The Americans Season 1 Review “In Control”

For once, on “The Americans,” Liz and Phillip had a mission us actual Americans can get behind- a little afternoon delight, if you know what I mean and I think that you do. Alas, it was short-lived, as on this show, no one stays “In Control” of their own lives for long. No sooner are they basking in the afterglow of their newly-minted loving marriage reboot than they leave the room they rented to discover that all hell has broken loose.

It seems that the President has been shot, and naturally, the US thinks Russia is somehow involved. The Soviet military is stabilizing, and everyone is scared that a war could break out at any minute. Phillip immediately goes to visit source Charles Duluth, aka Agent “Sparrow,” a conservative magazine writer that “used to be a Socialist,” while Liz goes to get in touch with their local contact.

Meanwhile, the FBI orders Beeman to contact informant Nina, at great risk to her well-being under the highly-charged circumstances. He actually calls her directly at the Embassy, albeit under a false name and from a re-routed phone number. Nina is understandably rattled, and says she’ll do her best to get away.

Liz meets with Grannie, who finally gives out a name: Claudia. She orders Liz to crank up Operation Christopher, whatever that is- but it doesn’t sound good, despite that name. Kind of like the name they give a hurricane or what have you: deceptively straight-forward, but often deadly whatever you might call it. She also mentions rumors that Russia may move into Poland within the next 24 hours, though she can’t yet confirm them. Whatever the case, she can confirm that the Russians has nothing to do with the attack.

Claudia’s main concern is who might seize control of the US government and depending on who it is- will they choose to attack? It’s also implied that a little guerilla warfare might be a necessary evil. Claudia also tells Liz that the Embassy is worthless, information-wise, and they need new Intel ASAP. She also puts forth her belief that Liz is perfectly suited for anything that might develop, pointing out that she has better training than Claudia herself, who fought behind enemy lines in Stalingrad for two years.

So off Liz goes to unearth a crate containing nasty items like explosives and heavy artillery- basically a DIY guerilla kit. This incites a flashback, where Liz recalls a man visiting her mother shortly after Stalin’s death with a similar crate, who not-so-thinly suggests that she needs to find herself a man and that he would be the perfect man for the job. We see the rest of it later, as Liz’s mother tells her why she refused the man- his help came with a price- and instills in her the belief that she is the only one she can ultimately count on, and no one else, which explains a lot about Liz’s way of looking at things.

Phillip calls another contact, a man with a table full of phone with name-cards lined in front of them. Only none of those phones are ringing, but rather the one isolated one set apart from the rest- an emergency line, perhaps? I imagine the rest correspond to other spies in the field, but I could be wrong there. Regardless, Phillip tells him he needs to contact the Vice President’s Office and speak with the Deputy Chief of Staff, as the Russians fear a coup may be afoot. Then he and Liz set about securing a government car, which requires a call to Gregory, which Phillip isn’t thrilled about.

As all this is happening, Liz & Phillip’s kids are staying somewhat ironically with Beeman’s wife, watching everything unfold on television. Paige isn’t happy that they keep showing the attempted assassination unfolding over & over again, not realizing how close to home this is for his son. Though obviously not funny, it did finally make an old Eddie Murphy skit I saw not too long ago make a lot more sense. What was perversely funny was the conversation she had with him later on. “My dad doesn’t do stuff like that. (Meaning like Beeman.) He’s just a travel agent.” Said the son, without skipping a beat: “Travel agent-ing is more dangerous than you think. [It’s a] world filled with peril.” LOL. He’s way more right than he’ll likely ever know.

Liz and Phil pick up the car, which they only have possession of for two hours, and they go over to Dana Simon’s house, an unwitting source that works at the hospital where Reagan has been taken. They pose as Deputy Chiefs of Staff at the VP’s office, which explains all that subterfuge before. She confirms that Reagan is in good shape and is expected to make a full recovery. They give her a card, telling her to call one of them if anything changes.

After trying to leave the Embassy to no avail all day, Nina finally comes up with a valid excuse to leave, which entails her going to a local bar frequented by governmental aides with a tendency to blab about their business. Her boss gives her the go-ahead, but, no fool he, also sends a co-worker to tail her to make sure she’s on the up-and-up, given the timing and the overall highly-charged atmosphere.

