The Americans 1.4: Live Blog: 4!

The conclusion of this episode begins with agent Beeman reporting to headquarters that there is no important information regarding the Soviets in the assassination attempt. The Jennings’ are comfortably at home, watching the media portray frightening images surrounding the crisis. Elizabeth and Phillip stop by the Beeman household to see how they “made it through the day.” The Jennings’ are able to play the part of concerned Americans as they drill Beeman for information. While Beeman assuages their “fears”, he also mentions that if the Soviets were responsible, it would have triggered World War III.

I’m sensing a new plot line about to begin as the Beemans argue about their personal relationship. Beeman’s wife feels neglected and alone while Agent Beeman plays dumb until he finally admits that he may be falling out of love.

I have to say that although the overall subject matter of this episode was supposed to be exciting, the episode itself wasn’t. This episode was more rooted in role play and what lies underneath. There wasn’t much movement or development involved and it didn’t really leave me on the edge of my seat. Maybe the next episode will hold more promise.

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The Americans 1.4: Live Blog: 3!

The episode is escalating fast. Elizabeth and Phillip continue to fight about their pursuit of information, making it seem like Phlllip is thinking about defecting again. Agent Beeman finally meets with his source Nina, just to hear what he already knows. “Both sides have their fingers on the trigger, ready to pull.” Is it me or is there sort of a dangerous flirtation between the two?

Back in the Jennings’ family home, Elizabeth and Phillip overhear that the American government has the codes ready to launch nuclear arms towards Soviet Russia. Elizabeth wants to transmit the information immediately but Phillip disagrees. Obviously, this escalates into an argument about how Phillip has found love for American and can’t stay loyal to the mission at hand. Phillip finally stands up to her and states that they should be trying to prevent a war, not cause one. It’s a great point, one of the best he has made in the entire series!

The Americans 1.4: Live Blog: 2!

The crisis continues as Philip and Elizabeth try to prepare for their original mission, “operation Christopher.” Meanwhile, Agent Beeman attempts to have a meeting with his inside source, whose name we now know is Nina. Phillip and Elizabeth throw their wigs on an attempt to take advantage of an assistant to the Vice President in order to obtain information. Their mission is successful as they find out that Preisdent Reagen is in stable condition. Elizabeth and Phillip fight on the way back about the possibility of Moscow overreacting to the situation. But suddenly things take a turn. Elizabeth is pulled over for a harmless security check and she ends up shooting the cop.

A plot point that I have taken interest to during this episode is the interaction between Paige, daughter of Phillip and Elizabeth, and agent Beeman’s son. Like many of us do today when a life changing event takes place, Paige can’t glue herself away from the media coverage. Obviously, she finds comfort in discussing this with Agent Beenman’s soon, forming a close bond.

The Americans 1.4: Live Blog!

Friends and Follows: this post is the first of four live posts as I will be live-blogging this week’s episode. Although I’m upset that I will not be able to catch you up before the upcoming new episode, I like this experiment.

This week’s episode opens with the main plot point, the assassination attempt of president Ronald Reagan and the immediate fear that the crime was committed by a Soviet. Both Elizabeth and Phillip spring into action trying to find exactly what happened and what to do next. “Grannie” whose real name we now learn is Claudia, sends Elizabeth on a mission to find any information being spread on his condition and linking the crime to the Soviet Government.

I have to say I’m extremely impressed with the historical accuracy of this episode so far. Not only did the writers and producers nail down the false report of the death of Reagan’s assistant, James Brady, but they also focused on the media’s false reporting of Soviet involvement. I like what I see!

The Americans 1.2: A Human Side

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Despite the sex and secrecy, the injections and break-ins, the threats and secrets, episode 2 of The Americans shows us a softer side of our favorite communists, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings. The couple is up to their usual shenanigans of extracting American secrets through sex and lies, but what separates this episode from the pilot is the sudden switch of emotion.

This episode begins as the first one did, by using sex as means to obtain information. Phillip Jennings is playing the roll of the secret lover of the assistant to the undersecretary of defense. He plants a secret camera on her in order to obtain information on the man’s home and office. However, this assistant is not a key part of the episode. She is just another example to prove how far the Jennings will go to complete their next mission. This mission then switches direction towards the housekeeper of the undersecretary of defense, Viola. The overall plan? Find a way to eavesdrop on this undersecretary. The way to accomplish it? Through vengeful tactics and cruel behavior.

Elizabeth injects Viola’s son with a sickness inducing serum, it can kill a man in 72 hours. Phillip then breaks into Viola’s home as her son begins to show symptoms. He then threatens her son’s life by forcing her to steal a clock from her employer’s office so he can implant the listening device. I was initially under the impression that Phillip was the softie out of the dynamic duo but this episode proved otherwise. I saw an anger out of him that I would have never expected when confronting Viola. He was ready to kill both her and her son if the goal was not achieved.

