Wednesday, May 9, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Americans' - Philip Helps Elizabeth With a Job as Stan Gets New Suspicions in 'Harvest'

FX's The Americans - Episode 6.07 "Harvest"

Philip and Elizabeth come together for a perilous operation unlike any they've ever had before. Stan and Henry spend a little quality time together.

Heading into the final season, there was the fear that things were going to end so tragically for Stan. His story can only end in so many ways and none of them seem like good options. He could be killed by his neighbors after he discovers that they are Soviet spies. Or he could actually expose them which would probably also mean him getting kicked out of the FBI for maintaining those relationships for as long as he did. Philip and Stan's friendship has been such a crucial dynamic throughout the series. On one level, it is Philip working an asset in the hopes of getting just a little tease of what's currently going on at the FBI. But there have been many times over the years where this friendship has helped the two of them through really difficult points in their lives. Stan has gone through a divorce, struggled with his relationship with his son and found love again. Philip has fallen in and out of love with Elizabeth while struggling to figure out the best way to raise Paige and Henry. It's such a significant bond. And now, there is the sneaking suspicion that Stan must have known that something was off about his neighbors all this time. Those suspicions first popped up in the series premiere! He broke into their house then and didn't find anything incriminating. Over the years, their lives have continued to impact one another. Sofia and Gennadi were just killed by Elizabeth and that led to Stan rejoining the counterintelligence division of the FBI. He is working in the vault again trying to find these illegals. He has the power of memory on his side. He is able to remember so much of what has happened over the years and just how close the bureau has gotten to capturing these assets. And now, it certainly feels like the show is on the verge of a big development in this regard. As such, the tension is only increased further because it brings Stan ever closer to whatever his tragic ending is going to be.

It all starts with such a casual but complex conversation between Philip and Stan at the top of the hour. Philip needs to break the news to Henry that he's leaving immediately to go help Elizabeth with the work emergency. As such, they won't be able to spend any more time together during this vacation from school. For Henry, it's such a commonplace development. His parents have always prioritized their work. They are always running off for something important at weird times. That's nothing new or strange to Henry because that is the life he has always known. He is envious of his friends who have parents willing to spend quality time with them. Henry hates that he isn't the priority in his parents' life. But he has gotten used to it by now. Meanwhile, Stan is starting to see the stress that comes from the burden of secrets. Stan has always been a remarkable listener. He observes the world and is able to come up with a solid solution to any particular problem. Sure, it hasn't worked out for him so far. He only senses that something more is wrong with Philip. He worries that his best friend has gotten involved with something dangerous. Philip is able to assuage those worries by saying the business is going under. He is worried about that. But it's not a story that Stan buys completely. That's such a huge moment that plays almost entirely because of Stan's perspective of the situation and his friend. It once again works solely on the audience's understanding of the character and him realizing just how suspicious it is for his friends across the street to conveniently be missing during this crucial weekend when Harvest suddenly gets killed.

Of course, Stan only has his suspicions right now. He's keeping them to himself as well. That's such a dangerous move. He can't exactly tell anyone at work just yet that he suspects his best friend and his wife of being Soviet spies. He has no proof to back up his claims. All he has is a feeling. He is able to work Henry for information. Stan remembers that Elizabeth visited her Aunt Helen at one point. Henry notes that he has never met the woman. He also recalls these past cases where witnesses and potential illegals were killed before Stan and the FBI were able to interrogate them. It's all just purely coincidental right now. Perhaps it is perfectly normal for people working in the travel agency business to be coming and going at 3 o'clock in the morning. Stan has seen just how dedicated Philip is to this work despite the stress. But it's such a significant moment when Stan actually breaks into the Jennings' house when no one is there. He's looking around the place for anything that could prove that he was right. This is such a familiar environment to him. But now, he is looking at things through a new perspective. He's remembering all that he has learned over the years about the illegals and how they operate. He recalls William saying that the woman he met with was very beautiful and the man was very lucky. He knows that there was an epic shootout with Soviet spies at the same time that Elizabeth went to visit her Aunt Helen. These pieces are slowly starting to line up for him. But it's just a tease for right now. He doesn't get any evidence from the home. He doesn't know the proper way to unlock the secret door behind the breaker box. He doesn't know what he's looking for. He just knows that it's not a coincidence that the only witness to this latest murder describes a man and a woman working the job.

