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The Americans - IHOP - Review

Philip Jennings’ life is something of a perpetual nightmare at this point. With the burden of sending Martha away still weighing on him, this season has seen him murder an ultimately innocent man, be told by his daughter that she thinks she could already be too messed up to find love (thanks to him and Elizabeth), be told by Gabriel that Paige should be kept from KGB operations, be unaware that his estranged son is looking for him - and now not only do we see Philip continuing his long-standing and creepy mission with 17-year-old Kimmy but Henry wanting to leave for boarding school.

Oh, and his employers may have murdered a group of Mujahideen in Afghanistan using the Lassa sample he and Elizabeth acquired.

His admittance a few weeks ago that this life has been difficult for him for a while is, essentially, admitting that his heart isn’t in the game anymore. Yes, he still does the work, and he does it impeccably. But it is, at this point, mostly out of commitment to his country than it is anything else.

It makes the final scene of “IHOP” fascinating and perhaps an indicator of things to come: “Maybe that’s what he wants. To be pulled out of this shit, start over,” he tells Elizabeth of Tuan, a suggestion she doubts. “That’s not who he is,” she remarks. It is, however, absolutely who Philip is after the deluge of misery thrust upon him. And, really, who can blame him? “Immersion” revealed why and when Elizabeth developed her concrete tough mental attitude, and although he wouldn’t be in this line of work if he couldn’t handle things, the pain and hardships he has suffered in recent months is making his position more and more untenable.

Again, all roads lead back to Gabriel’s offer at the end of last season. Their decision to remain in the U.S. was entirely down to Paige and Henry, but now it’s difficult to envisage Philip not regretting that decision.

And there is perhaps a hint of that shining through in his disapproval over Henry’s apparent need to join a boarding school in New Hampshire. This life is precarious and dangerous and they may need a quick getaway should the operation come crumbling down - say, if Stan were to uncover their true allegiances, or if Tim and Alice decided to draw attention to them. Henry being in a different state makes that tough.

Much of that disapproval, though, seems to come from the same place as the jokes made about Henry by fans: their active involvement in his life is so minimal that he may as well not be there (as was the case for long stretches of last season), but the prospect of him actually not being there isn’t acceptable. Philip and Elizabeth may not be the best parents to him (*), and they often have no idea where he is or what he’s really doing, but it’s a jarring change for him to be living away from the house.

(*) Conversely, you could argue that although they know very little about anything in his life - school achievements, girlfriends, etc. - their hands-off approach has allowed him to flourish; contrast that with Paige whose life since discovering the truth has consisted mostly of being handled, or dealing with problems far too complex for someone of her age.

It’s interesting that Philip so vehemently objects because although his reasoning is sound, it’s worth considering the alternative. Henry is close to if not the same age as Paige back in season three, and the Centre likely hasn’t abandoned the idea of second-generation illegals. Yes, Gabriel’s final words of wisdom to Philip were that Paige should be kept from this, but Claudia absolutely does not share those same moral convictions. So if Henry does go off to New Hampshire, there is at least an excuse as to why he won’t be turned into a KGB operative; should he remain, it’s only a matter of time before Claudia relays the same message from “Echo” (*).

(*) In fairness, Claudia did say: “For the right child, it could give their life a meaning and a purpose that they could never get in this country.” Henry does seem to have a sense of direction in his life that Paige was perhaps missing back then.

By contrast, this is far less of a problem than what Philip and Elizabeth went through with their fake son, Tuan, in “IHOP”. The eponymous restaurant is where he stops instead of going to see his terminally ill brother in Seattle, upon suspecting he was being followed, a decision that although innocuous to him creates a real danger to his handlers. Yes, he’s careful. Yes, it’s understandable that he’d want to do it. But careful doesn’t mean invincible, and doing this job means certain luxuries have to be sacrificed - just look to Mischa this season for proof of that. Whether they believe his story or not (Elizabeth does) is somewhat irrelevant, really. Tuan’s actions, human as they were, put the whole operation in jeopardy and he knows it.

Curiously, he was more fearful that his people would find out than what the Jenningses might do to him for it. Perhaps he isn’t fully aware of the lengths they’ll go to, or maybe he knows that anything his countrymen can do would be far worse. Either way, he probably won’t be able to go and see his brother again now - such is the handicap of this work.

His dilemma is only slightly worse than that of Martha, who made another reappearance here after her very brief cameo in “The Midges”. She may not have died, but she might as well have done - no contact with her parents or her husband, Clark; forced to live in a country she has never visited nor knows the language; branded a traitor in her homeland and will never be able to return. And although she appears to be managing just fine, slowly learning Russian and cooking herself a meal that “looks good” according to Gabriel, her despair is palpable. Alison Wright’s face while she cooks is the visual representation of the word ‘despondent’. The Centre kept their word about treating her well, but the definition of that idea differs wildly from what she’d consider a good life back home.

And it shows in her conversation with Gabriel, who comes to check on her having returned to the Soviet Union, but is quickly dismissed with a disgusted attitude. “And please, don’t come back again,” she tells him. It’s sad because she is very much lonely - aside from her teacher, Galina, and KGB operative Volodya, she has no contact with anyone - and although Gabriel’s involvement in her defection will still sting, he does present a familiar and friendly face. Still, her cold rejection of him is entirely logical, even if #PoorMartha couldn’t be any more accurate if it tried right now.

Another strong episode, though at this point I’m wondering quite where the season’s trajectory is taking us - for the Jenningses, at least.


Oleg had to relive what happened to Nina, before being told by his father what happened to his mother in the camps and then convincing Dmitri to give up the name of the person he made a deal with. It was yet another tragic couple of scenes for Costa Ronin, who was his usual terrific self, and even somewhat explained why his father is so miserable.

I really want to know the end of this sentence, which Philip starts before being interrupted by a phone call: “I mean, I’m glad he’s doing so well at school, but he’s not the kind of kid…”

Linh, Gaad’s widow, tells Stan that her husband would have wanted revenge. It’s really not the answer he was looking for since Wolfe wants Oleg squeezed after being sure that Gaad was killed by the Soviets. I noted above a curiosity over where this season is going; Stan’s story is almost certainly heading towards him deciding to sell out Oleg for the greater good.

We all know why Henry’s off to a boarding school in New Hampshire: it’s an elaborate plan to avoid having to write him in playing on the computer or something.

That’s a Tron poster on the back wall of Tuan’s room, though I’m unsure on the other poster.

Julia Garner appears as Kimmy for the first time since last season’s “Munchkins”, turning 17 and celebrating with James - one of Philip’s more fun personas. Their pre-credit conversation about him not screwing up potential kids completely sets a nice tone for the episode. Also, the age gap between Kimmy and Garner (who’s 23) isn’t monumental, but it never seems quite right that she’s playing a 17-year-old.

What did everyone think of “IHOP”? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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