The Americans "A Little Night Music" Review: The Devil You Know

The Americans S02E04: "A Little Night Music"


To say that Elizabeth and Philip have their plates full would be an understatement. Being a spy with a family is hard enough, but Claudia's return, Paige’s budding religious independence, Martha's "lazy morning" wife demands on Clark, and a secret enemy task force threatening to reveal—and kill—everything the Jennings hold dear makes life in the employ of Moscow one big stress-ball. Four episodes into Season 2, "A Little Night Music" provided those oh-so-electric moments we hope for in an ideal viewing of The Americans; it was one of those episodes where opposing forces unleash simmering viewpoints on one another face-to-face while simultaneously stockpiling ammo behind the scenes for future confrontations. Also fake goatees, exploitative sexual acts, and heads smashing through car windows.  

Where to start: Martha vs. Clark? Oleg vs. Nina? The Jennings vs. Mystery Assailants? Hmm. How’s about Paige’s new friend Kelli? Last week there was plenty of speculation that her convenient appearance meant she was KGB, assigned to keep tabs on the errant Jennings child. But while this week’s revelation that the assigned agent had been skittishly "pulled"—and that Paige’s new bestie was actually part of a Christian youth group—seemed to debunk that theory, this show has still made me paranoid about first appearances. Hey, if Moscow wanted to nip this foundation of Western "recruitment" in the bud, as Elizabeth sees it, teenage religious circles would be the place to start. So yeah, I’m still of the opinion Kelli is somehow a mole for the youth branch of the KGB, but maybe that’s just suspicious thinking. It’d be a hell of fun place for the story to go, that’s for sure.  

I’m so happy, though, that Paige has found a hobby outside of snooping on her folks. The looks on her parents’ faces as she prayed before dinner, their disdain for her secret brochure like it was pornography, and the pure hypocrisy of Philip and Elizabeth yelling at her about keeping secrets while they themselves live a big huge one under the same roof—all these factors are so much more interesting then cutting to Paige getting closer to the "truth." Overall, this thread advances one of my favorite aspects of the Jennings family dynamic, that aspect being the futility of raising a family in enemy territory, with Western ideals seeping in as Philip and Elizabeth fight larger battles. Even Philip had his eye on a new car. What’s next, Henry running away to Wall Street?


I feel like I’m the lone holdout for Team Oleg, but whether you think he’s an entitled creep or a potentially positive force in Nina’s world, we got another taste of his influence this episode. Sure, he was a bit slimy in going over Arkady’s head for clearance, but at the heart of his efforts is a dedication to the mission. Isn't that all that really matters? He felt strongly enough about the importance of Jewish physicist Anton Baklanov (Michael Aranov) to play by "western" rules. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Arkady once orchestrate Vasili’s exit? Maybe I’m misremembering, or maybe Arkady's trying to scare Nina onto his side. 

For such a rich punk, I was not expecting the sort of professionalism Oleg displayed after reading Nina’s reports, even trying to offer some understanding and appreciation for her role. My prediction? Oleg eventually discovers her betrayal, but by that time the two have grown close enough to consider themselves allies. Hey Elizabeth and Philip have their share of differences, but they still know how to fight the same battle. So, either Oleg's influence will save Nina one day, or he'll end up displaying the "poor taste to get his brains blown out."  

Stan, Stan, Stan. You were promised a commendation, and instead got Gaad "layered," and the department put under investigation. I know Beeman brought a lot of his troubles onto himself, but there was a true vulnerability going on during his bar chat with Philip. Once a suburban suit, he now knows what it means to love—and it was war that taught him. Sometimes while viewing a show so analytically, it's easy to forget that fictional characters see their contributions to plot as reality, and the FBI agent’s breakdown of why his marriage doesn’t work, and why his love with Nina can never be, was pure empathy-bait. How far he’s come since his buttoned-up introduction! How much further will he go? At least he described Nina as being married for her protection, but I think Nina's going to start growing away from him. I don't see her reciprocating that love. I see Beeman taking the fall.   