Meanwhile in a different part of town, Agent Beeman and his part are going communist hunting. They suspect a woman making a hasty exit out of a stereo shop to be a Russian spy. Beeman and his partner harass and abuse the stereo salesman until he comes clean about who the woman is, only to have the agents steal his extremely expensive can of beluga caviar. Being that agent Beeman still has an “inking” about his friendly next-door neighbors, he brings the caviar over to the Jennings residence to try and read Phillip’s reaction to the delicacy. Phillip does a great job at playing dumb but manages to keep the can for himself and Elizabeth to indulge in later.

The best part of this episode though was watching Elizabeth Jennings. In regard to the plot, we see Elizabeth take a step back from her manic “I must stand with Mother Russia” ways and think about her family. We see her worry allowed to Phillip about her kids, whether they will be ok if she is captured or killed in action or whether they will find out the family secret. Elizabeth’s ability to care is finally unearthed. Underneath all the layers of portrayal of a spy and pride for her country, she is just another mother who deeply worries about the state of her children. This concept climaxed as Elizabeth pierced her daughter Paige’s ears. The music playing underneath the scene demonstrated a bonding moment which I though I would never see judging from the first episode.

The lesson to be learned from all of this is that looks can be deceiving. I originally thought that The Americans would be a high energy, high action television show about Russian spies and the Americans trying to capture them. Instead, it is about the psyche of the spy. The trouble they encounter can cause so much harm, but when their children are threatened, there is no telling what kind of damage the Jennings will go through to protect their young ones.

 

The Americans 1.1: Shock Value

The Americans 1.1: Shock Value

 

The first scenes in the pilot episode consisted of sex formatted for cable tv and a thrilling car chase. While that is more than enough risqué footage to keep anyone wanting more, The Americans switched from eerie subtlety to heart pounding excitement throughout its lengthy season premiere.

 

We are not formally introduced to the thrill-seeking lead characters until about fifteen minutes in, leaving enough time for the viewer to question their initial interest in the show. After all, it is difficult to stick with a show without feeling anything for the people in it. But after waiting patiently, we learn that Keri Russell’s Elizabeth Jennings and Matthew Rhys’s Phillip Jennings are the ones chasing culprits all over the metro Washington D.C. area. Along with their children, Philip and Elizabeth Jennings portray the average American family in early 1980s suburbia, but that’s not who they really are. The Jennings parents are actually spies for the USSR, attempting to extract American secrets and generally wreck havoc however they can.  Elizabeth and Phillip have been “married” for about twenty years when the show begins and I can’t help but develop the feeling that although Phillip has learned to love is phony wife over the years, Elizabeth’s main focus is serving her homeland and anything else is inconsequential.

 

In this episode Elizabeth and Phillip kidnap a former KGB officer who has defected to the USA. Their assignment is to capture him and send him back to Moscow where his superiors will take pleasure in torturing him to death. Unfortunately, the dynamic duo misses their time slot to throw the officer on the cargo ship and the two keep him in the trunk of the family Oldsmobile. All of this of course is set to the tune of popular 80s music. I am a big fan of the authenticity of this show. From the home décor to the Jordache jeans, The Americans does a great job of demonstrating what the early 80s looked and felt like.

 

Elizabeth and Phillip have no idea what to do with the kidnapped criminal inside their trunk. As we find out from a necessary flashback, Elizabeth wants to kill him because he sexually abused her during her training. Phillip doesn’t know this and wants to keep him alive until they receive further instruction from the motherland. The tension between them suddenly rises. I can tell that a big part of the storyline will be focused on loyalty to ones country vs. loyalty to each other.

 

As if the plot needs to thicken from what has happened thus far, we find out that the Jennings have new neighbors. Undercover FBI agent Stan Beenman, played by Noah Emmerich, and his family move into the quiet neighborhood and immediately gets a “funny feeling” about them. This seemed somewhat predictable considering someone had to be chasing these main characters.  Later in the first episode, we find Phillip getting nervous about his new neighbor and attempting to turn in his former KGB prisoner over to agent Stan without consulting Elizabeth. Obviously, she is furious considering the cold bickering that has occurred , and she finally informs Phillip of their past.  Phillip instead shows no mercy and kills the prisoner. That evening, the two hide the body in a warehouse after dousing it in acid. This scene was probably my favorite of the episode.  It shows that despite their differences, Elizabeth and Phillip can stick it out and get the job done no matter how frightening it is. The two know that their marriage has deep-rooted, ideological issues, but in the throws of terror they find passion. The Phil Collins “In The Air Tonight” tainted the feel of this passionate and emotional scene but I got the point.

 

Overall, I feel that The Americans is off to a solid start. While there were certain points of utter cheesiness and “I can’t believe they went there” vibes, the television show holds potential. The task ahead is a difficult one; not only does it need to hold my attention but after this episode, it needs to give me reasons to take it seriously.  Hopefully, the next episode will keep me wanting more without all of the extra unnecessary bells and whistles.