The Americans "Martial Eagle" Review: Sins of the Father

By Ryan Sandoval

Apr 24, 2014

The Americans S02E09: "Martial Eagle"

The spies on The Americans do so much sneaking and snooping for tech plans that it’s easy to forget the spiritual ramifications of the Cold War. Ideology is what was really at stake, so it’s justifiable that fighting for what felt like a losing side might've caused someone to question the big ideas behind all the trouble. Directed by Alik Sakharov and written by playwright Tracy Scott Wilson, "Martial Eagle" promised a mission, but what it delivered was a collection of much more introspective journeys. Stan and Sandra shared a tough look at their relationship, Philip and Elizabeth dealt with the bloody aftermath of the contra plan—as well as Paige’s financial devotion to Christianity—and Gaad prepared to testify with his job and freedom on the line. It was an hour well-spent, highlighting how those tasked with saving the world keep going in the face of futility.      

Mostly though, "Martial Eagle" was about Philip tearing apart Paige’s teen bible and whipping it across the kitchen before screaming, "You respect Jesus, but not us?!" The septic plan to get onto the base where our boys trained Nicaraguan soldiers worked like a charm, except for a grunt who got his throat slit, and the bound truck driver who died from exposure. Elizabeth also racked up two bodies in this episode, but it was Philip who found himself most affected by the unnecessary deaths. Just last week he had spared the driver, acting as the "good cop" when Elizabeth wanted to off the guy. Another casualty in an increasingly murky war. 

Man, that glare during "Teenage Sunday" was priceless. Philip didn’t need some church leader preaching about how a selfless God could offer contentment, when he knew otherwise. Even so, as is the case with any effective sermon, the ideas stayed with him the following day. Did Philip curse these notions because it'd be too painful to hope for redemption after all the horrible things he's done? My favorite thing about Elizabeth and Philip’s disdain for Christianity is how foreign the idea of practicing any faith is to them—it's not just this particular religion. They feel very passionate about the uselessness of any sort of belief system, so Paige’s charitable donations weren't seen as a kindness, but a practical slap in the face to her caretakers. "Who told you to do it? The pastor? His wife? Stop protecting them!" Elizabeth asked, dipping into interrogation mode, more spy than mother.  

While Philip got all moody and broody, Elizabeth forced Paige to clean the house in the middle of the night to make the girl appreciate what it means to be a grown-up. "Being a grown-up means doing things you don’t want to do all the time," Elizabeth lectured (especially if you are a trained assassin), but this display was mostly about showing support for Philip. Notice how Elizabeth gave him nearly the same speech he had given her about Lucia? Normally buoyant, Philip shrugged off his wife’s help and accused her of having an easier time killing, which is what married KGB say to hurt each other. Surely he can’t believe this. I mean, of the two, Philip’s been dealing with the side effects of his expert, murdering ways much more than Elizabeth, but he also seems to be killing a lot more. If it’s so hard for him, why is he doing it so much?

Holy cow, Pastor Tim (Kelly Aucoin) has no idea how lucky he is to be alive. Philip was a straight-up tragic villain this episode, all playing Martha’s insulting tape and figuring stuff out in disguise by the sea. So when I saw those black gloves letting Philip into the empty church, I thought the religous hybrid of Matthew McConaughey and Harry Dunne from Dumb and Dumber was a goner. Tim was rightfully baffled at this father who was ordering him to keep the church away from his daughter, when usually dads are all, "My child, I forbid you to go to church." Speaking of which, why don’t they forbid Paige from going to church? I guess because it’s an ideology, with no clean way of pointing out the damaging effects. Also, though, Philip and Elizabeth are trying to be good parents. Lesser guardians would be like, "Hell go do whatever, just don’t get pregnant," but the Jennings care about their relationship with their kids enough to let Paige and Henry have a little bit of agency. Ironic, then, how this same freedom led to Paige’s donating to the less fortunate, in a sort of Communist fashion.

Who knows what went on at the Rezidentura this week, as our only taste of that staff was a check-in with Arkady. Which is fine, Oleg and Nina have earned a day off. Gaad plopped himself down right in front of his Russian counterpart, and basically beg-threatened Arkady before he was set to testify. Well, maybe less of a beg, and more of a threat. Who knows how much of an impact the classified testimony of the late Richard Patterson (remember, Claudia slit his throat?) will have. A report goes out, the media gets a hold of it, sure, but I feel like at most, the U.S. would increase resources in counterintelligence. It would not guarantee the removal of Directorate S. Maybe Arkady knew this, maybe he planned on taking this intel back to Oleg, but either way, the Russians are still on top here.

The only thing that can bring them down is the good old-fashioned American work ethic of one Stan Beeman, which in "Martial Eagle" involved interviewing researchers involved with the Department of Defense. Yes, Stan's life has been in a bit of a tailspin lately, what with Sandra self-helping herself right into the arms of another lover, but marriage was never his strong suit. Stan’s dedication may have cost him a lot, but connecting Emmett and Leanne’s deaths to the DoD meeting in Alexandria on January 23 is his first big step back toward making things right. How fitting that his ability to discover the facts comes as his personal code of ethics deteriorates. Operating in gray areas has gotten him in trouble, but it’s also given him more intimate access to the methods of his enemies. All that’s left is to connect the dots. Let’s just hope that by the time he does, it isn’t already too late.


