The Americans "Duty and Honor" Review: First Love, Last Kiss

The Americans S01E07: "Duty and Honor"


So far the Jennings have experienced enough marital turmoil to power a spaceship to Venus (provided the engine runs on literal arguments about faithfulness). Throughout all this strife, however, Phillip’s usually been the one on the losing end of spousal secrets. The assured "Duty and Honor" fleshed out his romantic history (and plain "history" for that matter) at a precarious time in the Jennings' relationship. Under the guise of a business trip, Phillip reconnected with a past love on a mission to tarnish a democratic Polish leader’s reputation, while Elizabeth stayed home and reflected on her marriage. Mirroring Poland’s slipping connection to Moscow, Phillip’s physical and emotional distance from his wife highlighted the messiness of separating two historically intimate parties. 


There's been some talk in the comments recently about the lack of backstory for the male half of the Jennings pairing and the flashback into his past offered frustratingly little insight into his current self. We know that he was once a saucer-eyed, curly banged recruit who fell in love with Irina (ridiculously good Marina Squerciati, Gossip Girl's Allesandra Steele), now a secret operative based in Montreal. Irina is the alternate-universe Elizabeth. As demonstrated in the intricate takedown of the Polish leader (which was so nuanced in execution—a huge strength of this show), the two can work in sync. The only difference in their non-marital relationship is that they have a natural past with each other (instead of being assigned to marriage). It's so natural in fact, that Phillip and Irina share a secret son. But at the end of the day, he has a family toward whom he feels a duty, both as a father and as a secret spy. In eventually beating his former love and mother of his child for the sake of faking a rape, Phillip was forced to physically confront the ugliest aspect of love in the world of espionage: emotional and physical abuse. 


The parallels between Beeman and Phillip continue to grow, specifically in how the enemies are increasingly fighting the same war, both in the spy game and at home as family men. No clearer has this comparison appeared than in this week's episode, where both men cheated on their wives via ties related to espionage. Similar to how Phillip recently found himself at odds with his superiors, the All-American suburban FBI father is facing resistance from his own organization concerning Nina's protection. Unfortunately, the two opposites are also the rare members of their organizations who demonstrate a value for "honor" over "duty," which will likely lead them into trouble.   

At one point in the episode, after smooching Beeman, Nina said "I’m not going to hurt you or use it against you. You Americans think everything is white and black. For us everything is gray." If everything is "gray," then what's to stop Nina from using her powers of seduction to blackmail Beeman? In any case, we got a black/white scene in the suburbs between Elizabeth and Sandra having wine and a husband-less dinner. Some neighborly gabbing on the hostess's part showed just how well Elizabeth and Phillip's fake marriage had worked, with Sandra's declaring, "You can judge a cover by its cover. You and Phillip you work together. You’re partners, you’re a team." Something about this and Mrs. Beeman’s "stick with it" marriage speech affected Elizabeth enough to apologize to Phillip just in time for him to turn around and keep some brand-new secrets from her. When she said "I want it to be... real. Do you think that we could do that?" Phillip immediately lied to her, continuing the Jennings' back-and-forth of emotional deception just as Nina was entering a similar "gray" area. While Phillip and Elizabeth are consummate veterans of mish-mashing love and spying, Beeman (the people’s hero) became a slam-dunk character with this romantic folly.  


Overall, "Duty and Honor" was a nicely paced examination of the conflict that occurs when "duty" is at odds with "honor." Aside from consistently re-approaching the show's founding premise from yet another new angle, the episode also efficiently expanded a network of spies, and introduced unique possibilities for other destinations in future episodes.      



ADDITIONAL INTEL

– I didn't really talk about Elizabeth's mission. It was cool enough, and I got nothing bad to say about it. 

– That was great, Elizabeth and Claudia’s back and forth. "I’m sorry I didn’t kill you. That’s my apology" They hate each other!

– "You do not need more leg warmers, Paige." Best first line of an episode ever?

– "Did you see any hobos or drug dealers?" Oh, Henry.

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Nina's line about how everything is gray for Russians really doesn't seem to apply to the Jennings -- Elizabeth is *very* one-sided in her view of Russia and communism, her love for her family, her hatred for Claudia, and a host of other things. She's a naturally black-or-white-minded person.