Speaking of doomed romance, who could forget Martha and Clark’s failed "lazy, romantic morning" (ha: Elizabeth’s reaction). Usually a source of squirm-worthy fun, Martha’s oblivious married life is entering full-on painful-to-watch territory. As someone pointed out in the comments section last week, Philip can break out a truly sinister tone during suburban arguments, and that definitely happened here. It’s quite unfair that Martha has to experience real, damaging emotions while her counterpart uses her for information. This interplay of real and fake feelings, and what that means as a whole with regard to human interaction, is a credit to the world The Americans has established, and quite possibly the eventual undoing of everyone involved. Martha may not know how she's throwing Philip under the bus by listing Clark on that job application, but certainly his rudeness helped pusher her in that direction.


Man, is anyone's workplace romance in a good spot? It was introduced so early in the series, but lest we forget that Elizabeth is a survivor of rape (something unimaginably scarring), that horrible fact came back to haunt her during her near botched seduction of Brad Mullen (a wonderfully frail Jefferson White). It was hard to tell whether Elizabeth was playing the long game with her Navy recruit by keeping his nerdy self at a distance—and in so doing maintaining the seaman's reality and stoking his desire—or whether she found herself truly shaken. Claudia seems to think it was the latter. I don't even know what to say about Elizabeth using her real-life sexual assault to encourage Brad to do her bidding, except that it was one of the more painful manipulations we've witnessed on The Americans to date. But Claudia is back in Elizabeth's corner, and even though Elizabeth doesn't believe that her contact is being honest with her, I get the impression that the old warhorse is going out on a limb for the Jennings.  

And so with subtle adventure and troubled emotions, "A Little Night Music" ended the way the best Americans episodes do—with sweet hand-to-hand combat and an exhilarating cliffhanger. Who were those attackers? They sure gave the Jennings a fight. Hmm, I don't want to jump to conclusions, but there was mention by Anton (Michael Aronov) of Soviet Jews in Russia, and the Mossad DID have an eye out for "Refuseniks" around this time. This show has so many plates spinning at this point, all it needs to is keep going and I’ll be grinning like a fool. Just when I think I've got a handle on where it’s headed, some new element is introduced that raises my satisfaction level by several notches. No complaints here: damn fine episode. 



SPY NOTES

– Elizabeth kicked that dude’s ass proper. She was probably still sputtering mad about Paige's churchy ways. 

– Brad basically listed all the reasons why he couldn't be a spy, then Elizabeth gave him a handjob, and he was all, "Let me give it another crack."

– Andrew Larach, ex-vet organizer of a secret task force?! All in favor of a big bad. 

– Claudia might be an across-the-board "good guy" now. Claudia might also not be long for this world.

– Stan can't share his job with Sandra, but Philip and Elizabeth have no choice BUT to share. That's what keeps them together.

– I could not get enough of Martha’s affinity for her "lazy romantic morning," and it seemed like the writers couldn't, either—she mentioned it like three or four times! "I wanted a long lazy romantic morning like the one you promised me!"

– Modern English! Paige has a GOOD taste in music.

– Henry wants that Intellivision.

– "My soul is fine... how is yours?"

– "...like the timecard-punching, never-around pencil-pusher that you are" —Angry Martha

– WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?


What'd you think of "A Little Night Music"?


Comments (34)
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Jul 09, 2015
OK fine, never mind. Kelly isn't a KGB operative worming her way into Paige's confidence, she's just a Christian... kind of doing the same thing.

