For four seasons and change, we have watched Elizabeth and Philip Jennings ( Keri Russell & Matthew Rhys) dive head-first into every mission they’ve ever been given, doing whatever is needed for God and Country. They’ve seduced ambassador’s wives, been infected with deadly diseases, even married other people (#PoorMartha). They’re as devoted as they come.
So it’s a touch alarming, in “What’s The Matter With Kansas?” (March 28) to get the sense that this time around, their hearts just aren’t into the work.
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The whole episode, Philip behaves as if he’s just had his puppy taken away, full of long faces and pensive window stares. He’s not happy about having to go on repeated trips to Topeka to develop a new asset, and it shows. We’ve seen this from him before — but Elizabeth is usually able to pull him through, recommit him to the cause. Now, even she seems ready to get out of this one however she can.
In their first briefing with Gabriel (Frank Langella) they try to suggest other operatives take the case, a wholly uncharacteristic move for the two — even granting the validity of their excuse, which is that they’re currently juggling: The Morozov family, Pastor Tim and Alice (Kelly AuCoin & Suzy Jane Hunt), inquisitive and/or moody kids at home, and Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich)… but there was an uncertainty in their voices that was not normal. Gabriel noticed too, asking if there was something else troubling them that they should talk about.
“We know how important this is,” Elizabeth finally concedes, after a long pause and some quick sideways glances to Philip.
And just like that, the two are off, on separate trips to Topeka to develop two new assets. The targets this time: Two employees from the lab that’s breeding the nefarious bugs threatening the Russian wheat supplies. Philip gets a lonely Logistics VP; Elizabeth, a scientist.
For Philip, establishing connection with his mark is a chore all the way through. Taking a stationary bike next to his mark at the gym, Philip tries his best out-of-towner charm… to no avail. She’s not having it, as she politely answers Philip’s questions and quietly slides away. The pained and frustrated look on his face told us everything he was feeling about this task, and a failed followup call from Baltimore a couple of days later about dinner proved this assignment will be a tough nut to crack.
Elizabeth has a bit more luck with Ben Stobert (Brett Tucker): Skulking around a Topeka health food store, she makes contact after pretending to spill carob beans and playing dumb about trail mix. The two hit it off and, on her second visit, go for a hike and wind up back on the Scientist’s couch with a bottle of wine. But just as things heat up, Elizabeth pulls the ripcord, ensuring she’ll get a third date on her next visit.
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Meanwhile, asked to babysit for Pastor Tom and Alice, Paige finds herself alone in their house for the first time, and her new spy-in-training instincts kick in. While the baby sleeps, she starts to do a little recon, shuffling through draws and flipping through note books and journals.
The highlight of the episode are the cuts between Elizabeth in Topeka, and Paige snooping around Pastor Tim’s: A young girl innocently beginning what may become an actual career, following in the footsteps of her grown mother, professional at the top of her game. Our little Paige is growing up right before our eyes.
Later, Paige tells her mom she was hoping to find the name of Alice’s lawyer that has the package about them — but all she found was Pastor Tom’s diary, where he keeps notes about his parishioners. While there was nothing written about the Jennings, Elizabeth still flies off the handle a bit, telling Paige that she’s not ready for what she just did, and that it’s way too dangerous. If Alice ever suspects anything mischievous, she won’t talk to them — she’ll go straight to the FBI.
The episode ends in Philip and Elizabeth’s bedroom, discussing how Paige isn’t ready for what she’s trying to do, and how neither of them really want to talk about Topeka. When asked about her mark, Elizabeth dismisses it: “I have to sit there and listen to his jokes.” She says firmly, when Philip asks if she likes him. “He laughs, while he’s working to starve a nation.” Her typically steely response is the most passion we see from either of them all night.
Other Intel from the Field:
- Henry is back! And he’s moodier than ever. Apparently he’s been spending all his time on the phone with Doug. Or was it Kira? Or maybe Wendy? The kid is suddenly popular.
- Mischa has touched down in the U.S. What does he think of NYC?!
- Stan Beeman’s new girlfriend seems friendly. Why do we get the feeling she’s either going to die or screw things up for the Jennings?
“The Americans” airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.