Once again, I went into this week’s episode of The Americans panicked that my vague memory of my high school AP U.S. History class would fail me or that I’d just realize I’m just plain stupid. Still, by the time I’d reached the midway point during “The Clock”, I began to realize that all of my time spent watching shows geared towards teenage girls has left little space for me to enjoy awesome grownup TV. This show is good, group! I actually leave feeling accomplished, for whatever reason, and I’m not even a spy! I’ll go on to explain why this show works so well later on in the recap.
The episode opened with “Scott,” Phillip (Matthew Rhys) incognito, wooing a smokin’ hot lady on the inside. Annalyse was the wife of some poor fool somehow related to the Secretary of Defense. Phillip’s purpose in sexing her up was to convince her that Scott, a Swedish intelligent officer by trade, was the man she’d always dreamed would sweep her off her feet. All she’d have to do to secure her “happily ever after” would be to snap a couple of shots in the office of the Secretary of Defense, and they’d be good to go. Why bother questioning a strange new man asking you to take pictures of the super private home office of a government official during the Cold War? We’re talking about a lifelong vacation to Sweden!
Elizabeth (Keri Russell) was more supportive of the bimbo’s skills than Phillip, who’d spent the earlier portion of the episode stressing that she’d cave or reveal herself to be otherwise incapable. As a Elizabeth put it, the ability to vaporize a man’s brain with the mere sneak peek of some cleavage is a force to be reckoned with. Things seemed to have worked out with Annalyse, though. Although she’d been cornered by government men, she followed Phillip’s orders to claim to be the wife of the deputy to the Secretary of Defense, and they backed off. Also, she admitted to falling head over heels in love with Phillip, but whatever. After developing the photos she’d taken, Phillip and Elizabeth targeted a clock in the office for a new scheme. It could take a few months to train someone on the inside to help bug the clock, but no one seemed panicked just yet.
Start panicking, KGB! We were invited to listen in on the meeting between Vasili and another man higher up in the ranks. Apparently, a meeting between the Prime Minister and Defense Minister would be taking place in just a few days, and they needed to be able to listen in. What we learned this episode was that General Zhukov, the head honcho of sorts, isn’t held in incredibly high favor among absolutely all of his colleagues. Zhukov, as we’d learned during the pilot, prompted Elizabeth that things were to be changing. This is where the changes would begin. Phillip and Elizabeth would be forced to infiltrate Secretary of Defense Weinberger’s home office within three days! Yikes, KGB, yikes!
A six-month job squashed into three days worth of work would be tough, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Elizabeth posed as a student and pretended to drop her books in front of a specific boy. We heard a prick, but weren’t quite sure of what she’d done. Later, she and Phillip ventured over to the boy’s apartment, where he laid in bed dying of a deadly poison that which only Phillip could cure! Ruthless, but the boy’s mother, Viola (Tonye Patano) a.k.a. Helia from Weeds, was the maid of the Secretary of State! In three days the boy would die, unless Viola could steal them the clock from the study.
The moment the maid started praying, we saw the look of self-loathing in the eyes of our leads. They’re parents, too! Much of the episode surrounded their relationships with their children. Having resolved to the fact that they would inevitably end up captured or dead, Elizabeth got to thinking of how their kids would handle life. Henry (Keidrich Sellati), much like Phillip, would probably move on well enough. Paige (Holly Taylor), though, has a certain “delicateness” about her. I think the show’s development of Elizabeth is one of the best parts. She’s much colder than Phillip, but she also seems emotionally complex. She might not be nearly as drawn to America as he is, but she loves her family and still has a mysterious vulnerability to her. Considering the fact that this is a spy show that is very much about people, this matters.
Meanwhile, neighbor FBI agent Stan (Noah Emmerich) was busy with his own case. Having been trailing a woman expected to be associated with the Soviets, Stan found himself questioning the owner of a stereo speaker store who seem conspicuously connected to her. At first, the man refused to talk at all, sticking to the cover story that he’d just been selling her a stereo. Stan, however, was relentless in his pursuit and ended up turning up one tiny gem of a clue… a can of Russian caviar.