Philip is more into the shades of gray (although hopefully not all 50 of them), but exhibits black-or-white thinking whenever he forgets about the mission for a minute and thinks about his actual life.

Is it possible Nina is, at heart, a better spy than either of them, at least in terms of what it means to have to *be* a spy? The original concept (and newer conceptualization) of James Bond as basically a sociopath, but with "good guy" instincts, is what Nina is starting to remind me of (without the "good guy" instincts). I doubt the writers will take it in that direction, but I'd like to see her develop into someone surprisingly frightening, for Beeman and the Russians both.

Instead she'll probably die before the end of the season. Oh well.
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Does anyone think Nina is genuinely attracted to Beeman? (I don't.)
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This show is hands down one of the best on TV right now. Smart, funny and very exhilarating, without having to resort to ridiculous 'Hollywoodesque' special effects. I love it.
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Jesus. Whose idea was it to put summaries for episodes 1-13 on TV.com? I kind of like being dumped in the middle of all the action then having to figure out what it going on.
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The Americans is one of the best "adult" shows on TV now. I say adult because it's not another dumb-downed singing and dancing reality show.
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No love for Amador's line?

Beeman: "She's not my type."
Amador: "What are you looking for, a blood donor?"
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god, that shit had me rolling. I'm definitely stealing that retort.
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Is it just me, or did Irina's face heal miraculously quickly? Also, I can't figure it out - do they actually have a son together, or was she lying to him?
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Fake son.
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Yeah I was wondering the same thing, cause the pictures made her look terrible but later we see her and it just looks like a light bruise on her face. I think the son is fake, chicks do that shit all the time nowadays so I'm sure they did it even more back then when there weren't paternity tests. Girls are scandalous.
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After the high of the last episode which was really good, this week episode pales in comparison. Still for this show, average is better than most other shows.

I have never watched Felicity so I do not know Keri Russell but she is really good in this show.Her scene with Philip about wanting to be true is so well acted. It really felt like the character Elizabeth is having such a hard time communicating those feelings, very true to the character.

Next week Claudia and the KGB will be using this incident to incite differences between the couple. They know too well that if this couple were really in love, it would be hard to keep tabs on them. It is always good to make them distrust each other, easier for them to control rather than both ganging up against them.

This is not just a spy show. The writers truly explore the characters in depth,thus making the audience getting invested in the show;s characters. This is what makes a TV show successful.
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doe anyone find it interesting that our soviet spies were given the names of elizabeth and phillip the same names as the queen and her husband prince phillip ( i forget his actual title) of england or is that just coincidence
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Great observation. (Coincidence is The Americans' way of winking at you.)
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Did anybody else notice some shaky voice-over dubbing on Phillip's Russian speaking flashbacks?
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Because I watch each episode 3 times, I see small continuity errors. I try to forget them.
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But did Phillip lie to Elizabeth. At the end of the mission Phillip, despite the previous love of his life asking him to run away with her, had to sleep with her as part of the mission. They were setting up the Polish reverend for rape. So she had to have evidence of having sex. Now whether he had feelings over it or not is up for debate. Now the looking off into the distance, lends it to that he was lying to her. But I think it just adds to the greatness of the show. The layers this show has are just fantastic.

Beeman, man I knew he was going to slip. But I didn't think it was going to be this soon. I thought it would be after some long and tiring will he won't he musings. But he did, it is done and now it opens up new stories for Nina. Who is fantastic.

