Opening with an adorable scene (in contrast to the thrilling and disturbing elements to come), “The Americans” began with Philip and Gabriel playing a game of Scrabble over beers while discussing the newly identified CIA targets and what’s to become of Paige. “I just want Paige to make her own decisions,” Philip said. “We all do,” replied Gabriel. “Are you sure about that?” This questioning of leadership ended the conversation between devout communists, as well as the least tense conversation in “Open House.”
Elizabeth helps trains Hans in tailing procedures, upping the awkwardness quotient considerably as the young recruit makes a pass at his mentor. Elizabeth shuts him down, as she later tells Philip while trying to raise his ire (among other things) by recounting the attraction of another while standing naked before her hubby. Philip isn’t having it, and turns over in a huff, still upset about his wife’s plans for Paige. The couple then attends an open house held by one of their CIA targets, and while Philip is successful in planting a bug in the agent’s mobile communication device, they’re soon tailed by a team of American spies. Philip is forced to duck out of a moving vehicle after a sharp turn, but Elizabeth can’t escape without ditching the car entirely after reinforcements arrive.
There’s nothing like a crisis to bring a couple back together, and the Jennings celebrate with what we’ll call the world’s most painful trust exercise. After the two try to kiss, Elizabeth’s swollen jaw from her fight with Agent Gaad leads them to use alternate means for the pressing dental emergency (one word summary there: ouch!). The scene is a silent illustration of the show’s brilliance, speaking to the couple’s communicative — and physical — strengths. Though its memorable aspect may be the two tooth pulls — when Philip shook his head after breaking the problem tooth, I felt more empathy for Elizabeth than ever before — the close-up shots on Philip and Liz’s unblinking eyes progressed their love story like no words could.
After somewhat settling the issues with her husband at home, Elizabeth warns Hans off his advances, speaking to her devotion to Philip even in trying times. Martha, Philip’s fake wife, seems equally devoted — but to children, for which she again pushes with “Clark.” If she can’t get them there, she might go looking for kids with the FBI’s newest agent (played by Brandon J. Dirden) after an awkward but effective flirt session. After flirting with the idea of returning to Russia, Oleg decides to stand up to his father and stay in America while Stan becomes suspicious of another Russian “defector.” “Open House” ends with Philip and Elizabeth defying orders by listening into a CIA agent’s conversation with his underage babysitter. It goes better than they could have dreamed, seeing as the girl’s father is none other than the head of the CIA’s Afghan intelligence unit.
Philip’s Loyalty: USA! USA!
Philip may have made up with his wife — after throwing the mother of all hissy-fits before bed — but he’s not bending a bit on Paige. He’s reached the point where he’s no longer listening to other possibilities, instead choosing to lash out at anyone who might listen. He brought things up rather calmly with Gabriel to start the episode, before an angry return visit in which he was told “Paige will have a choice.” Philip isn’t buying it, and I expect him to consider drastic means to protect his daughter in the coming weeks — defection may even be an option by season’s end.
Elizabeth’s Loyalty: KGB! KGB!
Liz, however, isn’t budging an inch. She said all she needed to say on the subject when she told her pouting husband, “I know this is hard for you.” Her statement implies that the decision regarding Paige has already been made, and there’s nothing to be done about it. Philip is starting to feel as though this is true, despite his pleas for the contrary. He’s fighting a losing battle with a woman he loves absolutely; Elizabeth is allowing for the power behind her – from Gabriel up through the KGB elite — to speak to her point, blindly following the Centre’s orders. It may not be the correct decision, but she’s no longer fighting for it. This war is won.
Stan: Savant or Square?
Agent Beeman was looking like a bit of a bagboy this episode until the ending edged him back in the right direction. Most of “Open House” was centered around that thrilling car chase (though is it a chase if everyone is driving at appropriate speeds so not to be noticed?), and Stan came in late to the game. Too late, in fact, to get anything done, as Elizabeth ducked the CIA’s coverage before Stan and his new buddy showed up on the scene. Again, Stan’s instincts are in the right place (as they have been since Episode 1, when he broke into the Jennings garage after suspecting them to be Russian spies), but his actions were too far behind his thoughts.
Then, however, came a telling moment. When asked what it took to “fold” the white supremacists he investigated earlier in his career, Stan said, “Tell them what they want to hear over and over and over again. People love hearing how right they are.” Stan later took his own advice to heart and began to question whether the Russian defector was working with them or against them, by making all of these TV appearances in accordance with the government’s mission statement. Is she undercover, or is that love for Milky Way bars as pure as the chocolate used in them?
Best Asset: None
Seeing as it was a combination of the Centre’s intelligence reports and Yousef’s connections that got Philip and Liz nearly nabbed by the CIA, it certainly seems like the Jennings might do better working alone. Stan wouldn’t disagree. He’s now suspicious of last week’s MVA (most valuable asset), who seems to be telling America exactly what it wants to hear while holding a personal vendetta against the Russian government. As tension mounts and trust is betrayed, our three leads seem to be isolating themselves in Episode 3. We’ll see where this takes them next week.
Wig Count: 4
We have a season high! Thanks to a few daring missions and multiple asset meet-ups, Philip and Elizabeth donned a variety of disguises. Elizabeth used an ugly blonde number with bangs to meet with Hans (twice), and Philip recommitted to the “piece” Martha thinks he’s wearing during his kids-focused visit to the “other” wife. Both of them put on two new pieces for their visit to the open house, with Liz’s Harry Carey-sized glasses winning the fashion MVP award this week.
Quote of the Night:
“Oh, God.” – Elizabeth
These two words, exclaimed in fear of the pain about to be inflicted upon her, were the only words uttered in an otherwise silent four-minute scene between our lead couple. Their escape from the CIA may have been more thrilling, but it was this still exchange that will stick with viewers throughout Season 3. Paired with last week’s brutal suitcase packing, “The Americans” is showing a nastier side than ever before — and we haven’t forgotten the savage slaying of (nearly) an entire family to kick off Season 2. The amplified sounds of Annalise’s bones breaking were necessary to illustrate the grotesque act forced upon Philip and Elizabeth, just as this week’s equally torturous creaks and cracks were implemented as not to overshadow the couple’s silent bond (though still present so we could empathize with Elizabeth).
Philip may have needed this outlet to help cope with what his wife is putting him through with Paige, and one could argue the audience needed to spend a few moments pitying the callously-portrayed mother. Neither group, though, wants to see any harm come to Liz. She may be easily labeled as cold — and just as easily said to have the wrong attitude toward her daughter’s future, as I’ve claimed for two weeks now — but she’s not without feeling or thought. Her ideals are in line with her training, if not modern thinking or understanding. “Open House” served as a reminder of the world she’s living in, a world she’s a part of even more often than Philip (who takes a bit of a break to enjoy the better parts of America when he’s out drinking with Stan or trying out some tantric sex with Martha).
Liz rarely lets herself break character, and by that, I mean she’s often sided with the mission, the Centre and the Cause over her gut instincts or even Philip. She’s made exceptions, but Elizabeth is the more dedicated of the two spies, thus making our connection with her even more complicated as an audience. “Open House” illustrated her humanity more than the first two episodes this season, and for that it — and she — deserves highest marks.