americans" recap: "We all have weakness"

In last night's episode, Stan begins to connect the dots and the Jennings feel increasingly trapped

Published April 24, 2014 1:03PM (EDT)

In this episode, Philip and Elizabeth finally complete their mission to sneak into the Martial Eagle camp, the secret Contra-training camp on U.S. soil. (Note: Oliver North, infamous for his role in the Iran-Contra affair, shared story credit for this episode.) They breach the gates in a hijacked septic truck. But the operation, like so many others, doesn’t go as smoothly as planned. Philip ends up killing two people, and after he and Elizabeth leave the camp, they discover that the septic truck’s driver, whom they tied up and left in the woods, has frozen to death.

The very next day, Philip and Elizabeth go to church with Paige for “youth day.” While the minister preaches from John 10:10 and assures the congregation that Jesus offers comfort to those who are “hurt and angry inside,” Philip and Elizabeth seethe. Philip is hurt and angry—every time he kills someone, it tears him up—but he’s also enraged that his daughter has become indoctrinated. He and Elizabeth see Christianity as an opiate of the American masses and they are even more furious when they learn that Paige gave $600—her entire life savings—to the church. Philip rips up Paige’s Bible and screams, “You respect Jesus but not us?” And Elizabeth punishes Paige by waking her up in the middle of the night to clean out the refrigerator and mop the kitchen floor.

Meanwhile, at the FBI, Stan is learning about Project Harvey, the Department of Defense’s plan to build stealth planes and submarines. Two companies—Lockheed Martin and Northrop—are competing for the DOD stealth contract and Stan learns that all the involved scientists, at both companies, were at a secret meeting in Alexandria on January 23. That was the same day on which Emmet and Leanne (Philip and Elizabeth’s fellow “illegals”) were murdered in an Alexandria hotel room in the first episode of the season. Stan is beginning to connect the dots. (Stan enlists Martha’s help in pulling records from the January 23 stealth meeting in Alexandria, unaware that Martha is secretly married to “Clark,” and will thus pass information on to Philip and the KGB.) Stan has brought all the people who were at the stealth meeting in Alexandria into the FBI for questioning, including Emmet’s contact, Fred.

Stan warns Fred that he—and everyone else working on stealth technology—will be a KGB target. Stan Beeman describes the KGB like this: “They are masters at exploiting weakness. We all have weaknesses. And they will find yours…That is where their power lies. In secrets. If they can keep you afraid and ashamed, they can keep you silent. And if they can keep you silent, they can control you.”

The KGB has already exploited Stan’s secret love for Nina Sergeevna. But it turns out that Stan’s wife, Sandra, has been having a secret relationship of her own. Sandra confesses that she’s going away for a few days with a man she met in EST. She and the man have had an emotional connection for a while, and want to explore it. “You’re having an affair?” says the stunned Stan. To which Sandra replies, “What, are you going to try to tell me that you’re not having an affair? At least I’m being honest.” And then she cuts him deep when she adds: “You know what kills me? You didn’t even know anything was going on. You, Mr. counterintelligence genius, just didn’t see it.”

Elizabeth is busy exploiting weakness at an AA meeting, where she goes, in disguise, to befriend a Northrop employee. The woman who works for Northrop (one of the companies competing for the DOD stealth contract) is a recovering alcoholic. Over coffee after the meeting, she reminds Elizabeth: “This is what recovery is all about: being open and honest.”

But there is nothing open or honest about the Cold War. Philip and Elizabeth (and Stan and Nina) are caught in a web of lies, without the comfort of Jesus, EST, or AA. The day after their Martial Eagle operation, Elizabeth, sensing Philip’s guilt about the people he killed in the camp, says, “What you did last night, you had no choice. This is war.” And in perhaps the most telling line of this episode, Philip replies, “I don’t need the speech. This is easier for you.” He believes that Elizabeth can kill without remorse. “You think this is easy? What I do?” she says. They are trapped, in their anger and hurt. The question is how, and if, they can recover.

By Elliott Holt

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