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