Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The Americans 1.06: "Trust Me"

“You know, sometimes, sometimes what I do gets scary. Not for me. You don’t have to worry about that anymore. But I have to worry about people. And today, it got very scary, but it worked out.”

As you might suspect from the title, the theme of “Trust Me” was, well, trust. Nina had to trust Stan as her informant role got more dangerous. The news that the KGB has a mole also caused a lot of mistrust. The KGB is unsure whether they can trust Phillip and Elizabeth (since they were two of only a few people who had the information that was leaked), and by the end of the episode, it is clear that Philip and Elizabeth don’t even trust each other. Even the Jennings kids have to decide how far they can trust people when Phillip and Elizabeth’s predicament leaves Paige and Henry stranded at the mall. I do love it when an episode of television ties together so nicely around a theme.

The drama starts right from the beginning in this episode. Phillip is kidnapped following the Jennings family morning routine, and he is taken by van to a big warehouse of some sort. He is tied up to a chair and confronted by a man who might be an FBI agent. This man says that the FBI knows the Jenninges are spies, and he shows Phillip some recordings of Phillip working his spycraft to prove it. Phillip doesn’t admit to anything, so they basically start waterboarding him. He still doesn’t give in. Things get even worse when Elizabeth hears a strange sound while doing chores around the house. The sound turns out to be another group of agents trying to kidnap her. Elizabeth puts up a valiant fight, but she can’t hold the thugs off forever, and she is eventually taken to the warehouse, too.

Meanwhile, Paige and Henry are at the mall, waiting for Elizabeth to pick them up. Paige is tired of waiting, and calling home hasn’t helped, so she drags Henry on a very dangerous adventure. She decides that they should hitchhike home. At first I thought it would make more sense for them to walk, but they were about ten miles away from home, so I can see why a teenager like Paige would make the (bad) decision to try and hitch. They end up in the car of a man who is seriously sending off the creeper vibes. At first he says the Jennings house is on his way to work. What should be a simple drop-off, though, turns into a detour to feed ducks and drink beer at the park. The Paige and Henry dynamic is interesting to watch in this sequence. Paige is kind of weak and compliant, even drinking a beer when told to, while Henry is the one who saves them by breaking a bottle of beer over their would-be attacker’s head after he sees a knife. Henry is clearly his mother’s son, although he’s pretty shaken up by the situation once they’re back home safe and sound.

At one point in the big KGB interrogation (which seems to involve a lot of hitting Phillip’s stomach with a very large book), the interrogator drags Elizabeth into the room. He threatens to send Paige and Henry to Russia, which considering they have been raised American and can’t speak a word of Russian, would probably end very badly. Elizabeth is then taken to a separate room that is just plastered with photos of Paige and Henry. I guess the implication is supposed to be that the FBI knows all about Paige and Henry and can nab them at any time. It’s pretty creeptastic.

Since the KGB knows there is a mole, and Nina is a mole, it’s pretty safe to say that she’s at increased risk at the moment. She pretty much begs Stan to stop using her and let her go enjoy that new life with a new identity he keeps promising her. Stan, however, has other, rather complicated, plans. He’s going to frame none other than Vasili as the mole. The plan involves getting some diamonds out of the FBI evidence locker, getting those diamonds into Vasili’s tea, having Nina take photos of the Rezidentura with a little camera, and leaving that camera in Vasili’s bedroom. The look on Vasili’s face when Arkady opens the bag of tea and finds the diamonds is pretty priceless, really. Vasili knows he has been set up by Nina, but he doesn’t say anything about her. When we last see Vasili, he is on a plane back to Moscow, and his future will most likely be pretty painful (and short). Since the KGB thinks they have found and dealt with their mole, Nina is in the clear for now.

Back at the warehouse, Phillip is being waterboarded when Elizabeth is dragged into the same room. Both Phillip and Elizabeth are threatened, but neither give up any information. Phillip says they have trained for this moment, and they are willing to die for their country. At that moment, the torture stops, and Claudia enters the room. The whole thing was a KGB set-up to test Phillip and Elizabeth’s loyalty. Claudia says that because they were some of the very few people who knew about the radio encryption technology, they were at the top of the suspect list, so the KGB had to know they could be trusted. Elizabeth is outraged at this. I suppose it stems from feeling that her country, which was the core of her identity, betrayed her and didn’t trust her. If her country could do this to her, what was she living for?

Phillip and Elizabeth then make the mistake of comparing torture. When Elizabeth says her torture was only psychological, he realizes that he himself was the one the KGB was worried about, not Elizabeth. He correctly figures that Elizabeth once told the KGB that he was slipping in his loyalty. Elizabeth tries to spin it as Phillip fitting in to well in the United States, but Phillip says that fitting in is actually an asset in their job. All of the trust and loyalty between Phillip and Elizabeth is now gone. This is the next step in the downward spiral their marriage takes throughout the season.

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