The Americans 1.11: This Isn’t A Cold War

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With a pull of a trigger, we’re off to a new plot line in this week’s episode of The Americans. The FBI is taking action and targeting three top KGB officials in Moscow. Within the first five minutes, one is already gunned down; General Czukoff the one who usually gives orders to the Jennings.

Stateside, Elizabeth goes to a bar with Mrs. Beeman for a ladies night while Phillip hangs out with the kids in the depressing motel room. Both Jennings look very happy, but Mrs. Beeman is obviously not. Agent Beeman comes home to a drunk Mrs. Beeman accusing him of cheating. Beeman never denies it, rightfully so. Elizabeth  meets with Claudia the next day who informs her that the beloved general was killed. Elizabeth tearfully informs Phillip and vows to avenge his death by personally killing the man who ordered it, the head of counterintelligence.

Apparently, our Russian mole Nina is now a senior lieutenant at the embassy. She has a fancy office and received her first assignment from Arkadey, to find out more about the assassinations in Moscow. Welcome to the big leagues indeed. Despite obtaining all of this power, she is still upset about the loss of her friend Vlad. She tries to get information out of Beeman who claims to know nothing. He tells her that his wife knows yet still kisses Nina like she’s the only one he needs.

To honor Czukoff’s memory, Elizabeth continuously has flashbacks of the two throughout the episode. One about teaching her to love and one about family. This is especially important because they occur as Elizabeth and Phillip plan their assassination of the man responsible. It seems that they are moving swiftly on this, as if there is no time to think it all through. Elizabeth’s disguise of the week is cute newly single girl who just wants to get it on. She plays her part well and within minutes, their man is being held captive in a warehouse. Elizabeth begins to question him with a gun to his head but as interactions heighten, he  mentions that Elizabeth is only in her position to kill, she cannot feel nor can she love. Basically he feeds off of everything Czukoff was trying to teach he to do despite her difficult training. Elizabeth loses it and leaves the room. She ends up letting him go! She is weak after the Gregory incident, but then she is reminded of a memory with Czukoff in which he tells her that surrender wouldn’t be the end all be all for her. Elizabeth goes to the motel to try and make up with Phillip just to find out that he got an apartment. She is quietly devastated.

The episode ends in a quiet confrontation between Elizabeth and Claudia. i’m not really sure what it meant or what effect it was supposed to have on the viewer. Maybe to establish that a storm was brewing between the two now that the only thing connecting them was gone? Speculate all you want but overall, I found this episode to be very slow. The Americans is not great with interim episodes, especially after extremely dramatic episodes like Gregory exit. I hope that it will pick up next week

The Americans 1.10: Gregory’s Return

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This episode of The Americans left me in tears. I never cry during television shows but between the soundtrack, cinematography, and actual storyline, I finally realized that I was emotionally invested in a series for the first time. On with the recap and review.

Elizabeth drives Phillip back to his motel after they dump Chris’s body. The head of the department at the FBI delivered a somber eulogy to the staff and pledged that they will find whoever is responsible for the crime. Beeman is heartbroken, Martha is in tears, everyone is visibly shaken by Chris’s death. But it is revealed that Chris’s ring was missing, and whoever holds the ring is the key to his killer.

In an interesting turn of events, Beeman goes to Phillip’s motel room to seek comfort instead of his home with his wife and child. The two have a deep heart to heart about their lives and what lead them to that point. It almost seems like they’re becoming friends. It’s too bad that Beeman doesn’t know that Phillip is KGB. The next day, Beeman and Nina meet to discuss the deaths of their respective friends. Nina is pretty upset about Vlad and reveals that he never wanted to be a part of the KGB, he just wanted to be a doctor. I’m still sad about Vlad’s death, definitely more than Chris’s death.

Back home, Elizabeth is playing bad cop and once again, Paige calls her out on it. Just as Elizabeth is giving the scolding that Paige has deserved for episodes, Phillip the hero walks in. They have their morning information exchange so everyone is caught up about Chris’s missing ring. Ah but the FBI got there first. Chris’s ring was found at a sketchy pawn shop. After Beeman spoke to/intimidated/beat up the pawn shop owner, he finally revealed that the people who delivered the car were people who worked for our old friend Gregory.

