“Operation Chronicle” is the penultimate episode of the second season of The Americans. It’s a season that has been superb nearly every episode, consistently matching — and sometimes surpassing — the high expectations that were put in place after the first season. While last week felt occasionally like a filler episode, this week goes full steam ahead with the aftermath of the Jennings’ finding the chilling “get Jared out” message.
Unsurprisingly, the big story here is saving Jared’s life. It’s always been a possibility that he would get caught in the crosshairs of his parents’ work (and this also serves as a reminder that the Jennings’ children, Paige and Henry, are never truly safe, either). Elizabeth dons her disguise to pick up Jared — using a silly code message to let him know that it’s safe — and confirms that he’s aware of what’s been going on (he’s not entirely privy to everything but he has the basic idea). She explains that he has to leave quickly and readies him for exfiltration (even packing him a sandwich for his trip!). Jared gets on the train and arrives safely at the cabin.
But that’s not the end of this story: Larrick has been close on his tail (thanks to a tracker) so I’m sure this will turn into a race as he tries to get to Jared and Elizabeth/Philip try to stop him. Larrick’s a terrifying presence on The Americans and it’s not entirely clear why he’s going after Jared (unless he’s just set on making sure no one in that family lives) when he could have just easily went directly after Elizabeth this time. There’s no telling what he’ll do when he finds Jared, this poor kid who is caught up in something that he he doesn’t — and can’t — fully understand, something that puts his life in danger.
I know that the ongoing plot involving Stan, Nina, and Oleg has been largely absent from my recaps and it’s not because it’s a bad plot, not in the least, but it’s because there is always something better, more interesting, and more pressing happening in any given episode that those three tend to fade into the background for me. It’s impossible to ignore them now, as Stan goes to meet a badly bruised Nina and finds her with the Soviets. It’s a ruse to get Stan to betray his country (and deliver Echo) and “save” Nina but the bruises are very real, a way to sell the story to Stan, and it’s so fucked up. At the same time, Stan’s marriage is almost completely over at this point. After asking his wife if she’d like him to move out she replies matter-of-factly, with a shrug in her voice, that she’s actually moving in with the guy she’s been seeing. So there goes that. With Stan’s personal life falling apart — both his marriage and his affair — it wouldn’t surprise me if he does betray his country once and for all.
Outside of all of this intense drama, “Operation Chronicle” also has a bit of drama with Paige. She has spent much of this season obsessing over her newfound love of religion and trying to figure out exactly what her parents’ big secret is— with these two things occasionally intertwining; after all, it was her amateur investigation that first introduced her to the church. This time she’s gearing up to go on the church protest trip and wants help packing but her parents are busy with their emergency. She listens in on a phone conversation but Philip catches her.
From the beginning, the threat of Philip and Elizabeth being exposed has always hung over The Americans, although it would essentially end the show as we know it. The main suspect was always Stan but it’s always been more likely that one of their children would find out — they do all share a house — and The Americans teased that at the end of last season. It’s been hinted at more than a few times this season but has tapered off recently as the focus shifts elsewhere. But it’s back here, adding yet another element of tension. I earlier said that I could see the kids finding out this season (and that a part of me really hopes that they do) but Paige, as she explains on the school bus, still thinks that it could just be an affair.
Paige finding out would really fit with the themes of the show in recent episodes: Elizabeth’s increasing worry that she’s putting her children in too much danger. The parallels with Jared aren’t exactly subtle. She’s worried about Jared but she’s also worried about her own children because she thinks they’ll never be strong enough to deal if they were in his position. Philip is more confident in the children than she is, but who knows? Let’s hope that we never find out which one of them is right.