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?

The Walk In Review

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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA), enjoys mentoring writers, wine, and passionately discussing the nuances of television. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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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?