Remember him? The man who Elizabeth had an affair with? The man who severed his ties in the projects just so he could join the KGB…for Elizabeth? Gregory is one of my favorite characters on this show, every time his character makes an appearance, my heart skips a beat. Elizabeth tells him to stay low since the FBI will come after him at any moment. He is the only character on this show that Elizabeth can trust so it is urgent for her to keep him alive. The FBI receives positive ID confirmation on one of Gregory’s people, Curtis, and Beeman brings him in. During the interrogation, Beeman tries to give Curtis a chance to get out of this mess but he stays silent, committed to the cause. 

Claudia meets with Phillip and Elizabeth that night to discuss the Gregory situation. When the three realize that the Chris investigation isn’t going to go away, the option of framing Gregory for the murder comes up. The catch is that before the FBI arrest him, the KGB team will send him off to Moscow so he can live a peaceful life. It’s funny that Elizabeth thinks Gregory will actually relocate to Moscow quietly, but she just wants him to leave this all unharmed. Elizabeth proposes the Moscow plan to Gregory and he pleads with her to send him to L.A instead, He vows that if KGB reject his plan, then he will do whatever Elizabeth asks. Gregory is the only character that demonstrates true devotion on this show.

Claudia meets with Gregory to tell him that California is out of the question because it’s to risky. The FBI will stay on him until they reach the KGB. During this meeting, she reveals that the KGB went on to frame him for the murder, what Claudia called his “final act of service.” Gregory goes on to say that he just wanted to live for something and refuses the Moscow offer.  Gregory and Elizabeth spend that night together, laughing and chatting, catching up on good times. Gregory tells Elizabeth everything he loves about her and not to take Phillip back. He tells her everything she needs to hear in that moment, it’s everything she needs to stay strong after he’s gone.

The next morning, Elizabeth pleads with him to go to Moscow. In fact, she literally packs his bags for him as he tells her that it won’t work. Despite the fact that I may say this statement in every blog entry, this is the most heart-wrenching moment of the series thus far. Elizabeth is in tears and Gregory seems so at peace with his decision to die in a standoff between him and cops. Gregory kisses Elizabeth goodbye (in front of Phillip) and walks out the door. Roberta Flack’s To Love Somebody blasts on during Gregory’s final stand against the police. After he takes a few cops down with him in the process, he dies in slow motion. And as the news begins to report his death, Elizabeth sits down to dinner with her kids, as if she never knew him at all.

I can’t even begin to try and conclude this post. There is nothing left to write at this moment. But the war between the FBI and the KGB will rage on and I’m sure The Americans will demonstrate that during tonight’s new episode. But no storyline in this television show will ever be as powerful as Gregory’s.

The Americans 1.9: But It Was An Accident

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Shame on you Phillip and Elizabeth, ruining the absolute perfection of fried chicken for Paige and Henry, your darling children. As you may guess from the events in the last episode, this episode starts off with Phillip and Elizabeth announcing that Phillip is moving out and Elizabeth will be living in the house with the kids. Of course the kids flip out, I honestly wouldn’t expect anything less. But viewers, I felt as if I was intruding on someone’s private life as I watched this clip. It was quite heartbreaking. Flash forward to the next day, the Beeman’s are throwing a party, Paige won’t speak to her mother, and Phillip is staying at a depressing hotel on the outskirts of Washington D.C. Beeman and his friends from the FBI are casually discussing plans to take out the head of Russian Embassy, whom they refer to as “the head Rezident” and goes by the name Arkadey. This is in retaliation for the scientists killed and everyone seems to be on board… except Beeman, surprisingly enough.

that night, “Clark” pays a visit to Martha to obtain more information. And after an extremely uncomfortable sex scene, Martha confesses her love for him and convinces him to stay the night. I’m impressed by how well his wig stays on throughout the whole Martha ordeal. As “Clark” lets himself out of Martha’s apartment, Chris (Beeman’s partner) is waiting outside for him, ready to fight. After a very physical fight, “Clark” stabs Chris with his own knife and stuffs him in the trunk of his car. Bad move, buddy.

Phillip calls in his wife for reinforcement to care for Chris in an abandoned warehouse and Chris is not looking good. His absence is noticed at the FBI right away and an investigation kicks in. Beeman searches his apartment with no luck, and found his car completely clean of prints. Immediately Beeman suspects KGB involvement (rightfully so) but no one else at the FBI believes him. And that’s when the flashbacks begin. I was surprised to find that they weren’t as cheesy and sentimental as I thought they would be, but nonetheless found them unnecessary.

