The Americans "Trust Me" Review: Whac-A-Mole

By Ryan Sandoval

Mar 07, 2013

The Americans S01E06 “Trust Me”

Remember that reality show The Mole, on ABC? Hosted by Anderson Cooper, it pit contestants against one another in sussing out a secret operative while completing missions. Later hosted by Ahmad Rashad, this exaggerated game accurately showcased the uncomfortable mechanics of human suspicion that arise in pressurized situations. It was a sensational staging of very real private alliances, double-crossings, and "executions" of the falsely accused—all legit spy stuff featured in last night’s fantastic episode of The Americans, "Trust Me." As word got out that a mole had penetrated the KGB network, Phillip and Elizabeth suffered a brutal kidnapping and interrogation orchestrated by the very organization they work for, and Paige and Henry experienced the dangers of hitchhiking. Meanwhile, Agent Stan Beeman put Nina in further danger to frame Vasili and throw the Rezidentura off her mole scent. Even though it was only the show's sixth episode, "Trust Me" masterfully explored the public unrest an impostor causes, and on a larger scale the notion of "trust."

In worlds as dedicated to information control as the KGB and FBI, a mole is a serious threat. Nina's presence not only puts facts and details at risk—in a system whose success is measured in secrecy, she's also a communal distrust bomb. As Nina found out this week, the role also carries with it the burden of potential abandonment by a known enemy. Not a fun gig. But it thankfully led to another great Beeman-Nina scene, where the former coaxed his way into the Rezidentura yet again via calm direction and near romantic understanding. While the beautiful administrator (and growing candidate for The Americans' best character) duped the KGB, the show itself pulled a mole job on us viewers with a mid-episode reveal that changed the context of everything we had witnessed involving Phillip and Elizabeth’s jarring kidnaps. You totally spied me, The Americans! For as much as the Russian organization considers the U.S. government its enemy, Claudia’s John C. McGinley-alike sure lavished in portraying one of its agents, highlighting the similarities between the two power hierarchies. Was it betrayal by an authority, or just, as Elizabeth says, "part of the job"?

The Jennings are discovering the force they serve is not above abusing supporter trust, quite literally illustrated in Phillip’s phonebook massage. Sure, he’s breaking poor Martha’s heart, so he's not without ethical blame, but no husband deserves to see his wife forced to bob for apples—without the apples—by a lying brute. After a noticeable lull in hand-to-hand combat, butt-kicking made a triumphant return with Elizabeth’s epic takedown of Claudia. Keri Russell turning a 61-year-old woman’s face to pie dough should happen in every episode, and it is a true shame that it doesn’t because this punchfest also involved the story's coolest line: "Tell whoever approved this that your face is a present from me to them."

Surely this burst of outrage will have lasting repercussions (you can't beat up your superiors in an organization that puts bullets in traitors), but locking up a hothead like Elizabeth in a cell covered in invasive pictures of Paige and Henry was like giving the Tasmanian Devil cocaine and a reason. Phillip's complaint that the KGB should suspect him and his wife least echoed the story of Job and the diligent servant's exasperation at being unfairly persecuted by the God of the Old Testament. It was one of a few slight references to God in this episode, albeit enough to provide an underlying existential tone to the normal spy affairs.

A lot of people operate with a faith in a higher power, that behaving a certain way will yield positive results. It's called "religion," and the only difference between spiritual devotion and another sort of extreme dedication is a philosophical focus on the nature of life. Depending on one's value system, anything can technically be a "religion," even spy-hunting (for argument's sake). Calling in his employees on Sunday (a common day for religious practice), Agent Gaad mentioned to Beeman, "My mother always said coincidence was God’s way of winking at you." Later he clarified that he believed in "God, but not coincidence." Other characters further invoked the dynamic of leader and disciple, such as Beeman forcing Nina, the non-believer, to have faith in his "plan," or Phillip telling his captor to "go to Hell." Though the clearest example of a governing force relating to the beings it governs—and my favorite Jennings children storyline to date—was Paige and Henry’s age-appropriate hitchhiking adventure, which functioned as a thematic parable for "Trust Me."


