The Americans "Yousaf" Review: It Must Be Done

By Ryan Sandoval

May 01, 2014

The Americans S02E10: "Yousaf"

Like its characters with their spy identities, The Americans has a knack for cycling through varying episode types while still feeling familiar to viewers. Directed by Stefan Schwartz and written by Stephen Schiff and Stuart Zicherman, "Yousaf" was a "table-setting" hour for some threads, with gripping story checkpoints being reached alongside an open-and-shut mission and some character exploration, too. Such is the interconnected nature of this show: a smaller plot for Nina might mean a larger one for Stan, while a surprise mission from the Center could at once bring back old characters and facilitate an ongoing marital discussion. The type of story changes depending on who we’re following, but the difference in perspective never alters the quality of the whole. Also, how about that new song from Pete Townshend and series composer Nathan Barr!?

Set one week before April 1, "Yousaf" saw Philip and Elizabeth receiving word from Kate that a Pakistani delegation had arrived in Washington, and that some of its members were Inter-Services Intelligence agents, basically the South Asian country’s CIA. Remember the season opener with Philip and the Afghans? Well, this group had arrived to discuss growing support for the mujahideen in its battle against pro-Soviet forces, a war they viewed as Russia’s own Vietnam. The KGB needed someone on the inside, and it was up to the Jennings to get in good with Yousaf Rana (Rahul Khanna), the "number-two guy in covert action." The plan: for Elizabeth to throw on a wig and get seducing. No fuss, no muss. Only snag was that Philip felt pretty strongly that his wife would get sniffed out by Rana, so he strong-armed Elizabeth into a plan to use Annilese (Gillian Alexy)—the wife of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense; remember her from Season 1’s "The Clock"?—instead. But would Annilese be able to pull off a long-term mission like this? And was there another, marriage-related reason he didn't want Elizabeth in the field?

Elsewhere in the Jennings-sphere, Philip attempted to make nice with his children, joking with Henry about Eggo waffles and coming pretty darn close to letting Paige apply to be a counselor-in-training at a church summer camp. Wow, talk about Paige walking all over him (jk). Philip had some serious dad guilt about flipping out all over his daughter's love for Jesus, and was open to discussing the camp idea with Elizabeth. But sure enough, Paige's plans were quashed severely when anti-Jesus freak Elizabeth discovered—while emptying her daughter's trash can—that the teenager had been practicing forgery (Paige is truly her mother's daughter). "Henry breaks into someone else’s house and it’s no big deal, but I want to be a better person and I’m the bad guy?" Paige reasoned, not knowing just how deep-seated her parents' hatred of religion is. Answer: VERY deep-seated. 

And since no mission is complete without complications, Annilese found it hard to get intel out of Yousaf because his boss Javid (Mahadeo Shivraj) had been keeping the second-in-command in the dark. For all her talk about making sure the Jennings were happy, Kate certainly changed her tune the moment Philip attempted to call off the mission. Somehow we're pretty far into the season but still don’t know a huge amount about Kate—except that she’s more concerned with preventing her head from rolling than she is with hearing out the agents she's responsible for. If this is the next generation of handlers, Kate's got a ways to go in the Keep a Cool Head department. The Center came back with its orders, and two things had to happen: Elizabeth had to kill Javid while Philip convinced Annilese to sleep with Yousef. 

One proved easier than the other, and resulted in one of the cooler assassination sequences we've seen on The Americans to date: eerily lit blue swimming pool, a back-and-forth visual of sex and murder via heart attack powder, the jamming tunes of Pete Townshend and Nathan Barr's "It Must Be Done." A few floors up, Annilese immediately suffered shame following her hotel rendezvous. As there's been discussion all season about "what it takes" morally and emotionally to live a spy's life, the blonde asset's breakdown highlighted the sort of normal reactions that Elizabeth and Philip have had to silence in trading physical intimacy for intel. Annilese accused Philip of being a "pimp" to her "turned-out" self. "You don’t think it kills me to see the woman I love sacrifice herself like that?" he retorted, revealing his true motives for keeping Elizabeth out of Yousef’s bed. "Give herself to another man?" he continued, "Even if it is for a cause bigger than either of us. It is not something I take lightly. Ever." In the same way that last week Elizabeth spoke about her "husband" to the Northrop employee AA member without naming Philip, these spies have to take self-expression where they can get it.    

Elsewhere, Andrew Larrick skulked his way back to D.C. Lee Tergesen brings a wild energy to the SEAL with a vendetta that's always been pretty scary. He’s got a wholesome face with a little snub-nose that seems more capable of heading up a backyard barbecue than taking down Ruskies. It’s this same affable quality that granted him access (via C&P Telephone—now "Verizon") to a junction box; after killing George the Basement Phone Guy (David Adkins), he discovered Kate’s home phone number. This puts him only a step away from a LOT of sensitive information.  

