The Americans "The Walk In" Review: Ronald Reagan Doesn't Care!

By Ryan Sandoval

Mar 13, 2014

The Americans S02E03: "The Walk In"


More than ever, Elizabeth Jennings seems like she's starting to feel at odds with the demands of Moscow. A mother’s instinct to protect her young is strong, and if you're going to mix that instinct with Communist karate, you'd better hope you aren’t the one she ends up wearing a wig around. Combine that with a husband who loves you and his family more than anything else in the world—even the KGB—plus an increasingly suspicious older child and the threat of death to the offspring you’ve been lying to, and it’s fairly easy to see that an eventual standoff between the Rezidentura and the Jennings is unavoidable. This week's "The Walk-In" preyed exactly on that parental insecurity, forcing Elizabeth and Philip on a mission away from Paige and Henry while filling the hour with the idea of family and ruminating further on the intimate pain awaiting them should their operation ever go belly-up. 

Family was literally everywhere in the episode, from a '60s-era Elizabeth (ha) discussing the professional benefits of parenthood with Leanne (R.I.P.) to Philip guilting Paige by telling her how he lost his father at the age of six during their serious dad-to-daughter talk. Given the one-two anxiety punch of this season’s opening episodes, the focus on less death-defying affairs (at least on the Jennings side of things) in exchange for a basic spy mission and an emotional discussion was a welcome relief.  


Which is not to say the audience got off easy. If it wasn’t Aunt Helen mistaking Paige for her deceased daughter, the kinky-haired bus girl Kelly (great '80s name) shuttling between her parents, or Derek the shop worker using photos of his sons to avoid a feared crowbar beating, then our hearts found due wrenching in Jared, son of Emmett and Leanne. On The Americans, no human drama is complete without a dash of espionage, and so Elizabeth’s contact with the orphan boy carried with it a mission. I’m not sure any of us expected Elizabeth to actually give Jared the letter explaining his parents' true identities, like she’d promised Leanne she would—that would've been too big of a move too early. Was she visiting Jared as recon, or did she just want to check up on him as a mom? Burning the letter to the tune of Peter Gabriel’s "Here Comes the Flood" (yay some music!/boo the sequence was ho-hum) solidified what we already knew: Even under dramatic, tragic circumstances, Elizabeth still takes her job as seriously as she takes motherhood. As long as she's dealing with someone else's child. 

If the idea of family wasn’t literally present, then thematic overlaps between suburban life and the spy world—like Philip helping Henry fix some space technology of his own, Helen using a deceased kid as a cover against Paige's Harriet the Spy act, and a disguised Elizabeth stating that a child's main need is the assurance of safety before comforting the sobbing Jared—kept the idea of moms and dads and brothers and sisters fresh in our heads. Family is mutual group love, but it's that same devotion that can blind us to members who might capitalize on that love and use it as a weapon. 


Last week I questioned why Stan had not yet started to grow suspicious of Nina, but this week’s thwarted assassination attempt and subsequent award should hold him in her unquestioned trust for a little while longer. That his success at work translated to a declaration of love for Nina—who went on to coldly document his emotional proclamation in report form and accept praise from Arkady as though she had increased her work productivity—illustrated just how valuable feelings are in a game of deception. Feelings are real to a person, they are biological truth. While it was cool to see Beeman have another noir moment when he raced up the stairs and snuck through some roof sheets, I felt kind of bummed to see Bruce "Ronald Reagan doesn’t care!" Dameran so quickly introduced and then eliminated. From Vietnam vet to would-be World Bank killer, Bruce at least gave us all a recent convert's angle on the fluid nature of belief.  

Speaking of shifting cultural attitudes, Oleg remains my favorite. I love how relaxed and confident he is and I totally vote for him entering a love triangle with Beeman and Nina. Is it too soon to hope for that? He seems to be getting through to her. I also like how gung-ho he is about engaging in American culture (Dennis Maruk plays for the Capitals—get it?), and that he’s sort of tempting Nina with this stuff too. Currently, her only exposure to American life is through Beeman, and I think she’ll realize on some level that experiencing the enemy’s entertainment has an appeal—and furthermore, that Oleg can provide her with that, plus some much-needed fun, while reminding her of the Motherland (see there’s that word again). 

In keeping with its disparate thematic ties, "The Walk In" could refer to Dameran, late walker-in of the Rezidentura, or Paige, curious in-walker of her parent’s spy world. While we’re all hankering to learn more about Emmett and Leanne’s murderers, this third chapter of the season took an earned and necessary pitstop to underscore the devastating stakes at play in every second of the Jennings' life. It’s one thing to find those space plans, but it’s another to remember the living, breathing relationships keeping the homes on Earth worth protecting.    


SPY NOTES

– A taste of the Jennings from 1966 to 1967. My, they looked so young! They knew Leanne and Emmett a long time. So sad.

– Surprise surprise, Elizabeth wasn’t that into having kids originally.

– Ha. Paige was going "to buy jeans." That sounds fun. Bet her new bestie Kelly’s going to help her snoop some.

– I like how Helen Leavis's first onscreen words were "Ohhh!!"

– When Philip surprised Paige in the kitchen, that was precisely how it looks to get "busted."

– When people let themselves into the homes of strangers on television, I’m always like, "Who would do that?"

– Sandra's self-help source this week was Werner Erhard

– "Scalp it?" "It’s a capitalist term..."

– Henry tossed his space disc thingy into an American flag trashcan.

– Philip's spy camera and Nancy’s dope sweater tied for this week's best '80s thing. Sorry, Tab soda machine.

– Gaad took time off from the FBI to fight in 'Nam and suffered third degree burns on both legs. What a hardass. 

