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TV Review/Recap: “The Americans” Martial Eagle (Season 2 Episode 9)

We can all breathe easily! Last week, FX announced that The Americans was renewed for another season! This news comes at a good time since this week’s episode proves once again why this is the best show on TV. “Martial Eagle” has so many moving parts and story lines, one is just as interesting as the next! Speaking of interesting, did you notice that Oliver “Ollie” North co-wrote tonight’s episode? It looks like we aren’t the only ones that realize what a great show this is!

Operation: Infiltrate Martial Eagle

Finally, all of the planets have aligned and it is time for the Jennings to infiltrate the military base that is housing the Martial Eagle exercise. Building off of last week’s episode, Phillip assumes the identity of a truck driver named Lewis, who was scheduled to make a call to the base. After leaving Lewis tied up in the woods (but alive), the Jennings board his septic truck and start their drive onto the base. Phillip is “Lewis” and dons another of his elaborate disguises while Elizabeth hides in the back. Due to the truck’s terrible smell, the guard at the checkpoint doesn’t investigate it fully, so Elizabeth is able to easily sneak onto the base herself.

As the truck is moving through the base, it is almost like a war zone. The training is in full force and spreads the entirety of the base. Once the Jennings park the truck and are in position to take pictures of the Contra/U.S. forces in action, Phillip is unfortunately discovered by a young soldier. To ensure his cover is not blown by the screaming soldier, Phillip is forced to slit his throat. When two other soldiers also come upon him, he has to kill them as well. Elizabeth also has to kill a couple Contra leaders but seems unphased. What Phillip thought was going to be a bloodless mission, turned into one of his most brutal yet. It’s one thing to shoot a hostile enemy, but to slit their throat? That is even more personal.

For me, the most surprising part of the mission is that Phillip and Elizabeth are actually able to complete it without being found out on a wider scale. In fact, the entire operation only lasts for about 7 minutes of the episode. For being such an important plot point of the season so far, I thought the mission was going to be saved for the season finale and would be more drawn out and difficult. Which begs the question, what else do the writers have in store for us for the rest of the season?

After successfully leaving the base with their roll of pictures, now comes the straw that breaks the camel’s…errr… Phillip’s back. When they go back to the woods to release Lewis, he is dead. It appears he froze to death, another innocent that had to be killed for “the cause”. All of these countless deaths, including the lab worker from the “ARPANET” episode, have taken their toll on Phillip and it doesn’t look like his psyche will be able to handle much more. Will he soon have to give up the spy work altogether? On the other end of the spectrum, it seems all of the traumas Elizabeth has faced has made her less sensitive and more numb to the killing. Will these opposing feelings create one giant mess in the episodes to come?

Matthew Rhys Keri Russell Disguise The Americans
Credit: FX

Phillip The Jerk

Because of what went wrong during the infiltration of the Martial Eagle base, Phillip basically goes off the deep end; he lets his rage boil over and takes out his frustration on everyone around him. His first target: Paige. Over the last season, Paige has become very religious. Of course, in true communist form, Phillip and Elizabeth are not fans of religion; however, they do decide to support their daughter at her church’s Youth Sunday anyway. Although they sit stone faced during the entire sermon, it seems things aren’t going too badly… that is, until they meet the pastor. The pastor informs Phillip and Elizabeth that he would like Paige to go on a mission trip with the church since she has tithed so generously (to the tune of $600), a donation they knew nothing about. Apparently instead of using her savings for a trip to Europe, as she had previously discussed, Paige handed that money over to the church. Phillip civilly ends the conversation with the pastor, but then lets the rage fly when he gets home.

Like a petulant child, Phillip flies off the handle during an argument with Paige and commits the ultimate sign of disrespect by ripping her Bible apart, screaming, “You respect Jesus but not us?” After Paige storms up to her room, Elizabeth tries to settle Phillip down by assuring him that he didn’t have a choice regarding what happened during Operation Martial Eagle; he did what he had to do to complete the mission. After all, this is a war and the Americans would have done the same to them. Phillip is having nothing of it and insists that all of this is easier for her to deal with, a suggestion which does not sit well with Elizabeth.

Following this conversation, Elizabeth decides to take her frustration out on Paige. These poor kids!!! She wakes Paige up in the middle of the night and proclaims that she has life too easy and acts too entitled. If she wants to be an adult, she needs to act like one, which apparently means cleaning the house at 3 AM. Hmmm… I would like to hear Paige’s future therapy sessions about her parents.

