Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Summer TV Rewind: The Americans 1.13: "The Colonel"

“I know you better than you know yourself. And you don’t know me at all.”

And we have reached the finale of yet another of our summer shows. Today we conclude our Summer DVR dump of the first season of “The Americans.” All of the tension between the FBI and the KGB comes to a head as each side thinks they have an intelligence leg up on the other. All of the KGB agents are in jeopardy, really. It was an exciting, action-packed hour, but there was also emotion and character development. It struck me just how much of a fully realized world the show inhabits. I feel invested in the fates of all the characters. I was also pleased that the season didn’t really end on a cliffhanger. Some crazy things certainly happened, but we know the status of everyone by the end of the episode.

We open this episode with a reminder that Sanford, the asset Elizabeth has been handling, has been arrested for failure to pay child support. He’s in trouble, especially because of his security clearance. Because of what he was working on (I presume), Stan is conducting the investigation himself. Sanford is trying to play it like he hasn’t been betraying his country, but Stan sees right through it. He leaves him to wait for a while in the interrogation room by himself. He thinks that eventually, Sanford will be so agitated that he will spill whatever he has to to get out of FBI custody. By the end of the episode, we see that Stan isn’t wrong, although it seems like he stops short of compromising Elizabeth.

There are two spy stories really happening simultaneously in this episode. First, there’s the meeting with the Air Force Colonel who Sanford was trying to turn. It seems like a suicide mission, especially now that Sanford has been arrested, but in a meeting with Claudia, she learns that the operation is still on. The promise of learning more about Star Wars was just too much for the Center to resist. Also, the KGB have picked up information about an interesting meeting to take place at the Secretary of Defense’s home office. It’s from the bug in his office, so we, the audience, know that the report of the meeting is probably fabricated by the FBI. This suspicion turns out to be true. Agent Gaad is going to have a team ready to catch whoever tries to pick up the transcript of the meeting.

Phillip and Elizabeth squabble quite a bit over who should take which mission. What’s interesting is that they both think that the Colonel meeting is the more dangerous of the two. Phillip wants to take the Colonel meeting. He wants Elizabeth to grab the transcript from the Secretary of Defense’s office, pick up the kids, and drive to a secluded hotel. If he survives the Colonel meeting, he’ll join her. Elizabeth, of course, wants the opposite. Partially because Sanford was her asset, so she feels responsible, and partially because Phillip is better with the kids. I think they’re both reasonably good with the kids. Elizabeth is more uptight, but she’s not a bad mother. She cares deeply about Paige and Henry, and that’s what matters most.

Speaking of Phillip’s interaction with the kids, there’s a brief Jennings family life scene before everything goes really crazy when they’re all sitting on the couch eating snacks and watching TV. It’s kind of a big deal because Phillip and Elizabeth are still technically separated. It was worth a mention to me because they were watching the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals. My mother still complains over thirty-four years later about how the Islanders beat our beloved Philadelphia Flyers that year. On the other hand, she and my dad had their first date watching the U.S./Soviet Olympic hockey game earlier that year, so it wasn’t all a bad year on the hockey front for her!

Stan and Sandra’s relationship, however, has no such happy moments. Stan is super excited because he thinks that the Secretary of Defense sting operation is going to work, Nina will be exfiltrated, and all can go back to how it used to be. He buys a tropical getaway for himself and Sandra in the hope that they can rekindle their romance. Sandra, to her credit, is having none of it. She is tired of how distant Stan has been ever since they moved to DC, and she doesn’t think that one vacation will fix their very deep-rooted problems. Considering Stan has been cheating on her for a while now, I think she’s making the right choice. It appears that the Beemans will be headed down the separation road sooner rather than later.

We also learn that Paige is a pretty smart cookie (although she’s very nosy). One night she has a nightmare, and she gets curious when Elizabeth isn’t in her room to comfort her. She walks downstairs and sees Elizabeth coming from the laundry room. Elizabeth claims she was folding laundry, but Paige doesn’t buy it. Elizabeth had, in fact, been listening to a tape of her mother that the KGB sent her. By the end of the episode, Paige has the house to herself and goes down to the laundry room to check things out. She finds no spy evidence, but not for lack of trying.

Nina’s all triple agent now, so things probably won’t end well for Stan. She and Stan meet up at the safe house, and Stan gives her the news that something big is happening, and if it works out, she will be exfiltrated. Nina tries to act happy about this, although it doesn’t exactly help her mission to redeem herself (which has been officially approved by Moscow). After Stan leaves, Nina rushes right to the Rezidentura and reports that the FBI are about to do something big. She thinks it means the Colonel meeting is a set-up, so Arkady tries to send out the abort signal (a spray-painted car) right away.

Phillip sneakily ends up being the one who goes to the Colonel meeting. Surprisingly (I guess) the Colonel seems legit. He says that the big secret about Star Wars is that it doesn’t work. The technology won’t be possible for at least another fifty years. The signal car drives by, and Claudia rushes into the scene to provide backup for Phillip. Which is a pretty decent thing for her to do considering Phillip and Elizabeth submitted paperwork asking that she be reassigned. The Colonel claims he knows nothing about a set-up. Phillip instantly knows what’s wrong. The Colonel meeting wasn’t a set-up. The message pickup from the Secretary of Defense’s house was.

Elizabeth is about to take the transcript out of an abandoned car when Phillip drives past and gets her to jump in his car. Stan knows his mission has been blown, and he and Gaad order a chase of Phillip and Elizabeth (although Stan still doesn’t know it’s actually Phillip and Elizabeth). After a prolonged action chase sequence, Phillip and Elizabeth manage to get away, but Elizabeth has been shot. She is operated on by a doctor in a warehouse, and when she comes to, she asks Phillip in Russian to “come home.” Phillip isn’t going to leave Elizabeth’s side, so he calls Stan and asks him to watch the kids because he and Elizabeth have to go take care of her sick aunt. Stan just got back from delivering the news to Nina that she’s not being exfiltrated because the mission failed, but he still drops everything to take care of the Jennings kids. If only he knew.

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