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The Americans Flips Season 5’s Switch

As The Americans quickly approaches the end of a divisive fifth season, fans eagerly await the switch-flipping moment of the season. For all my love for the rich character work done this season, I also hoped for the climax triggering the falling action of the season. Well, “Dyatkovo” delivered it. And as you would expect, The Americans will end another terrific season focused on what it does best; the relationship between Philip and Elizabeth Jennings.

Spoilers for 5×11 “Dyatkovo” below

Recap

For once, The Americans kicks off an episode with Henry. Philip checks on him while he does homework and gives him the okay to attend his boarding school. He then heads over to hang with Tuan, all the while remembering his childhood.

You know things will go bad when Philip’s remembering his childhood.

Next we see Philip and Elizabeth meet with Claudia. Claudia tells them the Soviets may have possibly found a woman belonging to a Nazi execution squad back during World War 2, gives them a picture and asks them to check it out before anyone takes action. She also confirms that the Soviets weaponized the stolen virus used in Afghanistan. Over in Moscow, one of Oleg’s comrades laments having to put a good man in a mental ward.

Philip and Elizabeth head to Massachusetts to investigate the possible Nazi collaborator. They talk about Henry and surveil the woman. Elizabeth sneakily takes some pictures using a purse camera. Oleg and his partner do some surveillance of their own of the woman Dmitri turned them on to. Meanwhile Stan gives Henry a tour of the FBI for a school paper. Like any normal person, he loves the mail robot.

Henry tells his parents about the visit when he returns home. Afterwards, Philip and Elizabeth develop the pictures of the possible Nazi woman. Elizabeth believes she’s the right woman, while Philip doubts. Yep, that sums them up well. They discuss Stan possibly wanting Henry to join the FBI. They also talk about Paige’s motivation for giving them pictures of Pastor Tim’s diary.

Back in Moscow, Oleg and his partner search the office of the woman they are investigating. They find a ledger full of names. Both are surprised it was in an unlocked desk, not hidden at all. Cut back to America, where Philip and Elizabeth report to Claudia about the potential Nazi. They question how she was found, which inspires little confidence.

Cut again to Henry reading his report to Stan and lavishing praise on the FBI. Stan tempers his enthusiasm a bit by describing the lack of trust he has towards everyone because of his job, including his wife and son. Cut AGAIN to Moscow, where Oleg and his partner interrogate their suspect. She rather brazenly admits her crimes, because the entire country works the same way and everyone is in on it.

Philip and Elizabeth receive the go-ahead with their Nazi collaborator, though Philip’s reservations remain. Stan and Aderholt meet with their TASS agent and Stan warns her to be cautious with her famous hockey player boyfriend.

Finally, the quick cuts come to an end as Philip and Elizabeth move on the possible Nazi collaborator. She denies everything despite Elizabeth’s physical abuse. It’s not until they threaten her husband that she admits to her identity, but it’s too late and her husband is held captive as well when he comes home. She tells him the truth; she lived in the Soviet town in question, the Nazis took over, and her family was killed. They left her alive and made her execute her countrymen.

Philip hesitates to shoot them, so Elizabeth does it herself. When they leave afterwards, Elizabeth says she wants to go “home”.

Review

The genius of that prolonged final scene works on so many layers it could fuel its own article. It informs on the themes of the shows, the plot, and the characters in an astounding number of ways. We’ve seen Philip and Elizabeth in situations similar to this before, but never with the context surrounding them and their target. This poor woman was no Nazi executioner such as Claudia described. She was not willingly sleeping with the invading army and executing her countrymen.

She was a survivor. This woman was a victim of war who was drugged, raped, and forced to do awful things to survive. She tried to make a better life for herself in the aftermath. There was no greater mission to this assignment. No threat to deter. This was cold-blooded revenge on a repentant woman from an awful situation.

The whole thing felt like a setup, some sort of test for Philip and Elizabeth. What better way for the KGB to test their resolve? Here’s a woman we want you to kill. There’s no real reason, no greater good, nothing to it beyond revenge for war crimes 40 years prior. We know the KGB has doubted the Jenningses in the past. With everything that has happened in the past couple seasons, why not test where their resolve currently lies?

