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Philip Jennings is a main character on the FX series The Americans. His marriage to Elizabeth Jennings was initially only part of their KGB cover, but they later officially marry on their own terms.[1] Together they had two children, Paige and Henry Jennings. Philip is a former undercover KGB Directorate S agent, but later quits to assume his cover job full time at Dupont Circle Travel as a travel agent. 

Much like his early marriage, Philip strikes up a friendship with Stan Beeman, his FBI neighbor, entirely as part of his job. He later forms a deep and real bond with Stan and comes to regard him as his best friend.[2]

Gabriel remarks that Philip is one of the best KGB agents ever produced,[3] especially because of his ability to understand and think like the Americans — a skill that is both useful and harmful to Philip over the years. He takes his missions seriously, although his loyalty lies more with his family and their well-being than with the Communist Manifesto. His eventual personal moral dilemmas regarding his work and a deteriorating trust in the KGB leads him to quit the spy business; Philip eventually learns, however, that a life full of American Capitalism proves to have its own flaws, as well.

BiographyEdit

Early LifeEdit

Philip was born as Mikhail (Russian: Михаил) in Tobolsk, Soviet Union, in the early 1940s. Raised by his single mother for most of his childhood, his upbringing in post-World War II Soviet Russia was tough. Tobolsk is surrounded by forest; Phillip grew up believing his father was a logger who worked hard, came home tired, and passed away when Phillip was six years old. As an adult, Phillip later learns from Gabriel that his dad was actually a guard at a logging prison camp. As a young boy, Phillip would travel into the city to get milk. During the commutes, he encountered gangs who regularly beat him up; Phillip's murder of one of these boys at the age of ten is a formative event in his life.

As a teenager, he developed a relationship with a girl named Irina; both pursued espionage roles with the Soviet government. When, at 17 years old, Phillip is chosen by the Commissariat for a Leadership Group, their relationship ends. Phillip was unaware he had gotten Irina pregnant just prior to joining the academy. Not wanting to jeopardize his career, she did not tell him about their child until two decades later (Duty and Honor ).

KGB TrainingEdit

After joining the KGB, Phillip is selected to become a Directorate S operative, an undercover Soviet agent hiding in plain sight in America. As a young agent in training, he learned how to speak English with a flawless American accent, how to be an effective spy and how to think and act like a typical American. Another specific skill that he mastered during training was how to seduce strangers to have sex in order to obtain information. He learned how to “make it real” with various partners (old, young, male or female). His name is later changed to Philip.

In April 1962, Viktor Zhukov introduced Philip to Elizabeth, another Directorate S operative in training, who would become his wife in America solely as a cover story. They were instructed to never speak Russian again or discuss their former Russian lives.

New Life Edit

After several years of intensive training, he and Elizabeth arrived in America in August 1965. In order to further their cover, they produced two children together, Paige in late 1967 and Henry in early 1971. He and Elizabeth became owners of a travel agency while continuing to pose as average middle-class citizens. Through the first fifteen years of living undercover in America, Phillip adapted to the American way of life, successfully fitting in and even enjoying it.

Story Arcs Edit

Murder Mystery Edit

Over the years, Philip and Elizabeth occasionally worked with another Directorate S couple, Emmett and Leanne Connors. They met up with them again for a mission to control a Lockheed employee’s security codes. Later that week, both families attended a fair in order to see each other’s children. Emmett asked Philip to do a brush-pass with his agent, Fred, to get intel on stealth technology. After the risky operation, Philip and Elizabeth went to the Connors’s hotel room to return the intel to Emmett. However, they found him, Leanne and their daughter, Amelia, murdered inside. Philip grabbed the rest of Emmett’s stealth intel from his briefcase before departing the room. While leaving, he saw the Connors’s son, Jared, returning to their room from the pool. Philip ran down the stairs as he heard Jared screaming from the sight of his slaughtered family. [4]

Horrified and paranoid, Philip began to investigate Fred as a potential suspect in their murders. He ran surveillance on him and broke into his house. While searching through Fred’s stuff, he found nothing out of the ordinary. After encountering a trap there, he was electrocuted and knocked out for a while. He woke up with Fred, still unaware of Emmett’s death, trying to signal Emmett. Philip convinced Fred not to kill him and explained everything. Following the successful plea, Fred trusted him and became his agent (“Cardinal”). With the Connors’s killer still on the loose, Claudia returned to seek Philip and Elizabeth’s help in finding him. Her number one suspect was Andrew Larrick, a homosexual Navy Seal who was blackmailed into working with the Connorses (“A Little Night Music”).

