The Americans "Stealth" Review: Work Poisoning

By Ryan Sandoval

May 08, 2014

The Americans S02E11: "Stealth"


Things sure are coming to a head on The Americans, a show that’s been confidently breezing through its sophomore season like that’s not a hard thing to do (usually it is). Written by Joshua Brand and directed by Gregory Hoblit, "Stealth" found the Jennings finally experiencing a little domestic peace while the demands of espionage continued to spin recklessly around the couple. It was a solid hour rife with suspenseful tragedy, looking at human frailty as a common entry point for exploitation. 

Once more we started off with Anton "Lazarovich" Baklanov back in Russia missing his son, but also not shooing away any of the provided comfort ladies, ass and all. I always liked the old-school properness Vasili brought to this world, so I’m happy to see Peter von Berg acting as Anton’s supervisor and imprisoned mentor. He's like the Siberian Red to Anton's Andy Dufresne. It turned out that, in order to determine the success of his design for a stealth airplane, Anton needed a program called "Echo," and so began Philip and Elizabeth’s U.S. marching orders. There was much more to consider, however (isn't there always?) as Philip learned from his office bug that Stan and the FBI knew about the Illegals program. Elizabeth wanted to go check on Jared to see what exactly he might have told Stan, and was rather disgusted to find out that he might've discovered his parents' true identity from an American. So what did he divulge? Answer: nothing. But he knew something was up. Oddly enough, though, the orphan teen had been meeting with Kate out of disguise. Waah? Seeing as how Jared didn’t call Stan, I’m guessing he’s been prepped for this sort of thing. Everything about Anne Chadwick is suspicious, but he's yet to report her to the FBI. 

Philip took up the official mission by contacting Fred, and discovered that a "non-accountable" expense of $100 million dollars had been factored into the Lockheed budget. I always enjoy seeing different areas of Virginia, and the meeting by these rusted tanks proved visually appealing. Fred put Philip in contact with John Skeevers (Zeljko Ivanek, most recently of Revolution and Banshee), a bitterly divorced, ex-aeronautics engineer who helped develop the real life SR-71 and blamed his cancer on the materials he’d been working with. Cut to Philip in what I believe was the series’ first fake full beard, sympathizing his way into Skeevers’ home. "Ted," who looked inspired by Shia LaBeouf, brought soup and offered money in exchange for info on radar-absorbent material (RAM). Then Skeevers devolved into some helpful ravings about bats in his head being killed by fumes from microscopic iron-ball paint. I smell a cover-up... (or soup). 


On the homefront, Paige had been giving both Philip and Elizabeth the cold shoulder after being forbidden to go to camp. Rightly so; a child at least deserves a reason. Otherwise she’ll get her spirit crushed, and miss out on the joys of self-motivation. Ever the doormat, Philip was ready to cave, but Elizabeth still had strong feelings against youth indoctrination. Paige took the denial in stride, but bravely proclaimed that "Who I am—what I think and feel and believe—is mine. It’s me." Very after-school-special-sounding, but it got her point across. Surprisingly, Elizabeth favored Paige going to protest at an air force base with a group from church. It seemed like a "worthwhile" cause—or in other words, a welcome gesture against the American military. "Paige is like me," Elizabeth conceded. "She wants to make a difference in the world, she’s just looking in the wrong place." Finally, mom and daughter are seeing eye to eye, and all it took was a shared distaste for U.S. policy. 

Henry took a step toward American justice by interviewing Stan about his experience in the FBI. So far this season, the Jennings boy has thrown away a star chart, invaded a home for video games, envied cars, and demonstrated a budding interest in magic. He's clearly looking for a hobby, and school assignment aside, he seemed pretty interested in Stan's profession. Ain't that the way it goes? One child settled, and now another flies in the face of parental ideology.   

Creepy ol’ Larrick the Ladykiller chalked up another soul this episode. After tracking down Kate, he punched her hither and thither, then tied the agent up and demanded answers. It’s a bummer Kate didn’t have more to do than dole out missions, occasionally put the Jennings in a tight spot, and have us all scratching our heads over Claudia’s whereabouts. Wrenn Schmidt did well in her role, though, and Kate's death/disappearance along with George’s certainly creates a formidable mess for the Jennings to clean up. Thank goodness she left one final toilet message: "GET JARED OUT."  


