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The Americans S02E06: "Behind the Red Door"


In "Behind the Red Door," Stan Beeman seemed like the ghost of his former self—out of touch with his family, newly impotent against a demanding foe, falling behind in a technologically advancing workplace, and faced with both a coworker and lover withdrawing from their relationships with him. His loneliness was basically summed up in one camera pull-away at the dinner table, his son and his wife happily conversing, while he sat, out of the loop, in a home with a freshly painted front door (color: "Tomato Tango"). He wasn’t the only character hovering above a perceived reality, either. Phantom-like, Elizabeth observed espionage sex while under cover of an unseen disguise, and Philip lost himself in Clark, a persona that exists only in fantasy, when Clark was trotted out for amusement. Directed by Charlotte Sieling and written by Melissa James Gibson, this sixth installment of The Americans' second season lingered on details that transformed truth into a different truth, making privileged knowledge a burden to those in the know. 


The only time having the drop on an unsuspecting mark seemed not to cause negative emotions was in the opening mission, with CIA Elizabeth aiming her thigh-gun at the feisty-as-hell Andrew Larrick (Generation Kill’s Lee Tergesen). The SEAL was suspect numero uno in the murders of Emmett and Leanne, but it turned out Larrick only wanted to kill them. However, that didn’t get him off the hook, as deeper digging revealed a project called "Martial Eagle." Remember Lucia the Sandinista with the doped-up politician? Well, she was called back into action in order to help sniff out some logistics pertaining to the training of Nicaraguan Contra troops on U.S. soil. You know, these folks:


Apart from family, what's causing Elizabeth the most strife these days is her relationship with sexuality. Her rape has clearly been a difficult experience to come to terms with this season, but why now? In the past, she's been able to ignore it for the sake of Moscow. Well, not to jump to conclusions, but here's a thought: One thing that parents fear about their children growing up is the idea that, as young adults, teens are discovering physical intimacy as an element of their identity. In her motherly concern over Paige's maturation, Elizabeth is recalling her own initial encounters with sex. She was quite young herself when she was raped by a superior officer—granted, not as young as Paige—but her eldest child is now entering young adulthood. The season did start off with Leanne talking about how fast children grow up, and Paige getting her face painted just like Leanne's murdered daughter. Perhaps seeing Paige become a woman while also worrying about family safety in general is stirring up Elizabeth's own vulnerabilities, vulnerabilities that are tied to her experience as an assaulted female.  


For all Elizabeth’s advice about how Lucia should "tie up loose ends" with Carl Maphis (Nick Bailey), her cold expressions in the other room during the protege’s troubled "first time" as a spy ("You shouldn’t give that away so easily") made it seem like the speech about detaching was geared more toward herself as a caring mentor, rather than toward Lucia’s role in murder for a cause. Speaking of which, how many different ways can The Americans rub our noses in the frailty of life? Maphis was another casualty in a war he didn’t even know he was a part of. "Life’s like that. Half a second and then it’s over," said the continually self-helped Sandra (who "thought a lot" about the door’s color). One minute you’re about to introduce someone you think is your girlfriend to your mother, the next minute you’re choking on your own vomit. Lucia seemed to cave at the last second, holding him in her arms as he passed into the hereafter. She couldn’t help caring. How could any human?


And for what? Getting one step closer to info about the Contra training camp and something called ARPANET? The Advanced Research Project Agency Network basically paved the way for what eventually became the internet, which is a thematically appropriate touchstone for our contemporary world, obsessed as it is with manicured identities in the service of voyeurism (Facebook much?). It’s also why Oleg "is here." So let’s take a moment to figure out a few details about the guy. One, he likes to stand in front of pictures of Lenin ("Behind the Red Door" marked the second episode in which he's done so). He was also talking about adjusting to a "new reality" and having his own "problems," he's suspicious of what the FBI knows about him, and he’s willing to kill Nina (or at least threaten the idea of it) in order to achieve his goals. My guess? He wants to become the Cold War era’s Mark Zuckerberg. He’s got enough Western leanings to dip his toe into doing business the capitalist way, and technologically speaking, ARPANET is one heck of a golden goose to help him succeed. Oddly enough, Arkady seemed cool with Oleg this time around, asking questions about Beeman without an ounce of criticism. Has Arkady learned his place?