I love the watching the culture clash between American and Soviet values, even more than the spyjinks on this show. And seriously, the 80's had to have been the worst era to raise your covert spy-children! Yuppies and capitalism on a twin cocaine bender, the rise of the moral majority and Reaganism. Yikes. It's a loyal comrade's worst nightmare, and I love the Jenning's horror at their children growing up to be good, bible thumpin, money spendin Americans (shudder).
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Mar 25, 2014
It sometimes negates me that they are Russian spies, until their snoopy I-don't-trust-my-parents daughter, decides to go to youth group, and Mama and Daddy KGB flip their shizz, about some indoctrination. I'm thinking, "in what world does a parent get pissed their kid is doing something healthy, like not doing drugs, or in this case, continuing to snoop where she don't belong?" Oh, yea, in the world of Russian spies. Be greateful she's not busting you and let her be in the youth group.
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Apr 08, 2014
Religion is no different than drugs - once it gets shoveled down people's throats their whole life starts revolving around that ancient nonsense... It IS indoctrination, and while Elizabeth's belief-systems seem to be induced the same way (via propaganda), so she's no better than a preacher in terms of free-thinking, but at least socialism is a scientific political and economical philosophy, as opposed to christianity, which is nothing but the product of a few stupid sheperds in ancient Israel... Sincerly, I'd prefere my kid to try marijuana a few times than have him become a creationist religious nutjob - the latter one (maybe if you add nationalist/racist as well to the combination) would be the ultimate failure as a parent.
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Mar 23, 2014
Amazing. This show keeps getting better and better.
Martha has to die, she just has to go. Her putting Clark's name on that job application will be the nail in her coffin. Poor woman, she's just such a muppet!
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Mar 23, 2014
The Americans is truly an amazing show. However, it would greatly benefit from being aired on for ex cinemax or showtime (more violence and sex). I feel the show needs to hold back because of airing on fx. This is also the issue for Historys Vikings.
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Mar 22, 2014
I'm annoyed at my DVR it cut out while Martha was yelling at Clark's. ..um answering machine. Its something to do with something weird last week it didn't want to record the first three minutes of Supernatural either but it warned me about that. Usually all FXx shows end at some random time.

Did anyone else sort of start to wonder if Oleg is working for us or Mossad? At this point in history did we still have the same sort of tense but amiable but weird relationship with Mossad that we have now.
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Mar 22, 2014
If you are watching the show and reading this, please come in and make comments here. I guess we need all the comments we can get so that Ryan can continue to review the show weekly !
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Mar 22, 2014
This is what I call a smart, interesting adult tv-show. Great stuff.
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Mar 21, 2014
Finally got around to watching this ep. Loved it! Not too many dramas out there where I really enjoy the family dynamics maybe as much, or more, than the action-filled plots.
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Mar 22, 2014
I agree. Maybe it's the small doses, but the more the Jennings pull off regular family scenarios, the better the spy stuff plays.
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Mar 21, 2014
Again a strong episode. This show - at first I really liked Phillip and Elizabeth but with all the crap and the fact to have real kids as a spy-couple makes it harder and harder to NOT being angry at them - it's not entirely their fault, ut still... I feel bad for the daughter, had to think of Little Nikita once or twice, River Phoenix crying... Now they have to watch out for a lethal third party too - wunderbar.
– WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?
Maybe they work for the same people who ordered the deaths of the other sleeper-family. Rogue KGB?
And folks: don't underestimate Oleg!
The Olegs of then are the oligarchs and Putins of today...
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Mar 21, 2014
The thing that confused me was, what was up with "Clark's" general buttholeishness to Martha? He'd allotted the time for her and he's never been like that with her, so I kept thinking he's either intentionally alienating her because he's wanting to give up on that cover, or because he had somewhere else to be. I couldn't remember him making any plans with Elizabeth that required him to get out of the lazy morning with Martha, but I couldn't think of why he'd want to end that cover either. I'm left with considering that it wasn't an act and that he just really got pissed. But why? Not very Phillip/Clark-like.
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Mar 21, 2014
I LOVE this series. It's intelligent, surprising and unique. Having said that, the only thing that keeps bugging me is something silly... if Martha and 'Clark' are married, has she EVER ran her hands through his hair?? I mean come on!! It's a hairpiece and that has never come up?? LOL!!
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Mar 20, 2014
I agree with what she mentioned below, Elizabeth knows how to use sex to complete her mission despite of her rape.

What Oleg wants is simple - power and sex. He wants to rise up fast and also get a piece of Nina's ass. Come to think of it, who would not want Nina.

Initially I thought the guys who attack the Jennings are protecting Anton but they could also be from the mystery group who killed the family in the hotel.

Last season we saw a little about Philip wanting to actually leave the KGB and become Americans but this season we had no mention of it at all. From their handling of Paige, it is quite clear that Elizabeth still very much a Soviet at heart while Philip is more influenced by the American ways. I do hope the writers will explore this issue again in the later episodes.