– Pretty cool use of a fake war scenario to create some real deaths

– I thought Beeman’s speech to the science nerds about exploiting weakness would end with him smacking his forehead and exclaiming, "Nina’s in on it!"

– Someone please put "Today was a shitty day, with my shitty kids and my shitty husband" on a T-shirt. 

– Elizabeth angling in on a Northrop employee, but also sharing feels about her hubby.

– I don’t think people should trash-talk people behind their backs, but every time Philip plays that fake tape, it’s funny hearing Gaad say "Come on guys, Martha’s ugly..." like that’s the jumping-off point for a regular conversation. 

– Elizabeth’s reaction to finding out about Paige’s donation: "We’ll definitely talk about that."

– Dr. Ruth playing while Sandra packed her bags. She definitely has some plans.

– Martha’s breathy response: "Bastards..."

– "If they can keep you afraid, and ashamed, then they can keep you silent. And if they keep you silent, they can control you." No one knows that better than you, Stan. 

– Philip also had God issues way back in "The Clock," remember?

– John 10:10, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Which country is the "thief"?

What'd you think of "Martial Eagle"

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  • chase2009 May 04, 2014

    No one have trouble with them flying down to Nicaragua and break in to base and return in one night? Kids didn't miss them again? And for what? to take a few pictures? What was the point of doing all that previous stuff with Larric to get the codes to break in--If Larric was going to help let Larric take the pics and send them to you.

  • ErlendJohanne Dec 19, 2014

    The camp wasn't in Nicaragua, it was a training camp in Virginia for the Contras.

  • aktarian Apr 27, 2014

    Also minor nitpick. Uniform Larrick is shown wearing doesn't make sense. It's desert camouflage (AKA Chocolate chip cookie pattern). And while it entered service in early 1980s so it's not anachronistic it was ment for troops operating in desert regions, i.e. Middle East. Not jungle regions of Central America so he wouldn't be wearing it.

    Odd msitake since show makes a big deal about clothing being appropriate

  • klotensen Apr 26, 2014

    God, what are spies awful people. This series really shows the consequences of a life of lying, cheating, blackmailing, killing on all levels. Who's not a mess (more or less by now?) Oleg? Arcady? Nina is holding up alright. But that's it. Meanwhile, even Gaad is on the edge...
    Philip's late visit to the pastor and his sullen stare on the bench were so intense, he is my personal MVP of this season so far.

  • 3Jane Apr 25, 2014

    How's Arkady's style? Drinking coffee in a nice restaurant, wearing a lovely grey three-piece suit. I think he "likes it here too much".

  • aktarian Apr 25, 2014

    Sometimes I wonder if they have a list of which wig goes with which cover identity. :)

  • 3Jane Apr 25, 2014

    And where Elizabeth keeps all those coats.

  • natesjokes Apr 25, 2014

    Everything about this episode was awesome. Love the constant tension and emotion. Also, really like the long con with Martha. Every interaction with her Philip is playing some angle while making it seem so natural and convincing. It's fantastic.

  • Aspiasu Apr 25, 2014

    The check-in with Larrick was short, but telling.. The look on his face when he heard about the murders promises some big trouble for the Jennings in the near future!

  • McCovey Apr 27, 2014

    While Larrick is a creep, I can't wait to see what he has planned for these two.

  • mad-pac Apr 25, 2014

    Interesting issues involving religion. OK, so we had the confrontation between Phil and the pastor. But as this show is produced in the United States, and (the Protestant) church is such a cultural cornerstone of American society, we had a very kind and understanding American man of the cloth ("I feel your pain, man.") being confronted by an enraged Soviet assassin and professional liar.

    But it seems to me in a more ordinary situation, a concerned parent would have many good reasons, and solid arguments, to keep their child away from organized religion, especially one that takes hundreds of dollars from children. Come on, you don't have to be an atheist communist to see there was something very wrong with that situation, even if the pastor offered to return the money after the fact.

    Ironically, I think an active life in the parish would be an excellent cover for Phil and Elizabeth. But their family unit is falling apart and considering things are going, I don't see how they'll be able to maintain the front of a regular happy family. I wonder how, in real life, families in those conditions used to last as families, since so much of their lives is based on lies on top of lies.

    I wonder if Martha will have any sort of career, or even get to be out of prison for the rest of her life, when the truth about "Clark" comes out and the FBI raids her place and takes her in handcuffs. If she's not killed by Phil first, of course.

    Poor Henry, nobody wanted to appreciate his skills as an amateur magician... Somebody could at least have humored the kid and picked a damned card.

  • antmorris3511 Apr 25, 2014

    I think you got it backwards. The professional liar was the Pastor. Phil was the truth, but he shouldve caved that pastor's face in for toying with Paige's emotions, selling her all that fluffy feel good nonsense. What kind of a man would take a six hundred dollar donation form a teenage girl knowing he has multiple adult congregants with which to line his pockets? "Are you gonna beat me up?" Well I prayed about it, and God told me to kick your ass.

