The Americans Review: The Favor

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When The Americans first began, Elizabeth was colder of the Jennings, with a hardened heart and little room for sentimentality.

Her country and mission came first, even before her family. She and Philip discovered they had fallen in love somewhere along the line and they settled into a new, comfortable existence of trust and spy-style commitment.

Then the Connors met their unfortunate end and everything Elizabeth knew was turned upside down.

Her journey continues in The Americans Season 2 Episode 3, as Elizabeth recalls seminal moments in her friendship with Leanne Connor when she didn't want to have children, along with the day Leanne asked her a favor she never knew would be so difficult to carry out and how it coincided wither her own change of heart to start a family.

Elizabeth's haunted mind is actively affecting her decision making as well. It could either be saving lives or come back to bit them in the ass later. 

It was 1966 when Leanne had Jared and asked Elizabeth to deliver the letter if anything ever happened to her and Emmett. That's a long time to keep a promise and one that it seemed Elizabeth was prepared to keep. 

As she and Philip infiltrated a plant to get some schematics, they ran into some problems and a the man stuck in the middle saw the warning signs in Elizabeth's demeanor. If he had run into her the same time last year, he wouldn't have gone home that night, but he was lucky someone killed the Connors.

Elizabeth looks at things differently now, and Philip might as well. The guy in the kitchen of the restaurant he shot in the premiere might be alive under these new circumstances because collateral damage has a face. It has four faces; six if you count Paige and Henry. 

When the warehouse worker shows Elizabeth his family, there's a split second where it's up in the air -- will the old or the new Elizabeth win out? Even she seems to wonder. She lets him live once and when it's time again to consider his life, she asks to see his kids again and he gives her his wallet. She takes his son's photo and walks away. The message is clear -- she hold the cards to his happy future. But would she have the heart to tear his future apart right now? 

It's interesting watching them fight through these new feelings. It could go in either direction and their inner struggle is as integral to the structure of The Americans as any of the espionage.

Intending to keep her promise to Leanne, Elizabeth retrieves the letter, dons a disguise and visits Jared at his new home. He's being well cared for by people who love him and want the best for him. Jared tells her how he would have died with his family if he had only listened to his mother and when he breaks down in her arms she knows she can't keep that promise to Leanne.

What good would knowing who his parents really were do for him at that point? He's a young boy, lost without the family he loved. To rip away the only memory of them that he knew without a way to ensure his safety or his understanding -- it's too much. She let's him live the life the only life he had and will ever have and burns the letter.

While she's out caring for Leanne's son, Elizabeth's daughter is using the information she found out about "Great Aunt Helen." Thankfully there she discovers a real woman and photos on the walls; the ruse is complete. However, she's not going to be easily satisfied. When she left Henry alone after school, the first thought was that something would happen to him while she was off of her watch, and that was certainly what caused some of Philip's anger when he laid into her later that night.

What Jared didn't know Paige may have to in order to keep her safe. She can't keep digging without consequences. At what age would they be telling her if they were in the Soviet Union? Probably right about 14. Do they do it American style or as the Soviets would? How should they decide?

The entire episode wasn't centered on the Jennings, however. Stan declared his love for Nina as he continued to pull farther away from Sandra. Stan's now in Nina's pocket as she writes her essays describing every sexual act and innuendo between the two. Hot to trot Oleg is sniffing around. It's unclear what role he'll play, but it seems almost a certainty that he'll find out about what Nina's doing with Stan.

Would it be way out in left field to imagine him hitting on Sandra to try to get his own intel from a source while also trying to get intel on Stan?  

What do you think about this interesting change of direction this year and the focus on family? Do you see similarities between the Connors and the Jennings? Strike up a conversation! If you need to refresh your memory, watch The Americans online and meet back here.

Should the Jennings tell Paige their secret?


Editor Rating: 4.6 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.9 / 5.0 (16 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


I don't think Elizabeth or Phillip will tell Paige the truth about who they really are, but I also think she is going to come very close to the truth in time. Was it an accident that she met that other young girl on the bus? Earlier, Phillip commented that the kids would be watched over, but they would never see the watchers. Could the girl be one of them, especially as she seems be getting drawn into the story when Paige goes to hang out with her?
The Aunt Helen thing was neat. I thought Paige would find someone completely different at the address, thereby blowing her parents' whole story, but Aunt Helen came through. Was her mistaking Paige for her dead daughter an act, or was it real?
The way that Elizabeth folded her killed friend's letter to burn it was interesting. We have never seen her smoking a cigarette before, either. She needed the lighter to burn the letter, but the smoking???

@ waddoguy

I believe she smoked with the black guy who she worked with in series 1.

@ waddoguy

I didn't think they would tell Paige the truth, either, until she burned the letter. Now I wonder if with the snooping and the reality that they are so completely different than who they have brought Paige and Henry up to be if they might not start steering Paige, at least, in the direction to learn about her roots. Either that or we're coming to a point in the story where they start to question their own loyalties for the sake of their children. The show is called The Americans, after all. At what point do they stop being spies and start being parents or vice versa? What happened to the Connors completely threw Elizabeth off her game and it seems like it could take a sharp left or right for her. Do you think she can continue playing the middle with her family? Either way, it's riveting.

@ Carissa Pavlica

Carissa, I've thought from the get-go of the series that they would eventually cross over to "our" side, but figured it would be Phillip because Elizabeth has always been so loyal to her homeland. We still don't know who killed the Connors, so when they find out, that may also have a bearing on the situation. Also, Stan I'm sure will eventually tumble to who they really it's a race between Paige and Stan as to who outs them first. A great series!

@ waddoguy

They've pulled the old switcheraoo. Elizabeth has found her heart and Philip has lost a bit of his while juggling two marriages, almost out of necessity. I wonder if Claudia had something to do with the Connors' deaths. She's due to come back.


I'm missing the "No, never." option in the poll...


So, do you get to watch the show earlier than everyone else? I started reading this 'review' lasVegas night while the show was still being aired in eastern time zone.
This episode felt like it barely moved the story. Pray it is not a trend for a solid TV drama where everyone already knows the ending.

@ trob13

I did have access to a press screener, yes. It wasn't still being aired Eastern time, however. Perhaps the second airing.

@ Carissa Pavlica

First airing in eastern runs 10:00pm - 11:00pm.
I read this article at 10:50pm.

@ trob13

Hmmm... Must have been a clerical error. I never was a good secretary.

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The Americans Season 2 Episode 3 Quotes

You know Salisbury steak is technically a hamburger. In the shape of a steak.


Elizabeth: What if something happens to the kids? Who will take care of them? We don't have any real friends.
Philip: Isn't that how you wanted it?
Elizabeth: Me? What's that supposed to mean?