Things are changing. "The American people deserve to know what their government’s doing behind their backs," sounded strange coming from Kate the Russian, but it implied a redrawing of battle lines. It’s no longer the commoners who are the enemy, but their duplicitous leaders. Why this rhetoric within the KGB? Why make the effort to sympathize with the plight of an ignorant West? "Nothing is more important to them than your safety," said the redhead of the Rezidentura. Elizabeth’s response? "Sounds like something is." Things are changing.

Claudia herself is all but ousted from her position of power, and this week, we finally found out why she’s been so cagey: because the discovery that Larrick wasn’t behind Emmett and Leanne’s murders landed the finger back on her. She fell in love with someone, opened up to them, and there’s a chance that somebody squealed. Forget for a moment what this means for the Jennings’ safety, or how Claudia is totally screwed if this information gets out, and let’s look at Claudia as a sort of Ghost of KGB Future. With Vasily’s exit last season, she remains the only example of what lies ahead for an aged agent. Even an old warhorse will eventually succumb to the need for companionship. In a job that basically demands the use of the human experience as a tool, sincere emotions ultimately win out. We’ve seen plenty of examples of how this can be an advantage for people like Lucia and Clark and Nina in their search for information, and now Larrick’s need for physical intimacy is being used against him. "A world without exploitation and dignity for all." Gay or straight, a spy will capitalize on your deepest needs, but in the end those spies need love too. What a world.


Which brings us to the Clark-and-Elizabeth moment. Any marriage therapists out there in TV.comland? Motivated by her seemingly lighthearted girl-chat with Martha last week, Elizabeth pursued the sexual myth that is Clark in the bedroom. Initially, her request was harmless, and Philip hesitantly went along with it in a kinky, role-playing sort of way ("No, I want you to keep them on"), but he seemed pretty opposed to bringing a fake-self into the homestead. From my point of view as a viewer, their home has always been a sanctuary, a place to decompress (save for a few decodings). None of this was said, but it's not hard to imagine this was at least part of Philip’s reluctance. 

Also, the Jennings have never compared their shared sexual exploits to those performed while on missions. It’s simply part of a separate work identity, so when Elizabeth asked to merge those two elements—work intercourse and home intercourse—wouldn’t you know it, the whole thing was a psychosexual disaster. Clark whipped Elizabeth around (Keri Russell is doing some of the bravest work on television), and aggressively made "love" to his real wife the way he does to his fake one. She curled up crying on the bed, no doubt reminded of her brutish rape, and he painfully removed his wig while staring at himself in the mirror. This isn’t who they are to each other.  



SPY NOTES

– Oleg keeps standing in front of Lenin pictures. Are we to presume he wants to be a new leader?

– Matthew is back and celebrating the death of John Belushi. What a pleasant way to mourn. 

– PAIGE QUIT VOLLEYBALL? PAIGE QUIT VOLLEYBALL?!

– Yes, yes, yes. Please let the Jennings go to Paige’s church. "What is it you do there?" The disgust in Elizabeth’s voice!

– Pretty cool to have an episode written and directed by two of the industry's billions of talented artists who are female. 

– Beeman and Nina are off. "Yesterday you love me. Today you call me a liar." How dare he subject her to a polygraph test (also, would she pass it?)!

– One of these days I'll have to chart everyone in the spy network, including BASEMENT GUY!

– "In search of perfect understanding, Agent Beeman, or are you hungry?" 

– Huh, so that's what Gaad's home life is like. Pleasant. 

– It's been a year since Beeman first recruited Nina. This show has perfect pacing. No wasted moments. No filler. We've grown with the characters. 

