Wait, so…. Al Gore DIDN’T invent the internet? At least that is one of my main takeaways from episode 7 of The Americans. In “ARPANET”, the Jennings are forced to get technologically savvy and plan a way to expose the Contras to the American people. Nina also works her feminine wiles on not one but two men and another Jennings child goes off the rails. Is spying prowess hereditary? More importantly, do the Jennings have a lost daughter named Harriet? All questions will be answered below (or not).
Carrying on from last week’s episode, the FBI is turning more toward computers, especially the early internet (known as ARPANET), to digitize their information and communicate between assets at research laboratories in the United States; they also saw the future potential of using ARPANET to communicate with facilities abroad. Due to the sensitive nature of ARPANET, the Russians want all of the intelligence they can gather about the system AND the information contained therein. Of course, they need their best spy on the job so they send Phillip in to bug the system.
Sidenote: how hilarious was it to hear the characters learning what the internet is? It sort of reminded me of this video of the Today Show anchors having no idea how the internet works… though The Americans did a much better job explaining it.
Anyway, Phillip contacts his friend Charles Duluth, the double agent-esque journalist from the first season who was publicly against the Soviet Union but privately a contact for the KGB. Although he’s a sloppy alcoholic, Charles tries to help Phillip (dressed as a janitor) break into an ARPANET lab; but, of course, he screws everything up. Thankfully, Phillip uses his 007 skills to clean up Charles’ mess. He pulls the fire alarm, which evacuates the employees from the area and allows him to extract the information from the computer. Unfortunately, one of the employees comes back for his wallet and Phillip has to kill him.
Phillip has never been shy about pulling the trigger, but he doesn’t enjoy killing people unnecessarily. This death especially upsets him because the employee had nothing to do with the mission and was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Will Phillip begin to get disillusioned by this whole spy business again?
The Contra Problem
The mission to expose the United States’ aid to the Nicaraguan Contras is still full steam ahead. With the continued help of Lucia, the Jennings formulate a plan to get into the base: Lucia will enter as a Spanish translator and cut the electricity on the surrounding fence, allowing Phillip and Elizabeth to inevitably break in. Unfortunately, a kink in the plan occurs when Lerrick informs them that he is no longer able to help them gain entry; the military has assigned him to actually go to Nicaragua on a mission. He still agrees to help them think of another plan, but this is too much for Lucia. She wants Lerrick dead. After all, he killed many of her countrymen. Elizabeth quickly puts Lucia in her place, telling her Lerrick is to remain alive because he is a vital KGB asset, but she can tell Lucia “burns hot”(a similar character trait to Elizabeth, as Phillip points out). If Lucia can’t contain her vengeful spirit, she may need to be the one on the Jennings’ chopping block.
Stan Stan The Lovesick Man
Nina has Stan wrapped around her little finger and I LOVE it. In last week’s episode, Stan gave Nina an ultimatum. She needed to take a polygraph test to prove her allegiance to the United States (and FBI) or else he wouldn’t be able to “help” her anymore. At first she refused and broke things off with Stan. However, in this week’s episode, she had a change of heart… mostly due to the persuasive powers of Oleg and her KGB colleagues. After all, they still need Nina to “work” Stan for intel.
Nina tells Stan she loves him and will take the polygraph test to prove it. With the help of Oleg, she begins practicing ways to beat the machine. At first, it doesn’t go so well. Nina gets rattled very easily and it looks like she won’t be able to trick her FBI facilitators. However, after some reassurances from Oleg, and an… um… interesting tip, “squeeze your anus,” Nina is finally able to lie successfully without it registering on the polygraph.
Although Nina gets flustered during her polygraph with the FBI, she thinks of Oleg’s advice and is able to successfully pass the test. Nina also uses the test as an opportunity to slyly inform Stan that she knows he killed Vlad (her KGB friend from last season). Stan doesn’t seem to realize how much this information has affected Nina. He is too busy trying to control his infatuation with her, which has only heightened now that she is polygraph approved. He will stop at nothing to ensure her safety, including giving Oleg his surveillance records.
Enough about Stan. The chemistry between Oleg and Nina has been amping up over the past few episodes. It was only a matter of time before their relationship escalated, as it does in the final scene of the episode… with Nina and Oleg rolling around in bed together. It looks like Keri Russell’s butt now has some competition for screen time.
Also, not to be forgotten, Henry has a newfound curiosity with the Jennings’ neighbors. He first spies on them through a telescope. Then, at the end of the episode, he breaks into their house and plays video games. I’m not sure what this is supposed to foreshadow, but I am wondering if one of the children will die this season? It seems time for at least one of the main characters to die. My money is on Henry.