selenak: (The Americans by Tinny)
[personal profile] selenak

We haven't seen Kimmie through all of the fourth season, though there was dialogue to state that operation was still ongoing. This episode's teaser illustrates it. "Jim" celebrates Kimmie's birthday with her, a few days after the event, and it looks like she's accepted romance/sex is not in the cards; they appear comfortable in a friendship with parental overtones on his part. That she asks Jim about his son is ironic on various levels, not least because in this episode Philip and Elizabeth will be confronted with two sons doing the unexpected, their biological son Henry and their "work" son Tuan. But also because it's a reminder that Philip actually talked to Kim about Mischa Jr. (sort of) because that reveal happened when he was in mid-crisis with her. Which, given that we've yet to see Philip talk to anyone else (including Elizabeth, or, for that matter, EST) about his unexpected firstborn and how that makes him feel, makes Kim officially the only person he's confided in re: this matter.

What makes a good parent? "I don't think anyone ever gets it right", says Kimmie to Jim, who says he'll try then not to suck at it completely, and she considers that maybe that's the best anyone can manage. When the show starts, Philip is pretty much set up as an ideal father (especially in contrast to Stan), but that was several seasons ago, and his children were far younger then. Now, he's even more stunned by Henry wanting to go to an elite boarding school in New Hampshire than Elizabeth (who seems to slightly more flexible re: that), and at a rare loss of words. This is trickier even than when Paige got religion, because Henry having qualified himself academically for an elite school is in every parental guide book praiseworthy, and yet you can tell from his parents' faces they feel rejected by this, while also being aware there is no possible way they can tell that to Henry. "I've worked really hard", says Henry, to two people who as teenagers worked really hard, too, very much set on leaving their home behind, at an elite school training them to be spies.

Meanwhile, Tuan, who towards Elizabeth and Philip has been the ideal junior spy, rattling off hardcore phrases and pouring scorn on all their marks, also has been increasingly obvious about being lonely in his repeated remarks on how they need to be at the house more often. Elizabeth, who's picked up on this, decides to spend some extra time with Tuan, only to discover he's got a secret and some unexplained absent time, which leads to P & E & random KGB minions tailing him, which leads to their confrontation with Tuan and his confession. Which is the reverse, in a way, to Jared's in season 2. Jared was seemingly harmless while in reality carrying the burden of having murdered his family due to his recruitment as a spy. Tuan is seemingly 100 % devoted junior ideologue but secretly hides that he does feel for his first foster family (whom he had described in scornful terms to Philip a few episodes earlier), especially his younger foster brother. The reveal of corruption/murder in the seemingly innocent (Jared) versus the reveal of emotion/humanity in the seemingly cold and ruthless (Tuan). It's one of those moments where our antiheroes and the audience are confronted with their own professional inhumanity: were they really about to murder a teenager, if he hadn't convinced them? One whose parents they pretended to be, however fake (and understood to be fake by all parties concerned) that was?

Henry and Tuan - with the identical "I've worked really hard" - protest in different ways bring home to Philip and Elizabeth their failures as parents. Kim is a success in that the operation she's a part of does just what it's supposed to - her father the CIA honcho unwittingly spilling all those secrets on tape, and that the relationship between her and "Jim" is a good one on the surface - she didn't need a lover, she needed a confidant and friend, he became that for her, and, see above re: son, in a way she became one for Philip-underneath-Jim, too. But: it's a relationship founded on a betrayal. Just because there's no sex and romance involved doesn't mean Philip and the KGB aren't exploiting Kimmie as surely as they ever did Martha. I don't think it's coincidence that in this very episode, we finally catch up on Martha in more than a silent cameo, and it happens through Gabriel paying her a visit. Gabriel is at his most friendly and paternal, but Martha rejects it (and the supposed reassurance of Clark's devotion), not in a spontanous horror as last season when she's overwhelmed by all happening, but as the result of having thought everything through. "I understand everything now", Martha says to Gabriel, and everything presumably means: How thoroughly she had been played and used from the beginning. That Philip came to feel regard and responsibility for her doesn't negate what that relationship was at its core. And it's quintessentially true for any spy-mark oder handler/agent relationship. You find out what a vulnerable person wants and needs, you give them that, and in return, they are used by you, willingly or unwittingly, to what if it ever is revealed is bound to destroy their entire existence.

Nor is it a coincidence, that Philip when he meets one of Gabriel's agents, an orthodox priest, ends up telling said priest he can't be the one to meet with him on a regular basis. In the last episode, Philip wanted to keep the handler/agent relationship purely on an information exchange basis when he was the handled one; this week, he refuses to let it be anything else when he's the (intermittent) handler. No more mixing of real emotions with the spying trade, which is a lying trade, except that I think he's kidding himself if he thinks that's a solution.

Philip in this episode also finds out, via Kimmie's father, that the virus they secured via cutting a piece of William's body probably ended up being used as a weapon in Afghanistan. Elizabeth at first protests the idea, but only feebly, and interestingly, she doesn't follow it up with a "our people would never" defense, and appears as disconcerted about the possibility as Philip is. This following the reveal that there is no poisonous grain might trigger both of them deciding to keep secrets from their bosses. Starting with Tuan's, though how that is possible when they must have told the people who were helping to tail Tuan at the very least there was some concern I don't know. Philip speculating that Tuan might have wanted to get caught so he'd be sent back and be out of the spying game is more a case of Philip projecting than anything else, though; if anything, Tuan with his revealed concern for his foster brother doesn't want to go back to Vietnam right now.
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