Tuesday, April 11, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Americans' - Gabriel Shares Some Personal News with Philip and Elizabeth in 'Crossbreed'

FX's The Americans - Episode 5.06 "Crossbreed"

Gabriel stuns Philip and Elizabeth with a sudden announcement and a crushing revelation about Philip's past. Stan and Aderholt draw a fly into their web. Oleg and Ruslan ambush their first suspect.

It could be very frustrating for a show in its fifth season to still be focusing on its lead character struggling with his identity. Philip is still wondering who he is and what he stands for. And yet, it still provides such rich emotional material to a number of the characters. Philip has led a very traumatized life. That has been on display in numerous occasions throughout the series. Sometimes the show is at its most gripping when Philip's life is falling apart. He was at a new breaking point in last week's episode when Elizabeth returned home to share that they were wrong about their current mission in Kansas. He's a little more put together in "Crossbreed." But he's still clearly struggling. He's focusing on the trauma he endured during his childhood. He's struggling to remember any kind of details about his parents while he was growing up. He can recall his father bringing various items home over the years. But that's all that he really knows about him. Philip agonizing over this also forces him to reflect on his own shortcomings as a parent - which clearly forces him to take action as well.

This hour highlights the patterns that emerge and repeat themselves from generation to generation. Philip's mother told him that his father was a logger. Until this moment in time, that's all that he knew about the man. In reality, he was actually a prison guard at a camp where logging work was done. Philip searched this information out from Gabriel because he needed answers to bring clarity to his life. Similarly, Mischa's mother only told him that Philip was a travel agent in America. That's all the information he has but he still chose to come to this foreign country to look for him. This episode confirms that Gabriel was successful in getting Mischa to go back home. He came all this way and was denied from seeing his father. It's devastating and Philip doesn't even know that it happened. After all that setup, it'll be disappointing if they never meet at all. But it's also important for the themes of this hour and the need to do better from the generation before while still running into familiar problems.

Keeping Mischa a secret from Philip is tearing Gabriel apart as well. He has never lied to the Jennings before. Perhaps that's why he has been an effective handler for them when they've had many problems in the past. They are great agents but need a certain level of trust and respect. They had that with Gabriel. But now, that bond is broken a little bit. Philip and Elizabeth can sense that something is off. Gabriel covers with the news that he's going back home. He sees it as his time because he's now an old man who's been in this line of work for too long. Philip and Elizabeth can sense that more is going on though. They aren't able to pull the exact truth out of him. But there is still that key moment when Gabriel does confess the truth about Philip's father. He can provide Philip with all the answers he wants to know. It's a powerful and well acted scene. It's always fantastic to watch Gabriel reflect on the way things were back when he was a young soldier. The world has changed so much. He's still a spy but the profession has changed. He's been good for Philip and Elizabeth. He's still open with them about so much. But the cracks have emerged there as well that could prove devastating if for some reason he doesn't go back home.

It's also fascinating to see Elizabeth start to crack under all of the pressure as well. She's always been able to handle the gruesome details of the job better than Philip. She can rationalize it better. And yet, she also knows she needs to be supportive of Philip when he needs to get his head back on straight. They are two completely different people. But they love and respect each other despite those differences. She understands that he needs to talk about these memory flashes he's experiencing and to ask Gabriel for more details from his personal file. But it's also important to see Elizabeth change because of this job as well. She's still carrying on her mission in Kansas even though the objective has changed. She's able to see her mark differently because of what he told her about his work. Now, it's simply a mission to steal the super-wheat to help the Soviet Union become more self-sufficient. Elizabeth is able to breathe and let her guard down a little bit. Ben is still neurotic and annoying. But Elizabeth seems to enjoy him and his different views and experiences of the world more this week. Of course, nothing will come close to the bond she had with Young Hee. Elizabeth still misses that relationship because it made her so happy. Her spying on the old house is a very devastating scene because it confirms that her meddling more than likely destroyed that family - which is something that pained her to do and still hurts even now.

All of this effectively builds to Philip and Elizabeth bringing Paige to meet Gabriel for the first time. It's a surprising moment to end the episode on. But it also feels right in the moment. Philip and Elizabeth want to do better by their daughter. They want her to be a part of their lives. They want her to know who they really are. It's been a slow process. One that still has so many difficulties. But they see this as something they have to do. They need her to meet Gabriel before he returns home. They need her to meet the man who has looked out for them on so many occasions. He gives them their missions and they are frequently very cryptic. But they always pay off in some interesting way as well. Yes, he forces them to do things they are uncomfortable with. But things aren't all that great at home either. It's encouraging for Elizabeth to see Paige reading the ideology that her home country was built on. But she also can't effectively tell her if the principles work. Paige's beliefs in religion still are a key issue for her understanding all of this. Plus, it reveals that Philip and Paige are a lot alike because they don't know how the Soviet Union has changed in their absence. They believe they are on the righteous path doing great work. But the audience can attest that life in the Soviet Union isn't that great. It's still complicated and full of so much corruption. But at least, the family will have a new level of understanding amongst themselves moving forward. And yet, that depends on how the conversation between Gabriel and Paige goes.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Crossbreed" was written by Stephen Schiff and directed by Roxann Dawson.
  • The acting on this show has always been incredible. But Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell and Frank Langella are really terrific in this episode. It's especially a wonderful showcase for Langella. It pains Gabriel to keep secrets from the Jennings. He does whatever he can to support them but it's just so devastating when he reveals the truth about Philip's father.
  • Things were starting to seem really intense for Oleg because he continued to go to the meeting place with the CIA despite not knowing Stan got them to back off. It seemed like it was heading into a very precarious place. But instead, he's smart enough to know that something has happened and he can destroy the incriminating evidence he has in the apartment. 
  • Both Oleg and Stan are still only making small progress with their respective investigations. Oleg and Ruslan have a food distributor who would rather go to jail than reveal who his clients are. Meanwhile, Stan and Aderholt may have successfully lured a Soviet woman into helping him - simply by offering her child a better future.
  • It's currently unclear why Gabriel gives Elizabeth a mission to steal some files from a therapist's office. It's just important that she sees a therapist in this episode. She does a familiar con man routine of taking something from her life to provide a meaningful backstory for her character. This time she's just the helpless victim of a mugging instead of a brutal murderer who killed her attacker.
  • The operation has also formed to monitor Evgheniya as she goes in and out of work. It's largely just Philip getting the schedule set up with the two other agents who've been helping him and Elizabeth this season. Those two haven't had quite the introductions as previous helpers but it's still nice to know that Philip and Elizabeth have help in the field.
  • The bond between Stan and Henry continues to be so nice. And yet, there is still the creeping suspicion that Henry will say something that will alert Stan to the truth about Philip and Elizabeth. Right now, it's largely innocent banter about math and girls. But it could turn into something more very quickly.