The Rezidentura did its part to acquire the needed Echo computer program and pushed a reluctant Nina to step things up with Stan. "His personal life is in shambles and he is in love with you," Arkady reasoned (what a gossip). Last episode pegged Nina as someone who's capable of anything, yet afraid of her own potential, and I'm happy some stakes have been thrust into her spy-prodigy lap. Oleg gave Nina a Young Pioneers pin, just like the one she had as a little girl, but it was hard to tell whether he sought to remind of her duties or just wanted to do something nice. Behind closed doors, Arkady confided in Oleg that, if this most current mission wasn’t a success, Nina would be sent back to Moscow to stand trial for "treason." Arkady didn’t want to relay this information to her because he needed to be able to watch his own back. However, his offering Oleg a cigarette complete with long stare implied that Oleg was welcome to tell Nina if he himself didn’t mind getting his hands dirty. 

Showing more of his true colors, Oleg brought this information to Nina’s attention and advised her to run if she didn’t think Stan would betray his own country for her. I found it sweet that he would lay it all out for her, admitting that it was less for his benefit than hers. I wonder, though, if he's nudging her, the same way he did before the polygraph test. Maybe he knows she really shines under pressure. Either way, I respect that he put the choice in her hands. The trickling-down of consequence continued into Stan’s arms, as Nina pretended to be distraught over Arkady knowing she’d been providing Stan with secrets. There was some truth to her distress, but not for the reasons provided. Arkady had nudged Oleg, Oleg laid it out for Nina, and she made her final call. 

For now, it seems Stan has taken the bait; he promised he'd find a way out and that nothing would ever come between them. It was a more heartfelt speech than he delivered to his own wife Sandra, who warned Stan about asking affair-related questions. The Beemans have struggled to find happiness all season, with Sandra diving into self-help programs and Stan avoiding discussion all together. While Stan hid his commendation, the two shared an emotional honesty that hasn't previously been seen in their marriage. Unfortunately, the topic hinged on their relationship's shamble-status, and neither knew whether things should be "done." At least Sandra felt better about herself. Well, back to work Agent Beeman.



EXTRA INTELLIGENCE

– I'm guessing Anton's name-change came after being repatriated.

– "A romantic interlude. Very cosmopolitan" —Arkady

– FBI comic books! 

– Ted LaBeouf:


What did you think of "Stealth"?


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  • MarlboroMagpi May 09, 2014

    I was thinking the Henry interviewing Beeman was a plan of Philip to get closer to Beeman to find out more.

    I really looked forward to the Jennings rescuing Kate and killing Larrick'. Hopefully she is still alive. The moment Kate enter the bathroom, I was thinking she should have waited till Larrick came in but she went out. She is not very skilled.

    Nina is in a tight spot. Most of us loved her so let's hope she gets out of this one well and remain around for season three.

  • RyanSandoval May 10, 2014

    I thought the same thing with Henry - could still be in play: Philip could easily come across his boy's work, or Henry could get a good grade and E+P could post it on the fridge then figure out a strategy.

    Sad to say, I'm pretty sure Kate is D-E-A-D. I don't know of any neck-snapping maneuvers that result in unconsciousness but am open to being surprised.

  • antmorris3511 May 10, 2014

    Yup she's dead alright. I was mad when he killed Lucia, but damn. No way he's gonna keep breathing now.

  • petermork524 May 09, 2014

    The bats weren't in Skeevers' head. I assumed they had real bats at the Lockheed skunkworks to test the echo-absorbing properties of the paint, since bats use a sort of sonar to navigate in the dark.

    Also, if you are in a single woman's apartment and see the toilet seat is left up, that means trouble.

  • RyanSandoval May 10, 2014

    Ah, good catch with the bats. Ravings like this haven't really appeared in The Americans, so it makes sense Skeever's was talking about something more literal.

  • aktarian May 09, 2014

    I wouldn't call it best ep so far but still pretty solid. There are two things that are well done. One is how different technology was 30 years ago. Now such show would be all about micro bugs, GPS tracking, computers running algorithms to find out about people, turning cell phones into listening device, CCTV everywhere... In the show most has to be done by hand, lot of leg work etc.

    Other thing is that Soviets simply don't know what questions to ask. Earlier Philip and Elizabeth had no clue what Arpanet actually is, nobody but Oleg even understands what stealth is and what it can do.

  • RyanSandoval May 10, 2014

    Also, I find the Soviet ignorance/naivete charming. I like when there are super-skilled people operating in a field they know nothing about.

  • aktarian May 10, 2014

    I wouldn't call it naivete. Maybe ignorance. But I understand that if you don't know what you are looking for anyway you can't start asking right questions or even know who to ask.

    Lest season when they were looking into SDI they had at least basic grasp of what they are looking for, looking at and where to look.

    Which is why scene where that profesor explains to Philip what Arpanet is was so interesting, Philip had that "Dude, is this English at all?" look.

  • RyanSandoval May 10, 2014

    okay fair enough, "naivete" isn't accurate, but the "Arpanet" moment you point out is a good example of the sort of humorous dramatic irony a period show like this can pull off. I like how confidently dismissive Philip can be of such a huge concept like the Internet, not knowing what it will become.

