The Americans "Stealth" Review: Work Poisoning
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.
– 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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