Remember “Chuck,” and how the spy missions and the series arcs (the multiple resets notwithstanding) were (usually) a lot of fun, but the relationship drama between Chuck and Sarah got very boring very quickly, especially in the later seasons when their relationship would follow a sort of generic sitcom template: There’d be the engagement episode, the moving in together episode, the bachelorette party episode, the buying of the ring episode. If The Americans proves one thing, it’s that watching a marriage unravel is considerably more interesting than watching one come together. They’re working sort of the opposite of the Rachel and Ross equation: We’re not wondering if they’ll get together, we’re wondering if they’ll be split apart. For the first time, last night’s episode mentioned the word “divorce,” and my first thought was: Is this the opposite of the Moonlighting problem? Would the series buckle if Phillip and Elizabeth separated?
Let’s back up and see how we got there.
How we got there was Claudia, who is one mean bitch; we’ve seen flashes of Mags Bennet in her character this season, but in that cold, calculating conversation with Elizabeth in the car, she poured a tall glass of Apple Pie for the Jennings’ marriage. She wants Elizabeth to think that they’re a lot alike, but the reality is, she wants them to be a lot alike, and poisoning Elizabeth’s fake marriage is just the ticket. After a sweet, kind of lovey-dovey opening, and their brilliant interrogation of the weapons seller — which was full of crackling marital chemistry — Claudia informed Elizabeth that Phillip had slept with Irina while they were in New York, and Elizabeth transformed from Felicity into a grown-up Hannah. When Phillip said to Elizabeth, “Are you just drinking me in?” and Elizabeth’s face turned cold, I almost expected to hear a Chemical Brothers song.
It was a strong scene, and it set the tone for the rest of the episode. Phillip confessed to sleeping with Irina, and Elizabeth shut her feelings down, as though she’d simply turned off the faucet on her heart. By the end of the episode, Phillip had practically thrown in the towel as well, acknowledging that there’s no real need for them to be married anymore. In fact, a divorce could play well into their cover identities. But those damn kids! Unhappy couples stay together for their children’s sake even in sham marriages.
Their spy mission was a fun one, but mostly because the assassin was somewhat interesting. He looked like the grown-up version of the fat kid from the Barf-O-Rama story in Stand By Me (boom bobba boom). It did not end well for him, however, as he was exploded all over a hotel bathroom. Even when they’re bickering, Phillip and Elizabeth still got it!
Meanwnile, it’s getting particularly sticky in the heated relationship between Phillip and Martha. That has bad news written all over it. Martha has become infatuated with Phillip, and is willing even to steal records from her boss. The problem is two-fold: Eventually, she’s either going to figure Phillip out, or Phillip is going to have to end the relationship, and Martha is going to go all Swimfan on him. There’s also the matter of Chris, who is stalking Martha, and in doing so, is getting close to Phillip.
Poor Martha. She is not long for this world, y’all. Someone is going to put a bullet in her head soon. $10 says its Elizabeth because she seems to get a cold thrill out of putting bullets in heads.
Conversely, it’s hard to get a good read on Stan’s relationship with Nina. He obviously has strong feelings for her, but I can’t tell if she’s using him only to get into Witness Protection, or if she has real romantic feelings for him. It’s got Stan all messed up in his head and his dick. Also, Stan is kind of gross. The fate of Nina will say a lot about how bleak they’re willing to make The Americans. I think they’re willing to go all the way, and I think that Elizabeth might put a bullet in her head, too.
We’re going to have to wait awhile to find out. There’s no new episode next week (they’re airing Easy A instead, although I have no idea why), but when it returns in two weeks, the episode title is “Safe House,” so it’s possible that Nina and Stan’s relationship will come to a head while Stan is getting … oh nevermind.