– Henry? Nope.

– Ahh, smiling Reagan.   


What'd you think of "Behind the Red Door"?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 6/8/2016

Season 4 : Episode 13

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Hi Ryan (or anyone), I have a question about the interaction between Oleg and Arkady. When Arkady asked Oleg if he had gotten any info on/from Beeman, it made me think that Arkady and Oleg had jointly concocted the plan to have Oleg barter Nina's "safety" for info from Beeman. Was this wrong?
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Not wrong, but not clear at this point either. Good thought, as Arkady DID have a noticeably calmer demeanor in his interaction with Oleg. I suppose Arkady would be incriminated in Nina's situation too, but he did say he would give his career to save an agent. Maybe this is his way of spying on Oleg for Nina?
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Perhaps. Right now, the only thing Oleg is in the dark about is Nina's betrayal. So, nothing about Arkady, Oleg and possibly even Nina hatching this plan to play Stan would be inconceivable. When I watched it again, something jumped out. When Oleg met Beeman and Oleg said he had been keeping Nina "busy" which prevented her from coming to their meetings at the safe house. This leads me to believe Nina is in on it, as well as her acting job when Stan asked her about taking the polygraph. My guess is we will know for sure Wednesday! Thanks for responding!
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What I think works best for this show is its characters. They're are all so compelling and interesting. The writing team did a great job with the new people like Oleg, the handler and Lucia. And all the actors do a fantastic job portraying them, especially Keri Russell.
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This is one of the best show on TV ! Hopefully more people will watch and more awards will come. I am happy Margo is back. I was worried she was gone for good. Thing with Claudia (Margo Martindale) is you never know if she is actually telling the truth. I am not sure if her love story and her "concern" is true. I would not be surprised if she is the killer herself.
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If we're getting storylines for Paige, we should get some for Henry too, we haven't seen him in awhile.
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Truth. Maybe he joins The Boy Scouts of America?
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I'm a hundred percent certain that Phillip does NOT Clark Martha like THAT.
Martha just thinks that he's an "animal in the sack" because to Martha cunnilingus is a BIG DEAL.
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Polygraphs are a joke, the KGB taught their people how to fool them all the way back in the 50s.

They are about as accurate as a coin flip (as in around 50%), why the hell do you think both sides sunk so much money into 'truth' drugs during the cold war (to no avail), or that the search continues even until today.

Even now we're only barely reaching the stage were a 'lie detector' might actually become a reality, and that's still a good ways off.
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I am going to write unpopular thoughts. I thought the sex on the show tonight was too graphic. I think the issues with sex could have been considered with less nudity and less roughness. Secondly, in a way I can't wait for Elizabeth and Philip to be caught. There is never a show in which I wish them well. I am starting not to care about them as people because their agenda is bad and because they kill a lot of people and ruin lives. I may be the only viewer who feels this way, who has to really let go of a sense of patriotism to watch this show. I will keep watching because this show is well done in so many ways and the acting is great, but I would like to see this couple get stymied a bit more often in their nasty activities.
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Please do write unpopular thoughts. Part of discussing characters who are "anti-heroes" is the struggle audiences face in rooting for sometimes unethical motivations. Which, I'm sure you can agree, doesn't necessarily make the show less engaging, but it does make you question your commitment in being an "accessory" to their choices. Think of Walter White. The man did a lot of terrible things, but he was a very compelling character in the process.