There’s a reason Philip hesitated, and a reason he tried to argue against killing her even if she was the right woman. Anna was him. She represented everything he hopes for himself and his family. He hopes to leave his past crimes behind and become a new person, someone not haunted by the crimes he has committed. Yet just like Anna had still not forgiven herself for atrocities committed decades earlier, Philip would never be able to forgive his past crimes.

The KGB certainly expects Elizabeth to tell them about Philip’s hesitation. She has before, after all. Not this time, though. Instead Elizabeth responded to Philips hesitation by revisiting an option presented to them about this time last season; the chance to leave the spy life behind and return home.

If ever you needed proof of the importance of last week’s wedding scene to Elizabeth, this proposal should do the trick. Elizabeth’s execution of Anna and her husband showed her continued commitment to her cause. Her own fervent patriotism has not vanished. She was perfectly happy to murder this woman for no reason other than revenge. If asked to do the same tomorrow, there’s no reason to doubt she would.

Yet she’s willing to walk away for Philip. She likely knew he was done well before this episode, or at least suspected. She probably thought she could bring him back, or his disillusionment was a phase he would get over eventually. Now she understands, though. Philip is D-O-N-E. There’s no coming back, no period in the future where he rediscovers his stomach for this profession. Decades of spy work has fully eroded his resolve.

Elizabeth has been protecting and encouraging him for some time now. She has inspired strength and motivation where she can. And now she’s ready to make her biggest sacrifice yet to protect him by returning home. I doubt Elizabeth herself is ready to leave her mission behind to return home for good. She is willing to do so for Philip.

Of course, you also have to wonder if Elizabeth’s doubts lack that far behind Philip’s at this point.

The question now is whether they will be allowed to return home. Frankly, the Doylist analysis says no freaking way. Not with a full season left. The Watsonian analysis makes the prospects highly unlikely as well. Philip and Elizabeth are involved in far too much and dropping it all now is a no-go prospect. Between the Morozovs, the Topeka operation, Tuan, Stan, and Paige’s potential to turn, I can’t imagine the KGB okaying their move back home.

That’s without even bringing up stuff like Mischa’s future role to play or Henry’s upcoming move to his boarding school. Like it or not, Philip and Elizabeth are too tied to America to walk away right now.

We’re also seeing just how bad shape the Soviet Union is in. Oleg’s storyline continues to show the depths of the corruption poised to bring the country down a few years from the current timeline of The Americans. Can Philip and Elizabeth possibly live happily back home?

These final two episodes of season 5 will be very interesting to watch. Even if Philip and Elizabeth were allowed to return home, a lot of fallout comes from such a move and various tensions along with it. Again, a great deal ties them to their life in America. Leaving it behind would be difficult, and leaving it behind without a trace nigh impossible.

I can’t wait to see how this all shakes out.

Other Thoughts:

  • Henry tells his parents about the FBI vault. This could be very important.
  • Speaking of, how funny would it be if Henry knows all about his parents and this was his subtle way of reporting to them? I don’t know, maybe consider it.
  • Philip was cold blooded about Matthew. Damn.
  • Why did Oleg seem out of breath in every scene? Maybe all that good Russian food his family gets?
  • Stan’s talk about lack of trust makes me question the chances of any potential Renee scheme working. It also makes me feel terrible for him and his family.
  • I love the friendly sweaters Stan and Aderholt put on to meet with their TASS spy. Reminds me of Eric Cartman putting on a sweater when he wants to look like a nice kid.
  • Elizabeth’s fury is so real. She really is a staunch believer. She was personally affronted by Anna’s actions.
  • And I know she’s well practiced at excusing her own country’s crimes, but how can Elizabeth possibly rationalize weaponizing the hemorrhagic virus?
  • Quite a few goatee and blonde wig disguises this season for Philip and Elizabeth, respectively.

Images Courtesy of FX

Bo
Written By

Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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