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The Americans Prepares to Say Goodbye to a Veteran

Saying goodbye is always hard, especially with a show like The Americans. These characters are so compelling, and their actors so good, that you never want to see any of them go. This is the spy game, though. No one lasts forever and the best you can hope for is that anyone’s eventual exit will be peaceful. So who will likely soon be off the show? And how will their absence affect things? Read on for my thoughts.

Spoilers for 5×06 “Crossbreed” below

Recap

“Crossbreed” starts with Elizabeth letting Gabriel know the truth about the grain. He asks her about Philip and the lab assistant he killed. They make plans regarding the thriving plants she found in the greenhouse. Gabriel also assigns her an “easy” assignment with a psychiatrist. After Henry talks crap about the travel industry after dinner, Elizabeth tells Philip about the meeting with Gabriel.

Unfortunately, it turns out Mischa did just go home to Russia. Philip remembers more of his own life in Russia and his parents while in bed with Elizabeth. He talks to her about it. Meanwhile, Stan and Aderholt approach a Russian woman and give her a number to call.

Elizabeth continues working Ben in Kansas. No pun intended. He recognizes her distress no matter how she hides it and has her do Tai Chi with him. Gabriel meets with Claudia to confirm Mischa is home. He talks about his guilt over lying to Philip and they discuss Philip. Later, he visits the Lincoln Memorial. Over in Moscow, Oleg and his partner find lots of money and jewelry in the home of the grocery head they threatened in the previous episode. They arrest him when he won’t name the people he pays off.

Philip and two other agents begin spying on Morozov’s wife as she comes and goes from work, and set a schedule around hers. Back home, a Mary Kay agent comes knocking. Elizabeth brusquely brushes her off while Paige watches, confused as to why she acted so coldly. Oleg again waits at the meeting spot he was told to, and again no one shows up. Stop going, Oleg. Please.

Philip and Elizabeth meet with Gabriel together this time to discuss business. Gabriel tells them he’s returning home. He tells Philip the Center will continue to worry about his loyalty, and that he’s worried as well, while Elizabeth gives him one of the coldest death stares I’ve ever seen from her.

Excuse me, I’m just shivering violently over here.

Presumably the next day, she begins the psychiatrist assignment posing as a patient. While there she uses the soot on a burned key to get the shape of the lock to his office.

She talks to Philip about the visit, and also about Gabriel leaving. He asks her if she knows something he doesn’t. She agrees Gabriel is withholding something. Philip also talks more about his memories of childhood in Russia. Elizabeth suggests he talk to Gabriel. Meanwhile, Henry discovers the heaven that is stuffed peppers with Stan. They talk about his genius, a new girlfriend, and Paige.

Philip takes Elizabeth’s advice and asks Gabriel about his father. He finds out his father was a KGB guard at a prison camp. He thinks that’s why the KGB recruited him. Elizabeth’s spying on the psychiatrist wakes some demons of her own as his family sparks memory of Young-hee’s family. She later walks in on Paige reading the book Pastor Tim gave her, and they talk about it. She finds Philip in the garage and they talk about his father.

And finally, we end the episode with Oleg burning the recording of his conversation with Stan while Philip and Elizabeth bring Paige to meet Gabriel.

Review

Last week I talked a lot about the game-changing decisions various characters are making or will soon make. This week one character made his decision. Gabriel is leaving America, and you can bet that the consequences of his decision will impact everyone on The Americans in some way. For 3 seasons Gabriel has been a calming force as Philip and Elizabeth withstood the various events pushing them closer and closer to their breaking points. If not for him, they may have cracked well before now. Now he’s on the outs, and everyone will feel his absence.

(The fans included. Losing Frank Langella would be a huge blow. He is a wonderful actor.)

This oncoming absence could not come at a worse time for his two charges. Whoever replaces him will not view Philip and Elizabeth’s growing reticence with the same understanding and patience Gabriel does. He was brought back as their handler because of his familiarity with them, and without that familiarity the two will look to a new handler just like they look to the audience; two agents whose loyalties come increasingly into question.

Remember how Claudia reacted to them when she began handling them? And that was season 1, when Philip had no problem manipulating Martha and Elizabeth probably would have stormed the White House with a machine gun if asked. Now they struggle to even care out basic missions because they’re reminded of old hurts. How will a new handler view these two? Even if Claudia herself takes over again, she clearly suspects the loyalties of Philip, at least. As does the entire KGB.

