The Americans – Season 1 Episode 4 – Recap and Review – In Control

The Americans very cleverly created a fictionalized account of what went down surrounding the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt during “In Control”! With two national superpowers on the brink of nuclear war, how would the KGB spies handle something as out of the blue as a straight-up psycho path obsessed with Jodie Foster? A guy has to get a starlet’s attention somehow, but the blame for the shooting would most definitely fall on the Soviets.

The episode opened with Phillip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) readying the troops for school. Not actual troops, just their two American children who are happily clueless to their parents’ spy shenanigans.  Afterwards, the two shared an anticipated romantic rendezvous at a nearby hotel. Spicing things up a bit, I’d guess. Their pleasure was short lived, though, as news broke in the lobby that someone had attempted to assassinate President Reagan. I could feel their stomachs dropping as they learned the news. Of course, the media spews nonsense and the truth of such dire situations is normally only known by folks who are few and far between. Phillip attempted to contact a socialist turned “conservative” media connection, his friend Charles, as a means to gaining any real insider knowledge, but Charles came up short. What Phillip really wanted was the list of the nursing staff attached to Reagan.

FX "The Americans"

FX “The Americans”

Meanwhile, the FBI was sent into a tizzy, and Stan’s (Noah Emmerich) boss was well into a KGB-aimed tirade when Stan was covertly prompted to contact Nina (Annet Mahendru), his mole connection to the KGB. At this point, it started to become clear that Stan isn’t as cold of a hunter as we’d assumed. There was just a tiny hint of affection for Nina in that conversation, and it seemed as though Stan actually cared for her wellbeing. Nina was, of course, dealing with her own side’s internal chaos, and contacting her was difficult. Stan attempted to use a coded identity over the phone, even going as far as to use a line tied to the Kennedy Center, but Nina’s entire team was under orders. Eventually, Stan managed to get a hold of her and the two made plans to meet. Under the guise of visiting a bar frequented by congressional types, Nina gained Vasili’s approval. Unfortunately, during such an event as an assassination attempt, all semi-odd behavior seemed to be questionable, even the simple suggestion to leave the office. Vasili had Nina followed, just in case.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth met with KGB leader Claudia (Margo Martindale) to discuss the situation. Still in the dark as to what had actually happened, Claudia was certain that the KGB would indeed be blamed if the truth weren’t revealed soon. It was time to initiate Operation Christopher. Elizabeth’s face read “uncertain panic.” Could this shooting lead to guerilla warfare? Afterwards, Elizabeth headed out to a secret location in the woods to dig up a booby-trapped crate containing a sniper. Could a coup be at hand?

Phillip worked his magic to wrangle some information from the Deputy Chief of Staff’s office. After borrowing a government car from Gregory (still a sore subject), the two drove over to one of the nurse’s homes and posed as agents of the Deputy Chief of Staff on a top-secret mission. What they wanted was insider information as to how well Reagan was doing. Just fine, apparently! They also alerted the woman to contact them, and only them, with any news. Plus, she got a free pen!

Stan and Nina were set to rendezvous on the street while his partner, Chris (Maximiliano Hernandez) watched from a nearby window. Unsure of whether or not the car behind Nina was tailing her, he hesitated to radio Stan. Stan is always on his toes, though, and he picked up on the situation as it happened, walking straight past Nina as though she were a stranger. Nina, also seemingly in the know, walked right into the bar. Chris would have to deal with that mishap later.

After sending word to Moscow of Regan’s recovery using code, Elizabeth and Phillip drove by another special location and picked up a hidden note that contained instructions on marking their targets. Basically, the duo was set to very carefully plan locations at which to eliminate big time government officials using the sniper. Things went awry, as they usually do, when a common neighborhood security officer on patrol noticed the oddly situated van. Elizabeth attempted to play dumb, but protocol was to call in any suspicious behavior following an unfortunate set of break-ins. The awful coincidence led to eliminating the man with a close range gunshot. Now, they’d have to appropriately ditch the body of the man guarding the home of the Secretary of Defense, for fear of inadvertently firing the first shot of World War III.

FX "The Americans"

FX “The Americans”

Stan did eventually meet with Nina in his car and became privy to the fact that the KGB knew nothing at all. I believe she used the phrase, “running around like chickens” to describe the scene. Stan got a kick out of that. He found it even funnier that the soviets were considering an inside coup orchestrated by Secretary of State Al Haig. As this was going on, the Jennings were listening in on a broken radio transmission that also incriminated Haig. Phillip, believing the American way to be different than a rash nuclear attack, butted heads with Elizabeth, who was immediately ready to alert Moscow to the alleged coup. According to Phillip, Elizabeth still had no idea how America worked. She begged to differ, but inevitably ended up trusting Phillip’s judgment. After all, the job is to prevent any attack, not just one from the Americans.

I enjoyed watching the interaction between Stan’s son and Paige (Holly Taylor) this week. It’s interesting to see how the boy reacts to situations such as this, knowing very well that his father is in this line of work. On the other hand, Paige is absolutely clueless, believing her parents to be travel agents. In reality, they’re lives are even more in jeopardy at most times than Stan’s, especially when the FBI is on a rampage.

FX "The Americans"

FX “The Americans”

That night, the Jennings visited Stan’s family in one last attempt to gain insider information. They got exactly what they wanted; Stan filled them in on the total nut-job who attempted to kill the President to impress Jodie Foster. I also liked Stan’s heartfelt retelling of the moment he’d discovered that JFK was assassinated. Elizabeth needs to witness more of those. After Phillip and Elizabeth left, Stan’s wife confronted him regarding the fact that they barely speak anymore. Stan seemed unaware at first, only to reason that time spent living incognito with insane soldiers during his past work probably messed with his ability to relate. Moving to DC only made things more clear.

The episode closed with Elizabeth thanking Phillip for his level-headedness, and promising to keep the secret of the Haig radio sessions private. They were able to alert Moscow to the perceived innocence of the KGB.


What did you all think of The Americans Season 1 Episode 4, “In Control”? Are sparks developing between Stan and Nina? Will the Jennings children ever learn their secret?

Thanks for reading my Recap and Review of The Americans Season 1 Episode 4, “In Control”!

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