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THE AMERICANS: SEASON 6, EPISODE 6: RIFIFI
I warned her not to go to any communist countries. I’m never going to see her again. It’s over. That’s over. – Philip Jennings
A marriage in turmoil sliced through this Americans episode, left an impact in some way on virtually every other character in the process, and as “Rififi” (the episode, not the movie) ended, I immediately had a question. Perhaps one of you can answer it for me.
Philip is on his way to Chicago to assist Elizabeth, right? He calls her from the pay phone, can tell how drained she is and how she believes she might actually fail this time, and he’s going to help her. However, a few minutes before, he sent information to Burov after learning a bit more about her operation. Here’s the question. Is he going to help her, or is he still working for Burov? Does his love for her, which transcends the work and still defines him, supplant his agreement with Oleg? Or is he working against her?
I’m not sure there’s any way to know for sure, and that’s why I’d never want to be a spy. Because it’s a business built on deceit, and in fact is one where you’re at your best when you’re a superb liar, how on earth could you ever trust anybody else? I ran into that problem working in pro wrestling. I lied constantly and I was really good at it. I could work an audience into a frenzy and make them believe virtually anything I threw at them.
But, behind the scenes, I would sit in locker room after locker room listening to guys talking about how many fans they planned to sleep with that night because their wives were tired and left early. I would listen to plans as to how to hurt other performers that “deserved” to be taught a lesson for being disrespectful or out of line. In that case, I was in on many of those discussions. Today I’m disgusted with much of it. And, I would sit and watch steroids passed around, muscle relaxers, and whatever else might have been necessary for some of my colleagues to do their jobs. Luckily I steered completely clear of any of it.
Deceit breeds deceit, both on The Americans and in life. If she cheated WITH you, she’ll cheat ON you. “Thick as thieves” only goes so far, and how often in the past have those stories concluded with one criminal turning on the other and tossing him or her under the bus? So at least for right now, it’s believable that Philip hopes to hinder Elizabeth, but also protect her from danger. These two have never had more problems, and it’s extended to the bedroom as mom is sleeping in Paige’s room and even Henry Jennings notices it.
Elizabeth, who has become a nicotine freight train on the back porch of her home, is stressed beyond belief and Keri Russell is doing all she can to get across just how much it’s both effecting and affecting her life and person. What the Centre is asking of her is monumentally important to them, but without Philip in her corner, it’s become almost untenable. She can still get to Sam Nunn’s intern in a movie theater and on a subway, but that’s child’s play for someone of her skills. It’s the only thing she’s been able to do with relative ease this entire season.
And that’s the key takeaway from the entire episode. Apart, neither one of these people has been successful.
Philip is laying off Stavos and two other Dupont Circle Travel employees because he expanded the business and the client numbers didn’t match the fantasy plans. There were never, not once, any problems at the day job when Elizabeth was still working alongside him and they were in the old business. All we knew at that time on The Americans, for five seasons, was it was a front and a mask to allow them cover to work for the Soviet government. We didn’t even think of the travel agency as anything worthy of paying attention to whatsoever.
Now it’s falling apart. Philip is having to fire his friends, and he’s having to listen to his teenage son beg him to talk to his classmate’s much more successful father to get advice on how not to fail the next time.
Elizabeth and Philip had some close calls in the spy game, but when they had each other’s backs, we never feared for them in the moment. Now we see Elizabeth admitting Chicago might be a bust, Philip isn’t going to help with Kimmy and has tipped her off how to avoid issues in Greece, the Summit is coming, she’s had to kill a lot more people than usual recently, and she has basically no life outside the work.
As their relationship has fallen apart, each individual’s life is following suit. It may have taken three years, but the lasting impact of “Rififi,” which was solid, albeit unspectacular, but advanced the story nicely, is that Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are headed for a fiery mountainside crash…
…as long as they’re driving separate cars.
After being incredibly annoying last week, Paige was thankfully light in screen time this week. Listening to Stan’s Thanksgiving soliloquy was hilarious, because you knew how much Paige wanted to call him out, and you also knew that not only was he right, but she doesn’t even know how right he actually is. Renee was a little uncomfortable with the timing of it, as most would have been in her spot, but there’s still very little to go on in terms of whether she’s bad news or not. My instinct tells me she is, and it’s just going to come from nowhere when she snaps somebody’s neck or shoots someone to save Elizabeth in the penultimate episode of the season. And it might just be Aderholt.
Stan and Dennis back in action in CI was fun. It made me wish we had gotten more of the fast-paced FBI investigating in the past. Listening to Aderholt lay out the way they might be able to track names through car sales paid with cash relating to similar aliases on utility bills was entertaining. Maybe I’m just a sucker for that kind of thing, but it had the reverse heist appeal that we all can enjoy. Plus, we got that elevator sequence, which had me rolling (as much as The Americans does, meaning I chuckled) as the Mail Robot said “hold the door please” and slowly rolled in, taking up well over half the space in the process.
This might have been the most profanity-laced episode of The Americans in series history, and it actually makes sense. Philip and Elizabeth’s marriage (how about that line about Philip’s intentions with Kimmy) and professional life are both boiling over in a bad way and each is trying to score points at the other’s expense, the FBI is on the verge of really breaking everything wide open, and everybody is on mental high alert, but also showing signs of fatigue. Even Henry is at his breaking point, because he desperately wants to graduate from Saint Edward’s and sees a possibility that it might not happen.
We’ve got four more episodes left in this brilliant show. Last week’s episode was one of the show’s top three, and although “Rififi” was nowhere near as intense, it was radically different and felt fresh. It moved a little quicker, was harsh in its depiction of the Jennings’ marriage crisis, and definitely reminded us that in no way is this show going to end with a smile.
People are going to cry. People are going to die. Arrests may be made. Children could be casualties of the fight.
And though we do know the results of the Summit and what came next in our world, we have no idea when The Americans ending fits into reality. Could we get a flash forward? Sure. Or it could end in the winter of 1987. Regardless, we are headed in the direction of tragedy. Next week, as we see Philip in Chicago, the fireworks could truly begin. Not much time is left in the series and it feels like Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields still have a great deal to reveal, and probably a twist or two remaining up their sleeves.
I’m @JMartOutkick. Just sit tight. I’m on my way.