Nina comes this close to being caught, and Beeman’s partner knows it but doesn’t give him the heads-up, which he takes him to task for later. Fortunately, Beeman spots the tail just in time and the two pass like strangers in the night, with Nina heading into the bar, just as she was supposed to, according to her shared intentions. There, she does indeed hear some vital information, as the aides argue about the possibility of a military coup, with the Secretary of Defense Haig seizing control in Reagan’s wake and taking matters into his own hands, which some of the aides don’t care for, thinking they should wait on VP Bush to be the one in charge. Yeah, that’s gonna work out just great.

Liz and Phil return to the crate locale to send a transmitted and coded message about what they discovered about Reagan. He lets it be known to Liz that he thinks Moscow is overreacting, but Liz is convinced of just the opposite. She reminds him how close he came to defection, and what a mistake that would have been. He in turn reminds her that this isn’t Russia, and she needs to stop thinking like one and start thinking like an American. Americans don’t want to go to war unless it’s absolutely necessary, and they certainly don’t jump to conclusions– at least not then, anyway.

Liz wants to “map their targets,” which means to check out the people they’re supposed to take out if it becomes a necessary evil. Phil objects, but goes along, if only to keep her in check. They stake out the Weinberger’s place, retrieving the tapes they’ve been collecting, planning to listen to them as they scope out the situation. This turns out to be a near-fatal mistake, as a security guard catches them in the act. Threatening to call the police, Liz doesn’t even hesitate when she shoots him dead before he has a chance to do so. (Damn, that girl’s cold-blooded when she needs to be.) They take off, Liz in the security guard’s car, Phil in their own, to dispose of the “evidence.” Phil is not pleased with this turn of events, and lets Liz know.

Beeman finally successfully meets with Nina, who is understandably and justifiably upset, letting him know in no uncertain terms. She tells him that the Embassy is flipping out, and that Russia clearly has nothing to do with the assassination attempt. She tells them about the concerns of a Haig coup and that the US will try and pin the attempt on them as justification for launching an all-out war. Beeman puts her at ease, assuring her that is not the case. She wisely points out that all is takes is one mistake to start a war in earnest, and how everyone’s finger is on the trigger, including the US and he knows it. True enough.

Liz, in turn, is the one actually going nuclear when she listens to the somewhat garbled Weinberger tape. As with Nina, she thinks that a coup is inevitable, but Phil is unconvinced as ever, even though this evidence is much stronger to the contrary than anything thus far. He points out that if they communicate this and they’re wrong, they will have literally single-handedly started a war. He puts his foot down finally and says they aren’t doing anything yet until they have more valid information. Liz isn’t happy, but backs down.

She also cools a bit when she sees the kids’ reactions to the Reagan situation, realizing he has a point and that it could affect them in a highly negative way if they make the wrong choice. This matter is helped even further when Beeman arrives home and they pay him a visit and he confirms that the man who attacked Reagan is a certifiable whack-job, who actually did it to impress actress Jodie Foster, which would be completely unbelievable if it weren’t actually true. He confirms that the government is convinced it had nothing whatsoever to do with Russia and that the matter should blow over immediately.

Afterward, Beeman has a heart-to-heart with his wife, who it seems is exceedingly unhappy with their current situation, even though, as he points out, she signed off on it. She said the job isn’t the issue, he is. She feels his a million miles away and barely even acknowledges her, placing the blame squarely on his last big assignment, after which he’s never been quite the same. He admits as much, but isn’t sure what to do about it. Liz and Phillip’s marriage may be improving slowly but surely, but this one may be going down in flames, sadly, if Beeman doesn’t rectify matters and soon.

Back home, Liz apologizes for jumping the gun, literally and figuratively, and says she’s glad they did things his way. Phil points out that if the Soviets ever find out they sat on actionable intelligence, they’re done for, but she tells him she won’t tell if he doesn’t. They end the day as they begun it, with a little TLC, well-earned after that insane day’s events.

Another knock-out show all round, I thought. Lots of tense moments, and some brilliant acting throughout. This show really does just maintain its quality from week to week in a way I can’t recall seeing since maybe FX’s own “Justified.” In fact, it may be even better, and I love me some “Justified,” let me tell you.

Also, I must confess to be totally crushing on Nina, aka Annet Mahendru. I don’t know what it is, but I love me some Ruskie ladies, too, i.e. Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, Michelle Trachtenberg, Dianna Agron, Ksenia Solo …the list goes on. Hell, even Anna Chapman, and she was an actual spy. Too bad Annet’s actually from Afghanistan! Oh well, nobody’s perfekt. (See what I did there?)

What did you think of “The Americans”? Are you hooked, too? Also crushing on Nina? Let me know in the comments section!