Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The Americans 1.09: "Safe House"

“You’re going to lose this war. You know that, right? You can torture me, and you can kill me, but we’re going to kick your Motherland’s marbled ass, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“Safe House” really explores the fallout of the events of the mission gone awry in the previous episode. Both Phillip and Elizabeth’s personal and professional life are kind of a mess in this episode. The tension between the KGB and FBI has increased, and it only gets worse thanks to some rash decisions made by several characters, primarily on the FBI side of the equation. The whole episode was really a train wreck that I couldn’t take my eyes off of. Not in the sense that the episode was poor quality, but that the characters just kept on making worse and worse decisions. It was inevitable that the episode would end in multiple tragedies.

The episode begins in a much quieter way than it ends. The Jenningses are having a family dinner, and Phillip and Elizabeth decide to announce to the kids that they’re separating. Paige and Henry don’t take it well at all. This is a little surprising to me, from Paige at least. I would think that after all the fighting and dysfunction the kids have put up with, the separation might ultimately be a relief. I get that Henry isn’t old enough to think that many steps ahead yet, but Paige is. She can’t have been surprised to see this coming (teenagers are perceptive about this sort of thing), and I really do find it hard to believe that she’d rather have the constant fighting and tension. Maybe I’m just projecting. Her reaction seems especially selfish is all. Anyway, following the big family meeting, Phillip moves to a cheap motel.

The next day, the Beemans are throwing a party, and Phillip and Elizabeth decide to attend together because they figure they should get all the intel they can from Stan and his work friends. The party is super awkward. Phillip and Elizabeth try to play it like they’re still together, but it’s pretty obvious that something is up, mostly because Paige and Henry are acting miserable. Stan’s wife is the one who figures it out, actually, and she and Elizabeth have a conversation about it. She wonders why they would want to keep it a secret, since divorce/separation is more acceptable now than in their parents’ generation. Elizabeth says they just wanted a little privacy.

While all the Jennings marriage drama is playing out at the Beeman party, Stan is having a more important conversation with his coworkers he invited to the party. Agent Gaad (Stan’s boss) and the crew are planning an off-the-record attack on the KGB in response to the events of the last episode (which resulted in the death of a bunch of American scientists and the FBI agents who were guarding them). Gaad wants none other than Arkady, who as acting Rezident, is the highest value target around. They know Arkady goes jogging at a specific time, and they plan to ambush him. Stan is hesitant to join in because it’s extra-judicial and he doesn’t feel right about it, but he’s not going to narc on his team, either.

Phillip and Elizabeth don’t pick up on this plan while at the party, but they find out about it soon enough anyway. Since he’s kind of single now, Phillip takes the opportunity to spend the night with Martha. I was very thankful I wasn’t watching the episode in public this time. The next morning, Martha brings Phillip breakfast in bed, and before she leaves for work, she mentions that Gaad got a call from the White House recently, and ever since, he’s been talking to some CIA buddies. She thinks they’re planning to kill a KGB agent. As soon as Martha leaves, Phillip tries to spring into action. Unfortunately, though, he’s waylaid by none other than a jealous Amador. Amador starts asking Phillip probing questions, which Phillip understandably doesn’t want to answer. The situation escalates into a knock-down-drag-out fight, and Phillip gives Amador a pretty nasty stab wound to the stomach. And of course he drags Amador to Elizabeth for patching up.

Stan notices pretty quickly that his partner and friend is missing. Some people try to pass it off as Amador sleeping off a crazy night, but Stan’s instinct is that something related to the KGB went horribly wrong. Before he can dig into it too much, though, it’s time for the ambush on Arkady. Stan is really pissed at the KGB right now, so he offers to help. Instead of Arkady jogging by in the park, though, the FBI/CIA team gets Vlad, an entry-level foreign officer on his first tour of duty. The other guys want to let him go, but Stan insists on bringing him in as possible leverage for getting Amador back. We get a couple flashbacks throughout the episode that are supposed to show us why Stan and Amador are so close, but they didn’t really stand out to me as anything original.

Since they have Amador, Phillip and Elizabeth try to use him to get information on the KGB agent Martha warned might be killed. Basically, they want the identity of the target. Amador doesn’t give anything up at first, though. He gives patriotic speeches instead. Finally, though Amador asks what time it is, and when it’s after the time that the ambush is supposed to go down, he finally says that Arkady is the target. Elizabeth immediately uses the emergency codes to call Arkady at the Rezidentura, and when she speaks to Arkady, she suspects Amador is not telling the truth. Before they can get any more information out of him, however, Amador succumbs to his injuries.

Stan has been holding and interrogating Vlad at the infamous Eastern Market safe house. He makes a call to the Rezidentura and says that if anything happens to Amador, Vlad is dead. Eventually, the FBI finds Amador’s body. Stan travels to the scene, and to say he is not happy would be an understatement. In his grief, he returns to the safe house, feeds Vlad a last meal of fast food French fries and a hamburger, and shoots Vlad in the head. Ever since the scientists and FBI agents died, it’s just been a continuous escalation of poor decisionmaking leading to even more death. It’s certainly going to be a wild ride leading up to the season finale.

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