The Americans "Operation Chronicle" Review: Time to Go Home

By Ryan Sandoval

May 15, 2014

The Americans S02E12: "Operation Chronicle"


The penultimate episode of The Americans' second season, "Operation Chronicle" presented espionage as a secondary backdrop against which some more important personal dramas could play out. Elizabeth demonstrated a mother’s concern for Jared; Stan and Oleg both made huge gestures toward Nina; and together, the Jennings exploited an asset’s social needs. Written by Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg and directed by Andrew Bernstein, the hour reminded us how emotional needs provide the greatest fuel for action.      

After receiving Kate’s message last week to "Get Jared Out," the Jennings parents wasted no time doing just that. However, both of them forgot that Paige would be field-tripping to a protest. "Did a plane full of your clients crash?" Paige muttered, and I laughed at her attitude as Elizabeth and Philip flew into another hypocritical rage. The last thing those two spies needed was a reminder of failure and aircrafts. "What is the matter with you, Paige?" Philip shot back. They scrambled to come up with more convincing excuses, like two teens lying to an adult. Disheartened and growing suspicious, Paige later picked up the house phone while her parents discussed the Centre’s handling of Jared—specifically, the question of why the organization would reach out to him about Emmet and Leanne’s true identifies. Luckily, Philip and Elizabeth have been lying to their children for so long that it was fairly easy to make the call sound like they were discussing a client. But Paige could tell something was up. Also, cool wall art, Paige. Swimming, a guitar hunk, and what looks like a mirror image of dolphins. Rad.  


Elizabeth saved her gentleness for Jared, the Teenage Orphan. She explained that she'd worked with his parents. That there were people out there who wanted to hurt people like them. That he’d have to say goodbye to his old life. "The whole idea will get easier in a while, I promise you," Elizabeth encouraged, "I know you have the strength inside to get through this." Little did she know, Larrick was hot on her trail, slasher-monster-like. Elizabeth has played spy mother before (to Lucia), and seeing her guide Jared toward his new life felt like a mom sending a kid off to college. Or, maybe she imagined Paige and Henry in the same situation. After making Jared change clothes, she calmly explained that "it’s something that we do. We clean ourselves." Of course, Jared had more questions than Elizabeth had answers. Like whether or not his destination was in a different country. "Let’s just get you where you need to go today," she continued. "I put in some water and some sandwiches." She'd tuck him in if she could. Hmm, nothing about her burning his letter, though.   

Elsewhere, Larrick skulked.

On her field trip, Paige pulled a big Jennings no-no and shared details about her parents with Pastor Tim. Wait where’s Kelli? Why have we never seen Kelli again? Is she a Civil War ghost? From Paige’s point of view, her parents were afraid of what she would've done if denied permission to attend the outing. From Pastor Tim's, Elizabeth and Philip knew it was important to her. Both of these reasons were technically true—they didn’t want to break her spirit. I preferred Pastor Tim's positive vibe-reading, but it couldn't top his vague altruism outro: "Being a parent’s hard, but so is having parents." Right gang? 

With Jared arriving at his cabin destination (same one where Elizabeth recuperated), she and Philip puzzled over why Kate was meeting the kid out of disguise. And why the Centre had not kept them informed. Seriously, Centre! What gives? We’ve seen how the Centre treats its agents whose interests conflict with the power source (ahem Nina). Elizabeth expressed concern over Jared’s ability to pick up in another country; "We had each other," she reasoned. Philip’s logic: The teen could survive too, because there’s no other choice. Maybe for you, Commie! What about Paige and Henry? "One day it’s coming," Elizabeth stated. "Take it easy," Philip objected, "No one knows anything." Yeah, and in the world of intelligence not knowing anything is the stuff of murder.      