Can you elaborate on what you feel are "nasty activities" or what moments have made you let go of your sense of "patriotism"?
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I had written a whole reply to you, but I see it is not here. Hmm. Well, I will just say that I have trouble with "anti-heroes" as protagonists. I despised the Sopranos, for example. Each show was filled with real evil in many forms that I couldn't take any enjoyment in watching. In The Americans, there is some of that also. Maybe some viewers don't see the attempts by Elizabeth and Philip to find ways to help destroy the U.S. (their nasty spying activities) as something bad, but I do. Also, like the mobsters in The Sopranos, Philip and Elizabeth ruin innocent lives (Martha, the Jewish professor). They blackmail, they kill, they play on people's weaknesses (the young naval officer Elizabeth used to get files from). I liked the first season better when Philip was pushing for defection a bit. That brought a good tension to the show, but that is missing now. We just watch this couple do their dirty deeds successfully show after show. They need to make mistakes more often. The fact that they are worried about the safety of their family is not making me see them as more human or making me feel sorry for them. They have made their bed as spies, and they know what they have to do to be safe--defect.
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I assume you do not watch GOT or Banshee.
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I will never be able to look at a picture of Ronald Regan in the same way again
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And they say Bill Clinton was "the Dirty One" :P
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This show just keeps getting better and better. Damn this show is just very well thought out.

Great review Ryan.

Beeman is just getting outclassed. The KGB is just backing him into a corner and Nina is doing a masterful job. He can't even do what he wants to with the records on the down low because of computers. It is genius how they are isolating him. Now isolating someone is an excellent tactic, however it could backfire. Beeman is a fighter, when you break it all down that is what he is. My guess instead of take it, he is going to lash out at someone. I doubt it is going to be Oleg. It might be Nina, but I am not sure about that either. Nina is pulling off a masterful job at making him feel guilty. His plot this week was fantastic.

Oleg is getting better. I like the imagery of him in from of Lenin's picture. I think showing things to come. One of the people that I just thought that Beeman could lash out against would be Arkady. If he does that, that could put Oleg in the big boy seat running the show. Which is what I guess he is after. Whether he gets Beeman to flip or gets Arkady killed either way he wins. ARPANET or any of the other things gets put into the collective success of the unit and that means Arkady. But Beeman getting flipped or killing Arkady then it is all him getting the benefits of it. I don't think he is willing to sacrifice Nina, I think she is going to be his achilles heel. But raw ambition has a way of justifying the sacrifice of others for your cause. Either way, Oleg is a major plot line and it is going to be interesting to see how they play his story.

Elizabeth this episode was great. Keri Russel just keeps tacking on Emmy performance after Emmy performance. Elizabeth was interested in the Clark side of things. But that was a mistake, Phillip is jut like her. He adapts to the needs of his potential partners. Martha needs a strong, take charge man in the bedroom because she is soft spoken, and a little timid and in her own head about it. Now with Elizabeth, he knows of her past and he does what he does with her because of that. He is soft and gentle with her because that is what she needs. Now the crying part is leaves us with a huge unknown. Did Elizabeth cry because of the rough sex that reminded her of the rape? Or. Did she cry because she realized what Phillip has been doing for her all of these years? That he has been tailoring the sex for her because he cares so much about her. The obvious answer would be the former. But the great thing about this show is that it leaves it open to the interpretation of the viewer and they will potentially answer it later. And that, that is one of the many things that makes this show great.

The reveal of Larrick not killing the family is pretty good. And the reveal of Claudia was fantastic. They aren't going to answer that riddle until at least the end of the season, if they even do it then.

The rest of the plots in the episode was great. I think their new handler is going to be a handful. And I think the female sandinista is going to be a wild card. She is over anxious about it and she doesn't have the temerity to do this work. I can see Elizabeth having to put a bullet in her sooner rather than later.
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"Now the crying part is leaves us with a huge unknown. Did Elizabeth cry because of the rough sex that reminded her of the rape? Or. Did she cry because she realized what Phillip has been doing for her all of these years?

Interesting, I hadn't considered this reason for Elizabeth's tears, but that also makes a lot of sense. You're right, the show doesn't need to do more at this point than leave the reasons for her crying up to interpretation.