Elizabeth and Phillip were less concerned with Stan, even after Phillip had discovered him snooping around their garage at night during the close of the pilot. Phillip was fairly certain Stan backed off after turning up nothing in the trunk of their car. It’ll be interesting to see the friendship between Phillip and Stan continue to develop. Late at night, Stan brought the confiscated caviar over to the Jennings’ house to indulge a little with Phillip over a few beers. I thought it was cool that Stan flat-out admitted to stealing the caviar from an uncooperative jerk while on the job.
Viola had managed to steal the Weinberger’s clock for Phillip, but when he arrived that evening to pick it up, he found himself ambushed by her brother. After a brief violent altercation, he made it clear that if she were to blab to anyone ever again, seriously anyone, he’d ruin her life. Elizabeth, playing nurse to the sick boy, noticed that Viola had been on the brink of breaking down. Those with faith in God are the most likely to break, apparently. Elizabeth, convinced that the ship was sinking sometime soon, started carrying a gun. If things get ugly, she’s going down with the ship. No torture for Felicity!
When Phillip rendezvoused with Viola to hand her back the bugged clock, she questioned his fear of God’s judgment. Phillip, though, was more concerned with her family. The funny thing was, that was the truth. As a parent, and a generally kind-hearted man, he was desperate for Viola to deliver on all accounts. Viola didn’t pull through, though. Her loyalty to the Weinbergers, who seemed pretty nice, and to her faith kept her from plugging in the bugged clock. Knowing that they were running out of time, Phillip made a last ditch effort to get her on board. Smothering her son with a pillow (!), the Jennings gave Viola thirty seconds to swear her allegiance, and she did. Phew! Feeling absolutely ashamed, Phillip found himself in tears once he reached his car. The next day, the clock was installed, and Elizabeth, not missing a single beat, injected that antidote straight into Viola’s son.
Phillip had met one last time with his faux lover, Annalyse, who was seemingly desperate to leave her husband. Pleading with “Scott” to role-play a little and promise a beautiful life in Sweden, she left the car in a huff, satisfied. “I’ll see you later.” Uh oh, that seemed odd to me. Are we looking at an explosive double-crossing? Or is she just a fed up bombshell?
At home, Phillip and Elizabeth celebrated their “skin of their teeth” victory over the caviar Stan had brought over. Then, Elizabeth admitted to feeling a “tingle” of true fear during the mission. She had envisioned Henry, Paige, and Phillip, and thought up what would happen if things had gone bad. They shouldn’t be asked to do the impossible ever again.
I thought the scenes between Elizabeth and her daughter were great. It was also nice to see Phillip just as concerned with his son. Elizabeth woke her daughter in the middle of the night to personally pierce her ears, as her mother once did. Phillip spent some time with Henry playing late-night hockey. The reason why this show works is because we believe these people as parents and we’re beginning to see this arranged marriage as a brewing legitimate romance. That’s how the series will continue to get American viewers to root for the KGB. Also, I think it’s important to note that the details surrounding the opposing governments are mostly left out. We aren’t constantly reminded of what the KGB stood for, or what Reagan’s American stood for, for that matter. Instead, we just see this as two countries at war. We’re clearly intended to care more so for the characters than the politics.
Stan managed to hunt down the woman he’d been trailing after further threatening the stereo shop owner. As it turned out, he managed to piece together that she’d been stealing caviar from her employers, the Soviets, and exchanging it for stereo equipment in order to make money for her family back home. With the threat of a Soviet labor camp hanging over her head, she cut a deal with Stan to feed information to the American government. While Stan’s victory was considered tremendous, the fact that the KGB had a direct line into the U.S. Secretary of Defense’s office equalized things. By the end of the episode, they’d learned that the Americans and Europe had strategized a means of blocking Soviet nuclear missels.
What did you all think of The Americans Season 1 Episode 2 “The Clock”? Are you still on board going into next week’s episode? Will Phillip’s faux relationship with Annalyse bite him in the ass, or was I imagining things?
Thanks for reading my Recap and Review of The Americans Season 1 Episode 2 “The Clock”!