After discovering that Larrick was not the killer (“Behind the Red Door”), it was later revealed that Jared had murdered his family. As he died from a bullet wound caused by Larrick, he admitted that he killed them because they would not let him enter the spy business after he found out who they were. Days later, Claudia told Philip and Elizabeth that Jared was recruited into the KGB’s Second Generation Illegals Program. Their new handler, Kate, had approached him, told him his parents’ secret, seduced him and won him over in supporting the Soviet cause. With Jared dead and the Centre eager for more agents, Claudia told the Jenningses that Paige was their next target. Philip met with Rezidentura head, Arkady Zotov, to tell him that he would quit the KGB if they approached Paige they way they did with Jared (“Echo”).

Larrick Threat Edit

At Claudia’s urging, Philip and Elizabeth went incognito as CIA security to meet with Larrick. During the tense meeting, they discovered that he did not kill the Connorses. However, they learned of his involvement in Martial Eagle, a base where the United States secretly trained Nicaraguan contras. Kate instructed them to assassinate the field commanders working there. In order to get inside, they needed him to know who they really were. Later on, Philip met him outside of a gay club to show him that he was part of the KGB (“Behind the Red Door”). After planning to infiltrate Martial Eagle with Larrick and Lucia, a Nicaraguan intelligence agent, they learned that Lucia was going to kill Larrick inside the camp (“ARPANET”). Philip got angry after hearing that Larrick killed Lucia when she attacked him in his home (“New Car”). During the Martial Eagle operation, Philip took pictures of the contras’ training but had to kill an American personnel who spotted him. The inevitable act shook Philip to the core (“Martial Eagle”).

In Nicaragua, Larrick wanted revenge when he heard that the Jenningses killed more people than expected at Martial Eagle. He returned to the states for vengeance, killing George (“Yousaf”) and Kate in the process of locating Philip and Elizabeth (“Stealth”). After decoding Kate’s encrypted messages, he learned of Jared’s location and tailed Elizabeth while she rushed to exfiltrate him (“Operation Chronicle”). Learning that Larrick was awol, the Jenningses evacuated their house and traveled to a motel near Abigail’s cabin where Jared was staying. However, Larrick knew that they were there because of his earlier act of following Elizabeth relocate Jared. He confronted Philip, Elizabeth and Jared by Abigail’s cabin and planned to turn them in to authorities. After a brief fight started by Jared, Larrick was shot and killed by Philip (“Echo”).

Stealth Technology Edit

With intelligence from Fred, Philip and Elizabeth posed as movers at a submarine plant that contained specific plans valuable to the Soviets. Philip photographed the plans they needed while Elizabeth intimidated one of the plant workers who was onto their scheme (“The Walk In”). Weeks later, Kate met with Philip to discuss some terrible news. She informed him that the plans he and Elizabeth stole were fake and that it caused a Soviet submarine fatality. The tragic event killed 160 men of their own, burdening Philip deeply (“New Car”).

In disguise, Philip attended a speech delivered by Anton Baklanov, a Jewish scientist who escaped the Soviet Union 10 years beforehand. He was supposed to enlist Anton to work for the Soviets, but soon realized that he was not recruitable. Because of Anton’s reluctance, Philip and Elizabeth were ordered to forcefully exfiltrate him back to the Soviet Union. While kidnapping him, they encountered two Mossad agents who were unwilling to give him up. After a brutal showdown, the female Mossad agent stole the Jenningses’ car, driving away from the scene with Anton in the trunk (“A Little Night Music”). Philip and the injured Mossad agent hid inside a safe house. While there, the Mossad agent taunted Philip about how his whole life was a lie. When the Soviet Union made a deal with the Mossad to release 1,500 Jews to Israel, the Mossad exchanged Anton for Philip’s Mossad hostage. Philip drove Anton to a ship dock to transport him back to the Soviet Union (“The Deal”).

