Wednesday, May 16, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Americans' - Elizabeth Makes a Major Decision About What She's Willing to Do For the Mission in 'The Summit'

FX's The Americans - Episode 6.08 "The Summit"

With the arms control summit under way, a shocking revelation from Philip throws Elizabeth - and her work - into turmoil. Stan follows a dangerous hunch.

There's nothing Elizabeth wouldn't do for the mission. She has no moral objections to the work that she does. She is always able to justify every single cruel and heinous thing she's done as being for the good of her country. She was defending her home from the world that wishes to conquer and rule it with new ideals. She always perceived Philip as being weak because he allowed his feelings to dictate his actions. He struggled with the immortality of this job. She stayed committed to him because she loved him and the partnership they had. She could never understand how he couldn't just compartmentalize the various aspects of this job like she could. There has always been such a chasm between the two of them in that regard. This season has only further highlighted the differences between them. They stand on two opposing ideological sides. They were both working for warring factions of the Centre. And now, the cracks are really starting to be exposed in their marriage as all of their secrets and emotions come pouring out. "The Summit" is such a transformational episode for Elizabeth Jennings. She has spent her entire life devoted to this mission never once questioning the orders she has been given. She's grown more tired because of having to do this work all by herself. She has certainly made more mistakes this season and killed more innocent people. Those are the consequences that have slowly been adding up for her. But it's much more significant that Philip and Erica have tried to bring the humanity out of her so that she could truly delve into the full spectrum of emotions that they have readily accessed throughout their lives. It's such a difficult process for her to accept though. But over the course of this hour, she must because she feels compelled to question her orders at the precise moment where it seems like she is just being used to advance a certain political agenda that will have such destructive consequences for her country.

It all starts with that opening sequence with Philip and Elizabeth in the living room where Philip is basically telling Elizabeth that she isn't a human being. That's not a true statement. She has been personally affected by missions in the past. She got close with Gregory even though it compromised the mission. She valued the friendship she had with Young Hee even though she had to throw it all away to make the mission work. She has compromised herself in so many ways. She has felt emotions and pain from these missions. She has just chosen to keep it to herself. She hasn't felt the need to allow these thoughts to linger and fester until they put her work in jeopardy. And here, she feels like Philip has betrayed her. He has essentially been spying on her because he didn't trust in the work that she was doing. She always tried to understand where he was coming from whenever he had problems with a specific mission. She knows that he cares about his feelings much more deeply than she does. But she has those emotions as well. She does love her children to varying degrees even though she only had them because the Centre told her to. She did it all for her country. Anyone who questions her loyalty is the traitor in the situation. She can't believe that Philip has been working behind her back for months and sharing sensitive details about the work she has been doing. It's a risk that only further affects her in the field. She must immediately go out again. But this confrontation only effectively brings them closer together because Elizabeth does take what Philip is saying to heart. The mission is just too important to be wrong about any detail.

As such, Elizabeth is assigned to get a bug into the negotiating room where the final details for the summit are being worked out. Gorbachev has landed in America. He is being seen on American television. Claudia, Paige and Elizabeth can discuss what it's like having their leader here as well. But the mission must continue for Elizabeth. She has one potential way of getting into that meeting through Glenn. There just happens to be the unfortunate timing of him failing to euthanize Erica while also deciding to quit his job because he worked too much during her illness. Elizabeth walks in as the nurse doing her job when she stumbles upon that tragedy. Erica is essentially gone but her body is still just dying slowly. She has simply built up a tolerance to the morphine. That means the drugs didn't give her a quick and painless death. Glenn is agonizing over the fear that he waited too long to do what she wanted. Instead, it's up to Elizabeth to carry that burden. Again, she has killed so many people over the course of the series. This should be nothing to her. She is being asked to kill this woman now in order to get access to the files that can further reveal what is happening in the negotiating committee. But it is agonizing to her because she looks around the room and is able to see the wide array of emotions suddenly conveyed through Erica's artwork. She is able to go through with the murder. It's gruesome to watch too because Erica's body still has the natural response to the life being taken from it. But Elizabeth still succeeds. She walks away with some files and one of the paintings from the room. She also debates whether or not she can actually keep it. That's the moment that proves that this mission affected her personally. She grew attached to Erica who was asking her to see the world differently. Erica doesn't speak at all this week. And yet, the pain and agony of her death hits Elizabeth hard because she struggles to do her job and get rid of any evidence that can connect her back to Erica and Glenn.