Zoom in on Chris suffering from his stab wound and then quickly back to the Jennings residence. Paige is giving Elizabeth attitude about her broken marriage when she receives a phone call about Henry’s lack of participation at school. Elizabeth is suddenly living the life of a single mom. Back at the warehouse, Phillip (as Phillip, not as Clark) uses Chris’s weakened state to get information but low and behold, Chris will not say a word. 

Despite Chris’s disappearance, the FBI is moving on with their plan to get the Rezident. Beeman is now on board in the wake of these events. But the Rezident didn’t go jogging with his young friend at the culture desk that day. Even though the signal to abort the mission was given, Beeman’s anger gets the best of him and demands they take the lone jogger hostage. After interrogations though, it turns out that this lone jogger, Vladimir, knows nothing about Chris’s disappearance since he does not hold a high ranking with KGB nor Russian embassy.   

Chris eventually told Phillip and Elizabeth the plan, but after he thought it was successfully carried out. But after Elizabeth confirms that Arkadey is still alive, Chris dies. I am in shock that they killed him off so soon. This television show seems to be trigger happy when it comes to their reoccurring characters. Chris’s body was found that night by his colleagues, who vowed to bring his killer(s) to justice. After one more sad flashback, Beeman goes back to the safe house, feeds Vlad a burger, and then shoots him in the back of his head. The way he died was terrible. Vlad never stood a chance.

I think this episode of The Americans was the most gruesome yet. Not one, but two well known characters were killed off and relations between the KGB and the FBI are more tense. than they ever were before. All of this built up tension needs to be released in an episode but will it happen next week? Or will it slowly build until the season finale?

 

The Americans 1.8: The Roller Coaster Effect

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This episode begins as no other episode in this television series has before, with happiness. Elizabeth and Phillip look so deeply in love, Elizabeth cannot stop giggling at Phillip’s jokes and Phillip cannot stop touching Elizabeth. The two of them even gleefully blow up an old married couple’s car together…It is not as odd as it sounds. Russian KGB sent an assassin to attack American scientists. The Jennings simply blow up the nuclear scientist’s car to ensure protection for the old couple. Awww, how thoughtful. But that bliss doesn’t last for long, as Claudia breaks the news of Phillip and Irina/Ann during a secret briefing. Elizabeth stupidly chooses not to believe Claudia, her new found happiness with her husband blinding her top priority. Naturally, she begins to grow suspicious as any woman would.

But despite all suspicions, the two still have to work with one another so they simply do what they do best; put on wigs and get classified information out of people. Elizabeth and Phillip pay a visit to a man and his daughter in order to find information on their KGB assassin. This assassin doesn’t look to lethal as he spies on his kill in the woods, but the eerie music gives it away for him. After the two get what they need, Phillip puts on a different wig and becomes Clark, a reoccurring disguise who is sleeping with Martha, a secretary at the FBI, specifically in the same department as our friend agent Beeman. Yes that’s right, the same agent Beeman who has been using the FBI safe house to sleep with his little Russian mole, Nina.

Meanwhile, the German KGB assassin walks into a bar and strikes up a conversation with a prostitute. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke if you ask me. He hires her not for his own pleasure, but to screw another American scientist while he sets up his death.  Back at the Jennings residence, the trouble in paradise is a little more apparent since Elizabeth accuses Phillip of lying about Irina/Ann. Instead of denying it, Phillip owns up to his mistake and apologizes profusely which only makes Elizabeth more angry. She doesn’t want another do over, she doesn’t want to hurt again. Elizabeth simply wants to do her job and forget the marriage even existed. 

Back the hotel, the assassin isn’t going after a scientist like I initially thought. It was actually an FBI agent. And the bomb is officially set. And at the FBI office Martha is helping “Clark” but obtaining the classified documents he asked for. But it turns out, Martha used to date agent Beeman’s partner, Chris! I feel like I’m writing a gossip blog as I type this scandalous b-plot, but this could lead to some very interesting story lines. “Clark” visits Martha later that night, she thinks it’s for a romantic date but he really just wants those classified documents. He goes along with the romance though and sleeps with her once again. But this time, you can tell that all “Clark” is thinking about is Elizabeth and how badly he screwed it all up.

But all feelings aside, there is still a mission at stake. Elizabeth and Phillip ambush the German KGB assassin while he is eating room service in his hotel room. But he already set up the bomb and threatens to set it off. Of course a shoot out begins, the assassin is wounded and then Elizabeth detonates the bomb, killing the German KGB officer. Now that business for the day has been taken care of, personal matters can be handled once more. Elizabeth refuses to get past the affair as they drive away and their getaway car. 

