THE AMERICANS: SEASON 6, EPISODE 4: MR. AND MRS. TEACUP
He loves you. He loves me. But somewhere, something got lost. This work can be too much for people, even the best ones. – Elizabeth Jennings
Though you may have overlooked it, the most pivotal line from tonight’s episode of The Americans isn’t the one above, as important as Elizabeth’s comment to her daughter was. Instead, it came from Erica (Miriam Shor), who as she lies in what will eventually be her death bed, laments the fact that for much of her life, she placed her self-worth in “the work.”
As an artist, when she first got sick, she took solace in the idea that her work would live on forever, even if her own days were going to be cut much shorter than expected. It was a comfort at the time, yet she looks back on that opinion not as wisdom, but of foolishness as to what’s important. Yes, the work may live on, but did Erica ever live the life she wanted?
“All those hours. Honestly, I wish I’d spent them with Glenn.”
And there it is. What’s left behind that truly matters is never going to be a what, but a who. When you ask someone what makes them truly happy, at any point in their life, unless they’re blind to reality, it’s a person or a group, even if misguided in the case of a teenage clique or a gang for example. Pastor Andy Stanley made this argument a few years ago at his church in the Atlanta area as he tried to illustrate the source of true happiness. In the case of The Americans, we’re not speaking biblically, but instead about connection built on trust, respect, and love.
When we die, what do we take with us? This swanky laptop I’m using right now to compose this review will have been replaced a few times, unless I were to pass away tonight in my sleep. But, if I were to buy the newest machine on the market and then have a heart attack the first night I brought it home, I still don’t get to enjoy it anymore. The same with this article itself. I might think it’s pure genius (I don’t), but when I cease to exist, I will never read it again, nor will I obtain any tangible acclaim.
I enjoy writing and I love pop culture, but I won’t care once I’m gone. Whenever people discuss the afterlife, at least in the case of believers, how many talk of how they can’t wait to see what Louis Vuitton stores look like in the “next” world and whether they’ll have all the latest styles? You may think you have to be buried with this item or that, but in the end, what you truly want is to reunite with family, friends, spouses, loved ones, and even those that may have wronged you.
The reason Erica’s statement is so prescient and precious is in how it hits Elizabeth as she says it, and honestly how the essence of that thought has affected other characters on the show as well. While Jennings is just doing her job, she also longs for the days where she wouldn’t roll over in bed when Philip kissed her and asked about her day. She misses working with him, but most of all, she misses the connection they shared that seems so broken in the wake of the divergent paths they’ve taken over the past three years.
Even down to the idea that Henry is more Philip’s responsibility and Paige is learning the spy game from her mother, this is a family split in two. The kids don’t really know it yet, although Paige understands her parents aren’t on the best of terms, but the adults are fully aware of every ounce of stress created by the life each has chosen.
Look at both Stan Beeman and Oleg Burov, particularly our favorite Miller High Life guzzling FBI agent. He lost his first marriage due to secrets and a distance that came from never being able to share much of what he did with her. He became entangled in a separate relationship, and it doomed the intimacy and the aforementioned trust and mutual respect. Watching his bachelor act was a painful reminder of what “the work” cost him, and how he’d rather have spent those hours with his wife, falling in love with her all over again each day.
Burov figured it out, but because of who he worked for, which is arguably the same for Stan, Philip, Elizabeth, and everybody else, it didn’t matter. He watched one woman of his dreams go away to be executed and another exit for professional purposes. He had to be tight-lipped and again, his relationships suffered. But, he understood what was important and tried to save it BOTH times before it was too late. Now, even as Arkady sent him to Washington, he’s most interested in calling his father to see how his wife and newborn son are doing.
“Mr. and Mrs. Teacup” was heavy on spy craft early, with Elizabeth breaking into the warehouse, gunning down a trio of hostiles, but still leaving empty handed. Paige still believes Renhall committed suicide because he was troubled, which nearly sent Philip over the edge. If she’s going to do this job, she needs to know what this job is. That has to be his feeling, because it’s mine. While she’s disobeying her mother and still working the Intern, up to and including sleeping with him, she doesn’t realize the sheer body count that comes with this life.