Stan, Stan The Wifeless Man

Phew!!! Sandra Beeman has finally found her voice and showed Stan who’s the BOSS. As it turns out, this entire time Stan was cheating on Sandra, she was cheating on him as well. In fact, Stan walks in on her packing her stuff to go on a romantic getaway with her new boyfriend; they want to go away together to make sure romance is really there before they make any drastic life decisions. Of course, Sandra knew Stan was cheating on her the entire time, but she was more upset that Stan (the counterintelligence expert) never realized she was cheating on him also. Did he not want to know or did he just not care? I think it’s the latter. When Stan asks Sandra if she’s leaving him, she informs him that no, she’s not. After all, that would make him look like the good guy. She’s just not going to wait around for him to finally get the courage to leave her.

While Stan’s personal life may be rocky, his professional life is looking a little better. He was finally read-into the DoD’s stealth program and able to talk to their scientists about counterintelligence concerns. Did Anton, the scientist the Russians abducted, hold the keys to the U.S. stealth program? Thankfully, no he doesn’t. Because the program is so compartmentalized, the Russians would need to abduct many more people to get the information they need.

When Stan asks which people the Russians would need to abduct in order to gain more information, he is pointed to Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin employees, who are competing for a contract to work on the stealth program. Stan quickly institutes a series of interviews that will help these employees become aware of what aspects of their life the Russians can use as leverage against them. One of these employees is Roger, Emmet and Leigh Anne’s former informant, who Phillip is now in charge of running. Roger contacts Phillip to let him know about the FBI’s upcoming interviews and Phillip is able to provide support and reassurance. Roger is one of the KGB’s biggest assets right now so it is imperative that he show Stan his “loyalty”. Thanks to his training, Roger sails through the interview and does not alert Stan.

With help from Martha’s sharp mind, Stan is also alerted that there may be a connection between the meeting of DoD, Lockheed, and Northop Grumman and the murders of Emmet and Leigh Anne. Both took place in Alexandria on the same day so maybe the two are connected. Stan asks Martha to get him all of the evidence so he can start building a case. How much will he be able to piece together, though… especially after Martha abruptly disembarks from the Stan train.

Buh Bye Agent Gad

Poor Agent Gad. Because Stan killed Vlad last season,  Gad has been in hot water with his chain of command (and especially Congress). Tonight, it was finally time to pack up his office.  Gad won’t go down without a fight, though, and he is last seen confronting the KGB’s Resident, Arkady, at a restaurant. Gad threatens to release a classified document, which implicates the Russians in the torture of an American citizen, unless Arkady makes the charges against Gad disappear. Gad says his problem is now Arkady’s problem. Although Arkady never really responds to the threat, I imagine this will get some traction in later episodes.

The New Mark

In disguise, Elizabeth hits up an AA meeting and strikes up an immediate friendship with a recovering alcoholic. After some socializing over coffee, Elizabeth asks the nice lady where she works. At first the lady is coy about her job, saying how boring it is. After some prodding, however, she informs Elizabeth that she works in a high security job on an assembly line at Northrop. Sounds like she is working on manufacturing assets with stealth technology.

Phillip The Jerk Redux

Last week, Phillip had the opportunity to give Martha the doctored tape of her colleagues talking badly about her; he had made it to play for Martha so she would be more inclined to gather intel against the men she once respected. I thought that tape was long gone since it seemed Phillip didn’t want to hurt Martha’s feelings. After all, she had apologized and it seemed she was no longer questioning her role in “Clark’s” grand plan. However, to make everyone else as miserable as him, Phillip plays the horrible tape for Martha; of course, she is devastated and inconsolable. Although this was extremely cruel, I have to admit that Phillip was smart to  bring Martha further into the fold, especially since Stan has placed so much faith in her in regards to gathering information about the Northrop meeting and the Alexandria murder case. Phillip tells Martha that he thinks there is a leak in the stealth program and she is anxious to help in whatever way she can, even if it means bringing her colleagues down.

To complete Phillip’s trio of bad behavior, he ends the episode threatening Paige’s preacher. After breaking into the church at night, Phillip finds the preacher in his study. Phillip tells him how horrible it is that he took Paige’s hard earned money. Even when the preacher offers to give it back, admitting he had no idea the money was causing so much conflict, it seems Phillip is more interested in a beat down than a check. The preacher informs Phillip that he needs to control his anger; after all, there is grace in everyone including Phillip. When asked if he really believes what he is preaching, the minister stands by his faith and Phillip walks out of the office without roughing him up. Did Phillip respect the preacher’s dedication? More importantly, is religion the stability Phillip needs to help him deal with the lives he has taken?

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