The Americans: Rififi

If the last episode of The Americans was the best so far,  episode 6 was a close contender. Titled “Rififi” the sixth episode continued the burst of momentum we way in “The Great Patriotic War.” This episode really felt like that moment before a rocket shoots off, it brought together all the characters and components in familiar dynamics for ultimate tension, and when the tension breaks we are going to see a massive amount of fall-out for the final four episodes.

The end is looming ever nearer for the Jennings, the FBI, and the soviets. We can feel the tunnel narrowing, the noose getting tighter, the claustrophobic inevitability of actions set in motion far beyond anyone person’s control.

“Rififi” named after the foreign film that Elizabeth watches under the guise of a “film nerd” to get attached to an intern. Remember Paige told her what a wealth of knowledge those young, manipulatable congressman interns could be. Also S/O to the writers for knowing that the niche of an The Americans viewer intersects film twitter very nicely.

This episode really had nothing to with that new source, but it dealt heavily with the aftermath of the last episodes final scene –– you know the one. Phillip confronts Elizabeth about cold brutality of murdering Sofia and Gennadi in front of their seven-year-old son. Elizabeth weakly justifies the moment by stating he was in the other room, he did not see them get killed, it makes no difference to Phillip. His face says that she stepped over the line, there is no going back. He informs her that he warned Kimmy about communist countries, and that “it’s over” he says in a cold fury.

Elizabeth, committed as ever retorts that she knew he wouldn’t do it anyway, not understanding his unwillingness to commit to her cause. Thus we enter a “cold war” period in the Jennings’ relationship that we haven’t seen since season one. This is complicated by the arrival of Henry for Thanksgiving break. Henry (Keidrich Sellati) has been mostly out of the picture (literally on-screen and plot-wise as a genius hockey player at boarding school) but his arrival back home hearkens back to the high stakes secrecy that the Jennings haven’t had to apply since they revealed their true lives to Paige. It certainly reminds us of the stakes of silence involved in this game.

The FBI, meanwhile, is closing in on the “illegals.” They are tailing an operative codenamed “Harvest” in Chicago and are even bringing back Stan in hopes of cracking the entire operation wide-open. This move brings Stan back into focus, storyline wise and also as a character, in a moving, if on-the-nose, Thanksgiving toast he states passionately, ““You know, not everybody around the world wants us to be able to live in peace and freedom,” he says, “But aren’t those the things the pilgrims came here for in the first place?” As the camera pans around the table we see the faces of his guests; Paige holding in her tongue as the newest, most idealistic soviet sympathizer, Phillip stuck between two worlds and a million loyalties, a still-in-the-dark Henry, his still-suspicious Renee, and the utterly committed and American Aderholts, and finally the notably absent Elizabeth Does Stan have an idea of who he is talking to? Time will tell.

Elizabeth is in Chicago during this traditional, highly Americana holiday. That alone is very telling of how far removed she is from her guise as travel-agent Elizabeth Jennings. Even Phillip has a hard time making her trip to “Houston” seem legit. She is  in fact on a mission to rescue the very operative that Stan and Aderholt have their sights on apprehending. This mission may be a suicide mission, and as Elizabeth call Henry, we feel the fear behind her awkward small-talk, the pain in acknowledging the unfamiliarity she feels for her own son, the desperation to speak to him maybe for a last time. The Americans fully crossed the line into “spy against spy” territory this season as Phillip transposes Elizabeth’s secret messages and sends a copy to co-conspirator Oleg. But old habits do die hard, right Phil? Even in his state of anger and outright sabotage, Phillip recognizes Elizabeths conversation with Henry as a sort of “last call.”

The final scene of “Rififi” ends with another phone call in a telephone booth, but a very different conversation. Phillip, no matter how much he loathes this life, cannot fully escape from it. He does love Elizabeth, despite her merciless, unbending efficiency at her job, which has involved A LOT of murder this season. “Just sit tight, I’m on my way” he tells her as he hangs up the phone for at least one last job –– maybe the last job.

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