Overall it was a great episode. Loved it.
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I think when you don't mention that your old flame told you about your secret love child with her then it counts as a lie, regardless of the justification for sex.
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Yeah but Phillip couldn't say anything about it because he promised Irina he would say anything about her "disappearing" and given what happened last episode there was no reason for him to trust Elizabeth with that information and not expect Irina to end up with a bullet in her head.
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aahh..great observation!...thank you! i just couldnt put my finger on it untill now!!!
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only Phillip has convinced himself the son is not real.
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This episode was quite excellent. I did indeed LOVE seeing into Phillip's history. Also, that's EXACTLY what you would expect from Phillip's past. He met a girl and fell so in love with her that, in order to make sure he continued on in his duty to his country, which is so important to him, she purposefully kept from him the existence of his son, because she knew that if she had given him that information that he would not have gone. And what's more, this show didn't have to give us scene after scene of back story to show us that that's how Phillip would have acted. We KNOW Phillip, and know that of course he would have passed up a career advancement to raise his son with a woman he loved without a second's thought otherwise. As for Stan, apparently my wishes were not heard, but oh well. They did a solid job with this story, and have deftly, as you have said, maneuvered these two men into appearing so similar it would be disturbing if it weren't for the fact that it is to be expected. Brilliant job on the whole, show. Oh, and of course, as ever, the action sequence was fantastic. Understated yet purely plausible and completely organic feeling. We only get about one of these per episode, and yet, I feel like that is exactly the right amount.
-Elizabeth's mission was solid enough, and absolutely will be relevant to this story later on down the line, but you're right, it wasn't the main part of this episode. It's the dichotomy between these two pillars of men who are opposing forces on this show. That said, it's always fun to see Elizabeth being the Ice Queen. Especially compared to her gentle admissions of love to Phillip at the end of the episode as her feelings are becoming real for her.
-They do, and I love it. Again, Elizabeth is the Ice Queen, and it's with lines like that that I give her this name. You just DON'T SAY THAT to someone who, for all you know, could wire right back to Moscow and say "This chick needs to be put on the end of a skewer, today." Except that she does, and that's part of why she is so effective of an agent. While for some people that may be seen as a treasonous statement, Elizabeth is so solid in herself that it's clear that when she makes that statement, it's her way of saying, "stop wasting everyone's time or I'm going do your job without you". Again, I contrast that with her emotional conversation with Phillip at the end of the episode and just marvel in what this show is doing.
-Maybe it's just me, but I feel like Elizabeth's emotions are even starting to creep into her approach with her children. Also, smart kids. Using "incorrigible", "gross exaggeration", AND playing chess (granted, it IS a very Russian thing to do)? I like it.
-Exactly the question I would have asked if I were him.
Also, when do I get my Phil Collins?
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1. So, at least for a time being Phillip and Elizabeth are back together (yay!). Sure, Phillip lied straight to her face, saying nothing happened between him and Anna. However, he chose to stay with Elizabeth so I'm willing to forgive him (especially cause we all know Elizabeth is not a saint herself). There is also a possibility Phillip had to spend a night with Anna to leave some material for rape kit exam. Her story would be more credible that way.

2. I have no idea what language was Anna speaking, but it certainly wasn't Polish / didn't sound like Polish. Is it so difficult to hire someone who's actually speaking the language to help the actress?

3. The idea of creating Polish goverment-in-exile in Paris was a totall rubbish - the Polish goverment-in-exile was created in 1939 in London and it existed till 1989. Why would they creat a second one?

4. As much as I hate Beeman I really like Sandra. It's a shame her husband is cheating on her.

5. Nina ended up in Beeman's bed. Took her long enough. When will she start to blackmail him?

6. I'm surprised Claudia is still in the game. That won't end well for anyone.

7. You can never have too much leg warmers.

Thanks for the review, Ryan!

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Trust me. It was really bad version of polish language! And it's not the first time. For such a short line, they could do it much better.

But other than these small things, I enjoyed the episode very much, so I can forgive them for that;)
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Ok, I had to listen to it about five times, but I think: "tak, utorożenia" supposed to mean "tak, od urodzenia" (yes, since birth). I can understand: "Jeżdem twoja jeśli kcesz mnie", but it should be: "Jeśli mnie chcesz, będę twoja". (If you want me, I'll be yours)

Anna sounds like Finn who's trying to speak Italian.
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Its two models that are bringing it this year on the drama side aren't they? Both seem to have the heavy weight of their shows on their characters shoulders and both have been spectacular. Both had their freshman efforts immediately rewarded with quick decisions on second seasons! Both are playing characters that have made lying an Olympic event. Both are demonstrating incredible range that you rarely see from any actresses on television. Both are playing the type of roles that television has traditionally ascribed to men. Both are just as strong as their male leads (Milicivec has two). Nothing is typical about these characters. If there is a best actress list anywhere that does not include both Keri Russell (Elizabeth Jennings, "Americans") and Ivana Milicivec (Carrie Hopewell, "Banshee") it will be wrong.

