Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The Americans 1.02: "The Clock"

“They shouldn’t ask us to do impossible things.”

The first episode of “The Americans” was a broad introduction to the world of Soviet Directorate S agents Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, and it set up some longer-term story arcs. “The Clock” told a more discrete story, showing us one specific mission Phillip and Elizabeth need to complete. This specific mission does help to serve the ongoing idea that the stakes have recently been raised for Directorate S, and the missions are becoming more dangerous. Elizabeth especially spends a lot of time in this episode wondering what would happen to Paige and Henry if the worst happened to her and/or Phillip. Also in this episode, Agent Beeman first meets Soviet embassy employee Nina, who will figure quite heavily in the plot for some time to come. This episode is more stand-alone than most episodes of “The Americans,” but I think that works well for being the second episode in the series.

The pilot opened with Elizabeth having sex with a mark. This episode opened with Phillip having sex with a mark. The mark is a woman named Analise who is the wife of a high ranking man in the Department of Defense. Analise thinks Phililp is a Swedish diplomat named Scott. Phillip convinces Analise to snoop around the Secretary of Defense’s home office during a cocktail party. She’s got a camera attached to her bra that she uses to snap pictures. She almost gets caught, but she manages to get out and get the film to Phillip and Elizabeth. Phillip finds what they are looking for in one of the photos. There is a small clock in the office that would be the perfect home for a bug. There is a high level meeting taking place at the Secretary of Defenses house soon (it includes Margaret Thatcher), and the Soviets what to know what is said. What I found interesting here is that the spy life is equal opportunity when it comes to using sex to get the job done. It’s not just women.

At the Rezidentura, the decision is made that because this important meeting is happening really soon, Directorate S needs to place the bug in the Secretary of Defense’s office. Regular KGB agents would be too slow. So the job falls to Phillip and Elizabeth. They decide to use the Secretary’s maid, Viola to get the job done. Elizabeth runs into Viola’s son in the street, and what Viola and her son don’t realize is that he has been poisoned. Phillip and Elizabeth go to Viola’s apartment and tell her that her son has been given a very specific poison for which Phillip has the only antidote. If she does as they ask, her son will be saved. If she makes one wrong move, he will die.

Meanwhile, Stan and his partner, Chris Amador, have their eyes on an electronics shop. A woman from the Soviet embassy (Nina) walks out of the shop with a very large package, so Stan and Amador are suspicious. They go inside the shop, and they ask the shopkeeper to tell them what he knows about the Russian woman. The shopkeeper refuses to tell them anything, so Stan and Amador take some expensive Russian caviar he has stashed behind the counter. Later, Stan would share the caviar with Phillip in what can only be described as a very cat-and-mouse scene. Later, Stan finds Nina at a produce stand, and he confronts her. He knows that she has been sending expensive items back to her family in Russia for them to sell on the black market, which is highly illegal. Stan promises to not tell the Soviets what he discovered (which would earn her a one-way ticket back to Moscow) if Nina starts giving him intel from the Rezidentura.

Viola completes the first half of her mission without too much trouble. She brings her purse into the Secretary’s office while she’s dusting, and she slips the target clock into the purse. Phillip and Elizabeth were a bit skeptical that it was so easy. Viola has a good explanation though. Nobody in the Secretary’s family would be suspicious of her bringing her purse into that room because they’ve never had reason to be suspicious of her in the first place. Actually getting the clock from Viola proves to e a bit more difficult, though. When Phillip tries to pick it up from Viola’s apartment, Viola’s brother shows up, and there’s a big fight. Viola is upset with her brother, but Philip is more upset that Viola told somebody what was going on. Phillip wins the fight, of course, and he puts enough fear into Viola and her brother that they aren’t going to be going to the cops any time soon.

Viola is still going to be trouble, though. Phillip and Elizabeth successfully install the bug in the clock and give the clock back to Viola. Through all of it, Elizabeth keeps fretting about everything that can go horribly wrong. Things do go somewhat wrong when Viola hesitates on returning the bugged clock to the Secretary’s office. Phillip can tell that Viola bailed because he can’t pick up the signal from the bug. Phillip and Elizabeth start arguing about how bad things might get, but they’re cut short when Phillip gets an “emergency signal” from Analise. Analise is thinking about going to the police because she’s tired of the secretive spy life. She just wants to run away with Scott. Or at least pretend she’s going to run away. When Phillip seems to agree to the pretend part, Analise runs off. She’s one odd duck.

Phillip and Elizabeth increase the pressure on Viola to deliver the clock already. Elizabeth spends a long time trying to convince her through conversation, but ti’s Phillip who gets the job done by suffocating Viola’s son with a pillow until Viola swears she’ll do what they want. Viola returns the clock the next day without much fuss, although when the Secretary’s wife says nice things about her right afterward, she clearly feels very guilty. I wouldn’t be surprised if she eventually spills what happened to somebody who can do something about it. Like Phillip and Elizabeth said earlier in the episode, religious people like Viola make bad marks because their morality is so rigid.

At the end of the episode, both sides are celebrating victory. The Russians were thrilled that the bug was planted in the Secretary’s office in time for the big meeting they wanted to listen to. Even Nina picks up on the jubilant atmosphere. Meanwhile, the FBI is thrilled that Stan just got them a new informant in the Rezidentura (that would be Nina). He even gets a call from the President’s Chief of Staff congratulating him on the achievement. Stan makes sure to give plenty of credit to his team, too. Phillip and Elizabeth are really the only ones who don’t celebrate. They’re worried about what they might be asked to do next.

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