Loyalty is a funny thing. The characters of The Americans, on both sides of the figurative battlefield, have exhibited exemplary loyalty to country, yet the loyalty to their spouses and partners gives them trouble. The Americans has given us many metaphors for strained marriages and strained foreign relations, but “Duty and Honor” delved into the deeper meaning of a partnership.
After Stan bailed on family dinner with the Jennings, Sandra lamented the state of her marriage and admitted to envying Elizabeth for having a marriage that’s an equal partnership while her marriage to Stan gives him all the power and leaves her in the dark. The irony, of course, is that Elizabeth and Philip’s marriage is a partnership, but a business one. Stan and Sandra on the other hand, were, presumably, in love when they entered into their marriage. They may not be on equal footing, but it’s a more solid foundation than being paired together by the government. Of course both starts have resulted in the same outcome; the women folk drinking wine alone in the kitchen while the men folk hook up with Russian hotties.
Philip’s hook up is more than just a momentary lapse. Irina, the woman Philip left when he began his life as a sleeper agent, has also become a sleeper agent (maybe, or maybe she still lives in Russia and was brought in for a one-time gig. I’m a little hazy on the details) and waltzed back into Philip’s life at the exact moment Philip and Elizabeth’s already strenuous marriage seemed at its breaking point.
Like all interactions on The Americans, Philip and Irina’s reunion takes place during a mission. This time the goal was to vilify a prominent Polish defector turned priest on an anti-communist campaign. In order to accomplish this Irina flirted her way through dinner and a romantic walk (super spy 101), drugged him and then had Philip beat her up so they could frame the priest for rape. I’m not sure how thorough rape kits were in 1981, but Russian super spies are nothing if not meticulous so they also slept together for good measure. Also because they were madly in love, could possibly have a child together and Irina was trying to convince Philip to run away with her.
Since the very first episode Philip has been in the midst of a crisis of conscious. He has been questioning the path he chose, the trust he has placed in his superiors, and has been pining for a simpler existence. It looked like the only thing keeping him in his current life was Elizabeth, but after last week’s torture even that connection didn’t look like enough. Irina represented the life Philip left behind, but she also offered the life Philip thought he wanted, free from intrigue and secrets, yet he turned it down.
As much as Philip may resent the KGB for the things they’ve put him through, they were right when they told him he was leaving his previous life behind. As strongly as he may have felt about Irina, his life as Misha is over and he can’t go back. The last few decades with Elizabeth are the life he has invested in and when he decides to leave the spy game behind, he pictures leaving with her.
For the first time, Elizabeth seems to be on the same page. While Philip was off on his business trip, Elizabeth had time to do some thinking and came to the conclusion she wanted to make their partnership more than a working relationship. It was everything Philip has been waiting to hear so of course he didn’t admit to his indiscretion. Of course Elizabeth will find out (that’s the trouble with being married to a super spy) which will by much worse for the burgeoning partnership.
A Few Last Thoughts:
- I'm not sure I completely trust Nina or her motivations for sleeping with Beeman. She could be genuinely attracted to him, but I sense it has more to do with her self-preservation instincts.
- So Elizabeth is taking over running agents from the guy she killed last week and it looked like she got soem pretty good information her first day out. Will it actually result in anything? I'll have to check the history books.
- Speaking of historical accuracy, does anyone know if the Polish priest was a real person or a fictional plot device? My meticulous wikipedia research yielded no results.
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