Either one of two things is going to happen to Paige over the next six weeks. She’s either going to end the series as the spitting image of her mother, or Elizabeth is going to be holding her daughter’s lifeless body after she’s murdered. It makes less and less sense to me with each passing week that Elizabeth isn’t going to survive, and I tend to believe Philip will as well, but Paige and/or Henry, who will be home for the holidays, will meet a tragic end.
Because although Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are the two main stars, and although their characters are the focus of the show, it’s the ramifications of their choices that have the lasting effects and create the drama. What more of a fitting end to The Americans than approaching the end of the Cold War, a potential conclusion to the hatred between the United States and Russia, and a sense of pure hope, juxtaposed with Paige Jennings’ death due to the PAST, which destroyed her future?
Nice to see Julia Garner again, especially now that she’s a much bigger star thanks to Ozark, in which she was by far that series’ best character in the opening season. The Kimmy-Jim relationship has always been a little uncomfortable, but it’s evolved more into an odd friendship than anything else, which isn’t quite as unseemly. Her going to Greece at a time when the Centre needs all the intel it can get is a huge problem, but at this point, everything we’re seeing appears to be a huge problem.
Gennadi is basically blown, and now Elizabeth has put someone on Stan’s trail to find him, and she’s also been smart enough to keep Paige away from it. She wouldn’t understand why Beeman was a threat, or at the very least, she’s too close to the father of her ex-boyfriend and her long time neighbor for that to go well. But it’s a mess.
No Renee this week, but I still sense something’s coming there. I find it impossible to believe The Americans would have teased it so often if it meant nothing. Stan being happy in the end seems like quite a long shot.
Come to think about it, “it’s a mess” is basically the theme for everybody.
Burov’s wife and son are doing terribly, but at least dad lied to Oleg, who wouldn’t have been able to handle the truth at that stage. Henry is set to become captain of the hockey team at St. Edward’s as a senior, but the travel agency is hemorrhaging money and he may be back in public school. Paige is playing a ridiculously dangerous game and still has no idea just how much trouble she could be in. Erica looks like she’s weeks from death, which would time out horribly for Glenn with the Summit looming, not to mention for Elizabeth, who would have no reason to be in his home anymore.
And, finally, Philip, while munching on Bugles and staring at his sandwich, flashes back to his childhood where he and other starving children scraped what they could out of pots handed to them out of the back of a building. We get nothing but a look from Rhys, but one that connotes a psychological conflict. It’s also happening at a time where his business is struggling and the American dream isn’t exactly doing more than enabling him to line dance in black cowboy boots with co-workers every once in a while.
A few minutes earlier, when Philip kisses Elizabeth and asks how she’s doing, she responds, “I’m tired. All the time.” She then rolls over to make it clear there will be no physical contact, probably continuing a very long streak for those two. She’s tired, she looks spent, she’s stressed, and she’s miserable. And I thought about that during another classic Americans montage that followed a bit later.
Eddie Rabbitt sings, “Ooooooh, I’m drivin’ my life away, lookin’ for a better way, for me.”
Elizabeth has nearly driven her marriage off a cliff, or was it Philip that did that? Paige’s innocence is gone, forever stamped after the sexual encounter she used to try and get information from Brian, and whatever life she might have had may be nearing its end. Stan’s marriage is gone, and who knows what’s to come with Renee. His relationship with his son is certainly strained. Oleg can’t quite get away from the person he used to be and it may cost him the man he’s strived so hard to become.
So again, I ask the question… is it Elizabeth or Philip that’s most responsible for “drivin’ (their) life (and more importantly their love and their family) away?”
Or was it what we knew it would be from the beginning of the series?
I’m @JMartOutkick. My operations research class is going to be very useful to us.