The Americans "The Clock" Review: Time to Care

The Americans S01E02: “The Clock”

This week it was Elizabeth Jennings' turn to experience parental misgivings—spy-style—as she and Phillip took on a risky, last-minute assignment that had the usual go-getter sobered by the reality of potentially orphaning her children. As Tim mentioned in his review of the series premiere, The Americans came programmed with a killer number of story options, and "The Clock" managed to touch on most of them (no flashbacks this time around, though). With all the initial moving parts established, we got a thematic companion piece to the first episode, with the Jennings essentially swapping roles: Phillip matter-of-factly rolled up his sleeves in preparation for cold-hearted civilian death, while Elizabeth experienced a newfound pity for the mark and then transformed it into a doting mother’s love.

Ironically, from what little we’ve seen of Phillip and Elizabeth so far, the two representatives of an allegedly oppressed nation are more romantically progressive than their suburban American counterparts. They both engage in extramarital sexual activity as part of the gig, and it seems to be working out just fine for them. It’s an arrangement that, if ever questioned, puts them in opposition to Mother Russia. So it’s accepted—or at least ignored. Of course, that all may be changing: Tonight we witnessed Elizabeth's light grilling of Phillip about his steamy, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense contact. Totally wife-like. Add to that Mr. Jennings’ trachea-collapsing fury over Elizabeth’s past assault, and it's likely these two lovebirds will give way to traditional possession the more they open up to one another during each mission.

Speaking of which, I appreciated the clear objective here: A conversation about national defense was imminently going to take place and the Jennings needed to rig a clock in order to hear the juicy details. If Phillip’s reluctance to pull off said mission on such short notice is the "weakness" Elizabeth mentioned last week, then this episode saw her understanding the source of his cautiousness. As soon as Phillip slammed Viola up against that wall, it wasn't just the housekeeper's framed paintings that shook; Elizabeth saw her values knocked off balance as well. What if it was her family being poisoned with a "Bulgarian umbrella"?

Which brings up the essential conflict of the Jennings' relationship. How does compartmentalizing the murdery part of one’s life sync up with an otherwise wholesome facade? Granted, no one was killed this episode, but Viola’s son came pretty darn close to dying, and Phillip not only distanced himself from the responsibility ("Will you let me help you and your family get through this?") but actively criticized this lady’s belief in God ("People who believe in God always make the worst targets."). That’s a heck of a lot different than just using quiet brute force to get the job done. He seemed genuinely bothered by Viola’s religious devotion. Whether the housekeeper’s spirituality rankled him on a personal level or stood as minor frustrating obstacle, we at least know a little more about the Jennings (atheists! Travel agents!).

But still, as spies, can they be any kind of good parents when behind the scenes they’re threatening the lives of innocents? Or is the murdery part the real facade, and deep down The Americans are true suburbanites looking to shake off the shackles of espionage? It’s the genius of the show that keeps these two aspects in active balance, and that conflict will need to be presented in increasing discussion so as not to favor one side over another and settle on an answer. For the time being, though, it’s looking like Elizabeth doesn’t want to deal with such questions. Believing that "Henry would adjust to anything," in her absence, but Paige was "...delicate somehow," Elizabeth’s resolve to go down in a hail of bullets rather than deal with the torture of having her kids taken away smacks of a person who’s had their value system cracked. Lucky for us, that meant she stayed behind, and we were treated to another jaw-dropping fight sequence that gave new meaning to the phrase “broken home.” (See, because a bunch of crap got broken in a hom— oh nevermind).

One element that continues to be surprisingly entertaining is how plain and alluring suburban life appears in and of itself, rife with father/son night hockey, neighbor beers, streets named "Golden Meadow Lane." Positioned against the high-stakes world of spy games, though, this planned neighborhood functions as a different thing to different characters. To Phillip and Elizabeth it’s a cover, but to deep cover veteran FBI agent Stan Beeman it's a foreign nuisance, one that makes him restless. It's a place he sees as a continued battlefield in the war on American life, and these mixed-up associations are resulting in some of the most dramatically ironic, tense conversations since Breaking Bad’s Hank and Walter: On the surface, Stan and Phillip share a chummy interaction, but deep down there’s a psychological chess match happening, which neither wants to acknowledge.

Last episode ended with Elizabeth and Phillip bonding over details of their former lives, and it's fitting that this one wrapped up with a similarly sweet moment: husband surprising wife with some expensive caviar (like "Russian embassy" expensive) after a job well done. The tender gesture was soiled, however, with Elizabeth's admission of shell-shock, sending her right back into concerned family member territory. While both the FBI and KGB celebrated advancements against each other, she was happiest to see one more restful suburban night, even though it came at the expense of another family’s peace. Such is the dark underbelly of the American Dream: Sometimes you have to step on others to achieve it.