On the real-American side of things, the KGB stymied Stan’s plans to exfiltrate Nina. "There could be a mole in the FBI," Stan said, justifying his strategy to deny he’d been the one providing Oleg with surveillance logs. As Martha also pointed out in this episode, employees left top-secret files on the mailroom robot all the time. Pretty cool to see that the machine wasn’t just a one-off gag, but something that could lead to Gaad’s prophecy about someone taking "the fall." By Stan’s logic, this disorganization would make it difficult to blame a single individual. Finally, bureaucracy might work in someone’s favor! But beyond that, the FBI agent’s plan was a little murky. Get Nina set up in a large city without a Russian embassy, and he’d visit her as much as possible. "Eventually we’ll figure out something much better," said the man whose entire world is in flux.

In Newlywedville, Martha surprised Clark with some classified files, courtesy of the aforementioned mailroom robot. When Clark expressed concern over her risk, Martha responded, "I love the way you love me. You don’t have to hide anything from me. I even love your toupee." Oh boy, Clark’s wig almost popped right off. I'm surprised it stayed on later, when she asked for kids. "Children aren’t in the cards for me," Clark made clear. Is Workaholic Absentee Husband Clark just emulating Stan Beeman’s marriage? If so, divorce could be a way out for Martha... provided she's able to return the files and the bug without getting caught. And never mentions Clark to any of her FBI constituents. And... huh.  

Meanwhile, Stan made good on purchasing a car (cash, no registration). This show and "cars," am I right? Reminiscent of Philip's dealership scene earlier this season, Stan's back-and-forth was infused with just the right amount of suburban mundanity to make the spy-world stuff everywhere else pop. Also, the car salesman was good and sleazy, which is just how I like my TV car salesmen. Unfortunately, upon returning to the FBI safe house, Stan discovered Nina beat up and bruised, accompanied by Arkady and some goons. An act, or something more? Both? Doing his best villain impression, Arkady promised, "You two lovebirds can fly off together," in exchange for the Echo computer program. This is the first time Stan has encountered Arkady, and there were no professional pleasantries as seen with Gaad. Slowly, though, these two worlds are coming together.  

While Stan successfully gained clearance to the Echo program (and a visit to the one place using it, in the upcoming season finale), Oleg had one of his famous tête-a-tête’s with Arkady. But before that, did you catch Arkady’s outgoing message? It implied that "ORIOLE" had behaved as expected (Stan), and "CARDINAL" was also ready to gain some sample materials. Remember, in this season’s second episode titled "Cardinal," when Arkady was like, "Request all operational reports from CARDINAL immediate"? Looks like CARDINAL is Fred. Well there you go. 


It seems pretty clear by now that Oleg just wants Nina to survive, and that's admirable. He's been a wildcard all season, at times looking like he'd use Nina for personal gain, while also striking up a romance. As devoted as he is to his country, Oleg felt it was unfair to send Nina off to trial (and likely death) should this plan to obtain the computer program fail. Taking a page out of the Westener’s handbook, Oleg felt that Nina should be rewarded for her exceptional results, while Arkady defaulted to a more utilitarian stance. "All the Centre has is an ability to trust us," Arkady coldly rebutted. If the Centre couldn't trust one of its own, who could it trust? The only result that'd insure Nina’s safety would be "something so valuable the Americans would never give it up," a sentiment Oleg had voiced early in the season, "even to play her against us" Arkady continued. This show always brings out the softy in me, so when Oleg handed Nina an envelope of get-out-of-town-money in a bugged room while uttering, "I know of no officer smarter or more capable. I believe your future is bright," I was tearing up like a Jane Austen nut. Romance is a huge part of the spy genre, and The Americans has always handled matters of the heart expertly (p.s. missing you, Gregory).     