  • McCovey Apr 27, 2014

    My first reaction to your post, as a Christian, was to get mad. My second one is to feel like the pastor did in this show--you too can find a better life when you no longer fight God.

  • antmorris3511 Apr 27, 2014

    Go tell it on the mountain, Reverend...

  • peterspoor33 Apr 25, 2014

    I do think that if the Pastor and his wife were all that sinister they wouldn't have mentioned Paige's donations in front of her parents (that was an uh-oh moment where they assumed it was with their consent) and they even considered taking her to where the money is spent using the Jennings travel agency.

    However that said, I was totally on board with Philip carrying out some wet work in the house of God given his darkness this episode. Witnessing his perspective during the sermon I could see how the church could be considered as great an enemy to the people and the Soviet ideology as much as the US government.

  • RyanSandoval Apr 25, 2014

    Being the 80s, $600 then would be about $1,487 today (if I'm working this inflation calculator right). There was no indication that Paige lied to Tim either. He "assumed" it was all right.

    I've been thinking about Martha, and wonder if "Clark" could close the loop without killing her. Maybe he'll show a little surprise humanity and fake-leave Martha, or fake his death. I am pro-Martha being on the show though, so I guess I'm hoping for the best.

    That was a pretty great family/angry Philip moment - "Not now Henry!"

    Another moment that I keep thinking back to is Philip alone on the bench just sitting in silence.

  • aktarian Apr 25, 2014

    Of all supporting characters Martha is one I feel most about. Sure she is naive and blinded but beleives she is doing right thing and Philip is so good at manipulating her.

    And yes, Philip brooding on that bench was awesome scene.

  • antmorris3511 Apr 26, 2014

    And yes, Philip brooding on that bench was awesome scene..

    Hell yea it was. So was Paige's reaction..

  • kevekev302 Apr 25, 2014

    Poor poor Martha, I feel so bad for her.

  • antmorris3511 Apr 26, 2014

    True. Phil was cruel to play the "Ugly" card. Martha is totally and completely vulnerable. She wants so bad to be loved. Lots of people are like that and they're constantly manipulated.

  • mad-pac Apr 25, 2014

    I'm from Brazil and here there are many new Evangelic churches which have a bad reputation for squeezing every penny out of their not-so-well-off followers. So that part gave me a terrible impression of the pastor. So much so, perhaps I wish the episode had focused more on the ideology and Paige's spiritual awakening instead, because the money issue taints the relationship of Paige and the church and eclipses more interesting aspects.

  • RyanSandoval Apr 25, 2014

    For sure, I also have a past with money and churches that left a bad taste in my mouth so I'm happy they're forcing those two ideas together right up front. This show's so smart about how it accesses moral and existential discussions, that whenever The Americans introduces a a new theme, I'm like "Huh, that does make sense in the context of both regular human existence and espionage..."

  • nasedoofantar Apr 25, 2014

    How many lives would be spared if Philip carried a rag soaked in something like chloroform that knocked someone out and affected their recollection of the moments leading up to passing out? The computer guy in ARPANET & the soldier in Martial Eagle whose throat Philip slit are two. P&E; are quick with guns & knives, but how about a syringe filled with a sedative?

  • brandonburnett7777 Apr 27, 2014

    I think that would just defeat the point of showing how P&E; would do anything for their country, including being ruthless cold blooded killers. Just my $.02 anyway.

  • aktarian Apr 25, 2014

    Dead tell no tales.

  • nasedoofantar Apr 25, 2014

    Very true, but collateral damage can draw more attention than an eyewitness. From the promos, it's looks like the soldiers Philip killed will come back to bite P&E; since Laric's knows they're responsible and thought only the Nicaraguan commanders were going to be killed.

  • peterspoor33 Apr 25, 2014

    It would be good if he could just sock' em on the jaw to unconsciousness like some cheezy kids war comic but if he'd just blacked out the Arpanet guy instead of disappearing him they would find the "bug".
    Even the soldier's death created confusion as there was discussion of someone taking the war game seriously, buying time and obscuring the true motive of the deaths, of course Laric could of cleared up that confusion immediately but not without divulging his own culpability.
    Maybe if Philip was Solid Snake or a Commando's game character he could just drug people, take their uniform and store them in a locker till completion of the mission.

  • aktarian Apr 25, 2014

    This, pretty much. Once bodies start piling up one more doesn't make much of a difference and is easier to explain than unconscious guy who could then tell he was knocked out by some strange man.

    Same with Arpanet technician. If he was jsut knocked out he could tell what happened and security would figure out something went down there. If he disappers.... suspicious and strange but less so than a dead body.

    But they left alive that guy from factory they stole designs from...

  • Ian281099 Apr 24, 2014

    Wow, Matthew Rhys pretty much owned this episode, I usually single out Keri Russel when talking about the show, but damn Rhys was amazing. Hope these performences get noticed later this year. Anyways, anybody else notice that Stan is left-handed?

  • aktarian Apr 25, 2014

    Yes, one of things I've noticed about Stan.

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