The Americans Thread: Rififi

There are only 4 episodes left in the final season of The Americans. I’m excited to see the finish but will mourn the series when it concludes. Life will be empty without Elizabeth’s spy glower, Philip’s spy frown, and Paige’s hideous baby spy wallpaper.

I nearly called this the DVR edition because it’s coming a day late as I was under the weather yesterday. I’m sticking with the episode title Rififi because there’s an Adrastos-Zelig story attached to it. Elizabeth meets a young cinephile at a showing of Jules Dassin’s caper classic. It’s a honey trap operation meet cute as he works for Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sam Nunn.

Here’s my story: I met the blacklisted American director in Athens at a party at a family friend’s flat. Unfortunately, it was *before* I’d seen Dassin’s great late Forties film noirs: Brute Force, The Naked City, Thieves Highway, and Night and the City. All I knew at the time was that he was married to the Greek actress Melina Mercouri and had directed her in Never On A Sunday.  A lost opportunity for an even better Adrastos-Zelig story. So it goes.

Instead of posting a period appropriate rock song before the spoiler break, here’s the trailer for Brute Force, one of the best prison movies ever made. It features a brilliant performance by Hume Cronyn as a sadistic albeit diminutive prison guard:

Instead of a caper, Rififi focuses on family matters and the unraveling of Philip and Elizabeth’s marriage. It’s not quite the same since he stopped spying: it’s led to angry fights and nasty comments about Philip not giving a shit any more. Elizabeth is livid that he refused to go along with Operation Bulgaria and accused him of meeting Kimmie just to fuck her. Viewers know that’s not the case: he’s always been squeamish about sleeping with a girl who is the same age as his own daughter. In a word: yuck.

We see much of the family conflict through the eyes of Henry who is home for Thanksgiving. It was good to see the youngest Jennings in person as opposed to on the phone. I was afraid he was turning into Bob Newhart. After a phone call from his mother, Henry realizes they haven’t had a proper conversation in years. He doesn’t know about the informal “custody” arrangement between his parents involving him and Baby Spy Paige. In this instance, she got the fuzzy end of the lollipop, not Henry.

The comic relief in the episode comes in the form of Henry’s holiday reading assignment: Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond. Henry hates the book. This is how he describes it: “A guy sits at a pond and thinks about how boring it is.”

I concur with Henry. I didn’t like the book when I read it for a high school English class even though Miss Jackson was one of my favorite teachers. Even she couldn’t make Thoreau interesting to this city boy. If that makes me a philistine, so be it. In any event, she’s the one who gave me my passion for Dickens so I came out ahead on the deal.

Reunited and it Feebs So Good: For the uninitiated, Feebs is slang for FBI agents. I guess Trump is unaware of this nomenclature otherwise he would have used it and claimed authorship. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know what the word nomenclature means. Rudy might have to explain it in between indiscreet interviews. I’m uncertain which is scarier: Trump’s hair or Rudy’s teeth.

Back to our story. Dennis prevails on Stan to rejoin the counter-intelligence team. There’s been a major break in the case: a KGB illegal has been uncovered in Chicago. This sleeper agent used a gay variation on the honey trap theme to recruit an American agent. The guy spilled like a toddler. It was the first useful piece of information the FBI got from one of Gennadi’s courier pouches and it involved the sensors that the Dead Hand dead enders have been fixated on. Holy MacGuffin, Batman.

Stan is tasked to look into all the records of used cars sold for cash in the D.C. area. This is bound to lead him to a certain travel agent who had Thanksgiving dinner at his house. It will be a career killer for Stan and for Dennis as well. The unmasking of Martha as a spy destroyed John Boy’s career, after all. The same fate awaits our favorite feds. They’ll feel as stupid as a future Republican president* when this is all over.

They Cut The Toikey Without Elizabeth: Thanksgiving dinner at Chez Beeman takes place without Elizabeth, hence the Avalon reference. It’s film nerd day at First Draft, y’all.

Elizabeth makes up a ridiculous excuse about a travel agent emergency trip to Houston. It should have our favorite feds spidey-sense tingling but only Henry finds it odd. I think it’s the first step on the path to learning the truth about his family. Poor kid. The coming attractions make it look as if Stan and he are going to have “the talk” about the S-word: Spying, not Sex. Get your minds out of the Stormy-Donald gutter, y’all.

Stan delivers a right-wing homily about the glories of the Reagan administration. It’s oblivious to the fact that they’re in the process of making peace with the Soviet Union. The last time Stan engaged in platitudinous political palaver on Turkey Day, Paige went off on him. Spies are required to bite their tongues, so she let it pass. Pass the sweet potatoes, please.

A quick Walk Away Renee note. Laurie Holden has been given little to do this season but she’s about to get a job at the FBI. The looming question remains: is she a KGB agent? Elizabeth thought so in season 5. My old friend Mike Shapiro has floated an alternate theory: he thinks Renee could be a Mossad agent spying on behalf of Israel. That would be a helluva plot twist. Who’s right, Mike or Elizabeth? Stay tuned.

That Toddling Spying Town: Elizabeth, of course, is off to Chicago, not Houston. Her mission is to somehow extract her fellow sleeper agent from the mess he’s in. We see her in her hotel room looking doomed in a wig. (Doomed in a Wig would be a helluva band name.) Fellow spy Marilyn asks about their chances of success and Elizabeth replies, “Not good.”

Elizabeth is so depressed that she makes like Morley Safer and draws a picture of the hotel room. Erica Haskard would be proud of her artistic endeavors, not the spy shit which could splatter on her husband, Glenn. Elizabeth is the queen of collateral damage, which is located next door to unintended consequences.

Philip reaches out to Elizabeth and offers to toddle off to the Windy City to help. Stan and Dennis may be headed that way too. Before leaving D.C. Philip passes a message to Oleg. I suspect it’s a kiss-off, saying something to the effect of  “I took my wife, please.”

Next week’s episode should be a doozy. We may see a Rififi/Topkapi style caper at that point. FYI, Topkapi is another swell Jules Dassin movie.

The last word goes to Tears for Fears with the song used for Philip’s spy craft montage. In this context, Ideas As Opiates, refers to Elizabeth’s ideological zeal in the waning days of the Cold War. Religion is not the only opiate of the masses.