Arkady and Gaad shared another welcome scene, wherein the former acquiesced to Vlad’s "mugging" death and the latter responded in kind with a description of office "character" Chris Amador. First a diner, and now this calm, snow-covered street just in front of Agent Gaad's home (a move on Arkady's part to show Gaad what he knows). The dreamy weather, and straightforward nature of this scene feel like it was happening in a surreal world, like two gods on Mount Olympus, bargaining over the fates of mortals. "He wanted to be a doctor," eulogized Arkady, speaking of Vlad, "He should have been a doctor," quipped Gaad. These two might as well be Russia and the U.S. anthropomorphized; they're the closest we’ll get to seeing the two countries interact on a cordial level. They'll negotiate, but guardedly, and always with a reminder of each other's enemy status.  

In case we'd forgotten, Nina and Oleg are still frolicking between the sheets—but "Yousaf" revealed a little more about the differences in their respective backgrounds. Nina was in "Young Pioneers," a youth organization seemingly parallel to Paige’s camp of fellowship, while Oleg vacationed in the Crimea. "Ah, the downtrodden nomenklatura," Nina teased while reminiscing of happier, simpler days, with a less tangled life—er, "job." Nina hasn’t been up to much since defeating her lie-detector test, so I hope she’s got something more proactive to do in the homestretch of this season than just treading water. We did receive a little insight into her thoughts this week: She's scared that she might be "one of those people who is capable of anything." She's past the point of no return and aware of her talents but hasn’t yet decided how to apply them. Perhaps she’s still gathering intel.

If Nina does have a plan, she'd better act fast, as she couldn’t even keep Beeman in their safe house for longer than a kiss because he was so hopped up on fitting the final pieces together (thanks to a reinstated Gaad). Yes, an affair destroyed Stan's marriage, but it wasn’t with Nina. That mistress's name was "work." Like the Jennings (and Nina), Stan’s the kind of guy whose job is his life. He won't share two words with his own son Matthew, but is more than willing to have an uncomfortable sit-down with a damaged teen whose entire family was murdered about two months earlier. Noah Emmerich is always great, regardless of his scene partner, and I wish Owen Campbell had a bigger part, because every time Jared gets going it’s just about the saddest thing ever. Each pause he took sounded like it’d be the one that launched a full-on sobbing fit, but Campbell’s retreat into hollow-eyed sullenness took the scene to a far more devastating place. Secrets or not, he definitely saw the woman in that sketch during his meeting with "Anne Chadwick" in "The Walk In," and all it’d take to connect Philip is a mustache eraser. Has it really been 10 episodes?


– "Oleg Burov’s ass will be kicked out of this country so fast he won’t have time to buckle his pants" —Stan

– "This whole thing’s going to be won or lost in a third world."

– "They didn’t have big drunken parties, if that’s what you mean."

– "Glow worm!"

– Did you like the song "It Must Be Done"?

What did you think of "Yousaf"?

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  • meee223 Jun 26, 2014

    Just watched this episode (I'm a bit behind). So, is Annalise, the wife of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense actually working with the Russians??? And if so, why would Phillip disguise himself around her? This show is good but can really confuse me at times.

  • saabassoon May 03, 2014

    What were the pills that Elizabeth took before going to kill Javid and what was their purpose?

  • ChrisODriscol May 14, 2014

    I believe they were meant as an antidote for the heart-attack poison powder she was to administer to Javid.

  • amitojj May 03, 2014

    Transformation of Nina from a scared little girl to a superspy is just amazing. she reminds me of scarlet jhonson's Natasha romanov / Black widow . she somewhat looks like scarlet.

  • Derpanos May 03, 2014

    More scenes involving Arkady and Gaad, please. These two are amazing during their confrontations; they really are resembling of "two gods on Mount Olympus." Their interactions appear subtle and mutually respectful on the surface, but there seems to be this underlying contempt for one another below the surface. Both men understand that the other serves as his counterpart and one wrong move could jeopardize not only their careers, but the respective "teams" for which they play.

    Good old-fashioned detective work from Beeman - that's what I like to see. It's nerve-racking just anticipating how this will all end with only three episodes remaining, especially as various characters - Beeman, Gaad, Larrick, - begin closing in on Philip and Elizabeth. I'm still expecting a "dark horse," however; someone waiting in the wings who eventually pops up as a major culprit and/or antagonist.

    If I remember correctly, Jared did notice Philip walking away from Emmett and Leanne's hotel room right before he witnessed the carnage... so I wonder if that angle will resurface? All I know is, Elizabeth better expand her range of wigs and costumes for future missions.

    I find it difficult not to side with Paige over the church/religion storyline. Sure, she erred by not consulting with her parents over donating $600 - to a genuine cause. The girl is still a young teenager and she made a very human mistake; if Elizabeth and Philip want someone to blame, they should blame themselves for giving their child so much money in the first place. A simpler solution would have been a bank account, which parents open up for their children all the time as a means of teaching them responsibility.

