I have to admit, The Americans is truly picking up steam heading into the last few episodes of its debut season. I was slightly nervous heading into the tail of the season, as the show had been consistently very good yet, at times, a bit stagnant. A show that has us follow KGB agents in the heat of The Cold War would benefit from some serious suspense, and I’m happy to see that The Americans is finally serving that up to us viewers. “Covert War” saw Elizabeth (Keri Russell) on the warpath, but would that road end up being the path to her own self-destruction?
Episode 11 opened with the assassination of three KGB generals in Moscow. After a bullet had been sent through the brain of Elizabeth’s former mentor, General Zhukov, our leading lady would become a ticking time bomb. Grannie (Margo Martindale) doled out strict orders to avoid any conflict whatsoever. CIA Agent Patterson, the man who’d initiated the strike on Zhukov, was off limits. Moscow had decided to put an end to the escalating bloodshed in what was supposed to be a quiet time of strategic battle. Elizabeth, needless to say, was livid; however, we’d never truly gotten to experience the bond between Elizabeth and Zhukov. Mainly, it had always seemed like a love that was bred out of respect from a career perspective. Meaning, I’d always assumed she just appreciated his tactics and position.
This week, we were taken down memory lane and offered the opportunity to see just what fueled Elizabeth’s love for the man. Through a series of flashbacks, we witnessed a kinder softer side to Zhukov. Through his relationship with his beloved dog, he taught Elizabeth how to love. He took care of his companion, and his dog, in turn, took care of Zhukov. Elizabeth had been, of course, very unsure of how her relationship with Phillip (Matthew Rhys) would pan out. If you care for something, or someone, you will grow to love it. Over time, we would come to learn that Zhukov’s dog would die, causing him to question the value of his life and the choices he’d made. The absolute dedication to his work had left him with a sense of longing, and we, as viewers, had grown endeared to the character.
Thus, we could understand why Elizabeth would betray Grannie’s orders to let the CIA agent slide. Elizabeth wanted to watch the man die, and she’d need to enlist Phillip’s help to do so. After some basic research, Elizabeth managed to uncover that the man had a weakness for women, specifically, for one night stands. Elizabeth’s spin on the “sexy 80s librarian” look would do the trick. After cornering the man at a local bar, she had him exactly where she wanted him. By the time the two were set to do the deed in the bar’s bathroom, Phillip was waiting out back to help her capture the agent. There was a bit of a scrappy fight, but Elizabeth eventually rendered the man unconscious. Out the window, and on to the point of no return.
Meanwhile, Stan (Noah Emmerich) and his wife, Sandra (Susan Misner) had finally reached their breaking point. Sandra and Elizabeth had gone on out for a girl’s night earlier in the episode. Funny, Elizabeth seemed to cut loose a lot better than Sandra; enjoying her booze, showing some smooth moves on the dance floor, etc. Sandra kept finding her drunken thoughts carrying her back to Stan and his (most likely) cheating ways. By the end of the night, Stan would find himself confronted. He often claimed to work late nights, but his office always seemed to betray him, informing Sandra that he nearly always left on time. I like Stan very much, but Sandra killed it this week. The actress did an amazing job of making her character seem unfairly disregarded by her husband and of making her husband seem like a total drone.
Something did hit home inside Stan, though, as his following encounter with Nina (Annet Mahendru) saw him attempting to salvage what relationship he had left with his family. Nina, who’d lost everything, from her home to her own family, understood his desire to fix things with Sandra.
Nina: “I have only fear and you.”
In other news, Nina found herself promoted this episode. Her new office was swanky enough. Her first task in the “big leagues”? To monitor conversations using the bugged Weinberger clock in order to uncover the culprits responsible for the assassinations.
Elizabeth had Patterson exactly where she wanted him; tied to a chair, blindfolded, in an empty warehouse. Still in costume, she started her act of revenge, toying with the man’s emotions surrounding life and death. The agent questioned what she wanted; money, information, etc, but we knew Elizabeth was out for cold blood. Still, the tables were turned. The man called her out for her hypocrisy. He was merely an agent who relayed orders. Essentially, he was a glorified messenger. She, on the other hand, was trained to kill. His accusations startled her enough to drive her from the room, at which point Phillip offered a shoulder to cry on. Elizabeth, recognizing that she was off the rails, decided to let the man go. Of course, the information the man had gathered would be delivered back to the FBI, and Elizabeth would have to face the consequences surrounding her own rage-driven error.
That night, she made her first trip over to Phillip’s motel room, bringing beer as a peace offering. It seemed as though Elizabeth was finally ready to move on and to forgive Phillip for his indiscretion. Phillip, on the other hand, had signed the lease on a new apartment with no intentions of rekindling things with his wife. We know Phillip at this point, though. He’s always had a soft spot for Elizabeth, and my bet is that by the season’s close we’ll have some sort of reconciliation. Elizabeth is a very complicated and difficult woman. That’s not necessarily a bad thing at all.
The rejection from Phillip saw a seething Elizabeth heading into a final conversation with Grannie. Grannie had given her the agent’s name knowing Elizabeth would act out violently, but why? If the orders were to do the opposite, what did that say about Grannie? Grannie delved into her own love story with Zhukov, one that seemed to be of a much more romantic nature than Elizabeth’s. Something was off, however. Elizabeth called Grannie out, verbalizing the feelings she’s had all along surrounding Grannie’s true intentions. Did Grannie hate the Jennings, or was she telling the truth about her love for Zhukov? Was her intention to avenge him or to damn Elizabeth? Knowing now that Zhukov taught Elizabeth how to love, maybe she does know better than us. Grannie remains an anomaly.
What did you think of The Americans Season 1 Episode 11, “Covert War”? Can Grannie be trusted? What happens when Nina learns the truth about Vlad? Will Phillip and Elizabeth be able to make amends? What about and Sandra?
Thanks for reading my Recap and Review of The Americans Season 1 Episode 11, “Covert War”!