Meanwhile, it's so agonizing for Philip to be back doing this work after he had completely finished from all of it just a little while ago. It's a relief for Elizabeth to have him there working alongside her. And yet, the show already laid out the odds of this mission being successful are pretty slim. There is just a short window for them to move and pick up this asset without the FBI surveillance team noticing. It provides a chance for Elizabeth to tell Philip more about what she is currently working on. He has known about the importance of the summit. But now, he becomes aware that she is working a mission that requires her to wear a suicide pill at all times in the event that she should get caught. She cannot be arrested now. That's such a daunting reveal that immediately presents as so destructive to this family. He is willing to destroy this pill in order to keep Elizabeth in his life. There is no mission that is so important for her to risk herself in this way. And yet, she still believes in the mission because she knows what's truly at stake. She still can't divulge every detail to Philip. He is still in retirement. There is still distance between them even though they work this job together. In the end, it's so beneficial to have an extra set of hands in the field. It probably doesn't make a difference in pulling off the actual job. It just makes it easier in the end for one of them to be driving the getaway vehicle while the other keeps Harvest alive long enough to deliver the information they need from him. Of course, that's still a daunting moment as well. Harvest and Marilyn die on this mission. Those deaths are personal because Philip and Elizabeth have to ensure that Marilyn can't be identified by the FBI. It's such a gruesome moment to see Philip have to chop off her hands and head. It's horrifying to watch and listen to. It's also a moment of unity for Philip and Elizabeth. It's in this moment where it's most a relief for Elizabeth to have Philip here. It's the moment that brings them closer as a couple because she makes sure he's doing okay in the aftermath. And yet, no one could reasonably be okay with this even though they still manage to escape with their cover identities intact.

In fact, it's significant that their disguises for the journey back home are as an older couple. It's the picture life for this family at its most ideal. It seems impossible to actually happen though. It's inevitable that this story ends in tragedy. Elizabeth is wearing that suicide pill and Philip has now seen it in action. Harvest takes his to ensure that no one can interrogate him or discover just how important this mission must be. It's a stark moment for Philip though because this could easily be his wife next. Or it could also be the life for Paige. The conclusion of this episode could be seen as nothing more than an opportunity to breathe following long stretches of tension where the uncertainty and danger is so high for everyone involved. And yet, it's fascinating to see Philip and Stan return to work as changed people because of what they've just done. Meanwhile, it's important for Elizabeth to present a way out for Paige. As has become abundantly clear over the years, this story is fundamentally one about choices. Philip and Elizabeth were both young when they decided to pursue this life. They were young and devoted to their country. They didn't know the amount of sacrifices they would have to make to ensure that everything worked out in the end. Paige is still just slowly becoming aware of the true stakes of this job. She has worked with Marilyn. And now, she is dead. That has to mean something. It has to serve as a reason to worry about the dangers of this job. And yet, Paige isn't afraid to die. She's afraid of being alone. She's hopeful that she will find someone to spend a life with that the Centre approves of just like her parents found each other. She wants a relationship like that. But now, Elizabeth and Claudia have trained her too well to think that there is anything else she could possible do in her life except this work. Paige has always wanted to make a difference in the world. That frequently created tension with her family. And now, it's clear that she's working alongside them even though that can still be absolutely terrifying to them as well.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Harvest" was written by Sarah Nolen and directed by Stefan Schwartz.
  • There are flashes of previous scenes from prior episodes sprinkled throughout this episode to help the audience remember key details about what the characters already know about this world. It's important for Stan to remember what William told him. It's also important for Philip to reflect back on his actual wedding to Elizabeth knowing just how tense things have gotten. But those moments also feel a little awkward and forced as well.
  • The summit is only a week away now and Erica's condition continues to worsen. Elizabeth shares her homework with Philip in saying that an asset is forcing her to learn how to draw. And yet, it's not until she is there in that room listening to Erica talk about needing to examine one's self and put it into one's work that Elizabeth truly understands where she's coming from. Elizabeth has given herself to her work. And only now is she really starting to break from all of it.
  • Of course, the audience also has to question who was taking care of Erica when both Elizabeth and Marilyn were in Chicago? The show revealed that both of them serve as her nurses. Does the Centre have more working around the clock to keep her alive? As such, Elizabeth may only be one part of the puzzle with this specific mission. Or is it just the two of them and Elizabeth will have to pick up more of the slack now that Marilyn is dead?
  • It's a huge risk for Philip to approach day workers for this job in order to create more of a distraction on the street. He needs them in order to make the switch for Harvest. He needs the van to get away a little bit before the FBI realizes that something has happened. But it also allows someone new to come forward with a potential witness statement or sketch artist drawing that could crack the case wide open for Stan.
  • Elizabeth really isn't engaged with the travel agency business at all. Whenever she does come in to work, it's mostly just for appearances. She has to appear as if she is working even though she is juggling a million other things right now. She doesn't even know that Philip fired Stavros and two other employees. She doesn't fully understanding how the business is failing. She just doesn't prioritize it. But she does in this moment because she needs to check in with Philip to see how he's doing.