At first congenial and trustworthy, random driver Nick (a chilling Michael Oberholtzer) hid a dark side that manifested in a sinister pitstop which included Paige being encouraged to drink beer and rants about society's need for faith. Ironically, he claimed that "without a higher power we’re no better than wild dogs," while as an immediate higher power to Paige and Henry (at least in terms of his size, weaponry, and access to a car) he pretty much was a wild dog. Even though his car boasted two American flag stickers, and duck feeding is just about the most trustworthy thing a person can do, Nick’s true nature matched that of one of life’s random horrors.

Beneath the lovely exterior of this world that some attribute to a creative force, lies, betrayal, and death are perpetuated by that very same entity. So is it okay if the natural bad leads to an equally natural good? Do the ends justify the means? Nick’s attempt to "put the fear of God" into Paige and Henry worked (they will probably never go hitchhiking again), but they only survived the lesson because Henry rose up against his controlling higher power.

If there was a benevolent force represented, it was in Agent Stan Beeman, and his confession to his wife that he had to "worry about people...." As an ex-mole himself, Beeman knows he’s the author of all the hardship in her life, and accordingly looks after her with the compassion of an attentive creator. His reward was a restful bedside chat, while the household across the street hosted an argument over professional betrayal.

The Jennings have overcome duplicity in the marital sphere before. But in an episode so focused on confidence in superiors, strangers, and colleagues, Elizabeth is seeing a deserved backlash for violating one of the basic building blocks of civilization: trust.


ADDITIONAL INTEL

– Elizabeth is both paranoid and protective enough to get Gregory to be "eyes" on her family.

– Will Nina’s coworker connect her with Vasili’s frame-job?

– Phillip vs. Elizabeth—back to square one again.

– I don't mind Paige and Henry plotlines when they're up against age-appropriate threats. Can they please explore a boxcar next week?

– Oh okay so the business is called DuPont Circle Travel.

– "It’s one of the things that happens when people are involved" applies to 99 percent of this show's—or any show's—drama.

– "I was ripped from my house by the people I believed in. The people I trusted my whole life." Elizabeth is just catching up to the pain she's caused Phillip.

– Hey, an '80s reference to Carnac the Magnificent!

– Is anybody shipping Beeman and Nina?

– What would their ship name be? Beena? Niman?

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  • phonzee101 Jul 31, 2013

    Such a spectacular episode. The powers that be appropriately named well. I'm sure things with Liz & Phillip will get better. As for Beeman I wonder if he's going to make a move on NIna.

  • 3Jane Mar 13, 2013

    I just watched "Trust Me" for the third time and realized the significance of Beeman calling himself Theo when he calls the embassy to speak to Vasili. In Greek, Theo means 'God' and it's where the English words theology, theocracy, theological, etc come from.

    As a name, Theo is short for Theonicolau (meaning 'God's gift'), and Vasily's last name is Nikolivich (sp?), but I don't know anything about the Russian language - anyone else?

    I'll be watching episode 7 in about ten hours, after my daughter goes to bed.

  • saxgod98 Mar 11, 2013

    Um when Russia realizes Vasili finally shows he wasn't the mole he knows EXACTLY who set him up. You can see it when Vasili looks up at her as he's being escorted out. I mean come on he's an experienced spy who let his guard down once it seems and now the only other person who knew was her. So she's screwed when they "debrief" Vasili.

  • 3Jane Mar 12, 2013

    Um, you could read several things into the look Vasili gave Nina at the bottom of the stairs.

  • RyanSandoval Mar 11, 2013

    Except he may not be lucky enough to get a debriefing, because a) Arkady's been angling against him since day one, and b) Vasili basically broke it down that moles pretty much get head-bullets

  • saxgod98 Mar 11, 2013

    True, but if he admits and keeps admitting and then says his mistress is the mole and then the FBI acts on her tips and does stupid crap instead of make it look like nothing has changed they will start to look in her direction and suspect her. She barely got out, but if I was that guy I would be screaming as loud as I could the "the secretary is the MOLE!!!!" lol.