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Mar 20, 2014
Ryan, this was a very good review! I submit my thoughts:

1. There is no way that Elizabeth withheld sex from Brad in the motel, because she had been raped and traumatized in the pilot episode. She has had hot sex on her missions too many times since then and Brad, as described by Elizabeth, is "a piece of cake." If she had come on to Brad as a roaring hot cougar and fulfilled every young mans' fantasy, it would have been impossible to convince Brad that she was a traumatized rape victim who needed him to get the file. When it comes to sex, Elizabeth knows what to do.

2. While it has been documented that KGB agents stationed in this country married innocent and unsuspecting females during the cold war, I doubt that any of them did so while maintaining their own marriage with their KGB counterparts. The marriage between Clark and Martha is the most unbelievable part of the story. It is hard to believe that the FBI would hire and employ anybody as dumb as Martha. What does Martha think Clark is doing when he is not there?

3. Nina is hot! She could recruit any red blooded American males (and some females) to become Soviet agents.

4. Sandra will have an affair with somebody. The stage has been set.

5. I hope Brad loses his virginity in Episode 5!

6. We can all joy the show, because we know the ending! America wins the cold war!
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Mar 20, 2014
I have the feeling Martha is going to tell "Clark" she put his name in a form application for the Federal government and he'll just disappear, and when the FBI interrogates her she'll finally get the picture, that she knows nothing about her "husband." And she'll feel very stupid.

It's perfectly OK for parents to bring up their children without any organized religion, and even advise them against following that path. The problem with the Jennings is that they don't seem to have a legitimate reason to do that, and all of Elizabeth's arguments seem absurd. She won't convince anybody with her "people's opium" speech.

Besides, in order to contrast godless Communists and god-fearing free, democratic people, the show is trying to make the atheistic point of view as ridiculous as possible. But they could have a heart-to-heart conversation with Paige explaining why they think organized churches are organizations full of problems and do more harm than good.

And there's another reason why Paige wants to join a church: because it provides a sense of community the Jennings always tried to sabotage in order to avoid prying eyes upon their family. But they have to realize that's inevitable and Paige will develop deeper social attachments, and they have to be ready for that.

Oleg is a nice addition to the cast. He's certainly much better than that Vlad the Impaler kid. He's a wild card, and we still don't know if he'll be a friend or foe of Nina's.

I was just wondering, can that car be traced back to the Jennings? it would have been an amateur move if that were the case. They wouldn't use the family car on a mission, right? But at least now Phil has a legitimate excuse to buy a new car.

It's fun how the show perverts the notions of good and evil. I was rooting for their mission to work, but that would mean sending an apparently good man (Anton) back to hell (the USSR) and of course he doesn't deserve that.
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Mar 20, 2014
1. Elizabeth described her rape from the pilot and what happened afterwards. That was really painful to watch. I agree Elizabeth is shaken. She's not well.

2. I don't trust Claudia.

3. I loved "religion is opium for the masses" part - Elizabeth, Marks, Engels and Lenin would be so proud of you.

4. Martha needs to die. The sooner the better.

5. I would love Arkady and Nina to become a pair - though it probably won't happen.

6. I prefered Paige when she was snooping. As a Christian she won't be peeping her parents.

Thanks for review, Ryan!
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Mar 20, 2014
Enjoyed your comment.
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Mar 20, 2014
This show. Man this show is good.

What is worse than a KGB undercover agent keeping track of a teenage girl? Bible thumpers (no offense to the christians on here). Hilarious. I too am not convinced that that is all Kelli is. But it is funny. And Paige saying grace at dinner and Phillip and Elizabeth's look. Priceless. Paige defying her parents with this is going to be a great plot. It incenses Elizabeth. And it is going to further drive the wedge between the two of them. But the kicker is going to be when Paige tries to drag Henry with her. That might be a line she might not want to step over with Elizabeth. It is one thing defying someone and they have no control over you. It is another trying to pull a son away from his mother. Paige might get a harsh lesson that neither she is ready to receive and Elizabeth might not be fully ready to give. And that might reveal more than Paige's snooping ever could.