  • RyanSandoval May 10, 2014

    For sure. It's the opposite of the just-announced "CSI: Cyber" which I assume will just be the cast hunching over computer monitors for 42 minutes.

  • MikeUK123 May 09, 2014

    Another great episode, such a well made and written show. A pleasure to watch.

    I was a little disappointed also that we didn't see more of Kate's skills. The leaving the note thing was cool, but this is a KGB agent considered good enough to be in charge of important illegals.

    The twist with Kate and Jared is really interesting and unexpected. Look forward to that reveal.

    I am not really into this Nina getting Echo thing. So far, everything we have learned about Stan tells us he would give his own life before blatantly betraying his country. Especially to the Russians. And Arkady's threat seemed too late..... she has already partially redeemed herself. If I was Nina I'd feel pretty anti-mother Russia after hearing that.

  • RyanSandoval May 09, 2014

    I agree with you that ultimately Nina won't be able to turn Stan, but I appreciate that the groundwork is there for a left field surprise. Nina HAS given Stan something he's never experienced - a feeling of deep love, and Stan did betray the FBI technically by handing over surveillance logs to Oleg. Let's not forget this is the guy who fed a man a cheeseburger before blowing out his brains. He's capable of grand gestures, so who's to say he won't do a grand gesture for Nina?

  • Ian281099 May 09, 2014

    So apparently, season two of The Americans has the habit of introducing us to interesting female characters and then having them killed by the same character. Other than that this season has been great and I loved this episode,I think it raised the stakes for the upcoming episodes.

  • RyanSandoval May 09, 2014

    Not fair, I agree. Kate had less to do, and was less of a fleshed out human than even one-off Brad the sailor.

  • abdulay31 May 09, 2014

    A bit of a letdown compared to the previous episode of the season, it breaks my heart that Nina can't decide that Stan is doing his best to save her as she looks to deceive him but i just can't see how he can deliver the Stealth program to her, The mission this week was pretty weak,

    The shining highlight was seeing Henry interviewing Stan as he seems fascinated by the FBI will like to see Elizabeth's reaction when she learns Henry is considering the Bureau as his dream job in the future.

  • MikeUK123 May 09, 2014

    Yes, great point about Henry. It does look like a possible story (which hadn't occurred to me when I watched the ep). It would add yet another dimension to this story.

  • SinspaW May 09, 2014

    Kinda feel like Kate was not very good at being a spy.

    She should've totally waited her intruder out when she got to the toilet. If he ever decided to come in, she'd have the upper hand. If he didn't, she could wait long enough that someone would come for her. Bam, problem solved.

    Not only that but during the fight with the guy. she totally had her hands on his face. Um...hello? Stab one of his eyes with your fingernails and turn the fight around?

    Kudos on the code on the toilet paper thing Kate, but you failed the Darwin test.

  • RyanSandoval May 09, 2014

    I've been thinking about Larrick's fight partners this season, and how Lucia and Kate both couldn't seem to break out some Jennings level fight skills. Are the majority of agents in the KGB bad at fighting, or are Philip and Elizabeth just the best of the best? I don't know.

  • MikeUK123 May 09, 2014

    Yes, made a similar comment. I don't think that fight seen really came across right. Kate's position would surely require top-level secret agent skills.

  • jjafargi May 09, 2014

    I don't know, to me, Kate always seemed more Human Resources than old-school super-spy.

  • RyanSandoval May 09, 2014

    Good point. Shame there's not more protection for HR.

  • SinspaW May 09, 2014

    There's also Claudia! Awesome at roundhouse kicking I would imagine.

  • mad-pac May 08, 2014

    Wow, lots of great stuff in this episode.

    - RIP, Kate. She was as adorable as a deadly Russian spy could be. Why do the pretty women have to die? And she was so eager to please the Jennings, though they never trusted her. However she didn't wear a wig when seeing Jared, and that's a bigger sin in the Soviet Handbook of Spying than professing your love for the church. I mean, no wig and glasses is a big NO-NO. I'm sure not sure exactly what "Get Jared out" means. Does it mean he's been briefed about his parents' real life? Is 'get out" a slang for "take out," which also means kill? Oh, phrasal verbs in English are often so confusing!

    - i like Jared. One more thing in favor of the writing in The Americans: they make teenagers compelling. I wonder if he learns the truth, what he's going to do. Is he going to honor his parents' memory and help the Soviets? He might, especially if he thinks the FBI killed them. (And by the way, who killed them is not a clear issue to me yet.) Will he realize he's an American citizen and his duty should be with the country that raised him? Lots of potential there.