  • 3Jane Mar 12, 2013

    Um, that's a lot of IFs.

  • saxgod98 Mar 25, 2013

    I know you think it's not there, but she has months to live or if done right now she could be a triple agent and report that she is an FBI mole, but sleeping with her handler and could turn that around. So who knows. I guess it depends if the viewers like her enough and they keep her around cause she could just end up with a bullet in her head and her handler turned into an informant with the couple being his handler LMAO. How funny would that be?

  • OronoPackerFan Mar 11, 2013

    One thing I do not get about this episode - if Phillip and/or Elizabeth had turned and was the mole, why would any American spy treat them as their captors were treating them? The KGB should know this as well, and realize the challenges of using this techniques to try and catch a mole.

  • MehdiWakahaw Mar 14, 2013

    Well, My guess would be that there are different departments in the US government working on different leads. so if he had been working say with the fbi, not everyone in the us goverment would know that, and if some other department questions him, he would easily mention that he is already working with the US, and therefore would give himself up.

  • paintcan Mar 09, 2013

    Anybody else catch that 21st century fractured English usage by Agent Beeman talking to Agent Gaad? I swear he said "exact same". That was never said in the 70's - 80's.
    Makes my skin crawl every time its uttered which is thousands of times in recent years.

  • Gireba Mar 08, 2013

    Really a fantastic episode. What disturbs me the most is that 30 years is not that far ago...It is a kind of show that I cannot see lasting that many seasons... how will it end ???

  • brag0031 Mar 14, 2013

    Possible endings:

    1)They'll flash forward to after the Soviet Union collapses, and Phillip and Elizabeth will defect (my best guess).

    2)Beeman will arrest them.

    3)The KGB will kill them.

    4)The KGB will help them fake their deaths and return to the Soviet Union.

  • Ninjaandy Mar 08, 2013

    I enjoyed this episode and I know it was shooting for religious references, but I think you're giving it more credit than it deserves. Or perhaps you're looking for too specific of a reference.

    There definitely seems to be a very under-the-surface fixation in the series as a whole comparing how our characters view God vs. how they view merely human authority, and there's some weighty philosophical ground to be explored there. But the references so far have been both subtle and general, leading to a sense that the writers want to say something, but they aren't sure what.

    Also, your Job reference seems off -- Job wasn't complaining because God was persecuting him; he was complaining because God *allowed* Job to be persecuted, and beyond what Job viewed as justice, considering what he saw to be his sins. The point of the story of Job is that we are *not* always punished or rewarded in this life according to our sins or virtues as we see them -- Job's misfortunes weren't a punishment at all, but a test of faith.

    So, although it's possible the episode was making an analogous reference or simply misinterpreted the biblical story, I don't see the Job thing here.

    Now an Abraham comparison -- that's a different story . . .

  • RyanSandoval Mar 11, 2013

    Not to split hairs here, but it could still be argued that Phillip was angry the KGB had allowed him to be persecuted as a mole (as God had allowed Job to be persecuted), and that his "blending in" to American society was what he saw as justice, and what Elizabeth (as a representative of the KGB) saw as a sin.

    I can see how a close reading of these incidental "God" moments might be viewed as searching for too specific a reference, but when a story repeats topics among different characters that all orbit around a similar concept it's safe to put those all together and theorize a meaning. That's the fun of TV!

  • Ninjaandy Mar 11, 2013

    Thanks for your response, and by all means, split hairs! That's part of the fun of analyzing these things, when we can't ever really know the answers (at least until some writer decides to spill the beans).

    I could see your point here, if we grant that the KGB views its actions against the Jennings as part of the "natural course" of spying, rather than as a direct result of human action. In other words, they expect the Jennings to view the agency's interrogation of its own as Job might have viewed an earthquake or a fire that "just sort of happened", as opposed to Job seeing God as the one who *caused* the earthquake or fire.