  • Kate_and_Philip_Fan May 02, 2014

    Can someone remind me who the guy is that keeps calling K and P's home, w/ bogus requests for donations, cable service, etc. and ask for a bogus name, which Kate seems fine to agree, yes "I am Mrs So and So" - is he on their side and doesn't know it or is he on Beman's side?

  • Mate May 02, 2014

    Not a lot to say about this episode. Save for Larrick which I gave my theory to Jacob below.

    But the thing that needs to be addressed right now is Paige. They need to put forth a kid centered episode because right now Paige comes off so unbelievably hollow as a character. She is doing all of this which is against her parents, but it is so without a viable reason that it just rings false. It is like she is a rebel without cause nor clue. It just seems so off. Now we as the viewer can postulate what she is rebelling against, she is a teen, whose parents lead a secretive life that she picks up on but doesn't really know about etc etc. But until they put us into Paige's head, we don't know that for sure and she comes off as the weakest character because she doesn't seem to, by her repeated actions, to have no guilt over it, which goes against her little book, Ephesians 6:2 Honor you father and mother, and it just seems so empty. Even Henry showed guilt, and that linked to the rest of the show in what was going on with Phillip and Elizabeth at the time. On the other hand it gives something that they can't control and something that is potentially spinning out of control. Which could be good, but still it seems off. Now had they kept around the Sandinista women and linked the two characters in how they seem to not learn anything and are materialistic in their endeavors without any forethought that would have been something. But as of right now, Paige is out there as the worst character that the show has.

  • Kate_and_Philip_Fan May 02, 2014

    well, she's new to the Christian stuff so might not know eph 6:2 (her pastor said not to go against them) - if Philip is a Christian in real life, very tough to deliver that line 'Oh, so you respect Jesus Christ but not us?"

  • McCovey May 02, 2014

    I like this show, and will be sort of sad when it is over, but I can't wait til Philip and Elizabeth are caught. I think Philip will turn on the USSR and Elizabeth will go to prison for her beliefs. In any event, that would be better than Larrick killing them, though I hope he causes them considerable misery in the next few episodes. Paige and Henry can hopefully find decent foster homes with adults who aren't committing murders and messing up other people's lives and who are actually around when the kids need them.

  • jacobwright984 May 02, 2014

    so how did larick find the telephone swtichboard man?

  • Mate May 02, 2014

    Presumably in running an operation like that you would need a relay station of sorts. A person that can relay information to your agents through he phone as soon as possible in order to be efficient. Phillip and Elizabeth, being parents, in the suburbs, especially next to an FBI agent, you can't do the normal things like marking a tree or a post box or something in order for them to get to a dead drop. So you call them. But you can't simply call them from the same line over and over and over again because that would be suspicious. Especially if the FBI suspects them and they pull their phone records. So you need a place with multiple phone lines.

    I would presume that this would be standard operating procedures for both sides at this point. Larrick, given his position in the SEAL team, which would during that point in time maybe he is the original incarnation of SEAL Team Six (that even back then it had to do with Terrorism) he would know this.

    So he goes to the phone company and asks them to search out what non commercial residences have multiple lines. But them being the KGB they linked it to the house next door so that is why he was in the family's house. He then coincidently sees someone moving in the basement next door and that is house he tracks down the Switchboard man.

  • jacobwright984 May 02, 2014

    oh thanks! Larick is an exceptional agent he repaired the box after the switchboard man initiated the self destruct button if this is all he had to do you think the fbi or other agency's could easily track down the sleepers it is kinda strange that the kgb would have just one place where all the phone calls go through ha

  • Mate May 02, 2014

    Well I think it was easier for him because he knows of the sleepers. The FBI, up until Beeman's figuring out the Family has been going about it from a top down perspective. They have been focusing on the Embassy, because that is what they can see.

    With Larrick he is on the bottom so to speak. He has worked with two sets of agents at this point, both the family that was killed and now Phillip and Elizabeth. He is probably more familiar with their means of being contacted because of that. Perhaps because of his position in the SEALs he had been previous "sheep dipped" which is slang for pulling him into the CIA for certain operations and he has a greater skill set than the FBI.

    I doubt that switchboard is the only one. Perhaps he did kill the family and this is how he went about it last time. His end game seems to be to go after Phillip and Elizabeth. Which should be fun because he is the first person to give them a challenge enough for them to worry. Right now he has found Kate and presumably he is going to follow or torture her to get to them.

  • McCovey May 02, 2014

    This is the same question I have. Did anyone catch how Larrick even knew of this guy's existence?

  • alisheikh7524 May 02, 2014

    Was "George the Basement Phone Guy" a illegal as well or just a recruit? How many do they have anyway. Also, What about others like "Claudia" "Kate" are they illegl or just sleeper agents?

  • Ian281099 May 01, 2014

    Has it been 10 episodes already? I kinda want more episodes. I think is gonna tie all the storylines together for one glorious final episode(s). Can't wait to see how this season ends.

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