I’m happy for Gabriel. He has lived a long life serving his homeland and deserves his rest. Seeing Philip and Elizabeth grow so weary likely made him realize just how long he has done this. I’m still very sad to see him go. Philip and Elizabeth will suffer without him. Though we’re at least going to get a scene with Gabriel and Paige before he goes.

Speaking of which, what in the world are they doing? Where is this heading? I can’t wait to see. Maybe they just want to introduce Paige to the closest thing she has to a grandfather. Perhaps Elizabeth thinks her feelings on Pastor Tim’s book have opened the door to convert her and a conversation with Gabriel will push Paige decisively towards her parents’ side. I can’t wait to see this go down.

There’s no doubt that Philip and Elizabeth are on the brink. While last week focused heavily on Philip’s breakdown and this week continued to feature him, “Crossbreed” gave Elizabeth’s weariness significant attention. Specifically, we saw how the assignment with Young-hee broke a piece of her she struggles to recover. Elizabeth grew closer to Young-hee than she has any other assignment we’ve seen through 5 seasons of The Americans.

Even something so simple as seeing the psychiatrist with his family shook Elizabeth like I could never imagine before Young-hee. The Mary Kay representative affected her similarly. Young-hee was more than Morozov’s wife, Pastor Tim, or Ben. Young-hee was a close friend Elizabeth liked. She looked for any reason not to go through with blackmailing her husband. Those phone calls begging to talk to her deeply affected Elizabeth. She doesn’t want to do that again.

Certainly not the expression a salesperson wants to see on a customer’s face.

Elizabeth has only ever clung to this type of regret with Gregory. She cannot brush it off. How will a handler unaware of this past view her visible reluctance and sorrow to the assignments she carries out? How would this handler react to Elizabeth hesitating or outright refusing an assignment?

For so long she has been the one holding together both the personal and professional lives of the Jennings family. Elizabeth has held Philip together through all his fears and mood swings. She has led the way in deciding how to handle Paige. Whatever comes their way, she is the rock anchoring them. If she wavers then everything will collapse. She’s not there yet. She’s much closer than she used to be, though. For the first time I can imagine a moment where Elizabeth’s loyalties do not first lie with the Soviet Union.

That moment is coming. Maybe Philip finally has enough and forces the moment on here. Maybe Paige or Henry does. Or maybe she refuses to break apart another family the way she did Young-hee’s family. That family might even be her own.

Between Philip, Elizabeth, Gabriel, and Oleg, this was another week where The Americans pushed characters towards disillusionment. It was also another fantastic example of how everything matters in this show. Young-hee matters even after the assignment ends. The mugging matters. Martha matters. Nina matters. Gabriel’s long years of service matter, and the absence of his familiarity with the Jenningses will matter.

Everything that happens to these characters will matter in the end. They all exact some toll on them or tug them one way or the other in their loyalties and beliefs. What end will this all lead to? I can’t wait to see it, even if that ending is coming too soon.

Other Thoughts:

  • Interesting how Elizabeth told the mugging story from approximately Paige’s perspective during her session with the psychiatrist. I wonder if she’ll use these sessions moving forward to plan responses to Paige’s moods.
  • Although, Elizabeth’s mocking eye roll after leaving the office suggests she doesn’t take what he said too seriously. Perhaps she directed that reaction towards labeling the mugging incident as trauma. Elizabeth’s response to help Paige deal with murder was to teach her how, after all.
  • Aw, Henry likes a girl. As happy as I am that he has someone in his life to talk to, you have to assume he’ll say too much to Stan one day. P.S., stuffed peppers rule. If you don’t know them, you should remedy that immediately.
  • Speaking of Stan, this mysterious investigation he and Aderholt are carrying out will definitely relate back to Philip and Elizabeth at some point. I’m excited to see how.
  • Philip’s comment about not knowing his parents at all may suggest his own children are triggering his memories of his parents. Just look at Henry this season. He has basically no relationship with his parents, and hasn’t for at least 2 seasons.
  • I’m definitely hoping for Claudia to resume her role as handler for the Jennings family.
  • Friendly reminder that you can always continue the conversation about The Americans on our forums!

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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