Something I don’t focus on too much with The Americans is the emphasis on disguise. Almost every week, Philip and Elizabeth must don some silly wig or facial hair when on a mission. I think the show is kind of in on the joke, but ‘The Rat’ made me think about how far it is willing to go in explaining this show’s logic in holding onto the concept. The results build some new tension for the Jennings in an episode already packed with new developments for poor Martha.
Poor Martha indeed. The show may have been slow-playing the development of Alison Wright’s character, but this season is certainly upping the ante considerably for her. With (accurate) thoughts from Philip concerning Martha’s cover being in jeopardy, he picks her up off the street and brings her to Gabriel’s home. It’s a story turn that manages to involve every member of the cast, aside from the children.
While The Americans is consistently great, I would be lying if I said scenes involving the offices of the KGB have always been incredibly entertaining. This week caught me off-guard by delivering a small scene where we find Arkady telling Oleg about an American extraction. Having been concerned about Oleg’s role in the show at this point, knowing that he will likely be meeting up with Philip or whoever, not to mention his relationship with Stan, suddenly perks up my sprits quite a bit, given the potential.
At the same time, Stan and Aderholt spend this episode closing the gap between their suspicions and actual proof of what Martha is really up to. It is something of a tragedy for Gaad, who spends the end of this episode describing how he always respected and supported Martha during her ten years of working for the FBI. As this show rides the line of us supporting the Russian spies and having respect for the Americans trying to uphold the law, it is neat to find a level of sympathy from the one man who has likely known Martha the longest.
The issue of trust comes up again and in a different manner, however, when Elizabeth learns of how close Philip has gotten to Martha. “You let her see you?” Gabriel and Elizabeth both remark in the same manner (the second time this has happened this season), as Philip explains how he needed to get Martha under control. That may have been all well and good for the sake of trust, but Elizabeth is reading this action as something far more personal.
Given how ‘The Rat’ opened with the two in bed, with Elizabeth remarking on how she never noticed one of Philip’s nipples was bigger than the other, the two appear to be closer than ever, before having to deal with the fallout of Philip’s close contact. It has been a while since the show has explored the nature of this married (and in love) couple dealing with having to be intimate with their marks in order to get the information they need. Now it seems that Philip has crossed a line that will likely be the subject of future Jennings’ arguments.
Other arguments may come at a higher cost though, as this episode ends with a street side spat between Martha and Gabriel of all people. Frank Langella has been featured a lot more this year and it is going over quite well. Serving as both mentor and foil, he can’t help but disapprove and try to help Philip in his time of need in all of this. Were the situation different, Martha would no doubt be dead at this point, but Gabriel is doing his best to take a more compassionate route in solving this problem. Too bad Martha has apparently pieced together the KGB connections and ends this episode by quite dramatically storming off on her own.
‘The Rat’ is a wonderfully on the nose title for this episode, but turning it into one where Martha courts death is a grand turn for sure. Hopefully Poor Martha makes it out alive (preferably without having to move to Moscow), but after abruptly killing Nina, we’ll just have to wait and see how bloodthirsty the showrunners are. In the meantime, we can all hope Philip doesn’t have to suffer another bioweapons problem due to some rat poison.
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