– A lot of storytelling happens in the world of intel. Beeman’s character breakdown of Dameran was a good example of this. 

– Finally, some music! The Beatles "Here, There, Everywhere" and Peter Gabriel's "Here Comes the Flood."


What'd you think of "The Walk In"?


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  • bobster_bsas Mar 17, 2014

    I haven't read all the comments so i don't know if anyone ponted this out yet but...in the scene where Philip talks to Paige, i felt like he was scarier than a typical father lecturing his kid. I don't know, it felt a little bit too intense, like he acted the way he would treat a prisoner, not his daughter

  • RyanSandoval Mar 16, 2014

    Wow, series creator Joe Weisberg tweeted a link to this article describing a recent, real life "honeytrap" - the similarities to Beeman and Nina are not hard to see. Possible insight into where the story's headed?

  • Grumpyclown Mar 14, 2014

    Every time I see Oleg I just think to myself "dead man walking", he is just too fishy not to end up being killed

  • JamieMartinez2 Mar 18, 2014

    sorry to post here but i have a question, i do not remember who Aunt Helen really is... is she just a really old spy that is confused enough to think that Paige is her daughter returning from the dead? is she really her aunt? was that an act for Paige's benefit? why does she have a picture of young Elizabeth on the wall?

  • flintslady Mar 15, 2014

    Interesting. When I see him, I figure that underneath his "aloof" manner is a cold blooded killer and that he is going to be responsible for hurting Neena and or Stan.

  • Grumpyclown Mar 15, 2014

    Possibly - but I still think he's a goner

  • FbioSantana Mar 14, 2014

    i really thought that elizabeth was goin to kill that guy(the father). she made a good decision not telling who's boy's parents really were, i know that she made a promise, but he's entire family has already been killed, knowing that his parents were russian spies it would be worse. the thing with aunt helen was really cool

  • MikeUK123 Mar 14, 2014

    One of the best shows on TV right now. And the new season is really capitalizing (could that be a pun?) in a great way on what went before.

    Please no love triangle. No no no. This show absolutely does not need that. Stan's relationship with Nina has an important story point, about how feelings cloud judgement and how much people use themselves and others for what they truly believe.

  • Kallenprice97 Mar 14, 2014

    Was that really Kerri Russel's outie belly button?

  • Kallenprice97 Mar 14, 2014

    I feel saddest for Henry. He needs his dad. Throwing away the star chart almost brought a tear to my eye.

  • zaggy7 Mar 14, 2014

    I agree. That was a very powerful tiny scene.

  • Kallenprice97 Mar 14, 2014

    -- "Surprise surprise, Elizabeth wasn’t that into having kids originally."

    Yeah, not only that, but I loved when Phillip's asked her if she was sure she was ready... she responded he'd be a good father. Not, "yes, I love you". His reaction to her answer showed how sad that made him. It reinforced his knowledge that to her, this marriage was just a job.

  • Kallenprice97 Mar 14, 2014

    -- "He seems to be getting through to her."

    Wow. Were we watching the same show? I only sensed disdain from Needa toward Oleg.

  • Kallenprice97 Mar 14, 2014

    *Neena

  • RyanSandoval Mar 15, 2014

    (*Nina, and YES we are watching the same show). Yeah I think Oleg IS getting through to her - my theory is that Nina's been dependent on authority figures ever since Stan Beeman roped her into blackmail, and she's had to maneuver between older men, such as Stan, Arkady, and Vasili ever since. In Oleg, there is a more equal dynamic - at least in the age department. I'll admit that she is being cold to Oleg, but the fact that she's listening to him at all or even asking follow up questions about terms like "scalp" has created a dialogue approaching a more friendly relationship.

  • Kallenprice97 Mar 15, 2014

    OK, the gauntlet has been thrown! :)

    She only listens to him because he's got influence and can't afford to be overly rude.

    Let's touch base at the end of the season so one of us can congratulate the other on being right. ;)

  • peterspoor33 Mar 14, 2014

    Yeah I hope you're right, I find Oleg too cocky and self assured (chicks dig that I guess) but he is no Vlad!
    I also don't think Neena needs to be opened up to the wonderful decadence of capitalism through Oleg's intervention, although she said she was unfamiliar (or pretended to be unfamiliar) with the term "scalp" she was running her own black market scam before Beeman blackmailed her into an asset.
    Neena's character growth from selfish profiteer to committed believer and self sacrificing patriot after Vlad's death would be undermined by some romance with the office douchebag IMHO.

  • Kallenprice97 Mar 14, 2014

    -- "Elizabeth still takes her job as seriously as she takes motherhood"

    That's not how I interpreted it. I think she went there intending to give him the letter, but when she talked to him, she realized the boy deserved a normal life. She realized what knowing his parents were spies for Russia would do to him and she spared him that.

    I did not for a second feel she withheld the letter due to loyalty to Russia. If that were the case, I doubt she would have carried the letter in her pocket for her visit.

  • RyanSandoval Mar 15, 2014

    I don't think even for a second Elizabeth considered giving Jared that letter. That would totally endanger the operation, and both the FBI and KGB would be sniffing around for the source. Giving the letter to Jared would do nothing but put her own family in danger.

  • Kallenprice97 Mar 15, 2014

    How do you explain her behavior? Her hesitancy? The fact that she held it in her hand and slowly put it in her pocket as she was walking up to the door.

    I can see how you'd decide that her reasons for not giving him the letter were for her own safety and to protect her country, but I can't see, at all, how you'd think she wasn't at least struggling with the decision.

    Sadly, this is one where there is likely not going to be a definitive answer. What she was thinking will probably stay in her head and the rest is open to audience interpretation.

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