How, oh how, do we still not know the fate of Martha? After an hour of tension so torturous it’s a miracle anyone remained conscious long enough to finish, Martha is more aware of what awaits her, but we remain one more week in the dark. No matter. After kicking things off with Oleg (Costa Ronin) and Tatiana (Vera Cherny) planning Martha’s safe transport to Russia — a plotline which later turned devious — “Travel Agents” became a race to see who could find Martha first.
As panic set in for all sides — the KGB, the FBI and those of us watching at home — Martha contemplated taking her own life before somewhat relunctantly agreeing to go back to Clark. In turn, “Clark” confessed his true identity to Martha as well as their plans for her — but not before reassuring Elizabeth she was his one true love in a deeply felt love scene (without the love-making, for once).
The loser’s side saw Agent Gaad still blindsided by the extent to which the KGB had suckered him, and Stan pushed forward with his keen eye for details, edging closer and closer to the truth. Anyone who wasn’t worried Stan and Phillip would run into each other in the park — especially when Phillip was yelling Martha’s name — had to still be concerned with how much information the FBI is digging up on Clark Westerfeld. Next week is sure to be another doozy. Hold on.
Phillip’s Loyalty: Elizabeth
Before we dig into just how moving Phillip’s love for Elizabeth was in “Travel Agents,” let’s first point out his insanely good spy skills. When asked where Martha might run to, he panicked and spat out a bunch of locations, seemingly to convey how clueless he was to where she might have gone. But what was the first place he named? The same place Martha was found: Rock Creek Park. Nice work, Phillip. Always trust your instincts.
But really — how great was that scene with Elizabeth? She may not have been as wholeheartedly won over as we were, but their passionate kiss certainly communicated the impact his words had on all of us. What made the moment even more pivotal was that we hadn’t really been given a definitive emotional status for Phillip, as he’s been pretty caught up in conflicting personal and professional desires. His commitment to Martha of late was in part due to his waning commitment to the KGB, but how Elizabeth fit into the mix needed to be put in plain words.
That moment helped clarify things for Phillip, as he then went upstairs to tell Martha what was really going to happen to her. The sequencing speaks to how beautifully authentic the series’ construction remains, from episode to episode, season after season. Everything — from the character beats to the emotional arcs — is carefully plotted, and seeing them all come together so often, for so many powerful moments, is truly something to hold onto — especially when we don’t know how much longer we’ll have this show.
Elizabeth’s Loyalty: KGB
That punch had to feel a little bit good, right, Elizabeth? Though she didn’t let on while trying to convince Martha to come with her, Phillip’s first wife had to feel somewhat justified in bruising his second bride, especially given how much she’s learned over the last few days. It’s interesting to see how Elizabeth is incorporated into what’s become very much Phillip’s story this season. She’s been forced to face a few realities on her own, namely in regards with her relationship to Paige, but this episode stood out because we got to see Elizabeth do something for Phillip — protect/not kill Martha — before standing up for herself. How she challenged Phillip was as vulnerable as we’ve seen her in a long time, and how they’ll move forward as a couple once Martha is gone should prove fascinating. Still, it was good she got to let out some aggression before speaking to him.
Stan: Savant or Square?
Stan was on point this week, leading the FBI to the edge of capturing their prime target — as well as “Clark Westerfeld” — but it was when he stood up to his bosses about using Oleg to expose Martha that his future became somewhat clear. He’s going to inherent Gaad’s chair, which sounds great — at first. Then you realize Gaad’s future is also Stan’s. If he eventually finds out who Clark Westerfeld really is, Stan will have to report it upstairs, and then they’ll be just as doubting in him as they are in Gaad. Living next door to the same spies who successfully infiltrated your department? Good luck getting out of that one, Stan. When this is all said and done, perhaps Agent Aderhol will be in charge…
Best Asset: Martha
One more week. We’ve got at least one more week with Martha. Heading into “Travel Agents,” I thought this might be the end of Alison Wright’s tender secretary. The singular focus on her choices gave this week’s episode a vice-like tightness, especially when the Rezidentura got involved. A cold war has been brewing between Oleg and Tatiana for some time. Could her manipulation of the operation prove to be the tipping point?
Emphasis was placed on the storyline by making it the first scene of the episode, as the duo distributed responsibilities for the plan between them. Oleg would get the pilot, but then Tatiana ended up doing it, informing Oleg in a very suspicious manner. Then, when sending a message back to the Centre, she’s asked if there’s anything else she needs to communicate other than the details on William’s sample (the rat). “Send it,” she says, alluding to an exclusion that could prove costly for Martha — and could send Oleg over the edge if he compares one agent’s rescue to his failure in saving Nina.
Weisberg and Fields should be given so much credit for creating not only a pivotal storyline out of supporting characters, but establishing such intricate parallels between one character’s fate and another. We’ve written before how Martha and Nina are linked, but it’s now that we’re seeing the visceral results for viewers: Will Martha die, like Nina did, or will she live because they can’t possibly kill off another (far more innocent) character? The beauty of the structure — and the series — is that there are arguments to support both sides.
Wig Count: 1
Yes, we were shocked, too, Elizabeth. I mean, one wig in the entire episode and it’s that? If, overall, “Travel Agents” wasn’t so goddamn great, we’d be throwing a pretty big hissy fit right now — especially since friggin’ Phillip is just walking around wigless like he’s not a deep cover KGB spy! Throw something on for us, Phillip! Play the game! Please?
Quote of the Week
They seduced and married my secretary.”
– Agent Gaad
Much like the Martha’s phone call to her parents felt like a goodbye, so too did “Travel Agents” — not to Martha, but to Agent Gaad. Indeed, he has become the office fool. It’s obviously not his fault; more of a testament to what the KGB was capable of and to how even America’s most suspicious minds are still slightly flawed by trust. His reaction above combined with Stan’s denial of it put an important framework on “The Americans” and what it’s accomplished this far. Hearing those words from Agent Gaad in such a matter of fact, plain-spoken fashion was jarring, and we’ve been tracking this very event for three-and-a-half seasons.
Just look at what Phillip and Elizabeth have done. They’ve gained intel on one of our nation’s most protected resources by seducing and controlling a woman no one ever suspected to be capable of any wrong-doing. (There’s certainly a discussion to be had over the sexist underpinnings of the time period, but we’ll leave that for another day.) Phillip went so far as to consider adopting children with Martha. How Gaad can wrap his mind around that level of commitment is only overwhelmed by Martha’s own shock. She is a broken woman. As hard as it was for Phillip to tell her the truth, it’s far better she’s prepared for her end — and makes her own choice about what that end will be — than to be left waiting for a man who’s never coming back.
Last week, we never considered suicide as an option for Martha (most likely because we refused to believe Weisberg and Fields could physically write such a devastating scenario). This week we won’t predict what’s coming in Episode 8. As illustrated in this passionate hour of television, the love we have for these characters is too strong to hope against hope for happiness.
Relive simpler times, with the trailer for Season 4 below.