The Americans 1.13: A Mission To Remember

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We finally reached our season finally and I have to ask all of the fans out there, what did you think? Did the episode fulfill your expectations or did you find that it wasn’t satisfying enough? Do you think that you will stick with the show for its renewed second season? These are all questions I have yet to answer as I am still considering whether I want to continue with this series. While there were certainly episodes that held my interest and left me wanting more, the final episodes this season left a lot to be desired. Onto the review!

Once again, this episode begins with the emerging b-plot from last week’s episode. The KGB has agreed to continue their meeting with the mysterious colonel despite the fact that their middle man was captured and detained by the FBI. Then, in true FX fashion, the story immediately switches to a very graphic sex scene between “Clark” and Martha. Leave it to FX to do this, as they are the only cable TV station I can think of that displays scenes like this (HBO, Showtime, etc. don’t count). Suddenly, the scene switches again to a meeting between Elizabeth and Claudia for prep regarding the Colonel meeting. I understand the need to build up suspense as it is the season finale, but it really doesn’t help to jump around from scene to scene so quickly. Once the director of this episode focuses in on the meeting with the Colonel, Elizabeth and Phillip discuss emergency evacuation plans. If anything were to go wrong, one of the parents would need to throw the kids in the car and get to Canada immediately. But apparently, that can’t be as immediate as they want because the other half of the couple needs to pick up one of their recordings from a planted car (one location that the FBI is monitoring.)There is a lot of uncertainty in this upcoming meeting, we are still unsure if it’s an FBI setup or the real deal. The couple argues about who will be the one to take the kids to safety but no answer is set in stone. 

Meanwhile at the Russian embassy, head Rezident Arkady is informing Nina of the next steps after her confession. She can either return to Moscow to face trial (without option of execution) or continue to work for the KGB as a spy. Her assigned goal is to attain any information she can from Beeman, ultimately trying to turn him for Mother Russia’s benefit. Nina knows damn well that Beeman can never be turned, no one bleeds more red, white, and blue than that man. Yet Arkady seems to hold hope that it can happen, and that it can happen only through her.

After one last quiet night spent together as a family, Elizabeth and Phillip meet at their once shared home to discuss the plan for tomorrow’s highly dangerous mission. Phillip decides that Elizabeth should be the one to pick up the tape and Phillip will meet with the Colonel. That way, Elizabeth can meet the kids and run. Obviously, the two don’t know that the tape collecting is the more dangerous mission at this point. But during the entire conversation, you can plainly see that the two still deeply care about each other despite what the past episodes depict. That night, Elizabeth sneaks down to the basement to listen to a tape that her mother sent her years ago. This is a highly emotion moment for her character, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her cry until this moment. She is obviously fearful of tomorrow and this is the first time we see her afraid of a mission. For someone who is as devoted to the cause as she is, it’s nice to see real emotion displayed over a dangerous job.

Arkady meets with Claudia at dawn to inform her that she is being reassigned and she does not looked pleased to hear that news. Despite Elizabeth and Phillip’s hatred towards her, I do think that deep down she really does want to see them succeed. Claudia insists that the mission is a setup but Arkady wants to continue with it anyway. Beeman meets with Nina at the safe house to tell her that he has big news and she can be relocated after the success of today’s FBI mission. Nina obviously realizes that this means that one of the meetings is a setup so a few minutes after Beeman leaves, she runs to the embassy to warn Arkady of the setup. Claudia was right all along. Emergency abort signs go off all over town. Except they have the wrong meeting.

Phillip’s meeting with the Colonel goes off without a hitch. Neither one was lying and they got along quite well until Claudia shows up with the emergency abort signal. At that moment, they finally realize what we knew all along, It’s Elizabeth who is in danger. Phillip speeds off in a car and drives as fast as he can to meet her. He reaches her just in time but by that point, the FBI begins to fire shots. After a dramatic car chase through Washington DC, Phillip and Elizabeth outsmart the FBI like they usually do but not without consequence. Elizabeth takes a bullet to the stomach, the same place where agent Chris Amadour was stabbed a couple episodes back. Phillip rushes her to the same secret warehouse for emergency surgery and medical care. Phillip refuses to leave her side despite Claudia’s advice to go back to his children. Henry and Paige are sent to stay with the Beemans as the final montage of the season begins.

As Peter Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers” played on in the background, we see Elizabeth’s middle man telling the FBI everything he knows, Elizabeth asking Phillip to come back home in her native tongue (making it mean that much more), and finally Paige snooping around her parent’s secret spy spots within the Jennings home.