Though I wonder, considering that last season Philip made it pretty clear to Elizabeth that he had real feelings for her - even before finding out about the rape committed by her officer, how much of his behavior is tailored to Elizabeth's vulnerabilities.
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That is a great point. I would imagine that a great majority of Phillip's behavior is tailored to help Elizabeth. Up to and including letting her take the lead in parenting. Which makes me wonder if that plus the kids are his main reason for thinking of getting out of it all that he had in season 1. We have all assumed that he has become Americanized and has realized they are working for the wrong side. But I think that it is just her and his family he is looking to protect in the long run. Phillip has had way more talks about right and wrong than Elizabeth has. He has been pulled in more ways than Elizabeth has, most notably with the release of the Russian Jewish people to Israel. I think this is building up to a moment, likely it is going to be a single moment where he comes to a realization and starts to work for the our side. I think that is where the show is eventually going to go, them working for the US. But I would give it at least 2 more seasons.
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Or even one of them working for both sides without the other one knowing. Could be a little far-fetched, but the show's never shied away from extremes, so long as the leg work has been put in to get there.
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I think that would be interesting, but I think it would violate one of the best aspects of the show. The show, from the very start has been Elizabeth and Phillip vs the world. Quite literally, they are battling the US, they are battling people within their own organization heck they are battling their own children. I think they both switch over, now both of them staying switched over, that is season 7 and 8 kind of stuff.
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Elizabeth's actions were really confusing. I hope they make sense of all of that in the next episodes
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1. Rape is one of the worst things that can happen to a woman. It can haunt you for many years. Since Elizabeth has (probably) never been to therapy it's no wonder she's re-living the attack. First she met her attacker in the pilot. Then she told her story to that guy last week. And now "Clark" was for her like déjà vu. Poor Elizabeth :(

What does Keri Russell have to do to get Emmy? Come people, have heart!

2. So Lucia is basically Elizabeth's padawan. I hope we will see her again.

3. I can't wait till the Jennings go to the church. That should be pretty funny.

4. What will happen to Nina now? Will they kill her?

5. I suspect Claudia will sacrifice her life for Elizabeth in the final act of redemption.

6. Poor Philip - the look on his face when Elizabeth started to cry :( He really didn't want to hurt her...

7. The new handler is terrible. She will die before season's finale.

I loved "Behind the Red Door" and I can't wait for next episode.

Thanks for review, Ryan!
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This was a really good episode. I love that Elizabeth is allowing herself to have real feelings for Philip. I can't imagine how difficult it is for both of them to have to squash feelings of jealousy in order to do their jobs. We saw that last season with Philip, and now it's Elizabeth's turn. I think Philip was reluctant to role play Clark at home for two reasons - He probably doesn't want to have to be someone else at home, and I think he knew Elizabeth wouldn't react well to rough sex when she is just being Elizabeth and not in disguise having sex with a target.
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I think Elizabeth's exploration of Clark's sexual exploits has less to do with her rape and more to do with the fact that she has actual feelings for Philip now and is ambivalent about having to share him sexually. Martha's comments triggered not only curiousity but a prickling of jealousy too. She doesn't want his sex with Martha to be better than theirs. She could ignore that aspect before but now she can't stop thinking about it.
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Best episode of the season. The interweaving of desires and duty, loyalty and loneliness. And the Thor's Hammer always being thrown in the mix is emotion (Elizabeth curious about Clark, Claudia, the young agent with the aide she had to kill, a zombie-like Beeman -- especially great when Gaad says he may be in way over his head), which can't be controlled. It keeps smashing in to screw everyone up. Larrick is the one now who may pose the biggest threat because he has no emotional ties (and I hope there is more of him). Plus, there was a LOT of fucking in this episode (even when it was very uncomfortable -- which I applaud how that scene was handled).

I don't know where the reviewer got the whole spin about Elizabeth and Paige's relationship. I think Elizabeth is more concerned about her daughter getting involved in the Christian group than how she is maturing sexually.

I wasn't sure about this show when it first aired, but am now happy to admit FX proved me very, very wrong! Someone at HBO should be embarrassed that FX is beating the network at it's own game. "It's not TV. It's FX."

Must add two of the episodes best highlights:

Keri Russell's naked ass


And, the Dot Matrix Printer

Ah, that takes me back.