Oleg, Oleg is a wild card. They could go so many ways with him. They could connect him and Nina. He could make a play for Arkady's position. He could very well become the US's mole in the Russian Embassy. Arkady was right, he has too many American traits, and he is way too ambitious about many things, his job, Nina, power. With that would be money. He is the type of person that not only if approached by the US that would likely accept an role for them but he would enjoy the money and more than that he would enjoy putting one over on his comrades, being the smartest guy in the room. He could very well become an agent for the US. But what he doesn't seem able to contend with is Nina. He might become an agent of the US. But Nina is the one that could very well figure that out and beat him. I kind of like that his role has yet to be determined and that it is kind of up in the air at the moment.

Martha, if she did put Phillips name as spouse, just signed her death warrant. Her taking her new job puts her in the not needed list and she knows Phillip's face. Her reasoning was more drunken and angry than actual. She is already committing perjury by not telling her job that she was married. She was pissed, she was drunk and more than likely it isn't going to cost Phillip he is too smart. It is going to kill her.

Beeman screwed up. Never ever talk about your affairs not even to your friends. Too many people know, too many people can screw you. Plus Phillip can now hold it over him. And that day is coming.

The end. Damn this show has some good fight choreography. As for the agents that they fought, they are agents, they are not American agents. If they were then they would have had backup and Phillip and Elizabeth would have been arrested. My guess agrees with you, since the physicist is of Jewish descent then my guess is that they are Mossad.

Now as for Elizabeth's reaction. She screwed up. This is what Claudia was talking about. She had the agent beaten with a couple of shots with the trunk. She should have went for a leg to go for a mechanical damaging shot, disengaged and covered Phillip. But her repeating the blow wasn't about Paige, well not directly Paige and her defiance. It was about the fear that Claudia was speaking of. Her reaction was entirely based on her dealing with her new found fear poorly. It is a rookie mistake and one that she couldn't afford to make. And it cost them, it cost them the physicist, it cost them the car and likely since there was a shot fired it might put them on the radar of the police and then the FBI.

Absolutely fantastic episode.
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Mar 21, 2014
But if the thugs were Mossad - wouldn't they have kicked their asses entirely?
Great comment, especially what you wrote about Oleg and Elizabeth.
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Mar 21, 2014
Not necessarily. At that level hand to hand combat is won generally with a single mistake by your opponent. Both the man and the woman made mistakes and Phillip and Elizabeth capitalized on it. And then Phillip made the mistake of not incapacitating her once he won so that she could get up and do what she did. Elizabeth's mistake is what I covered.

However, in reality there is no way the female agent would have gotten that close to Philip with the gun, she should have just shot them. Taken the Physicist out of the truck, tossed Phillip and Elizabeth in and drove them to a lake somewhere and driven the car in.
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Mar 21, 2014
With silencers of course.
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Mar 21, 2014
But of course.
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Mar 20, 2014
Normally I get to watch this show without any distractions, but I babysat my neighbor's kid, so I didn't even get to see the whole thing. grrr

I hope Claudia is being sincere. Elizabeth and Phillip don't need anyone pretending to be their ally right now.
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Mar 20, 2014
Such a great episode.
-That ending with Elizabeth slamming the guy's hand was hilarious to watch.
-Philip can be so bloody scary when angry. But that part with the hair in the sink was somehow also hilarious.
-You're not alone, I'm totally team Oleg as well. I really like the way the actor is portraying him and his scenes with Nina sizzle.
-Granny!

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Mar 20, 2014
After that fight, they definitely need a new car :-)

And I really loved the irony of Elizabeth's rant about indoctrination.
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Mar 21, 2014
Ugh, Elizabeth. And at the end of the show I bet it's her turning sides because of the kids or a final eye-opener...
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Mar 21, 2014
Or they end the series with a trip to Disneyland
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Mar 20, 2014
- Aww yeah a cliffhanger so early in the season! How to dig themselves out of that hole? At least the male agent didn't get away.

- Plenty of lol moments with the Jennings' eye-rolling at Paige's church hijinks. The best part was Elizabeth's rant in the car (OF COURSE she would be the one quoting Marx on "opiate of the masses") and Philip's bland solution: "Let's eat later tomorrow. We ate early today. You won't want to say grace so much when you're hungry."

- Oleg: "I'm being sincere." Nina: "The strain must be terrible."
Zing! Nina wins that round.

-Philip listening to country music at the start was just a perfect callback to his interests.
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