    - RIP, "George." We hardly knew you. And he thought he had a sweet cushy spy job, just transmitting coded telemarketing offers of better long-distance carriers or asking for fake donations for orphanages and nursing homes. And Gaad's question "How many illegals are there? Five, six, twelve?" seemed also directed to the writers, because I think there will be as many as the writers see convenient. I mean, come on, there seem to be a lot of people in this club. I winder if the Americans (the CIA,not the show) had a similar program (not a TV one) in the Soviet Union.

    - Why does Zeljko Ivanek always play somebody who dies or is dying or both? In Revolution he was also dying of cancer. Come to think of it, he does have a sickly look. I hope the actor is all right.

    - Poor Anton. He misses his son... and no word about his wife. Well, considering his weakness for other women, I'm not surprised. If we needed any reasons to think the Jennings are the bad guys, I think kidnapping Anton is a very good one. Wow, the Soviets were really behind the Americans in terms of technology. they had to steal everything: the scientist, the paint, the program...

    - In real life, I would have to admit Sandra has a point. But in fiction, I don't like her. TV shows usually don't portray wives of action characters under a good light. We want to see Stan doing some spying and whatever he does best, and Stan and Nina make an interesting combination. The least she could have done was be supportive, but TV wives so often nag and whine (like Skyler in Breaking Bad) and want the action character to stop doing what we love he does. Honestly when she said, "don't ask questions whose answers you don't want to hear" or something like that, I felt like Stan should've kicked her out. Go live with your lover, lady. You're a secondary character only, and your storyline is only as good as it makes Stan want Nina even more.

    - Speaking of Nina, it seems she is in a real fix now. I'll be surprised if Stan gives her any good intel on the Stealth program just for her to avoid the Soviet gallows. I mean, the logical thing would be for the FBI to exfiltrate her now. But if Gaad says no, perhaps Stan will do something stupid. And it seems Oleg really did her a solid, right? I think he's not as shady as he originally seemed to be. But I could be very wrong.

  • MikeUK123 May 09, 2014

    What a great point about the teenagers. Yes, so many shows don't give teenagers depth or make them interesting.

  • jjafargi May 09, 2014

    *Cough* Homeland *cough*

  • RyanSandoval May 09, 2014

    Poor Sandra, I'd have to agree that she's basically there as a Stan obstacle. Kind of the hierarchy on this show: either you are a spy/FBI, or an obstacle to either side's efforts. Though I do like that she has her own life and goals and provides a troubled marriage analog to the Jennings. Without Stan to orbit around, I don't know what else she would bring to the table. Think of something, writers!

  • Mate May 08, 2014

    My theory is that Kate was recruiting Jared. i expound on that below in a response. But to me that makes sense, the Russians were better at this then we were. They were in it for the long game, recruit Jared while he is young, while he is emotional about his parents and his sister. Turn that emotion on the Americans, have him go to University, get a job in the government, wait until he gets into a key position and then use him. Easy. Kate was offering him what he wanted, he wanted the truth, and their truth was that they were agents to fight a great enemy and also to protect him. And the Americans killed them and his little sister because that is the kind of horrible people that they are. That would set an unbelievable amount of motivation for Jared to do anything to avenge his family.

    Kate however is also a moron. First, you are a spy. You don't leave your place of residence without having a method of checking whether or not someone has entered into your place. Thread stuck to any part of the crack between the door and the frame, feather or piece of lint on top of the door so that it falls when someone opens it. These are methods of telling if someone covertly entered your living space. Second, when she knew someone was in her place, when she was turning on the lights, she should have exited her place and never came back. That was the smart move. She is not a field agent, she isn't as experienced as someone like Elizabeth in combatives. She should have retreated and assessed the situation or like I said above just leave. Contact control, and move to another place altogether and adjust your contacts and methods. Anyone good enough to find her place was someone not to mess with.

    Larrick killing her was a necessity, it is still up in the air who killed the other agents. It provides him a layer of deniability but still he could have gotten way more from her. Kate was kind of weak and would have broken easily. But, time constraints and all. So that is understandable.

    There is no way in the world Paige would be allowed to go to that camp. She has been sneaking around, lying and being overly duplicitous in her own right. That is not the level of maturity that would warrant such a thing. And that would be the reason that she could go to camp. Period, her continued questioning would just make it worse and should make Elizabeth find interesting punishments for Paige.

    Everything else was good. Phillip with the beard was hilarious.

  • RyanSandoval May 09, 2014

    I totally thought Kate had the upper hand as soon as she entered the bathroom and broke out her gun. "Good" I thought, "barricade yourself." Larrick is no one to sneeze at either, but you're right it would have made him that much more of a capable enemy if Kate took some intelligent precautions, and still he bested them.

  • ayyyy1 May 08, 2014

    Philip really did look like Shia Labeouf.

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