To keep up with American technology, Kate instructed Philip to bug the ARPANET, the network that would become the basis for the internet. Dressed as a journalist, he was accompanied by his agent, Charles Duluth, to learn about the advanced system from a computer expert. Charles found out the code for the computer lab and gave it to Philip, but they realized that the lab was full of students. Philip set off the building’s fire alarm and entered the lab to access the ARPANET. However, a student returned to the room to grab his wallet and noticed Philip in there, leading to Philip killing the innocent man. The guilt weighed heavily on him, and he wondered if the mission was worth it (“ARPANET”).

Back in Russia, Anton told Vasili Nikolaevich that he needed details of the radar-absorbent material (RAM) to keep up with American stealth technology. To retrieve this information, Fred told Philip about a former engineer named John Skeevers who specialized in RAM. Posing as a Vietnam War veteran, Philip befriended John at a pharmacy and paid for his medication. Later, he visited John at his home and learned that RAM consisted of a paint containing tiny iron balls intended to block radar signals (“Stealth”). Meeting with Fred again, Philip and Elizabeth convinced him to wander into a secure area of a stealth factory wearing special absorbent shoes to get samples of the RAM paint (“Operation Chronicle”). After successfully getting the samples, he threw the shoes into a random dumpster for the Jenningses to pick up. However, he was shot by police in the process and died shortly after (“Echo”).

RelationshipsEdit

Elizabeth Jennings Edit

The Jennings have a complex marriage. For over 15 years, Philip’s arranged marriage with Elizabeth was strictly professional, although he harbored unrequited feelings for a while. He later recounts that upon their first meeting, he felt like he’d been struck by a bolt of lightning,[5] a feeling he had not experienced previously or since. He was also surprised and relieved that Elizabeth was so beautiful.[6] Elizabeth, however, found Philip to be strange and was not interested in pursuing anything outside of their “arrangement,” only having sex for the purpose of procreation. Philip postulated that perhaps Elizabeth did not find him physically attractive; she later admits that she wrongly believed her was weaker than her, because his strengths were manifested in a different manner than hers.

Elizabeth was still also traumatized from her rape by Nikolai Timoshev, which resulted in her ability to have intercourse under false pretenses for her job, but left her struggling to trust in a real relationship. When Philip learned about Timoshev, he decided to kill him rather than turn him over to Stan, out of genuine love and respect for Elizabeth. After the Jennings disposed of the body, Elizabeth initiated a “real” marriage, opening up about her early life and her real name to Philip.  

Their fledgeling attempts at a romantic marriage had a tremulous start. Philip nearly ended it when he discovered that informant Gregory Thomas was once Elizabeth’s lover and – even worse—someone she shared honest feelings with about her life, Philip and their children ("Gregory"). The betrayal of trust was further compounded when the KGB kidnapped the Jennings to determine if they were moles leaking information to the FBI. While both were interrogated, only Philip was physically tortured. He realized that only he was ever actually under suspicion and discovered Elizabeth had reported him to The Center over the years as someone who “enjoyed life in America too much.” His trust in Elizabeth was shattered, despite her assurances that she ended things with Gregory and that she did not tell anyone that he’d considered defecting a few weeks prior.

With their relationship still on shaky ground, Philip went to New York for an operation and worked with his old flame, who told him about the existence of their son. They later slept together, although Philip turned down her offer to join her as she defected, citing his responsibilities to Elizabeth and their children. Upon returning home, Philip told Elizabeth that she was the only woman in his life after Elizabeth openly admitted to missing him and wanting to try again at a real relationship; he lied to her, however, that nothing happened between him and Irina ("Duty and Honor"). When Elizabeth found out, her trust in him was broken and she shut down their “experiment” even though he apologized, citing its negative impact in her ability to focus on her work, and asserting that their relationship would from then on remain professional. Philip then suggested separating, as their covers had been established and they didn’t need to be married anymore to fit in, and because he was no longer unable to pretend to not love her ("Mutually Assured Destruction").

