The Americans "Only You" Review: To Love Somebody

  • 48comments

The Americans S01E10: "Only You"

So I’ve just hacked through the last of my tears and associated eyeglass-fog to get to this computer screen like a machete through a jungle thick with emotion. Wow. Gregory proudly lighting his last cigarette, stepping confidently into a final stand. Emboldened by love into the unknown. Knowing the cops would come in some form; that he had the drop on them, but would not survive this last battle. While still winning it on his own terms. 

Elizabeth crying in her own home, alone over the death of her first recruit and first love. Hiding these same feelings among oblivious children while the news reduces his death into a simple headline. Phillip, callously eating pizza in the role of sad sack father, jilted lover, and uncaring warrior. Nina and Arkady sending off innocent Vlad like cargo on an official burial that the would-be lifesaver never wanted. Beeman alone, his only exposure to Gregory a colorless portrait with nothing but blood and sidewalk as a backdrop. 

A song about love underscoring all this pain.

"Only You" demonstrated how investing in humanity pays off in a war normally fought with weapons and intrigue (as Claudia outlined in "COMINT"). We’ve seen agents mistakenly killed, assets unwillingly murdered, assassins assassinated, but this tenth episode managed to show us all an act of honor that's lurking around the corner for every spy on The Americans, but that hadn't yet been featured head-on: chosen self-sacrifice in the name of ideology.       

The death of Gregory (portrayed masterfully by the excellent Derek Luke) is different from that of someone hunted, silenced, or victimized, because he had the option to keep on living. He could have taken a flight to Moscow and lived the sweet life, learning Russian and giving speeches to cadets. However, the far off city bears an uncertain context—Vasily was hastily carted off there with the understanding that a bullet would greet him at the other end; the orphaned baby of Robert returned there to the home of cold and stuffy grandparents after both his parents were killed at the hands of espionage. And in this episode, Vlad’s body found its way back, in the same heroic package as someone who wasn't tearfully gunned down. 

So is Moscow a worthy destination? 

It has the reputation of a place that only hosts long-gone better times, sheltered types, and deceased folks. Any travel agent worth her weight in ruples can tell you those are not desirable, tourist-attracting qualities. Aside from those really specific things, Elizabeth touts Moscow as more cosmopolitan than D.C., (at least, as she—her anti-American, biased self— remembers it), but as it's been presented, the Russian city is essentially a place where ideology goes to die. Yes, Moscow is the source of Phillip, Elizabeth, and Gregory's sense of purpose, but if a belief is not growing, it stagnates. There's far less a risk of Communism not receiving the support it needs in the motherland, and for someone as passionate as Gregory, resigning himself to a future with no battles of the heart would be his version of death. It's like leaving the party early because you don't want to risk a hangover the next day.    

To the hardcore partygoer though, the hangover is proof you partied (sorry to be so academic, dudes). Headaches and vomit breath are as much a part of your identity as hickies and new numbers (already wish I picked a different metaphor, too late to switch). In a universe where the majority of its inhabitants operate on multiple levels of identity (a.k.a. the "spy party"), remaining true to your truest "self"—whatever that is anymore after all the wigs and kisses—becomes a goal greater than breathing. Stan must be a caring family man in the face of something darker, "uglier." Is he a killer or a provider? Elizabeth, as tortured lover of and professional superior to Gregory, crumbled in the face of negotiating both roles. Only Gregory seemed at ease, because he knew who he was and what he most valued. 

Yes, that meant going down in a hail of bullets, and his legacy to the Cause was left mostly unknown save for Claudia, Phillip, and Elizabeth (we never even got a flashback of their loving times). But in so doing he fulfilled a much more important, personal mission: his love for Elizabeth. Because of this final romantic gesture, she and her family were able to live on.  

Sure, his willingness to take the blame denied an already shaken, frustrated Stan Beeman the satisfaction of truth. But first and foremost, he died for Elizabeth. And hey, if he gets to do damage to the machine in the process, then that's fine too. For the FBI to base its celebration of revenge on total misinformation is the best kind of assault in a covert battle of ideologies: one where you make your opponent think a loss is actually a win... especially when they've devoted nearly all their resources to it.     

The title "Only You" can be interpreted a few ways. As the link between Amador's death and the KGB, Gregory was the "only" connection who could bring down the whole operation. He was also the "only" person who consistently kept his word with Elizabeth, and the one person we know she's truly loved (aside from probably her mom or something). Conversely, "only" Elizabeth had the emotional leverage to sell Gregory on a last-ditch pitch for Moscow. Though in a broader sense, the two words found meaning early in the episode when Beeman slurred that "No matter where you are, no matter what city or town, you're always in the same place. Same shitty room. Here." Sure, he was in his cups, but the devastating closing montage put a finer point on things: In espionage, or just everyday life, whether you're sulking over a pizza for one, avoiding your family by staying late at the office, deteriorating in a lone casket in a cavernous airplane bound for an ominous and snowy destination, or hiding pain over a dead ex-lover on a sidewalk while your unhappy children obliviously eat dinner a few feet away, at its most painful, life can be a solitary, individual experience. At the end of the day, it's "only you."   


ADDITIONAL INTEL

– Elizabeth's last glance at Paige and Henry: Could she be imagining a standoff similar to Gregory's in order to protect them?

– Nice FBI fake-out leading to Phillip's sad sack motel room "If I can't find a travel agent staying at a motel under his own name, then I'm in the wrong line of business... Elizabeth told Sandra." (Also, I have to imagine he picked up that six pack after some pre-partying—who slurs after one beer?)

– "Bad guys" killed Amador. Beeman's starting to see things black and white.

– So much talk this episode about "knowing" people.  

– Gregory pulling Elizabeth's gun to his heart is a pretty good metaphor for this show.

– I will never get tired of scenes where the FBI breaks into a different location laid over lines like "I'm a guard dog. I don't take any chances with the people I protect."

– Phillip pretending that he was hearing about Amador's death for the first time, while Beeman turned around and did the same thing to Nina. "I don't know who killed Vlad, Nina." Is this really the story of Beeman's corruption?

– "You listen to me, you piece of shit. You may think you know what I am or what I will or won't do in this situation. But you have no idea." No we don't, Beeman. No we don't.

– Amador's eulogy came as a celebration among coworkers; Vlad's eulogy came in the form of Nina talking to a liar.

– Nice move, Phillip, flipping on the faucet for covert spy talk.

– "Why are you telling me this?" "Who else can I tell, you know?" —Gregory

– Hurt Phillip can be a real bastard: "Now he's facing life in a cage. Or 1,000 volts running through his body."

– "You and I don't have much in common. But we're both goddam Americans, right?" Man, what does "Americans" even mean on this show anymore? 

– "The world is a shitty place, Gregory, that's what I really think." —Elizabeth

– "If you do know, then keep your mouth shut. That's how bad it is." —Beeman

– "He had no secrets. You can't be married and not have secrets." Does Stan Beeman write for this show? 

– Gregory + Elizabeth, Phillip + Irina, Sandra + Beeman... all three couples have flirted with the notion of running away together. Will Phillip and Elizabeth finally do what everyone is talking about?

– "That man he could drive a woman crazy you know?" —Martha

– "You guys are masters of disguise," hmm, not sure I agree.

– Can't remember if Curtis ever saw Elizabeth. If he did, then Beeman still has a lead...