THE AMERICANS: WALTER TAFFET
All the carefully laid-out plans of Clark's are about to come undone thanks to a bug. Walter Taffet gives the hour to a character we see basically either at home or at work, and at long last, The Strange Love of Martha Hanson starts coming apart. The fact that Martha is one of the most innocent victims of the Jennings' master plan makes it all the more heartbreaking.
Things keep getting worse and worse for Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys). Not only is he highly upset that his wife Elizabeth (Keri Russell) took their daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) on an excursion into the ghetto, but the bug that Martha (Alison Wright) planted long ago in her boss Agent Gaad's office (Richard Thomas) has finally been discovered. Martha, worried about what this means, quickly destroys the recording device she has. All this time she has thought that Clark was working as some sort of investigator to keep tabs on the FBI for any potential traitors. Now she sees that Walter Taffet (Jefferson Mays) is the actual agent, and she wants to know who Clark really is.
Philip and Elizabeth, however, have to deal with taking two South Africans who are working to discredit the anti-apartheid movement. This means having to kill a poor redheaded woman who was seeing Todd (Will Pullen), the student, whom the SA agent Venter (Neil Sandilands) was coordinating with.
There were a couple of things about Walter Taffet that puzzled me. Why would Martha not be more persistent about the issue of Clark? Here was this man whom she loved and whom she thought she was working with as a covert agent for the U.S., only to find he isn't whom he said he was. Clark, for his part, now has this potential time bomb on his hands. Will Martha fall apart? Will she crack under the impending investigation? Will he have to reveal all?
He has revealed his secret son to Elizabeth, which is extremely interesting. Less a sign of his desperation, or even of his trust in his first/current wife, it could be reciprocation for her admitting that she should have told Philip about the field trip with Paige. In her own way, Elizabeth is admitting that Philip has a voice in their daughter's upbringing. He is in danger of losing two of his children, and add to that his complicated life colliding all over the place.
Noah Emmerich, who plays FBI Agent Stan Beeman, directs this episode, and he does such a masterful job one wonders why he doesn't direct more. The final scene, the abduction of the two South Africans, is set to Fleetwood Mac's The Chain, and I don't know a current television series that edits music and visuals to such a brilliant degree as The Americans. I still tremble at how last season's finale Echo made Golden Earring's Twilight Zone into both an intense ride and descriptive of the plot. Fleetwood Mac's The Chain similarly does the same for Walter Taffet.
Each moment in Walter Taffet is brilliant: the discovery of the bug, Martha's silent terror as she destroys the recording device, Philip and Elizabeth's dual confessions, and especially the final plan of abduction (complete with the killing of an innocent bystander). I think it helps to remember that The Americans is made for adults by adults (in this case, Emmerich) versus something like Franklin & Bash's fourth season episode Honor Thy Mother, which appeared to be made for horny teen boys by horny teen boys (and seeing Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer, two men in their forties, in that was beyond sad). Sorry for the digression, but I'm finishing up my Franklin & Bash retrospective.
It will also be the last time Franklin & Bash are mentioned in the same sentence as The Americans. My apologies to The Wig Shop.
If only for my confusion about how Martha took the discovery of Clark's not really being part of the U.S. government, I probably would rate Walter Taffet higher. As it stands though, the episode is still a knockout, giving us more to worry about when it comes to the Jennings' lives.
Next Episode: Divestment