Tuesday, April 25, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Americans' - Elizabeth Shares a Secret with Paige While Philip Struggles with His Emotions in 'Immersion'

FX's The Americans - Episode 5.08 "Immersion"

A secret brings Elizabeth and Paige together. In Moscow, Oleg's own secrets put him under KGB suspicion. A new twist in the Morozov operation creates an opportunity that changes everything.

Everyone on The Americans is either a spy or being spied upon. That's been true for the entire series run of the show. The spies are very good at their jobs. But now, the wears and tears of this job are starting to become more pronounced for all of them. They've been at these jobs for a very long time. They are still able to do them effectively for the most part. But the grind of it all is starting to wear them down with no potential upside in the grand scheme of things. This season derives more of its tension from the psychological well-being of the characters instead of intense espionage thriller. It's a bit different than seasons past because everyone is dragging their feet a little bit. They are all trying to do their best while trying to avoid making the same mistakes of the past. In trying to do things differently though, they are only creating new problems that need to be handled. It's a vicious cycle where escape seems impossible. Gabriel got out of the life. He truly was tired of it all. His exit has left a hole that the Jennings now have to deal with. It's ultimately a lot of pressure that is slowly building within them.

Overall, this season of The Americans has been a bit more cold and distant. Those qualities have always been there. It's one of the most successful shows at creating stomach-turning drama that makes the audience uncomfortable. It's been absolutely brutal to watch but it's marvelous because it executes those sequences so well. This season is different because it feels like the characters falling into familiar patterns and stories but the spark or passion not being as strong as they once were. Philip doesn't want to hurt someone like he did with Martha. So, that's made him a bit more aloof in his latest honeytrap with Deirdre. Stan is approaching Soviet nationals in the hopes of saving his job. But he doesn't want Sofia to end up like Nina. He wants a life better than that for her. In doing so, he might be doing too much for her and not fully acknowledging just how nervous she is about these meetings. And Elizabeth is finding herself once again falling into a deeper connection with Ben than she would like. She's now doing tai chi at home. All of these stories are great in showing just how the job has changed all of these people. But none of these new characters really stand out in the way that Nina or Martha did in previous seasons.

But again, the tension and acting continues to be so strong that these issues really aren't that problematic in the long run. This season has scattered its cast as well. A year ago saw the departures of a number of memorable characters. Last week saw yet another go too. So, the show is slowly eliminating its cast of main characters one by one. The ones that are left behind aren't as connected as they were previously either. Stan's work at the FBI frequently involved or affected the Rezidentura. His dynamic with Oleg has still been very important this season as well. But they are half a world away from each other too. Oleg's story shows how difficult it can be to come home again after doing this work. Everyone is looking at him with suspicion. His family doesn't immediately get answers for why Directorate K wants to search his room. He allows it to happen because he no longer has any incriminating evidence. But it's clear something more is going on as well. Something that could seriously destroy his life moving forward. That's an intriguing tease for the future. He's worried about any action that he does ultimately coming back to hurt him. He wanted to learn more about his mother's past in the camp. But that may be the thing that got him into trouble in the first place.

Elsewhere, it's clear that Philip's emotions and feelings are affecting his ability to do his job. That has always been true of his character. But it's even more so now because he seemingly has less control, which is never a good thing in this business. Gabriel really rattled him. He wants to believe he was telling the truth during their final conversation. And yet, he doesn't. He's spinning out and he feels all alone. It's darkly comical when Deirdre breaks up with him over the phone because he's not assertive enough. Neither Philip nor Elizabeth wanted to do the Topeka mission. But they had to do it even after they learned the truth about the purpose of the crops and the insects. They still have to maintain these lives in case the Centre needs them to steal more plants. So, it's clear that Philip has messed things up. He hasn't been a good enough lover. He hasn't given Deirdre what she needed because he was afraid of giving too much of himself over to her like he did with Martha. Of course, he's still able to fix things in the end by bringing some new drama to the relationship by creating a fake wife he's cheating on. But Philip isn't comfortable doing that. Nor is he comfortable when Elizabeth and Tuan plot the best way to get Evgheniya and Pascha to move back to Moscow. To them, there's nothing so cruel that they wouldn't do it in order to succeed in the mission. But with Philip, he's horrified at what they are suggesting and has doubts that it will even work in the end. It's too risky for too much self-sacrifice.

And again, Elizabeth is trying to be supportive throughout all of this. She loves and understands Philip. She tries to cheer him up after Deirdre breaks up with him. She's also supportive of his decision to have the handler-agent dynamic be more professional. Of course, their new handler is Claudia again. That's a very welcome dynamic. Plus, it reminds the audience that Philip and Elizabeth haven't interacted with Claudia since Season 2 when the Centre first suggested bringing Paige into the fold. She's been on the show since then but she's also able to craft a story to tell Elizabeth about seeing her family back home again. Claudia and Elizabeth are alike in ways just like Gabriel and Philip were. They are both practical and very devoted to their country. That's what allows Elizabeth to talk openly with Claudia again. Philip wants that dynamic to be less personal. And yet, everything about this job is personal. That includes the state of their relationship with Paige and their hopes for her future. Once again, it's articulated that Philip and Elizabeth will never see eye-to-eye on what they want for Paige. But right now, Elizabeth is at least working Paige and trying to mold her into her own image.

It's fascinating to see the Paige-Elizabeth scenes in this episode. They are the most emotional scenes of the hour. They show that the training is still going well. Paige is improving. And yet, she's still afraid that something is going to happen to her or her family soon. Elizabeth tries to show her that it gets better over time by sharing the story of her being raped when she was 18. Of course, she doesn't tell Paige all of the details. She just shares that she too was afraid and wanted to take revenge against the person who hurt her. She used those emotions in order to feel strong and confident about herself. And thus, she's forming a more personal and emotional connection with her daughter. That continues in the final scene of the episode when they go for a walk. Paige asks her mother what she would have done with her life if she didn't go into this line of work. Elizabeth claims she would want to be a doctor in a third world country. That seems like some kind of optimism that she has picked up from Ben as of late. But it's also Elizabeth working her daughter to make it seem she would always find a cause to pursue in life no matter what the circumstances. That's what she ultimately wants from Paige.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Immersion" was written by Tracey Scott Wilson and directed by Kevin Bray.
  • Evgheniya is having an affair with one of her students. The Centre is able to confirm that the guy is a promising candidate for a top CIA position in Moscow. So, that's what leads to the urgency of getting Evgheniya back to the Soviet Union as quickly as possible. That means this relationship could continue to happen and potentially be manipulated to their advantage.
  • Every time Tuan appears this season, he is asking for Philip and Elizabeth to spend more time with him. It's clear that he likes having them around. They've been a major influence on him. That may not be a good thing though because he's becoming more ruthless in his treatment of Pascha as well.
  • Henry has friends! They actually appear this week playing video games at the Jennings house. It's a very simply scene with Philip, Elizabeth and Stan in the background talking about the potential of Henry liking a girl. At least, they are all aware of what's happening with him right now.
  • Philip, Elizabeth and Stan also take about Paige and Matthew's breakup. It's mostly just Philip and Elizabeth digging for any clues that Stan might know what's actually going on. And yet, he's completely in the dark. He just sees Matthew as a moody teenager who got in a fight with his girlfriend.
  • Oleg's mother was sent to the camps for sabotage. That was a crime that meant something completely different all those years ago. And yet, she is still lucky to have found Oleg's father. That brought her into a well-respected family. Of course, the government still targets them for whatever they suspect Oleg of doing now.