Seriously, spies are very in-tune with their emotions. They have to be. One of the more nuanced skills the Directorate S agents possess is an ability to read people and create characters that will fulfill an asset's needs. Fred (the "grandiose" loner who wanted to "feel like he was better than everyone else") demonstrated an interest in Emmet’s family, so Elizabeth dressed up as the dead spy's wife. It wasn't the first time she'd played Jared's mom, but I laughed at her interpretation. She's like, "Hmmm, got it: shoulder-pad jacket and tiny Yosemite Sam boots." As per getting the RAM, obviously, the CARDINAL should wear some sticky shoes on a work floor in order to track iron-ball paint. Duh, that’s Spycraft 101, LESSON A.



EXTRA INTELLIGENCE

– "He’s able to be in the flow of things. Yeah, he’s a good guy." See ya, Sandra! Time for a little father-son bonding over Rocky Horror.

– "I think the three things a person should focus on every day are health, growth, and community. Don’t you?" All secret phrases should also double as good advice.

– Hopefully Henry likes Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan.

– "Another day, another no-dollar." You and me both, Henry.

– Both the Directorate S Agents and Oleg are critical of the Centre's demands. Stan faces the same hurdles in his own department, but is able to surmount them in the name of love/manipulation.

– "If they thought we were at risk, they’d tell us." Possible, but not likely.

– "They’d be dead in an alley in a week" Have some faith in your kids, Elizabeth!


What'd you think of "Operation Chronicle"? What are your predictions for next week's finale?


  • Comments (35)
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  • jaw290 May 24, 2014

    What did pull his junk

  • aktarian May 19, 2014

    Good ep, nice build up on several story arches that may or may not be resolved in finale.

    One thing I'm surprised is how calm Stan and Sandra are about whole marriage troubles. Sandra just calmy tells Stan what she'll do and he just shrugs his shoulders and acts as if she's telling him they are out of milk.

    I feel sorry for Henry. It seems like he is ignored by both P&E; and Paige and he is becoming just a noise in the background with things heating up at "work" and with Paige.

  • antmorris3511 May 17, 2014

    I think the finale that would have the most impact is one in which Nina dies, because she's the prize. She's coveted by all sides.

    I think Gaad will come back in the mix. As Beeman's confidante, he's the only one who could back Beeman under the circumstances. We know Frank and Arkady have had some contact, which may have been the harbinger of something explosive, but at the very least it allowed Frank a context for understanding that Arkady wants to protect fledgeling agents flung into the fray, so that no more young Russians are unnecessarily killed. .

  • McCovey May 16, 2014

    I may be totally wrong, but I don't think for a minute Stan plans to betray his country--or give up Nina. I think he is going to do everything he can to bring down Arkady and friends but still keep Nina. He is a smart guy (except for getting involved with Nina), and he might find a way to mess with the Soviets. I doubt he will get to have Nina though.

    I am glad to see Larrick in action. Stan is so weak at times that is good to see an American who isn't. However, I don't like Larrick's methods , of course.

    I am interested in watching what happens with regard to Philip and Elizabeth, but I have no sympathy for them. I like Paige and Henry, and I feel sorry for them having the parents they do. In my mind it is immoral to bring children into the world as part of a cover for spying. It is immoral to put them in danger like that and it just wrong to lie to them over and over again. At this point, I don't think Philip and Elizabeth know enough about the Centre to be much use to the US if they were turned, so it looks like it would be curtains for them if they are caught. Imagine Henry and Paige having to live through that experience. So while the drama as it is presented in this show is about how Elizabeth and Philip feel about what they are doing in the moment, the real dramas center around their actions and the consequences of those actions on down the line. That could make for interesting viewing as we get closer to having them caught. I hope that happens. If it doesn't, I will be rather disgusted.

  • 3hares May 16, 2014

    Elizabeth wasn't actually pretending to be Emmett's wife. She was there as Philip's wife. Fred was saying he never met Leanne (who he knows is dead), but now he's meeting the new "Paul's" wife.

  • mad-pac May 16, 2014

    I just found it strange that Jared has accepted being moved to another country. Actually I was surprised he could go to Australia, an English-speaking country. But I imagine the adaptation problems would be tremendous in Hungary or the Soviet Union. It seems there's something important about him that we don't know yet and that would make sense out of all of that.