I do have to give the season finale a round of applause. It greatly made up for the last few episodes since Gregory’s death and I was glued to my seat the entire time. For this episode alone, I would consider coming back to the series next season, despite the jumpiness in the plot and the excruciatingly slow build. I can’t wait to see more of Nina’s evolution as a KGB agent, she has slowly become one of my favorite characters in this series. I would also like to find out what happens if Phillip moves back home, how he’ll maintain his relationship with Martha. Most importantly, I would like to see what happens to Paige Jennings and her role in this series. By the final scene in the season finale, it is obvious that she knows that something with her family isn’t adding up. As the daughter of two clever, daring spies, she is bound to figure out their secret by the end of next season. The series is off to a good start overall, I just hope it can maintain its run.

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The Americans 1.12: It All Comes Full Circle

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Well it looks like those earlier missions weren’t one hundred percent successful after all. This episode incorporates past missions into one episode to gear us up for tonight’s exciting season finale. Ironically enough, it all begins with something new and interesting. Nina is sworn in as a KGB agent. I never thought I would see this woman pledge loyalty to her country. She seemed so in love with agent Beeman that I almost felt bad for her, but it turns out that this woman can keep secrets of her own. Deception is a beautiful thing on this show.

Remember the 2nd episode, the one where Elizabeth and Phillip poison the son of a maid so she could bug a clock inside the office of an important American government official? Well the maid has returned and she feels guilty for disobeying her religion. She comes forward to her boss and the counterintelligence agency about the situation at hand. She then is sent to sit with a sketch artist to give a description.

Elizabeth receives intelligence from a new recruit regarding space travel, all he wants is $50,000. She meets with Claudia about it who doesn’t think it’s a trap. Elizabeth is more suspicious about it than usual and decides to call the head of the agency on Claudia with Phillip, they never liked her anyway. But Phillip also decides that he will ask his fake girlfriend, Martha, to bug the head counterintelligence’s office. Getting her to do this would take a severe act of courage, heroism, and bravery. Naturally, the only way to get her to agree to this task is by proposing to her. Of course Martha says yes, she is now the person I pity most on the show.

Nina has a secret meeting with Beeman in their little safe house. She acts very affectionate and describes a dream to him in which Beeman is her savior from a hazardous fire. Nina slyly turns it around on Beeman by asking him one more time if he was responsible for her friend Vlad’s murder. He lies ever so sweetly, “I would never do anything to hurt you. You know that.” Nina can see through him but kisses the poor sucker anyway. I can’t wait to see what tortuous acts she has in store for him.

Back at Martha’s apartment, she tells “Clark” she wants to take his last name but “Clark” makes up some sad excuse as to why that cannot be. Then he springs the $64,000 dollar question on her. “Will you bug your boss’s office for me?” It wasn’t that sweet but after a little wordplay, “Clark” gets the answer that he is looking for. Martha successfully plants the bug the next day in her boss’s office. That night, Martha and “Clark” get into an argument. I am still a bit thrown off that this minor b-plot of the past has been pushed center stage at this point in the season, I will never underestimate the importance of these side stories again.  Martha, like most other women in the 80s, created a pro-con list on marrying “Clark” (how cliche). She can’t take his last name, she can’t tell her parents, and the couple can’t even share a home together. How delusional is this poor woman? But poor, doe-eyed Martha is somehow still convinced that “Clark” is the one after he says that her parents can come to the wedding.

Somehow, Elizabeth gets dragged into this wedding nonsense. Apparently Phillip needs people to play “Clark’s family”. And suddenly, the most comical close up of two old church ladies appears on the screen. It’s Elizabeth and Claudia arguing about spy matters! In church lady costumes! I couldn’t take anything they said seriously for the next few moments. Suddenly, Phillip/”Clark” is getting married in front of Elizabeth’s teary eyes. It is one of the few times we see Elizabeth Jennings show any kind of emotion towards anyone or anything aside from the cause.

At the FBI headquarters, the sketches have been compiled and are being displayed to a conference room full of agents. The agents go back and forth about whether the compiled sketches from various crimes are sketches of the same people. The head of counterintelligence thinks they are, but Beeman disagrees. Either way, the agency knows that they are looking for a couple, they are one step closer to discovering the Soviet spies…yet so very far away.

The episode ends where it begins, in the head Rezident’s office at the Soviet embassy. Nina comes forward and confesses that she was spying for the USA to the head Rezident, Arkady whom we met in the episode of Vlad’s murder. He seems stunned by the confession, yet Nina continues to confess everything, including details of her intimacy with agent Beeman. She ends with a proposition, “you can kill me, or you can let me redeem myself in the eyes of our beloved Russia.” What a spectacular way to end an episode! Even more importantly, it was an amazing way to prepare viewers for tonight’s season finale! A bit of the past mixed with a slowly emerging b-plot and a twist of vengeance will certainly make for an exciting ending to season one of The Americans. There were no previews released for tonight’s episode but I can assure you that it is television that you will not want to miss.