They announced their separation to Paige and Henry, who took the news very hard – especially Paige, who blamed Elizabeth for the failing marriage ("Safe House"). Philip moved into a motel, but still maintained his roles to Elizabeth as partner, and loving father to his children, despite the tension of the split weighing on everyone. He still clearly cared deeply for his family, even sparing Gregory and allowing him to die on his own terms when Elizabeth asked him to ("Only You"). After the death of Zhukov and some prompting from Paige, Elizabeth reevaluated hers and Philip’s relationship and intended to invite him to move back in, only to be surprised (and upset) by his announcement that he had bought an apartment. The Jennings fell into a kind of routine afterwards, with the children visiting Philip at his place, although no one was particularly pleased with it (Henry even buried Paige’s keys to Philip’s apartment).

Philip married Martha as part of his Clark Westerfeld cover and asked Elizabeth and Claudia to attend the wedding as his sister and mother. Elizabeth remarked after the ceremony that the two of them had never “actually been married” and wondered if that would’ve changed their relationship, to which Philip replied that he didn’t know. They continued to avoid discussing the separation until Elizabeth was shot during a mission; waking up after the operation and noticing Philip at her side, she asked him to “come home,” in a way making their own vows right then – a commitment to make their relationship work from there on out ("The Colonel").

Paige and Henry Edit

Phillip and Elizabeth's jobs result in them being largely absent parents. When their children are younger, the Jennings rely on multiple babysitters, but as Paige and Henry age, they are often left alone at night (frequently without their knowledge) as the Jennings participate in various assignments. Paige slowly becomes aware that her parents' activities are not normal, and starts to investigate, digging through her mother's laundry, listening in on phone calls, skipping school to visit Elizabeth’s supposed great aunt Helen Leavis. Suspecting her parents may be gone again in the middle of the night, Paige opens their bedroom door to find them having sex. This alerts the Jennings to her suspicions, and arguments between Paige and her parents escalate. Due to his age and personality, Henry does not receive nearly as much attention from his parents as his sister does.

Interested in Christianity, Paige begins praying and reading the Bible. When Phillip learns she donated all her savings to a church without their consent, he becomes enraged and later confronts the pastor, requesting he keep Paige away from the church. Over time, Phillip grows more accepting of Paige’s faith, but her relationship with the church and Pastor Tim remain an ongoing source of conflict in the Jennings' marriage, as Phillip and Elizabeth disagree sharply over how to respond to it.

Their divergent viewpoints are intensified when Elizabeth suddenly embraces Paige's religious activities; Phillip suspects Elizabeth is "developing" Paige for future recruitment by the KGB. Disagreement over the role (if any) of the KGB in the lives of their children is another major source of grief in the Jennings' marriage. Committed to the cause and proud of her work, Elizabeth can envision a future in the operation for Paige. Repulsed by many of his own job activities, and driven by a desire to protect his child, Phillip not only wants Paige as far away from the KGB as possible, he also doesn't even want to admit to Paige who he is and what he does. Phillip tells Elizabeth: "No matter what choice we make, it seems like Paige loses."

Martha Hanson Edit

Donning an alias of Clark Westerfeld, Internal Affairs investigator, Phillip interviews Martha Hanson to obtain information from the FBI counterintelligence office where she works. Assuring Martha his job entails overseeing the various agencies to safeguard their security, he gradually begins to seduce her to gain both her trust and her complicity. They begin a sexual relationship and ultimately marry. At their wedding, Elizabeth and Claudia are present, posing as his sister and mother.

After their marriage, as Clark, Phillip begins to regularly spend two nights a week at Martha's place. Although (and perhaps because) their marriage is a sham, Phillip gradually finds he can tell Martha things he is unable to share with anyone else, and is afraid to admit to even himself. Grossly unaware of the full extent of his life and activities, Martha consistently responds to Clark without judgment, remaining supportive and empathetic when he is under stress. Despite himself, Phillip grows increasingly dependent on Martha, and ultimately visits her on other nights in addition to his regular ones, particularly during times when he and Elizabeth are not getting along.

Phillip walks a fine line with Martha, simultaneously manipulating her into doing what he needs for his job, while also growing to care about her and her welfare. Towards the end of their relationship, he removes all the pieces of his disguise, revealing his real appearance to her for the first time. Elizabeth wonders if he did so because he wanted to truly be seen by her. However, Phillip's actions place Martha in even greater danger, and could thus be construed as him using her yet again for his own needs. Even though Martha eventually "sees" Phillip instead of Clark, she only perceives a meager fraction of the person he actually is. With Martha, Phillip enjoys basking in an incomplete, sanitized version of himself, and when Martha leaves, it is unclear if he misses her, or just his more noble doppelganger.