But the scientist was killed anyway, despite efforts taken by both the Jennings and the FBI. A bomb went off in his house. But unfortunately, the FBI realizes they can’t start a war over killing scientists and a look of defeat falls over their faces. The episode ends on a dark note with an undertone of failure. Emotions are running high despite Phillip’s objections and the couple realizes they can’t make their marriage work anymore. This television show is like a roller coaster sometimes, full of highs and lows. but I guess that’s what keeps me coming back for more.

The Americans 1.7 Ann

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Before I begin, I’d like to pose a question. How did the directors of this show manage to capture the twin towers in the first scene during Phillip’s trip to NYC and manage to make it look realistic and digitally enhanced at the same time? Including the image of the World Trade Center is still considered somewhat taboo in our post 9/11 mindset, however I do think it is something worth your attention.

Our episode begins by once again acknowledging Phillip and Elizabeth’s marriage instability. Neither of them trust each other at all at this point. So naturally, both of them dive into their work to hide from the real problem at hand. Phillip travels to NYC to attend a travel agent conference while really tracking a Polish communist hero visiting the US. Elizabeth continues to wear wigs, scare the living crap out of American government officials, and have secret meetings with Claudia (who still dons a bruised face courtesy of Elizabeth herself). Nothing that isn’t normal for this series. But Phillip exhibits very strange behavior as he fantasizes about a woman from his Russian past who appears to be a spy/travel agent herself.

Turns out that it is his old girlfriend, Irina who now goes by the name Ann, and the sexual tension begins. I guess Elizabeth isn’t the only one with a past containing a secret lover. But unfortunately, the lovely Ann is also on a mission to track this Polish communist. Needless to say, the paths of these star-crossed lovers meet again…except this time Phillip takes her purse while she is on a date with this visiting Polish, who is also a priest apparently.

We then turn back to DC where Elizabeth is having dinner with the Beemans. Stan can’t make it to dinner because he’s busy being an FBI agent. This marriage is breaking down a lot faster than the Jennings, but more because of loyalty than trust. Agent Beeman simply doesn’t want to give his family the right time of day. Instead he would rather go out with his coworker Chris and have a drink and hit on women who are not his wife.

Back in New York, Phillip and Ann meet in a hotel room once more after she slips something into the Polish man’s glass of wine. Ann’s big eyes only grow wider when she reveals to Phillip that she was pregnant when he left for the KGB training academy and they have a son together. This is a HUGE turning point in our journey but Ann makes the whole thing seem so casual that it’s slightly nauseating. The only thing that is more nauseating is the fact that Phillip beat her after she told him. It looked as if it was all part of the plan.

After a quick clip of a drunk agent Beeman making out with his mole, Nina, is shown (out of nowhere if you ask me), Elizabeth calls Phillip to tell him that she misses him and asked him to come home. Phillip promptly hangs up on her as Ann lays in bed next to him. It’s obviously not a shock that the two slept together. But this is the first time that Phillip sleeps with someone else in this show as Phillip and not some other character with a wig on. He irrevocably broke the marriage vow as Elizabeth had years ago. Both are now guilty of breaking trust.

In another quick clip, it is revealed that the drunken agent Beeman slept with Nina. We all knew this was coming for a while but now it’s official. Side point: The Americans is not good with their subplots within an episode. They give each subplot three minutes tops in a given episode, it never makes sense. The next morning, the Polish priest is being framed for rape. He wakes up from his drugging to his American escort showing photos of Ann’s bruises. Ann and Phillip sit in a park on a dark, grey morning as she confesses that she cannot be a spy anymore. She states that she’ll disappear and quietly begs Phillip to go with her. That night, the Polish man announced that he is stepping down from his position as head of the Polish Liberation Movement as Ann patiently awaited for Phillip to arrive at the train station. Phillip arrives just to tell her that he can’t ride off into the sunset with her. So she runs off alone, but I have a feeling that it’s not the last of her, as it was not the last we saw of Gregory after episode 3.

“How Was New York? Did you see any hobos or drug dealers?” asks Henry when his father arrives home. Ah New York in the early 80s. Elizabeth tells Phillip that she wants to try to make their marriage work one more time. After he agrees, she asked him if anything happened between him and Irina (Ann) AND HE DENIES EVERYTHING! What a way to start off a second chance. This is obviously going to blow up in his face later on. But no one can say that he didn’t have it coming.