Plus, Elizabeth is still able to get a bug inside the State Department for that meeting. She just has to rely on her latest mark, Jackson. He is young and impressionable. She is able to seduce him through an enticing offer that will lead to more job experience around the world. He won't have to simply settle for returning to his hometown and working for his father's company. He can broaden his horizons. She is able to tease him along in making him seem like her knight in shining armor during her time of need. She presents an opportunity for him to be a true life savor for her in delivering a box of documents to a room where the meeting is going to be. All she has to do is ask for them back at the end of the day by saying the meeting was actually cancelled. It seems so easy and innocuous to her. And yet, Jackson isn't as naive as he seems either. He is suspicious about a meeting that's taking place while he retrieves the box. He notices that there were no cancelled meetings in that room during the day. As such, he is able to discover the recording device. He isn't able to hide his sudden change of opinion about Elizabeth either. He knows that she just forced him to do something illegal. He's willing to confront her about it too. This is the moment where she would typically kill him to ensure that he couldn't risk exposing her to the police. He's a loose end that could destroy her life and career. And yet, she chooses to let him live. She still works away with the recording. She is intimidating to Jackson in the moment in making it perfectly clear that he will have to go work for his father now otherwise lethal consequences will come for him. But it's also such a mistake that she makes because it seems incredibly likely that he will tell someone the truth about what he has just done and the woman who forced him to do it. With it being so close to the end, that's a very ominous tease for the future.

But it's through actually listening to the recording that has the biggest breakthrough for Elizabeth. She was asked to monitor the Soviet negotiator to learn whether or not Gorbachev authorized him to trade details about a secret military operation. In the end, she only discovers him to be a genuine guy doing his best to create a nuclear free world. That's the goal that Gorbachev is striving to achieve. That's what he is working towards with this summit. As such, there is no reason for Elizabeth to eliminate him as a threat to the national security of the Soviet Union. And yet, she is still given that precise order from Claudia. If this were to have happened at any other time in the series, she would have had no problem just following the orders. After everything that has happened with Philip, Erica and Jackson though, she is now forced to question Claudia and the Centre. She needs to demand more information. She needs to know why she has been given this order when it's clear that the negotiator isn't a traitor. That only reveals Claudia to be a member of the anti-Gorbachev wing of the Centre. She is in on the potential coup to remove their leader from office. She sees him as disrespectful to their history and the strength and determination it took to form the great country they are today. She stands by the mission to force his ouster. She is willing to forge the documents to make it seem like he betrayed the trust of their intelligence community. All of this only sends Elizabeth back to Philip. The complications are slowly adding up for the two of them near the end of the series. Now, they both seem alienated from their bosses at the Centre. Philip is retired and Elizabeth is refusing to complete this latest mission for moral reasons. That's a huge change of pace for the series that is so surprising to watch unfold here. Elizabeth feels the need to protect her mark from whomever the Centre is sending next to kill him. She knows the threat is coming and soon. There isn't a lot of time to warn Oleg that his friends were right to question the actions of the Centre. But again, it seems destined to end in such a destructive and traumatic way because the action is so close to the end. It's very exciting to watch play out because there are still so many viable options for how this show will choose to finish its run.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Summit" was written by Joshua Brand and directed by Sylvain White.
  • Stan is really looking back and calling upon all of the various contacts he still knows who could possibly confirm whether or not Philip and Elizabeth are Soviet spies. He reaches out to Curtis, who was one of the drug dealers working with Gregory who didn't know that he was actually a Soviet undercover agent. He worked with Stan in the past which allowed the FBI to kill Gregory. And now, all he can do is tease Stan with more clues that may lead to the Jennings.
  • Of course, it seems particularly ominous that the biggest connection Stan has between Elizabeth and the mysterious Soviet agent running amok throughout his work is her smoking habits. Curtis notes that Gregory's girlfriend smoked like a chimney. That's an important detail to remember because Stan did see her pot of ashes in the backyard when he broke into the Jennings house last week.
  • Stan is hardly the only person who knows that Philip and Elizabeth are up to something shifty and potentially criminal as well. Philip reaches out to Stavros once more in order to try to give him a better explanation for why he was fired. Stavros doesn't have any compassion for Philip because he fired him despite him never wondering what was actually going on in the back room. He never called the police either. That comment would have been enough for Elizabeth to kill him. And yet, he's still alive too.
  • The show is also just running out of time to reveal whether or not Renee is a spy. Last season it was an important question that even Philip was asking. And now, it's just kinda been put on the back burner despite her sudden interest in joining the FBI. Here, a significant amount of time is devoted to her getting a job interview and wondering what questions she'll be asked. Stan saying they'll wonder if she's a loyal American seems like a really telling moment as well. Or it could still just be nothing.
  • The priest that married Elizabeth and Philip last season is in danger. The FBI has learned more about the tactics the Centre has used in order to conduct their illegal business in this country. As such, they are looking into him and his quick promotion in this area. Philip and Elizabeth are the only spies he can trust as well. That means there may soon be a race to ensure that he is kept safe. A race that could end any number of ways.