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So that’s how you stop a potential revolution. In “Duty and Honor” the espionage bits very much take a back seat for the exploration of some of Phillip’s backstory and Elizabeth’s torn sympathies. Not to mention Stan’s dalliance into the sexy world of Cold War espionage. “Duty and Honor” was a very solid episode that provided a respite after last week’s tense “Trust Me” while also setting the table for what is to come.
Phillip was tasked by the KGB to help his former lover and current KGB agent Anne (or Irina when they were together in Russia) sully the good name of Andrezj Krukowski, a Polish figure who was stoking the fires of revolution in his home country. While this was the conceit of the episode the espionage storyline received little fanfare in favor of exploring Phillip’s past. However, Phillip’s sojourn to New York City to complete this mission did seem a little too well timed after the implosion of he and Elizabeth’s relationship. When taking into account how little Phillip was actually used in the mission – he staged a fake mugging while Anne was with Krukowski and then slapped Anne around to make it look Krukowski had raped her – the confluence of events at this particular time felt a little too contrived for a show in which things, for the most part, occur organically.
It is revealed through a couple flashbacks that Phillip had become lovers with Anne before he was even accepted into the KGB counterintelligence program. Phillip did seem to genuinely care for her at one point and they did have some natural chemistry despite the brevity of the flashbacks. When Anne revealed that she had a son, that Phillip had unknowingly sired, some of Phillip’s old feelings stirred up inside him. In one scene Elizabeth calls Phillip and wakes him in the middle of the night to tell him she misses him and it feels very genuine, unlike most of the loving things she says to him. Phillip hangs up the phone on her without saying goodbye and a naked Anne is evidence of the supposed first time Phillip has ever cheated. Interestingly The Americans has yet to show a sex scene that features two people that care for each other. Every scene where sex is actually shown has been a strict transaction; some might call it pumping someone for information (bad pun, I know).
Anne tries to get Phillip to run away with her saying she only loves him and that the KGB doesn’t care about their operatives. It seems as though Phillip considers this possibility but ultimately declines the invitation. Phillip then calls into question the existence of his illegitimate son but she gives a very vague response. Whether or not this was a KGB plot to entrap Phillip into defecting isn’t explicitly stated.
Meanwhile Elizabeth has found herself in an interesting spot. At the beginning of the episode she was still at Phillip’s throat but that feeling slowly faded throughout the episode. It was clear that she genuinely wanted to have a trusting relationship with Phillip by the end of the episode. As she struggled with her emotions with Phillip her vitriol was still very prevalent in her one meeting with Claudia. Claudia went through the motions of an apology but Elizabeth didn’t buy it.
Despite the iciness between Elizabeth and her boss, Elizabeth still carried out a KGB sanctioned mission. Elizabeth’s mission seemed a tad odd as she was tasked to bring another informant, Sanford, who works at the laser company under her watch. It was a tad confusing but it seemed as though she paid off his debts to his current handler in order to free him to make a switch so that she could handle him.
Elizabeth and her kids were also invited to the Beeman residence for supper. Unfortunately Stan couldn’t make it to supper because he was tied up at work, which angered his son. Elizabeth and Stan’s wife, Sandra, ended up connecting a bit and Sandra made sure to let Elizabeth know that she was envious of the marriage between Phillip and Elizabeth.
Stan wasn’t stuck at work for long though as his partner Chris convinces him to go to a bar. Stan reluctantly obliges. To Stan’s credit it did seem like he was doing some work before this invitation. At the bar Chris reveals his true nature as a man only interested in picking up women and gives Stan a pep talk to go after someone at the bar.
Instead Stan calls up Nina and his subtle flirtations from previous episodes finally come to fruition as Nina meets him and makes the first move on him. As Stan readies himself after he and Nina have hooked up (again the actual sex between the two isn't shown) a completely naked Nina comes up behind him and tells him not to worry because she won’t try and blackmail him or anything of the sort. Stan doesn’t seem pleased with himself but it does seem like Nina has some feelings for Stan. She clearly doesn’t treat him like she did Vasilli.
In the end Elizabeth gets information from Sanford as he realizes she is his new handler. Phillip lies to Elizabeth when she asks if anything happened between him and Anne in New York City. And Stan, after his sexual experience with Nina, asks his boss about extracting Nina, to which his boss replies that you don’t just give up a source. Elizabeth and Phillip’s relationship is currently at a crossroads and whether it improves or continues to worsen is anyone’s guess. It will also be interesting to see if there is any fallout from Stan sleeping with Nina, either from the FBI or his wife.