    Which makes sense, given what Agent Pulpface said about how they "had to be sure". Kind of a "nothing personal, this could have happened to anybody" kind of thing.

    Still I think that's kind of belaboring the point, if the writers intended for that to be a direct reference. But the recurrence of God-talk amongst all the leads here definitely requires us to think in terms of what they might be referencing. I'm curious what their ultimate point will be, if any, or if they just want to make us think a little more than we're used to when we watch spy thrillers.

    It made sense when Jack Bauer and company brought to mind questions of what it meant to obey orders, follow the law, support your country and countrymen, and honor your national leaders even when you don't like them. Those things flowed naturally from plots about terrorism. With "The Americans" though I think the religious exploration should either come more to the forefront, or be driven more into the background. As it sits now, I kind of feel like the writers need to fish or cut bait.

  • RyanSandoval Mar 11, 2013

    Fair enough, I agree the show should introduce a more specific take on religion/God moving forward if it expects to have something worthwhile to say. However, the few instances wherein The Americans has veered into existential territory also worked pretty well within the given episode's theme - which is to say, yes the writers should fish or cut bait soon, so that subtlety doesn't turn into vagueness.

  • Ninjaandy Mar 11, 2013

    Agreed. I like what they've done with it so far, but the time to do more, or just drop it, is rapidly approaching.

    Cheers

  • 3Jane Mar 08, 2013

    FURTHER READING

    I just heard on the radio about a recently-published book,'Deception: Spies, Lies, and How Russia Dupes the West' by Edward Lucas, who's been writing about Russia and Eastern Europe for over 20 years. He even looks like a spy. His website is http://www.edwardlucas.com/

    Also, if you look up Alexander Litvinenko on Wikipedia, the article briefly outlines some Russian, Israeli and Western spy stories, both recent and Cold War-era.

  • angeleys151 Mar 08, 2013

    Is any one bothered that the FBI framed that guy or is it all fair because it's war? They basically gave him a death sentence and he didn't do anything other than his job.

  • paintcan Mar 09, 2013

    Oh please. Its TV for crying out loud.

  • natesjokes Mar 08, 2013

    I was thinking the same thing when it happened. So far we haven't seen really seen a bad side of Vasili, he's pretty much just done his job. As far as the interaction with Nina, she was the one instigating it and he was always courteous to her. So I guess it comes down to the fact that they are at war...

  • 3Jane Mar 09, 2013

    Courteous? Nice guys come last.

  • 3Jane Mar 08, 2013

    From a viewer standpoint, I'm more than happy to see Vasili get it in the neck if it saves Nina. I don't care which country she is from, or if they are loyal to it, I sympathise with Nina and I don't like the way Vasili has sex with her (even if she initiated it). It's not logical, but this show divides its viewers along all sorts of lines, and that's me.

  • DinaSut Mar 08, 2013

    Honestly, if one looks at things realistically--that sort of thing is just as much "part of the job" as anything else. Sure, it's an uncomfortable thought for a "regular civilian", but I'm *sure* this has happened enough times for it to not be uncommon, *especially* if it's done to protect the asset.

  • angeleys151 Mar 08, 2013

    I'm sure it does happen, and obviously the characters involved are comfortable with it. Just like the real life applications of torture, the soldiers carrying it out have to be confident they are doing the right thing, however civilians often object. What I want to know is: Is anyone uncomfortable with this from a civilian/viewer stand point?

  • DinaSut Mar 08, 2013

    Hrm. I don't precisely like it, but I can't say I'm that bothered either.

  • DinaSut Mar 08, 2013

    This comment has been removed.

  • Shreela Mar 08, 2013

    I thought the guy that picked up the kids was part of the kidnapping operation until I came here.

  • natesjokes Mar 08, 2013

    Given that the KGB were just testing the Jennings, they wouldn't have brought their kids in to potentially blow their cover to their children.

  • 3Jane Mar 08, 2013

    Cool. Interesting way to look at it. I'm glad you told us.

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