Due to her prior experience with Gregory, Elizabeth understands the complexity of Phillip's relationship with Martha - likely better than he does - and remains largely supportive of his feelings. Recalling Phillip's willingness to ignore The Center's orders and stand aside, thereby letting Gregory die on his own terms, Elizabeth works to exfiltrate Martha, rather than kill her, even when Martha runs and threatens to expose the entire operation. Nevertheless, on multiple occasions Elizabeth is shown feeling sad about the intimacy Phillip and Martha share. When Martha unwittingly tells Elizabeth that Clark behaves aggressively towards her in bed, Elizabeth asks for Phillip to sexually "be Clark" with her as well. Confused, Phillip tries to give Elizabeth what she wants, but finds himself unable; Elizabeth knows the true him too well for Phillip to successfully be someone else with her. Ultimately, Elizabeth tells Phillip that if he wanted to join Martha in the Soviet Union and stay there, she would understand. Phillip is aghast she would propose such a thing, telling Elizabeth his relationship with Martha is "not like that," and professing his love for only her. After Martha leaves, however, he remains overly sensitive to any perceived criticism of her.

The Beemans Edit

When Stan and his family move in across the street, the Jennings introduce themselves. After Stan shares that he is an FBI counterintelligence agent specializing in hunting down Soviet agents, Phillip and Elizabeth panic. However, they soon come to believe it is simply coincidence. Against Elizabeth's wishes, Phillip pursues friendship with Stan, not entirely for work purposes, appearing to genuinely enjoy the time they spend together, often on the racquetball court.

Paige soon develops a crush on Matthew Beeman, and Henry increasingly relies more and more on Stan as a father figure (because of his job, which includes marriage to Martha, Phillip is often absent from home, and focuses more on Paige when he's there). When the Jennings spend extended time away due to Elizabeth's medical emergency (shot by Stan, unaware of her identity) the Beemans take care of the Jennings' children. At one point, when Elizabeth questions what will become of Henry and Paige if anything happens to them, Phillip jokes that the Beemans will raise them.

Sandra is friendly towards Elizabeth and they even go out drinking and dancing on one occasion, but Elizabeth generally keeps her at arm's length. However, when Phillip later goes to EST by himself, he encounters Sandra and the two find they are able to converse easily with each other. Spotted at a restaurant by Stan's new girlfriend, their relationship is misinterpreted and reported to Stan, causing a rift between him and Phillip.

Throughout the series, the various relationships between Jennings and Beeman family members are a significant contributor of suspense and tension to the show, as friendship is constantly showcased against the main protagonists working towards directly opposite ends.

Mikhail "Mischa" Semenov Edit

Due to his and Irina's son serving as a paratrooper in Afghanistan, Phillip's interest in the Afghan-Soviet war extends beyond the mere responsibilities of his job. He is often shown listening to BBC Radio reports on the conflict, and the risk on his son's life makes him willing to engage in activities he finds personally abhorrent, such as seducing an underage girl, and facilitating contact between a source who "wasn't ready," and a Pakistani intelligence officer. When the latter operation results in her death, Phillip comforts himself with the thought of "all the young boys who won't be blown out of the sky" as a result of his actions, but admits he still "feels like shit all the time."

When Elizabeth privately requests that Mischa be returned home to Russia prematurely, he refuses the offer. Gabriel later informs Phillip, who ultimately decides to let Mischa stay. Mischa eventually returns to the Soviet Union safely and works in a factory. Traveling to the US with the help of items left to him by his mother, he is dissuaded from meeting Phillip, and returns home. He ultimately lives with Phillip's brother in Russia.

Characteristics Edit

Personality Edit

At times appearing cold on the outside, Phillip has an undeniable compassion for human life. He questions the morality and purpose of his work, and the large number of innocent bystanders Phillip must kill in order to do his job weighs heavily on him. He sometimes prioritizes people's welfare over the success of a mission. Phillip develops a deeper understanding of Americans and their culture than Elizabeth does, and is better able to predict their actions and motivations than she. Gabriel says of all the illegals, Phillip is simply "the best."

