My emotions regarding The Americans are complicated. On the one hand, it is sharply written, brilliantly acted, and is just excellent all around. On the other, I don’t love it. I just don’t. I enjoy it when I watch it, but I don’t look forward to Wednesdays at 10:00. Why? I think I've figured it out. I don't have a team in the game. The KGB battles against the FBI and I just can't help wanting everything to be okay. I want Elizabeth and Philip to succeed in their spying. I want Beeman to catch them. I want the KGB to figure out who the mole in the embassy is and I want the mole to be okay. I want Beeman to give into his obvious attraction to Nina and I want him to recommit to his wife. I want everyone to win in what I know is a zero sum game. It makes watching the show an exercise in stress.
Speaking of stress, this week, Philip and Elizabeth are kidnapped and tortured by the people they work for while their children are simultaneously picked up by a creep with a knife.
There was betrayal enough to go around this week. Elizabeth betrayed Philip. This is not news to the audience, as her reporting on Philip was mentioned in the pilot episode. It is news to Philip. His recent progress with his wife hasn’t been completely negated, but it has been set back.
I feel like Philip is more committed to making their marriage work than Elizabeth. Elizabeth seems to be looking for a reason to give up. When things hit a rough patch this week, she immediately calls Gregory, her (ex?) boyfriend. Whether it’s reasonable or not, Elizabeth feels a bit betrayed by Philip in turn. Her reporting was just part of her job. She was just following orders, not to mention that it happened before their marriage was in any way real. She wasn’t betraying her husband, she was reporting on her partner.
Oh, the kids. This story really stressed me out. Apparently the eighties were a simpler time, a time before children were taught that getting into a car with a stranger is a ridiculously stupid move. In this situation, Henry was the most sensible. He immediately distrusted Nick. He was the one who caught Nick in his lie about having to go to work, the one who spotted the knife, and the one who thought to hit the creep in the head, and the one who told his big sister to run. Spy in the making, perhaps? We can hope.
I don’t know what Nick had planned for the kids. At first I thought it might have had something to do with mommy and daddy being kidnapped, but it seems likely Nick was just a creep. Maybe he was creepy but harmless, or maybe the kids’ mutilated bodies would have been found the next day floating in that lake. Thankfully, we’ll never know.
In other news, Nina’s pseudo prostitutional affair with Vasili continues, until, that is, Beeman frames him for being the mole and he gets sent back to the Soviet Union. I really like Beeman and Nina. They have great chemistry and they feel like one of those ‘it’s so wrong, it’s right’ couples. I love that Beeman saved her with diamonds, a symbol of love and constancy.
Also handing out sparklies this week is Philip. He’s still working the pitiable Martha for intel, but refusing to sleep with her despite his alleged attraction. I wonder why. He has no qualms about cheating on his wife for work, why not sleep with Martha? Is he afraid she’ll get too attached or start asking too many questions?
What’s interesting about The Americans is that the spy games aren’t the show’s main focus. On Alias, the spy fun was an end in itself. The show was about putting Sydney in wigs and skimpy dresses and watching her work her double agent magic. On The Americans, the spy trappings are there to further character development. From a pure plot perspective, the story of Philip and Elizabeth’s abduction went nowhere. We ended the show more or less where we started, but things changed drastically for our characters’ relationship due to that revving of wheels.
Soviet Bits & Communist Pieces:
I can’t believe Philip didn’t have a better cover story prepared than “I’m not a spy.” Shouldn’t he have at least attempted to explain away the incriminating details of his life? I’m not sure much could have been done, but he might have tried.
It’s so creepy when adults tell young girls they're going to grow up pretty.
I had my first sip of beer when I was 11. I didn’t like it. I still don’t like it.
Elizabeth’s face when Philip asked her for a piece of jewelry was priceless. It was so petty of him to ask.
Interrogator: “We know who you are and what you are, Mr. Jennings. You commie prick.”
Beeman: “Should I get my Carmac the Magnificent turban?”
Nina: “You know what they do to people suspected of treason? They put them on a plane back to Russia, no discussions, no questions, they get them a trial and a lawyer, and they find them guilty. And I am guilty.”
Beeman: “You know those Africans the criminal investigations guys busted a few months ago with the diamonds in their asses? [...] I’d like to request some of the jewels.”
Gaad: “I don’t think your wife’s gonna appreciate it if she ever finds out where they came from.”
Nick: “I mean, seriously, without a higher power, we’re no better than wild dogs.”
Elizabeth: “We’ll die before we talk.”
Philip: “We know how to do that.”
Elizabeth: “You’re not the only one who got hurt today, okay? I was ripped from my house, I was attacked by the people I believed in, the people I trusted most my whole life.”
Philip: “Yeah, I think that says it all.”
three and a half out of four bottles of beer