THE AMERICANS Episode Recap: “Mutually Assured Destruction”

     March 20, 2013


The title for The Americans really said it all this week, didn’t it?  There is a secret war going on that no one wants to become full-fledged combat, regarding both the U.S. and the Jennings’ marriage.  Parallels!  That being said, the Jennings’ marriage (one of the strangest yet most honestly portrayed ones on TV) went to some dark, sad places this week whereas the rest of us got a history lesson.  I said early on in The Americans that the show presumed probably a little too much from the audience in terms of a deep knowledge / understanding of that time period and the political motivations within it.  This week, the show did a good job of having the characters ask some pretty straight-forward questions about why the U.S., if it knows but doesn’t “know” that the Russians are targeting the country, retaliate?  “We do not want to start a war,” was the straight-forward reply.  Hit the jump for why we just have to “act like nothing happened.”

the-americans-season-1-episode-8-mutually-assured-destructionThis week’s spy-centric story was one of the best so far, because it was one of the twistier and most comprehensive plots we’ve gotten (that has real repercussions for our main characters).  Elizabeth and Philip are told to find an assassin that the KGB can no longer get in contact with to stop him from killing the scientists that are working on the anti-ballistics shield, probably because the KGB realized that’s not really subtle enough for a secret war.  As Claudia (who we’re back to calling Granny) points out, if you start killing government scientists, where does it end?  The U.S. and Russia have spent decades dancing around a straight-out war with one another, and blowing up key officials is definitely tantamount to an open declaration of hostility (and an easily traceable one, too).

Per usual, the Jennings aren’t given much (read: any) information on who they are supposed to be looking for other than the fact he’s from West Germany, and it’s up to Philip to work his contact Martha to get information from her.  Unfortunately, Philip is feeling emotionally compromised because of his faltering relationship with Elizabeth back home, and seeing the necklace he gifted Martha from Elizabeth’s collection (presumably a gift from him) was too much for him to take.  Still, he plays his role well enough to get what he needs in the end (as he always does), though I like the twist that Agent Amador, still holding a flame for Martha, may soon find out who her boyfriend is.  Kinda sorta.  If the disguise fools him (at some point I’m assuming that Stan will introduce them).

Though Elizabeth claims that her own work was compromised by problems at home, I failed to see how.  I think she’s been extremely hard on Philip not just through this confrontation but through their marriage, but then again I admit that I’ve always found Philip more likable than Elizabeth.  She has a point that for him to lie to her was wrong, but her anger seems to clearly stem from a protective shield she has engaged because she has realized her vulnerabilities now that she really does love him.  What baffled me though was why Granny Claudia would wish to tear the two apart.  Surely if she’s really dedicated to the cause she wouldn’t let her own petty revenge jeopardize such an important operation?  Or is the point that operations are always compromised by emotions?

the-americans-matthew-rhys-keri-russellIt’s always difficult to watch people fight, and to see Elizabeth and Philip start their own cold war (see what I did there?) right after things had been looking so promising is particularly bleak.  The Americans always has a dourness about it, like the dinner scene with the Jennings and the Beemans that felt suffocatingly awkward.  Thank God we were only subjected to a few minutes of it — to have lasted through any more of that meal and it would be been unbearable.

The Beemans are having marital struggles of their own, though we largely only see it from Stan’s point of view.  With the new safe house / love shack that the bureau has set up for him to meet with Nina, the two resume their affair, but Stan is now wary of Nina’s motivations for sleeping with him.  Like with Vasilli, she could well be using him and playing into his needs to get what she wants — as long as he has real feelings for her beyond the job, she knows he’ll keep her safe.  I worry for Nina’s future, and when Arkady questioned her about smuggling goods to sell back in Russia I thought she was done for.  Turns out, it was just a test to see if she was ready for a promotion, but I still am not sure that she will last the season (though I hope so!)

“Mutually Assured Destruction” set up an interesting arc for Stan and the Jennings through the back part of the season, but it also confirmed that this pervasive feeling of suspicion and frustration was just a part of the political culture of the time, and we won’t be escaping it anytime soon.  The Americans can be difficult  sometimes because of that damp cloud that seems to hang over everything, but there’s still something intriguing that makes one want to just check in next week to see how things are going.

Episode Rating: B+

the-americans-season-1-episode-8-mutually-assured-destruction-keri-russellMusings and Miscellanea:

  • Wasn’t a key part of Philip’s liaison with Irina to show that she had recently had sex?  Which the police then interpreted (along with her bruising) as being forced / rape?  Yes Irina was “different” than the usual carousel of people the Jennings sleep with for work, but still.
  • D’aww, old people holding hands.  I’m glad they didn’t get blown up.
  • Wow FX, you went full on ass ‘n titties with that bedroom scene with the FBI agent and the prostitute.  I am not complaining, though.
  • There was a lot of sex in this episode, come to think of it.  Carry on.
  • The Lana kid with the assault rifle was kinda funny, but really fucked up when you think about it.
  • Elizabeth and Philip sure do talk loudly in the kitchen about things, don’t they?  I know occasionally they flip on the radio, but still.
  • Little bit of commentary there I think with Philip telling Martha about how the information is all there, the agencies just don’t share it with each other because each wants to be a hero …
  • “Your marriage is not real.” – Granny Claudia.  Damnit, Granny Claudia!
  • “I cannot lie to everyone.” – Nina


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