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‘The Americans’ Review: Two Sex Scenes Prove Awfully Similar in an All-Around Incredible New Episode

Everybody grows up in a hair-raising hour of "The Americans" that pushes everyone to their breaking point — and one character beyond his.

THE AMERICANS -- "The Great Patriotic War" -- Season 6, Episode 5 (Airs Wednesday, April 25, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: (l-r) Julia Garner as Kimmy, Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings. CR: Eric Liebowitz/FX

Eric Liebowitz/FX

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “The Americans” Season 6, Episode 5, “The Great Patriotic War.”]

Welp, there it is: Philip (Matthew Rhys) is actively working against Elizabeth (Keri Russell). Not only did the semi-retired agent end the episode by calling off his mission to Greece — purposefully reneging on his promise to Elizabeth — but he also swung by Paige’s apartment to demonstrate the “no pads” life she’s in for if she follows through with her training. Philip is doing what Oleg (Costa Ronin) asked of him in Episode 1, but he’s also acting on what he thinks is right. He isn’t sitting idly by anymore; he’s taking action and accepting the consequences.

What might those be? It’s hard to say, but it clearly won’t be pretty. The family of spies has been divided, and it’s hard to see anyone going back to the way things were during “the old days — like, the pre-Renee days.” Fittingly, given the huge decision above and the limited time left in the series, so many massive events motivated movement in Episode 5, “The Great Patriotic War”: Some were long in the making (like Philip’s illicit rendezvous with Kimmy, played by Julia Garner), while others were complete and total surprises (like the three-way drink-off between Paige, Elizabeth, and Margo Martindale’s suddenly talkative Claudia). And though the scenes came together to form one of the most propulsive and fascinating episodes yet, what they all boiled down to was a consideration of passing time.

Erica (Miriam Shor), upset over Elizabeth’s lack of production, tries her best to impart the preciousness of the present, but (like Elizabeth’s frustrations as an artist) she doesn’t hear her. Philip is all ears without being in the room. He’s focused on making sure he does what he wants to do — what he needs to do — now to make sure he can live with himself later. Elizabeth is still focused on the long game because she hasn’t taken a break from playing it. She may be so drilled into that mentality that she crossed a line at home that’s impossible to walk back — but more on that later.

With five episodes left before the series says dosvedanya, IndieWire is following Erica’s commands and taking a look at where things stand at the present moment, but we’re not averse to Elizabeth’s broader mentality. We’re also honoring the little things done consistently well throughout the series — the bits we’ll miss most when it’s all said and done. Some of it will be hard (like Philip breaking up with Kimmy over the phone). Some of it will be much harder (like Philip sleeping with Kimmy in what had to be the ickiest scene since The Suitcase). So without further ado, let’s get brutal.

THE AMERICANS -- "The Great Patriotic War" -- Season 6, Episode 5 (Airs Wednesday, April 25, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: Holly Taylor as Paige Jennings, Keenan Jolliff as Tony. CR: Jeffrey Neira/FX

So, Who’s Going to Die?

Honestly, there’s no need to get into a ton of detail here because a) not much has changed in terms of survival odds, b) people actually died in Episode 5 (namely, Gennadi and Sofia),) and c) there are more important things to discuss. Could one argue Paige is in more danger than ever, given her exposure at the bar and beatdown from her father? Absolutely. But the counter is that she’s closer to getting out of the game entirely, which would make her safer than ever.

Cast & Creative Spotlight

Even with so much going on, one big question looms over Episode 5: Did Elizabeth play Philip? Did she bring her work home with her — the kind she refuses to tell Paige is part of the job? In other words, did she sleep with Philip so he’d agree to help kidnap Kimmy?

Think about it: Last week, when the couple was laying in bed and Philip was poring over travel agency bills, the couple shared a kiss. It felt real: They’d confided in one another, they were in bed together, and it happened. But Elizabeth ended it there. She was tired (understandably so) and went to sleep.

This week, she walks in with a purpose. She’d decided to make a move on Philip long before crossing their bedroom’s threshold. After briefly mentioning what she’d talked about with Paige earlier, she asks if Philip has “a lot more to do” that night. She touches his face, holds his hand, and then they kiss — a tender, intimate connection that turns playful as she rolls over on his calculator.

The next morning, she’s still nervously smoking outside while he’s relaxed and chipper. “Did you sleep OK?” Philip asks. “Not really,” she says. “You?” “Yeah. First time in a while,” he says with a smile. “I wonder why,” Elizabeth replies — but she knows. The question is whether she knew a night together would loosen Philip up before they slept together and, if so, if that’s why she did it. The very next thing she does is ask him for a favor — a big favor. She wants him to help take Kimmy hostage during her trip to Greece in order to blackmail her father into spilling secrets on the summit. It’s the kind of thing Elizabeth would know Philip wouldn’t like, but now he’s in a much more agreeable state of mind.

THE AMERICANS -- "The Great Patriotic War" -- Season 6, Episode 5 (Airs Wednesday, April 25, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: (l-r) Holly Taylor as Paige Jennings, Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings, Margo Martindale as Claudia. CR: Eric Liebowitz/FX

With all that in mind, two items stand out: First and foremost, was Elizabeth even aware of what she was doing? Has her training become so baked into her being that she instinctively saw an opportunity to get Philip to do what she wanted and then automatically followed through? She’s been exhausted and mission-focused, so a semi-conscious play on her part isn’t out of the question. “The Americans” writers and directors are quite purposeful with what they show us and what they don’t. There’s nothing explicit on screen to indicate Elizabeth was knowingly working her husband, and yet that’s not exactly proof she acted purely.

Russell depicts her with an unassuming glaze that could be read either way, but it’s Rhys’ face we need to be talking about. When Elizabeth asks, “A lot more to do tonight?” Philip shrugs it off at first, looking down at his papers. Then, after a quick beat, it hits him, and Rhys slowly rolls his eyes upward, tick by tick, to confirm his suspicions. It’s an epic moment of subtle power, and one that brought this critic immense joy.

Later, it’s reversed. When Paige shows up and yells at her mom about sleeping with whomever she wants, Philip’s reactions are arguably the most important part of the scene. Sure, he was already mad at Elizabeth after sleeping with Kimmy, but he was still following the plan. This is when he snaps.

“If I like a guy, I’ll do whatever I want. Do you understand?” Paige says as she opens the garage door. “If you like them, fine,” Elizabeth snaps back. Then, in the line of the episode if not the season, Paige oh-so-innocently says, “Why would I sleep with them if I didn’t like them?”

As she ducks out of the garage, renowned director Thomas Schlamme swings his camera to a stunned Philip. In that moment, he’s responding to the well-being of his daughter, remembering who he just slept with (and why), and perhaps also considering why he and his wife finally hooked up before that. Was it because she likes him, or was she doing it for the same reasons he slept with Kimmy — the job?

Rhys builds all of that into what comes next: Philip is transformed as he demands to know what Elizabeth is telling their daughter. In six seasons, we’ve never seen the face Rhys makes when Elizabeth walks up the stairs. Philip is transformed, and Rhys transforms him. As we enter the back-half of the final season, what comes next will be the result. The fuse is burning. An explosion is imminent. Let’s see who gets caught in the flames.

Grade: A

“The Americans” airs new episodes Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX. There are five episodes left in the final season.

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