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Sure, on-screen we've only heard Elizabeth specifically vocalize her concern about Paige joining the youth group, but discussing the other areas of their mother-daughter relationship is still fair game (I feel). And if Paige were to quit youth group, and rebel in another way, Elizabeth would still have a problem with it. Her daughter is growing up.

In looking at these characters, we have to empathize a little bit as if they were real humans, and a real human with a daughter Paige's age would start to be concerned about her child's maturing into womanhood. Heck, during the "Here Comes the Flood" sequence at the end of Episode 3 this season, there's a scene where Elizabeth is holding Paige as a baby and the lyrics say "they were getting older, sons and daughters" then in Episode 4 Elizabeth expresses distress that among other things, Paige is being lured by "...cute boys cooing about Jesus." Philip responds "...maybe it's a crush." So yeah, it's in their heads at least, that their eldest daughter is getting to "that age."

So yeah, fair enough, I employed a little speculation about these aspects of their relationship, but they were not totally ungrounded.
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I agree. These are definitely questions that the show wants the audience to be asking. The showrunners have specifically stated that that this seasons biggest theme is family. Season one was about "Can this marriage work?" and Season 2 is "Can this family work?".

Elizabeth might be a spy but she's also a mother. And right now one of her biggest concerns is "my daughter is growing up". So regardless of her political views, she still wants her daughter to not ever have to go through what she went through as a teenager. At least that's how I like to see it. Elizabeth has been a pretty cold character but surely realising that her family is not just a cover has to stir up some emotions. Paige is no longer the clueless little girl who totally depends on her parents. She is becoming an individual and that's specifically why Elizabeth is starting to look at the bigger picture.

I believe it was in Episode 2 that Elizabeth said to Phillip "how are we gonna do this?" not just regarding dealing with older kids and the responsibility that comes with that, but also keeping their kids safe from the daily dangers that her and Phillip bring into the family.
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Kerry Russel has the body of a pre-pubescent girl. That ass shot was kinda pedophilic. Just saying.
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I know that was pasted two years ago, so I doubt it's even worth typing this...but, it just shouldn't go unanswered.
That was one of the dumber comments I've ever seen, you throw that word around way too easily. Unless that ass was attached to a 12 year old girl, it's ignorant to label it as pedophiilc.
Some guys like big butts, some like skinny or little ones, some guys like big boobs, some...etc., etc.
Get a grip.
I think she's got a great ass!
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Great! I agree with your thoughts on this one. Elizabeth's sexuality story was quite well-funded in her character (remember when she used her rape as a ploy for the marine? This surely brought stuff up for her) and one of the best stories of this kind on recent television. It's pretty tough to get those right without becoming ridiculous, uncomfortable in a bad way or impactless.

Given how the Stan x Nina = &3 (ice cream cone (two scoops)) story played out this week, I don't see much hope for the latter's survival. It seems she will be caught in a battle between Oleg and Stan and we all know how human television playing balls have a less than good survival rate.

I'm surprised, though, as well as disappointed, you didn't mention Philip's last scene as I was hoping you would shed some light on what exactly happened there. Did he approach the 'homosexual' guy that was mentioned again in the "previously on ..."? And why was Lerrick there? That felt kind of out of context, put there just to produce a cliff-hanger.

9/10, would watch again!

P.S: Keri Russell's backside is nice to look at.
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Larrick WAS the homosexual mentioned in the previous episode. That's what Emmett and Leanne were blackmailing him with.
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So why where he and Philip there? Why did the latter pull his gun? Why where there two people banging underneath a staircase?
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Because Larrick was just getting laid outside a GAY nightclub. (He's not exactly "out of the closet")
Phillip was there because they've decided (to either work with him or take care of him) or to at least admit to him that they are not - as Larrick gathered himself - the CIA.

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Thanks! This will make understanding the next episode easier.
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Thanks, I struggle to follow this kind of show
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