Friday, July 4, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The Americans 1.05: "Comint"

“It happens sometimes, Phillip.”

So, fun fact, the name of this episode of “The Americans” stands for “communications intelligence,” which is definitely an appropriate name for an episode which saw Phillip and Elizabeth trying to shut down a system of American surveillance radios in FBI cars. The show has been dark from the get-go, but this episode seems to hit a different shade of dark. We see the horrible things that can happen during routine spywork, and we see how Phillip and Elizabeth have to go on living in spite of it. I think it’s kind of interesting that Phillip never realized some of the things Elizabeth did in the course of their work. Or maybe he did notice but tried to deny it? I think what we’re supposed to believe is that Phillip never paid that close attention to Elizabeth until now. Which is kind of hard to believe.

This episode doesn’t feel as self-contained as the earlier episodes of the season. It seems to really build on the events of the previous episodes. The episode opens with Elizabeth investigating the missile defense project she and Phillip learned about earlier this season. She poses as a security expert to interview a key person on the project. This man’s wife recently passed away, and Elizabeth asks many probing questions about whether women have been hitting on him and if he told his wife anything about his job. The man denies anything untoward. When we next see Elizabeth talking to Claudia, though, we learn that everything we saw was a lie. The scientist has actually been a KGB informant all along, and he’s not holding up well being out of contact with his handler. His handler is stuck in the Rezidentura because the FBI have been hovering and they also have new radio encryption which makes it more difficult for the KGB to know when they are being followed.

The unhappy KGB informant actually ends up calling Vasili at the Rezidentura on a pay phone. Vasili isn’t happy about this, and the informant ends up hanging up. Vasili also kind of gets his flirt on with Nina, which is pretty gross. He sees her making tea with a tea bag and encourages her to make tea the proper Russian way. Meanwhile, the FBI has picked up on the informant’s call to Vasili. Agent Gaad interrupts a conversation Amador and Stan are having about Martha to deliver the news. They have the transcript of the conversation, but they don’t know the identity of the informant. Stan enlists Nina’s help, of course, and in the process, he tries to seriously flatter her.

Speaking of Martha, she and “Clark” (actually Phillip disguised as a counterintelligence agent) have been seeing a lot of each other lately. Their conversation is interrupted by a kiss, but Phillip quickly pulls away. He says it’s important that they keep up their professional boundaries because national security is at risk. He tells Martha that worrying about counterintelligence keeps him up at night, and he says he’s concerned that a particular consultant wasn’t properly vetted. Martha offers up the name of the consultant (which is probably what Phillip was going for here) – Kurt Schultz.

After giving Phillip a hard time for playing too much racquetball with Stan, Elizabeth divulges her plan for dismantling the American radio encryption and reuniting the informant with Vasili. She’s going to pose as a business rival to Kurt Schultz. When we next see her, she is having sex with Schultz, but he turns out to be kind of sadistic. He starts hitting her with a belt, and at that point, Elizabeth curls up and begs him to stop. When they are both dressed again, Elizabeth asks Schultz if her boss can now buy his company. Schultz starts boasting about how he has developed portable encryption technology, and the FBI has been carrying around the encryption devices in their cars.

Nina is also using sex to get information in this episode. She brings Vasili some tea and starts to undress. He’s a little surprised, but he doesn’t exactly protest the turn of events. Afterwards, Vasili starts telling Nina a story about the agent he recruited 23 years ago (the KGB informant from early on in the episode). Vasili describes the agent as a “bureaucrat with a soul,” but now the man has the jitters. There’s a light moment where Vasili tries to demonstrate to Nina what exactly the “jitters” are. Nina reports this information back to Stan, and when she tells Stan exactly what she did to get the information, Stan is embarrassed. He doesn’t want to believe he’s the kind of person who could encourage a woman to have sex for information.

When Elizabeth gets home from her rendezvous with Schultz, Phillip notices the marks on her back from the belt. He gets extremely upset and wants to hurt Schultz on Elizabeth’s behalf. Elizabeth plays it cool, saying that this is something that happens to her sometimes. I really don’t get why Phillip never would have noticed this before. Phillip is still cranky about it the next morning. Phillip and Elizabeth end up staging an accident to get access to the trunk of an FBI car. Phillip then pretends to be a customer at the same repair shop where the FBI car is being serviced. He serves as a distraction so Elizabeth can climb into the trunk of the FBI car. She makes an imprint of a piece of the encryption device in the trunk of the car, but while she’s still in it, the mechanics start lowering the car on the jack. Phillip has to take his car abruptly so he can follow Elizabeth. They meet back up outside of the FBI parking lot, and they seem to have reached an understanding again about what their job sometimes requires.

Back at the Rezidentura, Nina is giving Vasili another blow job when Arkady interrupts (he doesn’t know Nina is there). Arkady happily announces that the FBI encryption codes have been obtained, and Vasili is free to meet with his agent. Of course, Nina immediately relays this information (along with the particulars of the planned meeting) to Stan. The actual meeting goes horribly wrong because the FBI immediately changed their encryption codes, and they’re all around the meeting site. The poor, hapless KGB informant ends up dying from a gunshot to the head courtesy of Elizabeth. Later, Claudia gives Phillip some bad news. The fact that the FBI changed the encryption codes so quickly must mean that the KGB has a mole.

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