The seventh episode of The Americans ‘Harvest’ was possibly the most anxiety inducing episode since Paige found out who her parents really are. It was also one of the most grim (shudders thinking about fire axes), which is impressive considering this is one of the darkest, serious dramas currently on television.
‘Harvest’, named after the operative that Philip and Elizabeth are sent to rescue –– at any cost –– from Chicago, was a master class in how to continuously build tension for about 50 minutes with no release. I know I am not alone in saying that I was holding my breath for most of this episode. This episode also reminded me of the early season of this show, when it was more heavily centered on Philip, Elizabeth, and Stan.
‘Harvest’ saw a reemergence of suspicious, neighbor Stan. Remember when he snooped on his new neighbors so many years ago? Yeah, alarm bells are ringing again. Let’s just face facts. Stan knows. Stan knows. Maybe he always knew, maybe he couldn’t accept his suspicious and tossed them aside as paranoia caused by his stressful job. At any case he is listening to his gut now. It all starts when Philip has to explain that he is going to help Elizabeth in Houston – the client is being very difficult. Stan nods, but you can clearly see he doesn’t fully believe Philip. Even when Philip utters a confession about the state of the travel agency, he seems unmoved. This disbelief is made even stronger when he drives Henry back to school. “Business comes first always.” says Henry in a very revealing conversation he has with Stan.
As Stan sneaks into the Jennings house in a very anxiety riddled scene, we can see he is re-thinking every move that his friends have made, right under his nose. As he stares at the family picture you can tell he’s devastated at the depth of their betrayal. We always knew that Stan was going to have to find out – he is not a fool, he is just a good person who hopes to see the best in everyone. The fact that the Jennings constantly took advantage of “Uncle Stan” and the fact that they were literally right next door will give Stan a lot of motivation to uncover the truth about the evil hidden in plain sight.
Meanwhile, that evil seems to have gripped Philip again and pulled him back into the darkness. Philip may loathe the work he has done and will do, but he does still love Elizabeth. So, this episode brought back a familiar dynamic of both Philip and Elizabeth donning wigs and on another impossible mission. As is the trend this season, it does not go well. A familiar walkie-talkie clicker over the years, Marilyn is shot by a FBI agent as they flee down Chicago streets after the FBI catches on that they have lost Harvest. Of course it doesn’t turn out well for the FBI agents either this episode, as Aderholt vents, “Everything we do turns to shit.” In the van it is shown that the source, Harvest is fatally wounded. He utters some heavy last words to Philip, in his native language, and dies as Elizabeth desperately turns down streets in order to evade a similar fate for them.
In one of the most chilling scenes Philip has to literally dismember Marilyn in a parking garage with the break-glass-in-case-of-emergency ax. He chops off her hands and head to avoid any identification. In a cringe-worthy scene Philip has to swing twice to fully remove her head as the ax doesn’t go all the way through. It was a very good episode for sad Philip faces, existential dread never quite leaves him, no matter how many line dances he does. Elizabeth meanwhile looks on with calculated intensity and possibly a sense of resignation. Maybe after tossing Marilyn’s extremities into the chilly Chicago waters, she is feeling less fond for the motherland.
In any case, the conversation she has with Paige at the end of the episode seems to point to a sense of unease. She tells Paige she has to decide now to commit to this way of life – for the rest of her life, noting that it has almost destroyed Philip. “Your father made a mistake when he committed to this life,” Elizabeth says to Paige. “He was young — younger than you.” Paige says this is what she wants, what she has always wanted –– to make a difference. Elizabeth has shared some of the darkness of this path, some of the loneliness. But Paige confesses she is already lonely in a striking and heartbreaking statement that reveals how vulnerable she is to the second-generation project. Her next step, Elizabeth decides is to intern for the state department. Elizabeth is trying to save Paige from getting blood on her hands, but she has only doomed her daughter to a life of unfulfilled purpose.
The end game is approaching for The Americans and I know that it will end badly for someone. That little cyanide pill that Harvest took will not be the only one taken before the season is out. At this point everyone is in danger and I have resigned myself that no one is going to come out unscathed. That might include me too if the next three episodes of this final season are as heart-stopping as ‘Harvest.’