THE AMERICANS: SEASON 6, EPISODE 7: HARVEST
Thank you for everything. - Philip Jennings
Of course. I'm here. Anytime. - Stan Beeman
And finally we've gotten to it. Within "Harvest," another outstanding episode this season, nipping on the heels of "The Great Patriotic War" two weeks ago, and in some ways supplanting it, we saw Stan Beeman begin his Hank Schrader on the toilet moment. It wasn't as cut and dry as a Walt Whitman poetry book, and right now it remains a hunch, but we know where this is headed.
The reason I selected the above quote amidst all the fantastic and important dialogue both in that scene and throughout the episode is what it foreshadows. As Philip thanked Stan and embraced his friend, it was clear what was coming, even if at that moment in time neither character realized it. That was the goodbye between drinking and dinner and racketball buddies. It was a father thanking his friend for essentially raising and protecting his own son while he couldn't. "Uncle Stan" became Henry's confidante, was always there for him, and gave him refuge when his parents went to work.
The embrace and the thank you was a genuine Americans snapshot in time, and both things had to happen when they did, because the next time those two are in the same room together, the tone will likely be far different. It's possible we'll see one more friendly exchange between Stan and the Jennings family, but it will be fiction. Whether he is certain or not, Stan Beeman is putting all the pieces together. He's flashing back to the Philadelphia incident that took place six years ago that felt all too familiar after the mess in Chicago. He's asking so many questions all of a sudden, and even discovers that "work" has always been a problem in the Jennings household.
Henry hasn't even met Aunt Helen.
Stan remembers William Crandall just before he died of the biological chemical and the words he said. "A couple of kids. American dream. You'd never suspect them. She's pretty. He's lucky." Seconds later, director Stefan Schwartz shows us Stan in the Jennings family backyard. Eventually, we had to get to this point. There are now three episodes remaining in this landmark drama, and Stan has to get to "eureka" before he gets got. Or before he "gots" his adversaries. It took a while, but we've arrived, and this is some spellbinding stuff.
It's an interesting question as to why it took anyone as intelligent as Stan, a man who trades in investigations and espionage, this long to realize that no travel agency on planet Earth is THAT busy all the time. What in the world would a difficult client require both Elizabeth and Philip Jennings to desert their family and rush to Houston on business over Thanksgiving? He even says he long ago wondered why those two were out until three or four in the morning, but shoved it aside.
The second Beeman gazed from his parked car across the street to the darkened home of his sometimes curious and absent neighbors, all bets were off. Again, Philip thanked Stan in a way that for us as an audience was a clue as to the impending and imminent, dire future. It's highly possible one of them kills the other, or the two men end each other before this is done. That was a subtle piece of fan service to give Matthew Rhys and Noah Emmerich one more moment of camaraderie before, as MULTIPLE characters said in this episode, "everything goes to sh**."
If you want a microcosm not just of "Harvest," but largely of The Americans as a whole, "everything goes to sh**" is the best one you'll find. Elizabeth admitted her operation spiraled down the bowl after Marilyn and Harvest were both shot and killed in the FBI melee in Chicago. A forlorn Dennis Aderholt, who looked like he hadn't slept in weeks, spoke to Stan being right about everything going to sh** after the former asked the latter to rejoin Criminal Investigations to finish the job.
By the way, Brandon J. Dirden has been exceptional this year, but he's been good throughout the run. This last stretch of episodes, though, have been his best work on the show.
Once again, Elise (Miriam Shor, also doing exquisite acting work), speaks like an infirmed Yoda on her death bed, reminding Elizabeth what committing to something truly means. "You don't know what you see until...you need to bring yourself into it. You don't? What's the point? But if you do, you do. There's a moment when it's not you seeing it, it's I don't know, it's something comes through. You need to bring all of yourself to it and then it'll let you get out of your own way."
From there, Elizabeth speaks to her daughter on the street, and gives her every opportunity to take the out and go back to a normal life. "But are you willing to give up friends and relationships, and even your life if you have to, because that's what's being asked of you." Paige, still naive to the breadth of what's actually going on, speaks derisively of her classmates as she says they think they're political but don't realize the system is designed to keep them down. Little does she know, she's the one that's blinded.
She says her only fear isn't dying for a cause she believes in, but in being alone, hoping she'll find someone like her parents did. That's the first time she's sounded like a girl her age all season, and it affected her mother more than any other words she's spoken in quite some time. It also affected me more than anything written for Paige this year.
It's sad, and as Elizabeth watches her daughter walk away after the instructions to apply for the government internship, in her eyes there's a glimpse of a nearly broken woman who knows that dream, and any dream for that matter, will be dashed due to occupational hazards. Paige's life is over, and it barely even began. That's the cost. That's the commitment. Before Elise got sick, she lived, she sketched, she loved her husband. What will Paige Jennings have when its time to total up her pros and cons before she departs this life?
Elizabeth Jennings knows better than anyone the answer to that question.
Nothing tangible. "Making a difference" sounds nice, but what does it really mean? Think for a second about one somewhat minor character (in screen time) tries to get across before taking his last breath.
Harvest gives Philip messages to pass along verbatim to his parents and then reveals the location of radiation sensor schematics, which are in France. Though we don't see anything but Philip telling the man he will make sure every word reaches his mother and father, you have to imagine he recognizes first that he won't be delivering said messages, and that this is how a lot of his comrades die. He's hoping these final words get to their destinations, but in actuality, he took a cyanide pill and died quietly in a van after a gunshot wound, surrounded by strangers whose only connection to him was a nationalist, communist unity.
We remember the beautiful Orthodox wedding ceremony from seasons past, and as Philip partially grins through a pained expression, he recalls how happy and peaceful he and his wife were in that snippet of their individual and collective existence. They were work partners, but now they were truly in love and ready to make that official, even in private. Now they're stressed, they're strained, they barely made it out of Chicago and it required a gruesome, almost impossible to watch scene with Marilyn's dead body and an axe in order to do it.
The travel agency is a disaster and Philip has failed in providing for his family as he desired to do. He and his wife are on the road to reconciliation and she clearly loves him for coming to her aid, but neither of them are the people they used to be. Both Jennings children are in difficult spots and both are in those positions because of the actions of the parents, whose allegiance to the Soviet regime led them to place country over anything and everything else. Now, Paige is on her way to working undercover at the State Department. That shouldn't cause any problems at all.
In short, it's all gone to sh**.
Stan needs to connect a few more dots, but as he asks Aderholt, "When are we getting sketches?" Dennis responds, "They're on the way." THAT may be the Hank Schrader on the Bemis realization. At this stage, if those drawings from the Chicago witnesses even resemble Philip and Elizabeth, Stan will have enough to turn his hunch into a full-blown accusation.
Three weeks left in The Americans, and we got more this week in terms of a road to conclusion and resolution than ever before. This was a terrific hour. It was truly special. Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields know exactly what they're doing. "Harvest" proved it.
Whether Renee plays a role on either side is yet to be determined.
What Paige does when she comes face to face with the complete truth is yet to be determined.
How Henry reacts when he finally realizes why he's played third fiddle to his sister and the "work" since he was a toddler is yet to be determined.
Who lives and who dies is yet to be determined.
But we know it's all headed for the latrine. Here. We. Go.
To end, here are portions of Patti Smith's lyrics for "Broken Flag," which played over the montage featuring Elizabeth dumping portions of Marilyn's body in the river as Stan pulled into his driveway and finally began to put it all together.
I'm @JMartOutkick. I've got to apply for an internship at the State Department.
THE AMERICANS: SEASON 6, EPISODE 7: HARVEST