I think Beeman made a bad decision on the strange. It was a very "Sterling Archer" thing to do. He knows she's trouble yet he's willing to screw up his life and career for a taste. Can't wait to see the ramifications. I have a feeling its Nina who is now in complete control. Great story telling thus far. Nice getting a glimpse of "Mags" on the bench with Elizabeth - those two need a scene together in every episode.

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"a very "Sterling Archer" thing to do"

Bhwaaahahaaa!
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First thing that came to mind was Sterling Archer. All I could think of as he went to the hotel room was that Katya was going to open the door.
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That was actually my thoughts exactly and my comment.)
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It is so great to have such a solid show to watch every week. Like some commenters said before me, I love that the show doesn't rely on gadgets and car crashes to amp up the drama. It's just people, with their flaws, dealing with their situations.
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Honestly, I think Phillip was telling the truth that he would try but he had decided trying involved not telling about Irina and his son (I honestly think the real reason he decided not to go was Paige and Henry, he was still not sure of the son or if Irina was maybe another test, but ultimately, he had two children who needed him).

I am wondering if we have been worrying about Phillip this whole time and Elizabeth is actually the person who will blow their cover. I kept thinking, she is really biting her tongue and seems to want to share some version of her problems with Mrs. Beeman (what is her name?). I just wonder if that is going to be the place where the issues and questions arise...

Anyway, I agree with the first two comments, this is one of the best shows on TV.
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i also think that the whole irina's son thing...could have been a test, coz of what elizabeth reported back about philip!! they wanted see if he would jump at a chance of running away with his first love n lovechild...but then again both philip n irina seemed to have genuinely loved each other..o this could be a stretch.. :p
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You could create an entire series around the emotional and psychological changes we saw with Elizabeth in this one episode.
So much happened that the importance of her scenes may have gotten lost in the background but with her phone call to Phillip and their scene at the end in the bedroom, we have been opened up to the true complexity of her character and the struggles she attempts to cope with (and seemingly less and less able to do so).

Between her rape as a cadet, being "assigned" a husband, and generally just being someone with 10 different identities, we got a deeper glimpse behind the numerous emotional barriers that have thus far left her cold and absolute.

It is this congruent existence between Phillip and Elizabeth that I am finding fascinating and so true of real life marriage: Two people in the same space, with identical feelings, but rotating at different speeds seemingly unable to align to form a whole.
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Wow, that was great. It is kind of funny, in a way there have been all of these Elizabeth episodes where we understand Phillip's perspective and here we have a Phillip episode where we are kind of more feeling Elizabeth's perspective.

Randomly, and far less introspectively, there was some reference last night that made me think...I wonder if there is some plan on this show that someday Elizabeth is going to realized beyond herself that Phillip is likely the only person she can trust and something will happen to make them both want to run (for some reason I started thinking about Cherynobyl and how they with young children might feel about that event...that was in 1983, right?).
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Before starting, this show was compared to "Homeland" everywhere, so if I say in that view I like The Americans better over Homeland. I don't know it is just me but I like this one better for actual spy work without too much flashy gadgets, without too much force involve, it is just pure spy work and it is thrilling for me.
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I'm with you. This show just seems more bold and original and doesn't have to fall back on tried and true television tropes like giving your lead character a medical defect or addiction to enhance the character. This show proves you just have to write a good character and let the actress give the page depth.
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This is quickly turning into one of the most well-written shows on TV and easily the best new show!
Not only does the show depict "real" espionage (sans explosions and car chases), but it might just give us the best depiction of real marriage. The marital relationship of this "fake" couple is perhaps the most real-life portrayal of marriage I have yet to see on TV.

And yes, as mentioned in the recap, the exchange between Claudia and Elizabeth was brilliant. They 100% nailed the scene and the entire overture for the relationship.
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