Just finished Operation Chronicle. As you get near the end of season 2 you just have to keep watching.
So the things that stood out to me this ep: first, Henry’s watching Diff’rent Strokes. Just thought I’d mention that. He also has very intelligent feelings about the upcoming Star Trek: Wrath of Khan for someone who doesn’t yet know about the Odd/Even rule in Star Trek movies.
Philip still doesn’t feel like Fred is “his” agent. He and Elizabeth remedy this by bringing her in on it to make Fred feel like Philip’s letting him into his family, perhaps reflecting Paige’s own feelings of being on the outside of her own. And reflecting how Elizabeth and Claudia will give her their own false gesture of family in S6 that she clings to until she doesn’t.
I’ve always been fascinated by Philip’s description of Fred. He says he’s a grandiose loner who tells himself he’s doing this for the cause but really Emmett could have had him working for Martians as long as it made him feel like he was better than everyone else. Then he says he likes him!
I think the liking him part refers to the fact that Fred’s “gutsy, smart, reliable” but it still stands out to me because Philip rarely actually likes anybody they work with. I can’t say Fred doesn’t deserve it. Guy knows how to come through without being flashy and Philip appreciates that.
Speaking of family, this is the ep where Martha talks about starting one and Clark says no. I never noticed before, but you can clearly see Philip feeling like shit when he realizes he’s taking away Martha’s chance at children. It’s fitting her story ends with Gabriel presumably using Philip’s notes to give her one. (Also the subject comes up after Clark removes his condom, because this show does not shy away from sex as a bodily function—yuck.) Otoh, kids obviously aren’t Martha’s priority or she’d not make the choices she makes. The kid’s her second choice.
Interesting to note too, that before Martha brings up children she does her own version of Clark’s proposal by upping her value to him. She brings home a pile of secret files without being asked and then casually drops that she knows he wears a toupee. A lot of Martha’s actions and lines track with the idea that she unconsciously knows all along that she’s in a romance with a sexy secret agent.
This is a real theme in the ep and the series, that the Cause might create a short term illusion of family, but ultimately destroys it. Philip & Elizabeth’s marriage is unique in surviving, but mostly because both of them quietly begin to protect and prioritize it.
Stan and Oleg both start dreaming of Nina’s getaway, though Oleg seems much more honest about it. Nina’s clearly already getting Oleg to question things; he disagrees with Arkady about her deserving punishment if Stan doesn’t come through.
Stan, to me, seems to be spinning fantasies for himself. He tells Nina he’ll just somehow get her dropped off in some US city that doesn’t have a Soviet embassy (with the car he’s buying her with cash) and she’ll “know how to blend in” there but...would she? Does she really know how to disappear so well in a random American city? She’s not Philip and Elizabeth, she’s an exceptionally beautiful woman with a Russian accent.
Stan also says he’ll visit her every weekend. How did he think that was going to work? Nina’s going to be invisible on her own in some city with Stan the FBI agent coming to see her in hiding every weekend? Also, what life is he envisioning for her if he expects their relationship to continue?
I have to say, too, that one good thing about Nina’s deportation is I really really hate her and Stan as a couple. The scene with them lying in bed just grosses me out. No offense to Noah Emmerich. The whole relationship just creeps me out.
Back home Stan has less luck with Matthew. He’s sadly brought him home The Rocky Horror Picture show, completely not understanding that it’s not a movie Matthew is going to watch on video with his friends. We know later he’ll try the same move on Henry who’s young enough to take Stan’s word for it that Stan’s cool for showing this movie, leaving Matthew to have to sit through it with a 12 year old. Thanks Stan!
Oh, and the one thing Stan asks about Sandra’s new guy is if he’s “a good guy,” once again underlining Stan’s obsession with that (and conflicted feelings about how he might give Echo to the Soviets for Nina). Sandra tries to reply with a different pov, saying he’s “able to be in the flow of things (presumably this includes being emotionally present, unlike Stan), then just gives up and says yes, he’s a good guy.
Paige is majorly disappointed when Elizabeth splits for a work emergency instead of helping her pack for her night in Pennsylvania—no girl with "absentee" parents would be bitching over her mom bowing out of helping her pack for a night away and punishing her dad by not speaking to him.
