“Stingers” will always be remembered as the episode where Philip and Elizabeth finally told Paige the truth about their family. The significance was incredibly clear in every aspect of the scene, from Paige’s defiant and direct confrontation, to her parents’ rationalized, well-meaning response, to the setting of the perfectly-domestic kitchen table, to the tense framing of the direction. It was an all-in-all perfect scene, and one that will change the course of the series forever.
But that’s not all that went down in Episode 10. By the end of the riveting hour, Stan may have the most going on of any character (more on that later). Philip paid another awkward visit to Kimberly, and obtained some crucial information about a meeting between the CIA and Mujahideen, leading Elizabeth to begin the seduction of a hotel manager. Nina makes a small breakthrough with her scientist target and we learn a big secret about little Svetlana. All of this only begins to scratch the surface of a layered, game-changing episode of television — there’s so much to discuss we added an extra section to fit it all in — but let’s dig into the main course first.s
Philip’s Loyalty: KGB
One could argue Philip’s decision to go along with Paige’s exposure to the truth was a father doing what’s best for his family. In that moment, he could see that she really did need to know why their family wasn’t “normal.” The answers Paige demanded may not have been the ones Philip and even Elizabeth wanted to give, but they couldn’t continue lying to one of their own. His reasoning was the same as when he told Gabriel not to force his son out of the Russian army. For better or worse, Philip is supporting his children’s wishes.
This belief isn’t wrong, but it’s not complete either. Philip may not have aborted the mission (so to speak), but now he’s tied to those truths by going along with it. He and Elizabeth are now spies in the eyes of their daughter. What happens to Paige now will be up to her, to a point, and I don’t expect her to be compliant with the Centre’s plan for indoctrination. Maybe then Philip can break his allegiances and save her, but now he has to live with what’s he’s done — become a traitor in the eyes of his first born and keeping his son in harm’s way — and, worse than that, what his daughter thinks he’s done — which could be anything.
Elizabeth’s Loyalty: USA
When it came down to actually telling Paige who her parents were, Elizabeth couldn’t do it. It was Philip who said the words as his wife stuttered, ready to crack, and couldn’t complete the sentence: “We were born in a different country,” Philip said. This gave Elizabeth the confidence to deliver the speech she’s clearly been practicing over and over again in her head for the past few months (if not years), but she simply couldn’t pull the trigger when it counted — something never applicable to Elizabeth in the literal sense.
So what caused her second thought? Most likely, it was last week’s extended conversation with Betty that brought back memories of her fractured relationship with her own mother. Clearly, the prolonged discussion (and death) took its toll on Elizabeth like nothing yet has… until this. Elizabeth — much like Philip has been all along — was afraid, in the moment, of losing her relationship with Paige; one she’s worked so hard to build, especially throughout this season. Now it’s in flux, and there’s nothing she can do about it but wait. We will be, too, with equal impatience.
Stan: Savant or Square?
Stan is absolutely killing it these days. Not only did his character become all the more fascinating in the final seconds of this week’s episode — was Paige eyeing him with suspicion or fear when he oh-so-casually entered the Jennings’ kitchen for dinner? — but he’s in the middle of an operation to frame Svetlana and save Nina, all the while establishing a “good ‘ol Uncle Stan” reputation with Henry. I mean, receiving an advanced copy of a highly-anticipated film may not seem like much in today’s day and age — when piracy is as easy as clicking a few buttons. But think of how excited you’d be as a child to watch, say, “Mad Max: Fury Road” early if your only other option was making your parents take you to the theater or waiting who-knows-how-long for it to come out for home viewing?
Perhaps the most intriguing moment of Stan’s chronicled life this week came when he was asked by Agent Taffet who might have had access to Agent Gad’s office, and thus, his pen. He lied well under pressure, denying he was thinking of anyone, but then we saw where his oh-so-savvy mind was lead when he glanced curiously at Martha’s empty desk. Hopefully Martha can hold up to Stan’s persistent stare.
Best Asset: Nina
Well, it’s not Youssef. That guy has proven to be way more trouble than he’s worth since the get go, and now he’s refusing to play ball in accordance with Philip’s/the Centre’s demands. Where is he? Is he “ducking” as Elizabeth first thought, or could he have been caught and killed? Odds are he won’t have a happy ending after his brutal introduction.
We’ll see where Youssef falls out, but for now, Nina is still the best asset in the field. Martha has fallen out of the picture since last week, literally taking some time off just as Stan’s suspicious eye fell on her. Kimberly proved helpful, but she’s more of a nuisance to the mission than a supporter of it. As for Svetlana, her situation is about to blow. She’s definitely up to something with the Russians, but how that will effect Stan and Oleg’s plan has yet to be seen. She had to know Oleg was lying last week when he promised her things she was probably already promised by the KGB agents who left this week’s note. No matter how it shakes out, she’s unreliable as anyone asset. So for now, I’m rooting for Nina — no matter what.
Wig Count: 3
The Philip/Kimberly relationship needs to end, just so he can stop wearing that God-awful wig. The right-part he sported at the hotel restaurant was much better, even if Elizabeth’s matching wig couldn’t live up to her impossibly high standards this season.
Quote of the Night:
In the end, Elizabeth was right. Yes, it was Philip who made the above statement, and Philip who stepped up to tell Paige in the moment of truth. He’s placed his trust in the right people so far. First, he learned to trust Elizabeth. More recently, he didn’t do anything to Martha, instead choosing to believe in her loyalty to him above that to her job. Now he’s trusting Paige. He’s believing in the daughter he helped raise to know right from wrong, or at least to understand that her parents are still who they’ve always been. Whether or not this works out long term is yet to be seen — again, Paige’s murky interpretation of Stan’s involvement in her family’s life may turn against the Jennings — but Philip was right for at least this day.
But that really means Elizabeth was right. Paige almost told Pastor Tim, and she very well may have had her parents denied her the truth any longer. She was already going to him for advice most kids get from their parents — hence Tim’s unwanted appearance at the travel agency — so who knows how she would have reacted if Elizabeth hadn’t pushed Philip to tell their daughter the truth. It may not have gone over the way either of them wanted, but making hard decisions for the betterment of the family is what parenting is all about. Never has that been more thoroughly, intricately or dramatically realized than in “Stingers.” And we’ve still got three episodes left this season.
– “Do you have kids?” “I have a flock.” “It’s not the same.” Philip is just the best.
– I’m torn. Should I be laughing at Henry’s pretty spot-on Eddie Murphy impression of “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood,” or appalled by the subtextual implication of his ignorance (not only to what he’s saying, but as the only member of the family unknowing of their true identities)?
– Also, Henry has a very interesting box ‘o porn.
– Was there more to the inclusion of “Tootsie” than Stan’s joke about it on the way to the bathroom? (“In Soviet Union, that would never happen.” “It would never happen here either.”)
– “If you do tell anyone, we will go to jail for good.” Did anyone else expect this sentence to end closer to, “If you do tell anyone, we will kill those motherfuckers so fast you’ll forget they existed.”?
– In case you think the Strat-O-Matic football game is a thing of the past, think again. Then follow on Twitter.