Review: ‘The Americans’ – ‘Only You’

A review of tonight’s “The Americans” coming up just as soon as I can find a travel agent staying in a motel under his own name…

“But in a war, blood gets spilled. That’s how it goes.” -Agent Gaad

The casualties of that war continue to mount in “Only You,” in which Derek Luke’s Gregory opts for commit suicide-by-cop over the culture shock of moving to Moscow. It’s a memorable farewell (scored to Roberta Flack’s “To Love Somebody,” one of the show’s better, less obvious musical cues), and one that speaks on some level to Philip’s earlier interest in defecting. If someone born and raised in Mother Russia would want to chuck it all for a life in the States, how much would a black revolutionary and jazz fan enjoy a modest life in the Soviet Union?

But the parts of “Only You” that really stuck out at me involved Stan Beeman. This has been an interesting stretch of the season for the Jennings plan, as Philip and Elizabeth struggle to be separated emotionally even while they work together constantly. But Stan’s transformation from cop to cold warrior has become the season’s most fascinating character arc, thanks to Noah Emmerich and the situations the writers keep putting Stan in.

The show likes to draw parallels between what the Soviets and Americans are up to, and here Stan gets to play both sides of the same scene, presented twice: first as he laments Chris’s death while sitting opposite his killer(*) and then when he denies any knowledge of Vlad’s murder for Nina. In the first scene, he’s a drunk, open book; in the second, he’s casually lying through his teeth to a woman he has real (if confused) feelings for. And the more he alludes to his previous undercover op, the more I really want to see an extended flashback to it, in the same way we’ve seen Philip and Elizabeth’s lives in the USSR. Regardless, Emmerich is superb.

(*) Assuming Stan survives the events of this series, I like to imagine a scenario where Hank Schrader (who also has to survive the rest of “Breaking Bad”) somehow meets an elderly Stan in a rest home and the two men realize just how much they have to talk about. 

Which isn’t to knock Keri Russell (great in the final minutes as Elizabeth dealt with the sacrifice of her lover), Matthew Rhys or Margo Martindale. It’s a pretty well-oiled machine by now, and “Only You” was another brisk, brutal, effective outing for “The Americans.”

Some other thoughts: 

* Richard Thomas is just so good in the role, and Gaad has become prominent and complex enough, that at this point I think I’m retiring the Agent John-Boy gag.

* In case you missed it, FX PR apologized profusely for the DVR screw-up last week that caused many of you to either miss the final scene or (if you recorded the second airing) caused you to see the end before the rest of the episode.

What did everybody else think?