The Americans: “Gregory” Recap
FX’s The Americans gave us one hell of an anti-Valentine when Elizabeth’s recruit/ex-lover started stirring up trouble and Margo Martindale debuted as the Jennings’ new contact.
Back in the excellent pilot episode, the focus seemed to mostly be on Phillip in so far as he was the more open-minded, “warm with his kids” parent for us to relate to. Keri Russell’s Elizabeth was more of a tough onion, yet to be peeled. In last week’s “The Clock,” Elizabeth’s harsh exterior began to soften a bit when she began to see her family as a priority, just like Phillip had done in the first episode when he wanted to defect.
“Gregory” was an interesting episode because it placed Elizabeth back on the defensive after her old flame, (the titular) Gregory, didn’t take well to hearing the news that she, for the first time in her marriage, actually wanted to make a go of it with Phillip. So her character, for a little bit here, became the vulnerable villain; the spouse who not only cheated, but gave up her cover, putting everything at risk. Of course, both partners sleep with marks and recruits to gain confidence and/or valuable information, but the series did an excellent job of pointing out the difference between those indiscretions and Elizabeth’s relationship with Gregory.
Of course, it takes two to tango (or not tango as it were) and one thing that the show has yet to do is show us how Phillip could be at fault for any of this. So there’s a bit of a slanted view here since there must be a reason why Elizabeth, a month from giving birth to Paige, would have shown up on Gregory’s doorstep, crying and telling him ” I can’t go back and raise his child.” It doesn’t quite add up since we, the audience, have only seen Phillip as the one who’s been trying to reach out to Elizabeth. Still, Elizabeth’s tearful confession in the end did a lot to explain her side of things, even though she still absorbs the adult portion of the blame here. By the end, with Gregory trying to rile up Phillip, I was wondering whether or not Elizabeth might have to make a difficult – more permanent – decision about Gregory. And that still may come down the line. But in this chapter, the cold-hearted rub out was done to poor Joyce, the wife of Philizabeth’s late KGB contact from the pilot episode, Robert.
As the van pulled out, with Margo Martindale’s new KGB liason having promised to take Joyce to Cuba, you immediately knew something was wrong. And perhaps it’s because we saw Martindale’s fantastic performance as Mags Bennett on Justified that let us know that she’s able to pull off sweet and lethal. Always the gentle and kind killer.
The most interesting thing in this episode, aside from the fact that there’s now actually a mole in the FBI selling “Star Wars” missile defense secrets, was that Elizabeth, through Gregory, had set up an entire surveillance/assistance network using street-wise African Americans. It came to light that only Gregory believed in the KGB’s cause and that all the guys who worked for him just thought they were working for a drug dealer (much like Joyce thought of her husband), but it was still an ingenious device.
The Americans continues to provide great thrills and astonishingly emotional scenes under a somewhat gimmicky backdrop. It’s easy to say that the viewer doesn’t actively root for one side over the other, but there’s definitly a sense of relief when Agent Beeman runs into a dead end. Even when that dead end is, say, an actual dead, innocent woman.
Matt Fowler is a member of the Television Critics Association. Follow him on Twitter at @TheMattFowler