    I hope the Soviets take Sandra instead of Nina to be executed in Moscow...

  • brianreilly May 16, 2014

    Not so strange "moving to australia", the soviets were very active in australia at the time and would have had a strong spy network base as they did in the states.

  • mad-pac May 16, 2014

    That's news to me the Soviets we so active in Australia, though geographically it makes sense: it's close to the Soviet Union and China, and far from the US and Britain. But I was expecting (actually I still am) that Jared be taken to Eastern Europe or even the USSR, some place he'll muck probably hate.

  • brianreilly May 16, 2014

    Actually, geographically speaking the heartland of the Soviet Union e.g Russia is closer to the U.S and Britain. The main reason for the soviet presence is the relationship Australia has with the U.S. Australia is the eyes and ears of the U.S government in south east asia e.g Indonesia, Malaysia, China. The cell phone tapping by the Australian secret service of the Indonesian president for America recently is a case in point. In the region, Australia has always been seen as a puppet of America and to a point this is true. As such Australia is the first to get U.S intelligence, alongside Britain and dare I say Canada . This meant during the cold war the soviets could access U.S secrets via Australian leaks. This factor combined with Australian being more socialist and thus more sympathetic of the soviet cause, a country of mass immigration, and culturally similar to the U.S i.e. we watched the same tv shows but far enough away that no one would run into the guy, was a logical choice.

  • jacobwright984 May 16, 2014

    this is the only show I have ever seen where they had clark hand martha the condom and she threw it away and handed him klennex ahh I love the authenticity it is the small things I love

  • ChrisODriscol May 19, 2014

    My wife and I commented on that too. You never see the "clean up"

  • MarlboroMagpi May 15, 2014

    I am glad the show has not gone there yet but I think they will have to deal with it in Season Three. I am referring to Paige finding out about their parents. It is time the writers explore this plot and give us some tension regarding this.

    I think the Center or Kate wants to recruit Jared young to do some kind of work rather than have him becoming "American". Perhaps that is why Kate meet him.

    Though we see little of Larrick, I am really hating him. A good villain.

    Beeman/Nina and the Echo program is very exciting. I hope they will resolve this arc in the finale next week. I would hate it to be a cliff hanger.

  • antmorris3511 May 16, 2014

    Kate tries to watch over Jared, to let him know he may be in danger and that he shouldnt openly discuss his parents with anyone. Having two children of her own, she sees that Jared could easily have been Henry or Paige. She knows Jared's mom wanted to reveal to him what his parents did for a living, as well as their heritage, and patriotic loyalties.

  • MarlboroMagpi May 16, 2014

    U meant Elizabeth right?

  • tobsh May 15, 2014

    Incredible! An episode without any action or big developments yet so entertaining and gripping. This went to show how many, many subplots The Americans has been handling perfectly and will be bringing together next episode. That's how you set up a season finale!

    • I'm intrigued whether Stan will choose Nina over the FBI. He's gotta choose one, right? He can't just steal Echo and go on being a regular agent afterwards. I'll go with the latter, though, since hes the identification figure for the supposed "good guys" to us viewers. Without him, the show would become too one-sided.
    • In other news, I got major creepy-vibes from Paige's pastor bro or whoever that was. Then again, maybe I'm just hyper-sensitive in that regard these days.
    • Larrick! Finally a bad guy who doesn't "tail" our spy-protagonist and isn't found out, thus rendering the protagonist's spy skills zero. That is a plot device used way too often. But nay!, a clever, old-shool tracking device. This dude is good and a formidable danger.
    • Is it okay if I don't really care for Stan's horny wife and absent son?
    • BUSTED Paige! Man am I glad Phillip isn't my father. I would've never gotten away with anything.
    • Gotta love Henry's breakfast monologue. So deep and philosophical.

