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The Americans - Crossbreed - Review



Amidst all of the tension in season four, and indeed the offer of returning to the Soviet Union being on the table for the Jenningses and William, it was very easy to overlook another crucial KGB asset: Gabriel.

As the oldest member that we know, it is not surprising that two-thirds of the way through “Crossbreed”, Gabriel decides that he is going home. He has carried plenty of weight in his time - not just in the two and a half seasons we’ve known him, but in his decades of service - and Frank Langella has always taken to him like a man who has seen it all. It is fortunate and nice that he will actually be able to leave and head home to a more peaceful life, not needing to deal with the daily intricacies of running an operation as complex as this one.

And yet we can presume from his discussion with Claudia as to why he is leaving. It feels like an occupational hazard that, on some occasions, the pair of spies will have a truth kept from them by their handler for their own good. In this instance, keeping the truth about Mischa from Philip has become one too many things to bear. It is understandable, too; their relationship, as Gabriel sees it, is prided on them being able to trust one another and this secret, no matter the intentions, makes it very difficult for him to maintain this close a connection.

So he decides that enough is enough, and to return home with little explanation to his agents, leaving them to ponder whether he is ill. Before he leaves, he tells Philip more about his father (*), and, in the final scene, meets Paige. Frank Langella, as he tends to be, was great throughout, but the scene between him and Matthew Rhys was a superb back-and-forth with both actors particularly strong. Presumably, we’ll get to see more of Gabriel and Paige in the next episode, and it seems reasonable to expect some more good material for Langella and Holly Taylor to work with.

(*) The irony of Philip wondering about his father in the same episode where Mischa arrives back in the Soviet Union goes without saying. But it is particularly tragic for both parties that at least Philip met his father, even if at a young age; Mischa has not, nor does his father know he is trying to meet him. But it seems unlikely that, after all this, him being sent home will be the end of it all given the significance of the story and how The Americans has chosen to employ it.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth continued establishing her connection with Benjamin Stobert as her mission changes from stopping his work to attempting to steal it. After seeing Philip build a false relationship with a mark for so long, it is nice for the show to give her a similar arc - in basic substance, at least; she will probably not get as close as he did with Martha. But as the episode played out, and after Philip noted early on that he can do his job, one question prevailed: is Elizabeth becoming less rough around the edges?

Benjamin’s observation that she felt softer - "What am I normally-- crusty?” - was too on the nose and ever so slightly crazy, but it is a fair comment with regards to her psyche, especially by the end of the hour. Not only does she look contemplative during her tai chi, but her session with Dr Semel forces her to talk about the mugging from a couple of months previous. For an experienced operator like Elizabeth, discussing the trauma of being attacked like that (*) is hardly going to keep her up at night, but it may force her to reconsider some of what she has done and been through. That she describes the death of the lab worker as “upsetting” is not unreasonable for a person; for Elizabeth, it is perhaps worth a second thought.

(*) Obviously, we know her portrayal of events is not quite the truth, but for the ease of writing about it, assume it is - since it is not too far from accurate.

And when a Mary Kay beauty consultant comes to the door attempting to sell products, she is quickly agitated and later distraught as she waits outside the woman’s house. Part of the job is to get close to people, and it is only natural that even a fake friendship can manifest into one with real feelings. What she did to Young-Hee a few months before was difficult at the time, and having those memories come back will have only made things harder.

So whether or not we’re seeing her “go soft”, as some would put it, there is certainly a slightly changed attitude in Elizabeth that is truly fascinating. Keri Russell, as ever, was terrific. More, please.

Yet another strong episode. Some very interesting threads set up by this hour, and everything seems nicely poised as we head toward the halfway point of the season.

Notes:

Oleg, inspired by the man who would rather sit in a cell than give up his cohort in the government, decides to burn the paper and tape given to him a few weeks ago by the CIA operative. With Stan’s gambit having probably gone his way, Oleg would appear out of imminent danger for the time being. That final sequence, set to Peter Gabriel’s “Lay Your Hands On Me”, was terrific, too.

Henry, whose older appearance still does not seem right, tells Stan about a girl in his class called Chris. (Not Kira or Wendy, as Paige suggested two weeks ago). Henry’s got game, yo. Also, Stan brings up the science teacher he had a crush on and thus reminding everyone that was a thing that happened.

Stan and Aderholt had more success approaching Ms Kovalenko in the park than they did their previous targets.

Do you think Elizabeth dreams of Jeannie Cusamano?

For the sixth straight week this season, no Mail Robot. His last appearance, by my count, was in last season’s penultimate hour. This saddens me.

Benjamin talking about how heart heat blocks the chi gave me PTSD-inducing flashbacks to Iron Fist. He even looks like Danny Rand, depending on the angle of the shot.

The scene with Gabriel outside the Lincoln Memorial was wonderfully shot by director Roxann Dawson, making her first credit on the show. The very first one with Langella almost a silhouette with Lincoln in the background was particularly striking.

So, if Gabriel is to have just an episode left, as it seems he might, that is six strong performers taken from the show in just over a season: Annet Mahendru, Alison Wright, Richard Thomas, Lev Gorn, Dylan Baker, and Frank Langella.

Apologies for how late (and slightly short and under analysed, compared to normal) this review was. It was a very busy week. Normal service should resume this week!

What did you think of “Crossbreed”? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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