Moreso than Elizabeth, Phillip is able to enjoy his life in America, and seems to connect with those around him on a personal level. He likes having friends, and at one point tells William that if he did not have to do his job, he'd simply "be normal." Phillip is more open to new ideas than Elizabeth; their job makes him feel guiltier than she does, but not as anxious. Of the two, Phillip is the angrier, at times taking it out on his children (whereas Elizabeth's rage spills over more into her job). He is also the more affectionate with his children, often seen kissing Paige or Henry on the forehead or gently putting his hand on a shoulder. According to Elizabeth, Phillip is given to ruminating excessively on his actions, replaying them over in his mind, trying to figure out what he could have done differently.

Phillip sometimes finds dark humor in his work, joking with Elizabeth when a transmission cuts out that now they will never learn what refreshments were served, or whispering "that's about to change" before blowing up the car of scientists whom Elizabeth claimed felt safe. He uses humor to calm the fears of a co-worker before they fight with a defector in the Pilot, and when they later miss the hand-off, he snarks "Why is everyone in this business so punctual?" Phillip reacts with sarcasm when given an impossible mission to track down an unknown assassin with multiple targets. He jokes with Henry about how awesome he is, and when Elizabeth asks what he's supposed to bring to a party, he replies "my winning personality." He plays a game with his children in the Pilot, which ends with him pushing an ice cream cone in their faces, and he and Paige are shown having a contest where they try to catch grapes in their mouths.

Phillip is competitive; when Stan jokes Phillip won their racquetball game only because Stan got called away to work, Phillip says under his breath "I'll win any way I can." He is jealous of Elizabeth's sexual manipulation of their targets, even before their relationship becomes more than a business partnership. As their marriage grows increasingly less of a sham, Phillip begins to sacrifice mission safety in order to postpone or avoid entirely sexual contact between Elizabeth and anyone else. This causes tension between them, as Elizabeth recoils from the unintended implication that she isn't able to do her job. She also reacts negatively to many of Phillip's other protective urges, such as him taking a more dangerous assignment away from her, or seeking revenge on a target who beat her.

Motivation Edit

Philip is excellent at his work and believes in the cause. He is loyal and willing to do everything it takes to complete his mission. However when forced to choose between his family or his country, Philip always put his family first. He loves his wife and children deeply and seems to be more affectionate and compassionate than Elizabeth.

Hobbies Edit

Phillip is often shown reading, and listening to Country music. He enjoys playing Scrabble with Gabriel, despite always losing. He likes to play both racquetball and hockey.

Abilities Edit

Phillip is an expert at manipulating and seducing his targets, talented at making others believe their traitorous actions are not what he wants, but rather something they decide to do against his better judgment. He is a skilled actor much like his wife Elizabeth, quick to discern what those around him need or want, and becoming that. He demonstrates resourcefulness when missions result in unexpected situations. Highly competent, Phillip is also critical of others - particularly handlers or other Soviet agents - when perceived by him as inexperienced or inept. Phillip is highly trained at hand to hand combatant but not as good as Elizabeth. However, of the two, Phillip is the better marksman.

Spy Work Edit

Operations Edit

Aliases Edit

Philip uses many aliases during his spy days, several of them reocurring.  
  • Philip in his Clark Westerfeld disguise
  • Philip as Scott Birkeland
  • Clark Westerfeld - works in intelligence oversight (Seasons One-Four)
  • Scott Birkeland - Swedish intelligence officer (Seasons One-Three)
  • Ted Davis - Vietnam veteran who fought in the Battle of Hamburger Hill (Season Two)
  • Justin Nezer - (along with Elizabeth as "Kelly Mainstill") as Deputy chiefs of staff for the vice president's office (Season One)
  • Jim Baxter - lawyer and lobbyist living in NY and commutes into D.C. few times a week (Season Three)

Informants Edit

ReferencesEdit

  1. "Darkroom" : Season 5, Episode 10.
  2. "START" : Season 6, Episode 10.
  3. "Salang Pass" : Season 3, Episode 5.
  4. "Comrades" : Season 2, Episode 1.
  5. "Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?" : Season 3, Episode 9.
  6. "Mutually Assured Destruction" : Season 1, Episode 8.