The Americans 1.6: Beat It Out Of Them

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Things take an interesting turn in this episode of The Americans. To bluntly refresh your memory, last episode ended with the discovery of a mole within the Soviet embassy and its network of mischief. Naturally, the action begins right away. Within  the first 10 minutes, both Philip and Elizabeth are kidnapped by strange men who we are supposed to assume are with the CIA. How very Homeland of the show (I’ll save that discussion for a later entry). The small detail that we don’t pay much attention to occurs within the first 2 minutes, Elizabeth just dropped off her two kids at the mall right before she was forcibly removed from her home. Oh no! What will the somewhat resourceful preteens do in an age without cell phones? Hitchhiking of course! It seems like the smartest, safest, most reliable form of transportation for children in an emergency…said no one ever.

Meanwhile, their parents are being interrogated and physically brutalized in a dark, deserted warehouse across town. The interrogators have recorded materials as well as copies of their multiple passports and photos of their identities. Yet despite the torture tactics, the couple stays silent.

Paige and Henry Jennings manage to find a ride with a young 20-something named Nick. He comes off as a harmless character but yet I found myself screaming, “don’t get in the car” as they entered it. The small talk is horrific, but it all became significantly more creepy when Nick insisted that he had to stop by the pond (with a 6-pack in tow) so he could feed the ducks before work.

“You’re lucky you ran into me, and not some lunatic.”, Nick says with a menacing smile. You can tell that Paige finally regrets her game-time hitchhiking decision as she tries to leave. Nick has this crazy look in his eyes as he talks about decisions he regretted making and belief in god and shows the gun on his belt. As I start to fear for Paige’s life/innocents, something amazing and unpredictable happens. Henry takes one of the beer bottles and smashes it over their driver’s head and the two siblings flee from the park. The Jennings children, especially Henry, always struck me as weak, lacking a backbone, and never living up to their parents’ potential. Turns out they have a little more fight in them than I thought. Elizabeth and Phillip would be proud if they weren’t being tortured at the time.

Speaking of which, the interrogators bring Elizabeth to Phillip and threaten to kill her in front of him if he doesn’t talk. Naturally he doesn’t say a word, the couple was trained not to reveal secrets in situations like this. And then big Auntie Claudia comes in and says “Enough.” She reveals that their captures were Russians after all and they had to be sure that Phillip and Elizabeth were not the moles since she didn’t know them well enough to trust them. And then Elizabeth tries to drown Claudia and beat her to death. I won’t lie, I was cheering Elizabeth on. I never cared for Claudia’s “big brother is always watching” demeanor. As Elizabeth would say, the bitch had it coming.

As they’re leaving the abandoned warehouse, it’s revealed that Elizabeth told Claudia previously that Phillip considered defecting. Trust between the two has been broken once again and feelings have been bruised. I really like that this show demonstrates how hard it is to keep a marriage alive. It’s not only about love and passion but it’s also about trust, loyalty, and respect. This show exposes America to what really happens when these rules are broken and a union breaks down before us. The couple experiences issues and arguments n every episode that eventually are fixed but I don’t think this one will be repaired by the beginning of the next episode.

It’s been a long day for the Jennings. After the parents crash the Oldsmobile to justify their bruises and disappearance to their children, the family settles down as Phillip heads out to visit his main information source/mistress. He takes a meaningful piece of Jewelry from Elizabeth with him. In the meantime, Elizabeth pays a visit to her old friend Gregory to ensure her family’s safety for the future.

Only towards the end of this episode does the B plot turn into an important subplot. As usual, Nina is sent by agent Beeman to spy on Soviet activity at the embassy and take pictures of classified documents. Nina is scared and Beeman assures her that she’ll be okay, nothing out of the ordinary. What was out of the ordinary was that the FBI planted diamonds in the head of the Soviet Embassy’s bag of dried tea. After a number of encrypted calls placed by Beeman reach the cultural desk at the embassy, The diamonds are found as well as a recording device in a clock (hidden by Nina) and the head of the embassy is arrested by his own people and sent back to Moscow.

This was an extremely interesting and emotionally jarring episode of The Americans. Trust is broken, kids were exposed to the world’s evils, and central characters threatened. It certainly ups the ante from the last two episodes, which weren’t up to par. It can only get better from here as we reach the half way point of the season.