Tonight’s episode of The Americans introduced the Jennings’ new handler, showed a sneakier side of KGB member Oleg, and solidified Phillip’s dedication to “the cause”. After all, in my book, when you wipe someone’s butt, that’s dedication.
The Mossad Agent
Picking up where we left off last week, the Jennings have just been attacked by a mystery couple, whom we later find out are Mossad agents. Although the female agent got away with the KGB-targeted scientist in the trunk, Phillip and Elizabeth were able to capture the male agent and take him to a safe house for questioning.
However, this trip to the safe house is not without its problems, especially since the man is badly injured and the police were called to the scene when someone reported sounds of gunshots. Making it appear as though the man is drunk, Phillip and Elizabeth start helping him to the warehouse where they will question him. Along the way, they are stopped by a police officer who wants to ensure the “drunk” man is okay. To the relief of everyone, the Israeli plays along with the cover story and starts slur-singing “The Gambler.” After all, he would rather die for his people, at the hands of the KGB, than be discovered by the Americans. Hey, I thought the Israelis and Americans were friends?! Apparently the U.S. is just a domineering father. How rude!
Once safely inside the safe house, the Jennings’ new handler, Kate, comes by to let Phillip know that they cannot move him and the Mossad agent to a safer place, but they are working on a prisoner exchange for the scientist. Now, all Phillip has to do is keep the agent under lock and key until a deal is made. This task proves especially hard when the agent starts manipulating Phillip about missing his homeland (especially icicles) and the difficulties of having a secret identity. He also has to use the bathroom and requires a helping hand… errr wipe… from Phillip.
The Answering Machine
Any time I decide to be sassy in a recap of The Americans, the writers always find a way to make me eat my words. Remember last week when I was wondering what answering machine Martha was calling “Clark” on while wanting to out him as her spouse? Well, tonight my question was answered. Martha was actually leaving a message on an answering machine located at a KGB call center. When the operator sees Martha is about to blow Phillip’s entire mission, he calls the Jennings’ home to warn them.
Because Phillip was busy tending to the Mossad agent, it’s up to Elizabeth to calm Martha down and keep her in check. Elizabeth dresses as “Clark’s” sister Jennifer and goes to Martha’s apartment, where the two women commiserate about Clark’s constant absence over wine. Elizabeth claims Clark has, “a few missing notes when it comes to social graces.” Martha quickly agrees, chiming in that she wants to claim him as her spouse because she should mean more to him than his job. Elizabeth reassures Martha of Clark’s love for her, but also says how much he loves his job, how good he is at protecting the country, and that Martha’s act of rebellion could put Clark in jail. Seeing the “error of her ways,” Martha agrees with her new pal Jennifer and agrees to keep the relationship on the DL.
The Elizabeth/Martha interaction ends on a slightly comical note with Martha telling her about Clark being an “animal in bed.” Why Martha felt it was appropriate to discuss Clark’s sexual prowess with his “sister” is beyond me; let’s blame it on the alcohol. Elizabeth, visibly annoyed, is left putting Martha to sleep and staring at Phillip’s side of her bed.
Information is power
Building off of last week, Elizabeth again meets with Brad, the Navy sailor stationed in VA Beach. It seems the events from last week gave him a boost of confidence, because this time he has the documents Elizabeth requested. Now she has to let him down gently, using her story of sexual abuse to distance herself; perhaps this story does have its moments of truth. After all, we know from the first season that Elizabeth had her own run-in with sexual abuse. Now Elizabeth and Phillip have important intelligence on the man they believe killed Emmet and Leigh Anne.
Oleg Igorevich, the KGB’s science and technology officer, also uses information to his advantage. Although he wasn’t given the clearance to see Nina’s entire file (including her moments of treason), he could see something was up. Why did Stan trust her as much as he did? What information had she given him to gain his trust? Oleg also gets too big for his britches and tells Arkady, the head of the Rezidentura, his own plan for the upcoming scientist exfiltration mission.
Stan, Stan The Found-Out Man
After the abducted scientist’s wife calls the police to report him missing, the police notify the FBI; a note in the scientist’s file requested the FBI be notified if anything “suspicious” happens to him. Stan is the point man on the investigation and asks Frank, his previous supervisor, to research the scientist’s association with the Dept. of Defense. After that search hits a dead end due to the highly classified nature of the project, Stan meets with Nina, who slightly lets on that the scientist may be exfiltrate back to Russia. Now, in order to find the scientist, Stan turns his attention to Russian diplomat, and suspected KGB member, Oleg Igorevich.
Stan and three other agents follow Oleg when he leaves the embassy, thinking he will lead the agents to the exfiltration point. Much to Stan’s disappointment, Oleg noticed he was being followed and directs Stan to an isolated loading dock. There he tells Stan that he knows Nina is a double agent for the FBI and asks what he will give to ensure Nina’s safety. Dun dun dun.
Here’s what really happened with the scientist. Although the Israelis were okay with leaving their agent in the hands of the Russians, Arkady said he won’t leave Phillip in an unsecure safe house, even if it “costs him his career”. This surprising show of loyalty won Arkady brownie points in my eyes.
The Israelis inevitably agree on a deal with the Russians, as we later hear on the radio. The Russians allow the Mossad agent to be returned to Israel and 1,500 Refusniks to leave the country in exchange for the scientist. The scientist must be pretty important for them to agree to so much!
Phillip makes the prisoner exchange and then has to drive the scientist to the planned exfiltration point. I don’t know why Phillip doesn’t throw him in the trunk of the car because the entire way he has to hear the scientist beg, plead, bargain and cry (like the Cowardly Lion) for his release. The scientist calls Phillip a “monster, not a man” and says he might as well be dead. Although Phillip tries to be stoic, you can tell the scientist’s pleas are weighing on him. As Phillip brings the scientist to the ship that will take him back to Russia, I started to think Phillip may do something heroic to try to save him. However, the rescue never comes. Phillip hands the scientist over and heads back to the car, downtrodden.
The episode ends when Phillip comes home and cuddles on the couch with Elizabeth. They discuss the Martha situation and then, out of nowhere, Phillip asks Elizabeth if she remembers there being icicles back home in Russia. She tells him her memory of icicles: even on the day they left Moscow, there were icicles on the trees. Such a simple conversation, about a topic they are never supposed to discuss, helps reassure Phillip that he is doing the right thing.