We don’t typically commit to recaps of television shows after only the pilot episode, but last week’s premiere of The Americans was different than most pilot episodes. This is FX, after all, and where dramas are concerned, John Landgraf and the network hasn’t failed us. The pilot episode was intense, compelling, a little steamy, and all together engrossing, establishing The Americans has an addictive show right out of the gate. Before we kick off this week’s recap, here’s a very abbreviated summary of the pilot:
Set in the early 1980s, soon after the election of Reagan, The Americans centers on Phillip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell). They are KGB spies living in the United States, and their cover is that of a normal American family, complete with two children, Henry and Paige. They work as travel agents. There’s considerable tension in the marriage — which was arranged years prior by the KGB — because Phillip has become invested in their cover life, and loves his wife and children, and doesn’t loath the United States. Meanwhile Elizabeth still puts the motherland first. The tension came to a head last week when Phillip, instead of turning himself in and defecting, killed a Russian defector who had raped Elizabeth during her training days back in Russia. The chivalrous act endeared Elizabeth to her husband, they banged in a car after ditching the body (to the soothing tunes of Phil Collins), and it appeared that Elizabeth’s country-first facade had cracked. It’s also worth noting that, though they have lived together as husband and wife for 15 years, Phillip and Elizabeth know very little about each other’s lives before they met.
Meanwhile, a new neighbor, FBI Agent Stan Beeman, moved in across the street from the Jennings, in a quiet D.C. suburb. Beeman works in counterintelligence, and because of certain clues, became suspicious of the Jennings. However, by episode’s end, he seemed to have dismissed — with some relief — the paranoid idea that the Jennings were Russian spies.
That brings us to last night’s second episode.
1. She’s Half Off Her Rocker — For the second week in a row, The Americans leads with a fairly intense sex scene. These guys are not messing around.
The target is Analise, the wife of the deputy Undersecretary of Defense. Analise is probing her husband for scraps of information, but she’s not doing it so much for the Russians, or even Phillip, but because she’s a bored housewife and likes the thrill of doing something naughty. During a dinner party, Analise takes pictures of the Secretary of Defense’s office. A clock is spotted.
Minor problem: Analise is in love with Phillip. She’s hot. And Elizabeth is expressing a tiny shred of jealousy.
It’s hard to say whether Analise will be an ongoing part of the story, although she’s clearly obsessed with Phillip and likely a danger to his cover because she’s so reckless.
2. Put This in Your Back Pocket — The threat posed by the Russians at the moment is the concern that the Soviets might get nuclear missiles into Nicaragua. Meanwhile, Elizabeth thinks that Reagan is “crazy, the man literally wants to destroy us.”
3. General Zhukov is not what he used to be. We learn from these two cats in the Russian embassy that there is some apparent power struggle at the head of the KGB. General Zhukov, who has been calling the shots, and who put Phillip and Elizabeth in place, is losing his grip on power.