The Americans "Safe House" Review: Beeman Knows Best

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The Americans S01E09: "Safe House"

Resident skirt-chaser Agent Amador found himself on the wrong end of his own switchblade this week, while Phillip moved out of the Jennings homestead as part of a trial separation. However, it was Stan Beeman who was cast deepest into a sea of emotional turmoil, as "Safe House" focused on further dismantling the straight-laced agent's already isolated life. Shady workplace ethics, the loss of a partner, and the abandonment of his romantic confidant all swirled together in a final violent gesture that opened in a new, even lonelier chapter of the FBI agent's story. By losing a minor character in Amador, this ninth episode added a major layer to the already complex KGB parallel, blurring the fuzzy lines that determine who The Americans is really about.

Finding Amador was part of Stan Beeman’s job, but sporadic flashbacks into some laughs the two once shared suggested a more personal motivation. For a man who spent three years undercover as a fake person, can’t talk about work to his family, and is carrying on a romance that might just be a spy game, a partner like Amador is/was the closest thing Beeman has to a friend. Tragically, the most basic aspects of Amador's life pulled double-duty as clues to his whereabouts: For the first time, Stan saw his home, called out for him as "Chris," and voyeuristically learned of his missing partner’s family through a voicemail. Though at this point in the episode Amador wasn’t yet dead, his absence illustrated the context a living person gives to otherwise inanimate objects. Just like a parked car free of fingerprints, in losing Amador, Stan risked losing the meaning that his partner provided him. He risked losing the chance to be the most honest part of himself (the part that goofs off about enchiladas and "pussy").

That being said, it was still super-nuts surprising when the normally even-keeled fed poetically served Vlad a last meal of All-American Cheeseburger with a Side of Head Wound. On the one hand, he may have just been proving a point to the KGB, demonstrating the seriousness of U.S. threats; on the other, the gesture had to be at least somewhat personal, given the fond context of his nostalgic flashbacks. Unfortunately, the same dramatic irony that ruins the lives of characters like Vlad and Amador also makes for great TV. On a show where intel is basically spy-bucks, and the audience gets paid first, it's all I can do every Wednesday to shout at my JVC LCD phrases like, "He seriously doesn’t know anything!" and "They think the KGB stole Amador, but it was all a misunderstanding!" Then I sit down, stop my dog from barking, and take the advice of Elizabeth Jennings, who claimed, "It's all for best." To which I quote Paige, when she replied "For who?"

"For who?" indeed. Is it for the best when Beeman cheats on his wife to help America? Is it for the best when Phillip and Elizabeth lie to their children on a daily basis about being spies? Is it for the best when nations assume a singular best for multitudes of individual dependent citizens? Is it for the best when I tell friends and loved ones to ignore their own personal apprehensions about The Americans and its pitch-ready premise, and instead watch because this show expertly makes the soldiers on the frontline the same normal people they fight for in order to discuss the effects of war on the family unit? From the FBI planning a covert hit in the comfort of a home BBQ to little Henry forced to expound on the details of the American Revolution ("America won.") to Amador being cared for like a sick child by two real-married-fake-in-love-real-separated people in disguise, a case can be made that if the ones being fought for were the same as those who fought, war and comfort would become one and the same. Possibly, not for the best.        

Down to its title, "Safe House" highlighted the need for danger and uncertainty in defining happier opposites. A safe house is nothing without a threat, just like a war is nothing without a way of life to protect. 


ADDITIONAL INTEL

– Now the only "loose threads" in each organization are Nina and Martha. Wonder if Beeman will stick his neck out for the former, now that Gaad's talking about closing the book.

– Had to laugh a jaded laugh when Martha asked "Clark" "Is this real?" Hmm, where do we start?

– In honor of Amador I’ve changed my outgoing voicemail to "If I’m not working, then I’m out having a ball."

– "I'm not your friend, friend."

– "My work is my life and my life is my art." Actors beware, if you get a bunch of cool quotes, your character might be dying that episode.

– Arkady hurt his hand on a potato and Vlad hurt his brain on a burger.

– If home life was hard for Beeman before, having killed someone is definitely going to make him way more distant.

– Earlier today, Noah Emmerich held a conference call with reporters to discuss Beeman's big episode. Here's what he said!

What'd you think of "Safe House"?

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