After watching both Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip (Matthew Rhys) continue to work their respective marks in Topeka in “Lotus 1-2-3” (April 4), our fears that the Jennings were maybe falling out of love with their mission are slightly more at ease. While Elizabeth did make an uncharacteristic phone call to Philip to tell him that she missed him, she tackled her mission with exacting aplomb, which meant sleeping with her Scientist and then making s’mores by his fireplace.
Philip, on the other hand, is still struggling to muster up his previous enthusiasm — but this could be caused by his subject matter: Posing as a government accountant, and pretending to care about budget reports, all to swindle a logistics manager more interested in computer software than sex, would be a drag for anyone.
Wherever their current enthusiasm levels happen to lie, however, it’s becoming clear that the altruistic veil of protecting the homeland is beginning to lift for the Jennings. Their whole lives they’ve been lead to believe the U.S. was out to hurt the Russian people — and therefore, every sin they’ve committed in the name of defending the homeland was just.
It’s a rare kind of pleasure to watch main characters of a show go through some of the same emotions we as viewers experience when it comes to being misled. This episode is all about debunking things that we — and the Jennings — have always been sure of.
We were led to believe Henry was just screwing around
Four the past four episodes of this season — and a bulk of the series as a whole — Henry (Keidrich Sellati) has been mostly a directional quote, letting us know his whereabouts: He’s at a friend’s, the library, up in his room on his computer, or over at Stan’s (Noah Emmerich).
While Paige (Holly Taylor) has slowly been crumbling under the weight of her new reality, and instinctively beginning to monitor the movements of her new boyfriend Matthew (Danny Flaherty) and Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin), we’ve been led to believe that Henry was off doing whatever it is young teenage boys do: Probably stinking up his friend’s basement.
Tonight, we learned that Henry is in fact a math genius. Or at least qualified to move up to a more advanced algebra class. In a rare bit of comedy, Philip and Elizabeth are called in to meet with Henry’s math teacher, and head into the meeting assuming he’s in trouble. When all the teacher tells them is that he wants to put Henry in Algebra 2, they do their best to cover their surprise.
Our Question: Not a lot on this show is done unintentionally, and for a while now show producers have promised that Henry is still integral to both the family and the story. Will this newfound math skill play into something bigger for Henry, possibly having to do with the family business? Or is this simply a long-awaited layer to a character we’ve been waiting to see develop? Codebreaker Henry is exciting, but almost as exciting would be Notably-Good-At-Anything Henry.
Elizabeth was led to believe her scientist knew he was hurting Russians
Ever since the discovery that the U.S. is possibly developing a super-bug to wipe out Russia’s entire wheat crop, the Jennings and their handlers have been feverishly following leads to learn more.
Those leads led Elizabeth to her scientist in Topeka, where without batting an eye, she set to work getting herself in his good graces. This week, she took the inevitable next step to seal the deal: Taking the guy to bed. Afterward, cuddling by the fire, she was able to dig into his profession a little more — and ended up finding the last thing she expected: He’s actually a good guy.
The bugs she found in the greenhouse in episode two, “Pests,” weren’t the object of his interest — it was the wheat. His team’s been working to develop a super resilient strain of wheat that can potentially withstand famine. Making this available around the world could save millions of people in developing and war-torn parts of the world.
“You’re an idealist,” Elizabeth states, realizing they’ve gotten the story all wrong.
“I’m a realist,” he responds: “This could save the world.”
Our Question: While this probably won’t send her running for witness protection, it is the first time that Elizabeth, and the Centre, have been so horribly wrong about a piece of intel. But will this new development shake her up enough to consider an alternative?
We were led to believe Misha was going to meet his father
Ever since the season four finale, we’ve been teased with the intrigue of Philip’s unknown son back in Russia. And we’ve watched Misha slowly, episode by episode, make the dangerous trek west, finally landing on American soil.
Tonight, Misha finally made contact, using his mother’s emergency code to request a meeting with Philip. Intercepted by Gabriel (Frank Langella), Misha is told in no uncertain terms that it’s going to be impossible for him and Philip to meet. It’s just too dangerous.
Underscored by a dreary, rainy Baltimore sky, this scene is not only heartbreaking, but mildly discouraging.
Our Question: Did we really just watch this kid travel the globe, only to be turned away and sent back home?
Philip was led to believe he was doing good
Philip’s loyalties have been wavering for a while now, but he’s always been able to suck things up — whatever the Jennings get up to, it’s potentially protecting millions back home. But ever since they had to unceremoniously snap the spine of an innocent lab tech, back in “The Midges,” Philip has been racked with guilt. And who wouldn’t be? At least these killings taking a toll on his conscience were for the Greater Good…
So when Elizabeth comes back from Kansas this time with the news that they’d got it all wrong, that what they were chasing is something that could actually help Russians back home, it hits Philip hard. The hour ends with Philip and Elizabeth at the dining room table, in their Eckert disguises, Philip visibly distraught about what Elizabeth has just told him.
“This… This can’t happen again,” he stammers.
“You’re right,” Elizabeth agrees: “We’ll be more careful from now on,” she says, almost as if to keep him from running for the door.
Our Question: Will this be the event that breaks Philip’s back?
In the end, the best thing a show about spies can do for us, as viewers, is to put us in their position: What’s hidden is more dangerous than what’s shown, whether you’re the spy or the one they’re leaving in the dark. But right now, the show is making us feel like we don’t know the half of it — and we couldn’t love that more.
“The Americans ” airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.