The Americans Season 1 Review “Covert War”

Not that they necessarily were before, but on the latest episode of “The Americans,” the C.I.A. stopped playing around and started getting real in earnest. Taking out a mid-level page is one thing, but in “Covert War,” they took out a prime target: General Zhukov, former head of the Embassy and the S-Directorate. Needless to say, the Russians were none too happy about this particular development, and the wily Claudia knew just how to play it with Liz- and almost pulled it off, too.

In the end, though, Liz saw past her scheme, though I don’t think that’s why she ultimately didn’t take her revenge, even though she clearly wanted to- and for that matter, knew that by not doing it after a certain point, her actions would almost certainly come back to haunt her and possibly Phil, to boot. No, I think she bailed on her attempted revenge scheme because she finally realized that she’d reached a turning point of sorts- she’d learned to love.

Liz has lost a lot over the last few weeks: her husband, Gregory, and now, Zhukov. As if that weren’t bad enough, she’s also lost a lot of her faith in the one thing she’s never wavered about before: her love of country. Thanks to Claudia’s actions a few weeks back, when they kidnapped and tortured Phil and threatened her, she’s now at a bit of a standstill. Even her own kids resent her, and we discovered tonight that her son almost never happened in the first place. Liz isn’t one to make decisions rashly, so for her to back out of killing Patterson at the last minute, as much as she may come to regret it, took a lot of willpower.

That next-to-last scene, with her and Phil in his dumpy hotel room, where she clearly came this close to asking him to come home, only to back out at the last minute when she realized he had already started to move on with his life was a heartbreaker. It has to be said that this is one of the finest conceived characters on television right now, female or otherwise, with Phil hot on her heels. These people are just plain fascinating and incredibly complex, down to the supporting cast, particularly Stan, Nina, and now Sandra, Stan’s wife, who also reached her breaking point tonight after simmering to a boil since the beginning of the series.

Speaking of heartbreaking, how sad was it to see Liz out relishing the single life before the Zhukov bomb was dropped on her, while poor Sandra couldn’t bring herself to even engage with a little innocent dancing? (On a side note, what the what was that song playing? I swear to you- and I double-checked this with captions- at one point, the lyrics said, and I quote: “Never chew the pickle/With a little slap and tickle.” Alrighty then! Granted, that was before my time, but I missed that particular disco “classic”!)

Sandra knows that Stan is cheating, and can’t quite bring herself to say it, but he knows she knows. He halfheartedly tried to end things with Nina, but he’s in way too deep for that. As Nina says, besides him, all she has is a constant fear in her life. Granted, she got herself into this mess, but I think she’s gone above and beyond the call of duty at this point.

Indeed, she should consider herself lucky that Zhukov- or anyone else, for that matter- didn’t put two and two together and figure out she was the real culprit that led to the General’s take-down. She’d also be horrified to learn she inadvertently caused Vlad’s death as well, in a sense, which I think is the real reason Stan won’t tell her the truth. After all, it would have been easy to lie and say that Vlad was collateral damage- which is true, to a certain extent. She should be fine for the immediate future, though, given her promotion to senior lieutenant at the Embassy, and Stan’s lack of backbone in breaking things off with her. (Not that I entirely blame him, as Nina is nothing if not easy on the eyes.)

Speaking of getting in too deep, there’s also the business with Phil and Martha, which is getting dangerously real on “Clark.” The look on his face when he saw that she had sprung her parents on him was almost as priceless as the one on Stan’s when he saw his son sporting make-up post-“Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I suspect that things will not end well for Martha, sad to say. I feel badly for the poor girl- between him and the late Amador, she really knows how to pick ‘em.

Last but not least, was the decidedly unexpected revelation on Claudia’s part that she and Zhukov were lovers- or so she says, at least. Liz, not entirely wrong-headedly, finds this a bit suspect, and alleges that Claudia gave her Patterson’s name because she actually did want Liz to kill him, but not for the reasons she said, but rather because Claudia wants to get revenge on Liz for beating the crap out of her before.

She also suspects that Claudia wants to get her (and Phil) booted from the KGB, and she might well be right. The problem is, in letting Patterson go, she may have led the CIA to her own demise, as Patterson reports back to the CIA upon his release that he was abducted by a couple. How long before Stan starts to suspect Liz and Phil?

Another great episode of “The Americans,” I thought. Only two more to go, which is too bad. I’m not sure where all of this is headed, but I like what I’ve seen so far. What did you think of the show? Who’s your favorite character? Any predictions for the final episodes? Let me know in the comments!