On the contrary, clearly Elizabeth has shown real interest in supporting her here, though sadly we know she’s going about it hoping Paige will be like Elizabeth herself instead of respecting her finding her own way. Paige reacts to this by seeing all her parents’ lies all the more clearly, even trying to listen in on their phone conversation, prompting Philip to threaten to take her phone away. (Might have been a good idea in retrospect, especially given how she doesn’t seem to particularly talk on the phone much when not eavesdropping or ratting out her parents!)
Paige’s conversation with Pastor Tim is also a little sad in retrospect. She tells him she no longer believes anything her parents say, that she considered whether one or both of them were having an affair, and Tim reassures her with some generic stuff about how being a parent is hard...and so is being a kid! Paige will be back to feeling this way at the end of the show.
But Tim also asks Paige what made her parents "change their mind" and on one level they didn’t. They said no to camp and yes to a night away, two different things. Which makes it seem like he’s responding to Paige telling him how positive Elizabeth was about the demonstration—iow the real change in Elizabeth’s attitude that suggests there’s something else going on there. But she can’t explain that to Tim, so she has to accept his reassurances that they let her go because they knew it was important to her, which is exactly wrong. Elizabeth let her go because this kind of thing is important to Elizabeth, something Paige doesn't yet have any way of understanding.
You can almost see Paige’s normal life that could have been, where she defines herself through the church for a while and either does or doesn’t stick with it. But we know there’s no real solution here because Paige’s suspicions are well-founded and, worse, Elizabeth’s change of attitude has a sinister note to it. Elizabeth and Paige’s demand the other admire rather than just accept her will eventually make this worse.
Meanwhile Elizabeth has her own talk on the road with Jared, who’s being sent away out of the country. This was the thing that most interested me in the ep. By the end Elizabeth will say to Philip that their kids would be dead in an alley in a week in this situation. Philip claims Paige can “out-think” anyone and at this point the line doesn’t sound insane, since she’s giving them such trouble about their lies. But this conversation explicitly brings up the situation at the end of the series, with Elizabeth reminding Philip that one day their children will be in Jared’s shoes so they need to prepare. It’s just ironic that Elizabeth, the one who thinks she’s the one preparing her Chosen One for it, is the one doing the opposite while Philip will be the one better preparing Henry to survive on his own.
Philip here also does his consistent thing of refusing to define Henry at all, saying he's just a kid now but in a few years...who knows? This is another way the show clearly links the two of them, as re-Philip Mischa himself is almost always left undefined by people who knew him, save a few small qualities that also describe Henry.
Of course there’s many reasons for Jared and Elizabeth to behave differently here than Paige and Elizabeth do in START, but their behavior does also reflect Paige’s actual personality combined with the way Elizabeth “develops” her for the next few years.
Jared, though 3 or 4 years younger than 20-year-old Paige in S6 is calm in the face of his life changing. He accepts that he’s in danger so has to leave everything behind, follows orders, asks Elizabeth if he’ll be resettled in the US, so obviously he knows he possibly won’t be. And on her side, Elizabeth deals with him in a calmer way, telling him the hard truths upfront in a way he understands. Basically this whole trip with the two of them reads like a trial run of the final escape with Paige if it went the way Elizabeth imagined in her head. Elizabeth calm, giving him the hard truths; Jared rising nobly and quietly to the occasion, understanding everything.
The actor’s performance--to me--makes it clear that whatever fantasies Jared still holds about the cause, underneath he has a very realistic—possibly fatalistic—view of what he’s done and what his situation is. Whether or not he thinks he’ll be dead literally soon, there’s a sense that he feels everything he knew as his life is already over.
And finally, here we learn that Elizabeth will ultimately deliberately break the rules about exfiltration. She tells Jared he needs to strip down and throw away all his clothes and belongings. She says, this is what they do, that “We clean ourselves, you don’t get to take anything with you.”
Watching her say that now, I can’t help but picture Elizabeth grabbing those wedding rings before she leaves the house, two things she and Philip both always intended to be part of their “real” identities in both countries. Not just the rings but, of course, the marriage. Elizabeth’s already beginning to see (or admit to seeing) differently here. Where last season she described herself as alone in the US, forced to live with “a strange man” she now describes herself and Philip as having always had each other, unlike Jared.
But yeah, this talk with Jared on one hand is important for the plot—it’s the reason Larrick loses the tracker he’s got on them when Jared tosses his backpack. But it’s also clearly meant to be a psychological ritual that Philip and Elizabeth reject with the wedding rings, like Arya Stark hiding Needle instead of tossing it, if you watch GoT, or even the totems in the movie Inception. They’re the touchstones.