  • Mate May 15, 2014

    Another great episode.

    I still have to wonder what the importance of Jared is. At the point before Elizabeth told him. He was still largely in the dark about the goings on of his parents and what they did. Granted we still don't know what Kate told him. But I seriously doubt it was anything more than your parents worked for us. Jared still didn't know anything, as cold as it sounds, leaving him for Larrick would have been a better ploy. They should have used him as bait to draw Larrick out or the killer/s because they don't know who it is yet. I am sure they have suspicions of Larrick, but using him to see who is stalking him would have been way more beneficial to the cause. Setting Jared in motion and bringing him deeper into the KGB seems like a bad idea. It gives whomever is tracking them a line to follow, which is a bad thing especially considering that the person or persons as far as they know is good enough to kill a team and their daughter without leaving a trace, hitting the comms center and taking out Kate. For me it just seems sloppy. And likely will be the catalyst that brings all of our threads to a head point and something that I am not sure is going to be good for the Jennings.

    Paige continues to annoy. I think Phillip way over estimates her intelligence. Elizabeth is wrong, they won't be dead in a alley Liz. Paige would be on her way to being a pastor and Henry whether he wanted to or not would be dragged along. I am surprised Elizabeth isn't squashing this whole religious thing, because that would be the end result. Paige and Henry would be taken in by some members of the church and it would be christian rock for the rest of their lives. A torture probably worse than water boarding.

    I kind of feel bad for Beeman. This whole thing with his wife has to be leading him to not be able to think objectively with Nina and realizing that something about all of that isn't right. i think he dwindling relationship with his wife is spurring his pretend relationship with Nina on. What does he think is going to be the outcome of all of that. He is going to secret her away to Falls Church so that they can have rendezvous whenever he feels like it. And I have to wonder when he is going to realize this is going to cost him, he lost his wife over the FBI his job. If he continues with Nina he is going to lose that job, his freedom and possibly his life if he continues down this path with Nina. I am hoping this endeavor to get a hold of Echo leads him to a realization that this is going to go bad and perhaps Nina is not worth it.

    Nina however is knocking this out of the park. She just comes off as the only person in the room knowing what is going on. She really must be something. Beeman is buying her cars, Oleg is giving her money. Whomever passed her over for agent training has to be kicking themselves for missing her talents. You have to think that Arkady is using her against Oleg and that Arkady knows all the goings on between the two of them. Arkady is a smart man, he has to know the talent that he has with Nina and the threat of a trial was merely to force Oleg to do something stupid that Arkady can use against him to rein him in a bit. At least that is what I would do.

    Martha is not long for this world everybody. She overstepped in two areas, first bringing the files to Phillip. One, that is an overreach by her, she is a passive intelligence asset, she isn't Fred, she isn't actively try into subvert the government, she is merely there to report what she sees and hears to Phillip in order for them to gauge the various investigations into their actions. Her bringing home the files is too much, she exposed herself and with that she exposes Clark/ Phillip. If she gets caught, and she will get caught because it is like a drug or skydiving, the adrenaline from the actions will spur her on, her doing it against people that she thinks despise her spur her on. This is going to lead her to make bigger tries to get better information and that is going to lead to her making a mistake and exposing the whole thing. Also spotting Phillips toupee which I am shocked he was shocked because it was kind of obvious. But she is starting to piece together too many things and sadly I don't see her lasting the season.

    But out of all of this I think Larrick is my favorite plot. He is a fantastic big bad. And I can't wait to see what comes of all of this. He is speeding towards the Jennings and it is going to be awesome.

    Fantastic episode.

  • McCovey May 16, 2014

    I agree with you on the Larrick part of your post. Beeman is so ineffectual as the American spy, and Larrick, though not really a good guy, at least isn't afraid to go after his enemies. Maybe Stan will do that yet too in a less murderous way.

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