[Editor's note: This recap contains spoilers from season five, episode six of The Americans, "Crossbreed."]
Hey, Paige! Great news! Looks like there's finally someone you can talk to about that whole learning-your-parents-aren't-who-you-thought-they-were thing — and you won't even need to leave home to find him.
Yep, it's your dad!
Some father-daughter bonding is definitely in order after the most recent episode of The Americans, because Philip finds out he's got a lot more in common with Paige than he thought. As we've seen in the previous episode, the dark side of spying is sending Philip into a tailspin again, namely in the form of his bleak childhood memories. The more visions he gets, the more he's prompted (by Elizabeth) to visit their longtime handler, Gabriel, to learn the truth about his family. (For those who need a quick cheat sheet on his Dickensian upbringing: Philip's parents died when he was six, and he was consistently bullied by other kids back in Tobolsk, Russia.)
In episode six, it actually doesn't take much intel from Gabriel for Philip (and the viewers) to put together the pieces: When Gabriel informs Philip his father wasn't a logger, as he was previously told, but a penal camp guard, all of the sadness from the KGB agent's childhood make a whole lot more sense. Pair that with some grainy images of Philip's mother washing blood off his father's boots and Philip remembering how lots of people in Tobolsk hated his family, and you have your answer: Daddy was a brutal guard who very likely killed prisoners trying to escape the camp. This also explains Philip's, erm, "talent" for murder in the line of duty.
It's a lot for Philip to take in, so it's really no wonder that Gabriel is keeping an even bigger secret from him: That his son, Mischa, came to Washington, D.C., looking for his father, and was sent back to the Soviet Union for everyone's own protection. This is also probably why Gabriel has made the decision to leave the United States and return home: He knows deep down that the longer he stays, the more tempting it will be for him to tell Philip the truth. So instead of risking the destruction of an indispensable Russian officer, Gabriel, who admits to being "old" and "tired," announces his departure. (This decision may also mean he wants to keep a closer eye on Mischa back in Moscow. Given the young man's comments against the state, he's going to need a protective figure.)
However, Gabriel isn't leaving American soil without helping to secure the destiny of the Jennings' daughter: In the episode's final, dialogue-less scene, set to Peter Gabriel's "Lay Your Hands on Me" (the second time this show has used a Gabriel song in an important scene involving Paige; not to mention the Gabriel-Gabriel connection), Philip and Elizabeth proudly introduce Paige to their handler.
We'll have to wait for the next episode to see what kind of an impact this meeting has on the teenager. Perhaps she and Gabriel discussed her current bedside reading, Capital. For the most part, Paige/Holly Taylor was given a bit of a break in episode six with the character sharing one poignant scene with Elizabeth, in which they discuss Karl Marx's manifesto. To Elizabeth's delight, Paige admits that she agrees "with a lot of what [Marx] says," though the Soviet agent is visibly bummed that her daughter is still hanging on to her love of religion: "I know nothing in my life made me feel as good as getting baptized," says Paige. (Whereas Elizabeth died a little inside when that happened.)
Despite her inner turmoil, Paige still has a clear enough head to continue with the probing questions about her parents' mission, asking if the Marxist-influenced Soviet Union really is a utopia where everyone is equal. Elizabeth answers that it isn't, but "everybody is in it together," which is why, even though Paige observes that her mother hasn't "been there in a long time," this cold warrior isn't anywhere close to giving up the fight.
Speaking of "the fight," the Jennings' missions are still ongoing regardless of the upsetting news that they were wrong about the source of the Soviet food shortages. Elizabeth has been ordered to continue the Ben Stobert honeytrap in order to learn more about the "superwheat" he's developing (it could help feed the Soviets, so why not?). But as we saw last week, the job is getting harder for her — could she be going soft for this tai chi-loving, Chinese-medicine-expert scientist after all? Tai chi is much healthier for stress relief than those cigarettes anyway, Liz.
It's not only Philip who experiences some serious emotional triggers in episode six. A chance visit from a Mary Kay cosmetics representative sends Elizabeth spiraling back into memories she has been trying to smother for several months: Last season, Elizabeth posed as Mary Kay saleswoman "Patty" in order to get close to a makeup aficionado named Young Hee, whose husband worked at a top-secret lab that the KGB needed access to. What Elizabeth didn't count on was that her con would develop into a real friendship. So when "Patty" had to die, the Soviet officer's heart broke more than a little bit.
After Elizabeth blows off the Mary Kay rep, she quickly dons her best Alanis Morissette wig to go stalk her old friend — only to learn Young Hee and her family have moved away. Probably because Elizabeth's actions, for the sake of her country, wreaked significant havoc on both Young Hee's relationship with her husband, Don, as well as Don's career.
In addition to Philip and Elizabeth's struggles to keep their heads above water while continuing in their mission, much of the episode was also peppered with, to use a 1980s term, Polaroids, of several ongoing threads. We don't get very far with any of them, but, as always with The Americans, it's never a good idea to ignore them entirely, so I've listed them below. In keeping with the Polaroid metaphor, we'll have to see how they develop.
Stray observations from episode six
— In addition to continuing her treks to Topeka, Kansas, Elizabeth was given a new, "easy" assignment posing as a mousy first-time therapy patient. Apparently she's after some files in a particular psychiatrist's office. And since using the truth only makes her cover stronger, perhaps talking to a professional about how she and Paige were mugged last season will work as well as her tai chi lessons from Stobert.
— Evgeniya Morozova has gotten a job as a Russian-language instructor at the Department of Agriculture. Philip and a team of collaborators are having her followed in hope that her government-agent students will provide necessary intelligence.
— I'm officially both lost and frustrated with the Oleg narrative. I feel badly for Costa Ronin, who has been putting in a quietly subdued performance as the conflicted KGB agent. But we've been through this on The Americans before, with Nina Krilova: Whenever you send a character back to the Soviet Union, their plotline becomes disconnected with the rest of the action, and sooner or later, it has to be put out of its misery. It would be a shame for Oleg's subplot to become Nina, part two, but unfortunately, that seems to be the direction it's headed in. The big thing that happened with Oleg in episode six is he decides to burn all of the evidence pointing toward his treason, including that incriminating tape. However, his father's shifty eyes can't be ignored ....
— Stan and his partner, Dennis Aderholt, are trying to persuade a frightened Russian mother to provide intel to the FBI, tempting her with safety and comfort. They've been at this all season, attempting to turn Soviets living in the U.S. Not sure where it's going, and frankly, I'm way more interested in the return of Stan's meals with his old chum, Henry Jennings. Though it's not like we got any further information on what exactly is going on with Henry — is he cheating at math or is he really that smart that he doesn't need to do any serious studying? Either way, he's a majorly untapped KGB asset in that respect.
The Americans airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. Eastern on FX.
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