The Americans 6×06, “Rififi”

Aaron Neuwirth reviews The Americans, Season 6, Episode 6, "Rififi" in which Thanksgiving leads to even more stress for the Jennings.

As if this final season of The Americans needed to do more to have me onboard for the elaborate high wire act being pulled off to wrap this series up, here’s an episode named after one of my favorite movies. “Rififi” is another excellent episode that shows how things are moving along towards significant shifts in the dynamics already in turmoil. This is quite fitting as Jules Dassin’s Rififi is about a perfect heist that only starts to unravel due to how human error and emotions get in the way. If the Jennings’ working together as spies has yielded results not unlike the elaborate and successful silent heist from Dassin’s film, then we are currently on track to see how their separation leads to a scenario not unlike Rififi’s tragic ending.

It’s Thanksgiving time in the world of The Americans and families are indeed bickering. Philip and Elizabeth are really testing each other this week. The whole Kimmy kidnapping plot has been revealed to have been sabotaged by Philip, who treats the admission like a moment of pride, in addition to spite. Henry has come home for the holiday, with plans to solve the tuition problem, only to have Philip curse out the race cars they play with out of frustration. And in the midst of all of this, Stan and Aderholt are on to something big, which ultimately results in Elizabeth having to leave the family entirely, before Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, this is a lot more like The Ice Storm than one of those special sitcom holiday episodes where everything works out in the end.

Regardless, here’s an episode that shows how things are beginning to spiral down towards an inevitable end, assuming we’re looking at all of this the right way. Keeping the Jennings’ marriage together is starting to seem like an impossible task, and this happens to be corresponding with a lucky break for the FBI. In the wake of Elizabeth’s sloppiness in recent months, Aderholt and his team have been putting enough of the pieces together to know that Stan will want to be a part of the investigation that can track down at least one of the hidden Soviet assets operating in America. I’ve addressed the possibility of Stan finally finding out about the Jennings, and it practically feels like it’s just a matter of time right now.

Meanwhile, Paige gets some time off this week, because it has become Henry’s time to shine. The kid is back from New England and ready to help his dad out with the money. Using the word “failure” is helping, but Henry has more pressing concerns after catching his mom smoking and later taking a phone call from here that seems far from ordinary. If there’s one character who has been the most innocent in everything that’s occurred throughout this series, it’s Henry. Even as he laments the work of reading Walden, there’s still nothing to Henry that suggests he’s ever been less than a good kid. Having him around is a reminder of at least one of the things at stake if things do come crashing down on the Jennings. It may not be the same as young Ilya finding his blood-soaked parents last week, but Elizabeth and Philip could cause enough damage to create as much of a shock.

Speaking of shocking, that’s where we have to leave poor Stavos, one of the most dedicated employees for the Jennings. The legitimate business is in trouble, and Philip is now faced with cutting out people who considered him a friend. Not a good place to be at a time like Thanksgiving, especially when Elizabeth is practically calling her husband a traitor, as she storms out of the house, heading to Chicago. Philip is not having it easy, as I’ve noted plenty of times, and nothing is about to become any easier.

Following attempts to win over the attention of a young congressional intern by way of a trip to the movie theater (where Rififi is screening), Claudia tasks Elizabeth to extricate the target known as Harvest. Harvest is involved with the Dead Hand mission Elizabeth has been on, so it’s important he not be caught by Stan and Aderholt. It all lines up with the seemingly perfect setup of Elizabeth having to skip out on Thanksgiving dinner at Stan’s house, emphasizing how the world around all these characters is shrinking.

Making this all the more intriguing is how Elizabeth is now at the point of being aware that she’s not in the best position to succeed. She’s anxious about this Chicago extradition failing or resulting in more unneeded deaths. It’s what sparks the phone call to Henry as if it was her last but also leads to what this episode closes with.

Despite having gone through his wife’s records and heading to a dead-drop for Oleg’s benefit, Philip makes the call to Elizabeth to lend a hand. Not being able to convince Elizabeth to drop the mission, he’s planning to head off to Chicago, creating something of a cliffhanger for this week’s episode. Next week’s episode is titled “Harvest,” so there’s no way I would not be excited to see what kind of action unfolds with the Jennings back together for at least one more spy mission.

Is that where we are though? Are these final episodes showing us certain things for the last time? Is the endgame a way of showing how these Soviet assets move on from this world in one way or another? With people like Stan injecting plenty of American propaganda into his Thanksgiving speeches and history being what it is, should there be a specific expectation for how things play out? This is especially important when considering how Paige is on the side of her mother, while Henry has been unsullied in all of this. It speaks to what we can look at as the future of the Jennings. With that said, even when tragedy struck, at least one innocent person makes it out by the end of Rififi.

Other Things Behind The Red Curtain:

  • Mail Robot returned this week for a brilliant appearance on the elevator. If it’s the final time we see Mail Robot, that was one great way to bring it back for the last season.
  • A lot of great noir references this week. Rififi, The Naked City, “Harvest”
  • While not new to FX, hearing both Jennings exclaim, “Fuck,” this week was jarring.
  • Poor Stavos. At least he makes it out alive in all of this.
  • “Ideas as Opiates” was quite the deep Tears for Fears cut, and while I had not heard it before, I was into its use on this week’s episode.
  • Oleg gets a little time this week to show us just how intricate the process of using a cipher is. I love seeing those little details come through on this show.
  • Next week we’ll be in The Windy City!

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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