Saturday, August 23, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The Americans 1.11: "Covert War"

“When you’re a loner, there’s nothing more satisfying than finding another loner to be alone with.”

“Covert War” was interesting because it was very quiet. The killing escalated again in the secret war between the KGB and United States, but after that burst of violence, there were no more deaths, and the escalation seems to have come to a close for now. Watching Elizabeth go through an emotional journey to stop the killing was truly fascinating to watch. She wanted vengeance badly, but it was really about so much more. I’ve never been a huge Kerri Russell fan, but she really did good work in this one. The moment where she decided not to kill resonated more with me than all the many deaths of the past few episodes. Elizabeth is such a loyal, “for the Motherland” character, that for her to finally think of her family at the same level of esteem was rather beautiful.

The beginning of this episode contains that last burst of violence that I mentioned. The FBI are pissed that so many of their agents have been killed, so they (presumably) work with the CIA to stage a big operation in Moscow. A bunch of KGB generals are murdered in cold blood, one of which is General Zhukov, leader of Directorate S and mentor to Elizabeth. When Elizabeth gets the news, she is understandably devastated. She wants vengeance on whomever ordered Zhukov’s murder, even if it might hurt the overall Soviet cause.

Before finding out about Zhukov’s death, though, Elizabeth was having a girls’ night with Stan’s wife, Sandra. They were having a good time dancing and drinking at a bar when Sandra started to get rather emo over how she and Stan have been distant ever since he returned from his white supremacist undercover mission in St. Louis. She asks Elizabeth if Elizabeth has ever thought about adultery. Clearly Elizabeth has, since, you know, Gregory and all, but she plays it cool. Sandra calls home and confirms that Stan is working late yet again, so the fun girls’ night turns into a crying mess. There is nothing less fun than a night out that devolves into a crying mess, let me tell you. Later, she confronts Stan when he finally gets home, and she says that sometimes when he’s late, she calls HQ and they say he left hours ago. Seems like another Falls Church couple is going to be on the separation train.

Throughout this episode, we get a few Elizabeth/Zhukov flashbacks. I think they were meant to serve the same purpose as the Stan/Amador flashbacks a few weeks back. It’s an attempt to show us why Elizabeth and Stan care about those respective characters who died instead of just telling us. In both cases, though, I’m not sure it was all that effective. The flashbacks were kind of boring. We see Zhukov trying to convince Elizabeth that her life with Peter will be okay, and we also see Zhukov comforting Elizabeth when she is pregnant with Henry and not entirely sure she’s going to continue the pregnancy. Near the end of the episode, there’s also a scene where Zhukov tells Elizabeth that basically he regrets living only for work. Family matters too.

Claudia told Elizabeth that the architect of the Moscow murder spree was a CIA bureaucrat named Patterson, so that’s who Elizabeth wants to go after. She manages to rope Phillip into her plan. Elizabeth knows that Patterson is a womanizer, so she decides to snag him at his favorite bar/pick up spot. I was kind of jealous of Elizabeth’s look during this particular operation. If I was an adult in the 1980’s (instead of a little kid), I think I would have favored something similar, with short-ish curly hair and what we would now think of as hipster glasses. Anyway, Elizabeth pretends to be a young woman who just broke up with her boyfriend, and she manages to use a crossword puzzle to get Patterson’s attention. They go into the bar’s restroom for their tryst, and Patterson quickly realizes that all is not as it seemed. A big fight ensues, and Elizabeth knocks Patterson out after pulling the paper towel holder off the wall. She and Phillip manage to get Patterson’s body out of the rest room through a window and in to the car.

Things are also getting much more complicated on the Stan/Nina side of things. We learn that Nina has recently been promoted to a “senior Lieutenant” at the Rezidentura. As such, Arkady wants her to start scouring CIA and FBI communications for information about meetings at the Secretary of Defense’s house (where they planted that bug early in the season) so that the KGB can listen in. The hope is that they’ll uncover more information about the Moscow killing spree. Later, Nina meets up with Stan, and she immediately wants to know if Stan has any more information on who killed Vlad. Stan tries to call off the sexual part of their relationship, saying that Sandra knows about the affair. Nina acknowledges the importance of family, but by the end of the scene, it doesn’t look like the affair will be ending any time soon.

Phillip and Elizabeth take Patterson to an abandoned warehouse, and Elizabeth tries to interrogate him. Patterson denies having any real say in what happened in Moscow. He claims he was just a bureaucrat following orders. He accuses Elizabeth of being an equally soulless killer and questions if she cares about anyone at all. Given the state of her marriage and the recent death of Zhukov, this sets Elizabeth off. She rushes out of the room and starts sobbing, and that’s where Phillip finds her. Phillip tries to comfort Elizabeth, and when we next see Patterson, Phillip and Elizabeth are leaving him blindfolded on a park bench.

What follows Patterson’s release is a bunch of official debriefings. Agent Gaad leads the team that debriefs Patterson. Patterson says he thinks what happened to him was personal, and he has no idea why he was freed. He also is able to confirm that the Directorate S agents are operating as a couple. Meanwhile, Elizabeth has her own debrief of sorts with Claudia. Elizabeth wants to know why Claudia tried to push her to kill Patterson, and Claudia tries to say she (Claudia) had been in love with Zhukov. Elizabeth doesn’t buy it, though. Elizabeth thinks Claudia was trying to deliberately get her to break the rules so she’d get sent back to Moscow.

The final scene between Phillip and Elizabeth in this episode is rather heartbreaking. Elizabeth stops by Phillip’s trashy motel room with a peace offering of beer (which is kind of awesome…and I rarely think Elizabeth is awesome). Phillip is in the process of packing his things up, and Elizabeth seems to think that means he’s going to come home. Phillip says he doesn’t think coming to the motel is good for the kids (they saw a public urinator early in the episode), and Elizabeth agrees that the kids need to feel more rooted. She’s kind of thrown for a loop when Phillip says he got himself an apartment. She leaves him her car because his battery is dead, and she flees to take the bus home.

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