ADDITIONAL INTEL


– Phillip's blonde contact is ultimately a liability, but for one fleeting moment she described his domestic fantasy, which must be frustrating to no end.

– Discord among the superiors in the KGB, but what about the FBI?

– Damn, no rad '80s jams, unless you count the one playing in "MODERN HIFI." What song was that?

– It was touching, and tragic, the way Elizabeth rattled Paige out of bed for an impromptu ear-piercing session. Paige might be tougher than her mom thinks.

– Action choreography is a hard art to pull off and so far the physical quarrels in The Americans have been brutal and organic.

– Agent Beeman’s small aside about Agent Amador’s minority status—could race be the wedge that drives these FBI partners apart?

– As a family man, Phillip knows the quickest motivator is a threatened loved one. Let's hope this doesn't backfire.

– The man in the stereo shop was sporting a damn good look.


What'd you think of this episode?

Comments (54)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
This is my favourite episode of the first six, and not because of anything to do with the clock assignment.

I like how Phil is sharing the caviar with Beeman and pretending not to love it. "Oh WOW. [pause] It's so salty." Then they hold each other's eye.

I also like Keri Russell's delivery when Phil is developing a photo of the blonde bombshell and Elizabeth says "You didn't tell me she looked like that." Phil claims that he did tell her. "Not like THAT," says Keri, slightly jealously.

In the opening scene, Phil is having sex with the blonde bombshell, but there are flashes of Elizabeth, showing that Phil is really thinking about her. There is a lot of fondness between Elizabeth and Phil in this episode, and I hope he gets his girl.
Reply
Flag
Folks you might think this is cheesy, but it is set in the early 1980’s during the Reagan era. High tech at the time was a comador64 (that’s a 64 megabit) computer. Cassette tape players were around for about 5 years and sex was free because aids and STD risks were low, the use of the “honey trap” was a common ploy. In the military intelligence world of the 1970’s and 1980’s it was a lot like what you see on this show. I remember all the Intel and Counter Intel guys running around in Germany doing a lot of what you see in this show. We had 250,000 (and 2 million reserve and active total worldwide) soldiers stationed in Europe and the threat was the USSR, not just Russia we always watched for the SMLM (Soviet Military Liaison Mission from the Russian Embassy) guys because they were always trying to recruit GI’s.
My point is “high tech” in the 1980’s was nothing compared to today; a spy had to rely on cunning, intelligence and the ability to lie and remember the lie. Also for those of you who say the FBI agent is a racist, well back then there was no race card. People were up front about how they felt and in your face, PC was BS. And the god cop bad cop was a common tactic because you couldn’t do anything about the cops or feds slapping folks around.
The music was a great fit because they were the top bands at the time. Overall this was a lot like I remembered.

More+
4
Reply
Flag
For me, the religious aspect of this episode was interesting but most of the comments seem to be misinterpreting it.
The woman wasn't hesitant to do what Phillip asked because she thought God would miraculously save her. Instead, as a person of faith she holds to a moral code which is very, very important, to the point where she would rather die than betray that moral code. If it had been her who was poisoned, I have no doubt she would have died, especially considering her relationship with the people she was betraying. Having to give her son's life, however, would have been too much, and even though she knew what she was doing wasn't right....well, it just goes to show that a mother will do anything for her child.
Phillip was rattled because he knew how strict her morals would be and not because her faith bothered him on a personal level.
4
Reply
Flag
"On the surface, Stan and Phillip share a chummy interaction, but deep down there's a psychological chess match happening, which neither wants to acknowledge."

Yes. You nailed it! That sums it up perfectly! Great review btw! :)

-Blondie is going to be a liability in the long run. I can see it now. Sex has always been integral to any good spyin but it is fun seeing that ever since Phillip killed her rapist and they bonded over disposing of the body and talking about their former life, there is a closeness that she, at least, didn't have with him before. So I loved how she was somewhat interrogating him about his asset.
- I thought the religion thing was interesting too. He was genuinely rattled with Viola's faith. It bothered him to his core. It's one thing to be atheist, but his response appeared to be deeper rooted and on some sort of personal level, a personal loathing, so it had me curious as to what that was all about as well. It's interesting because he's the one that is losing faith in what they're doing as it is.
-I caught the affirmative action line Agent Beeman made too. It wasn't a witty little harmless race joke that is made in the everyday life or on shows just to get a chuckle. It did seem...interesting. You add that to his assessment of Phillip. The talk about Russian caviar, and the way he was scrutinizing him for playing hockey with his son, a dominant Russian sport at the time. He likes to box people in, snap judgments etc. If that wasn't evidenced by his sneaking into their garage in the pilot, or his wife calling him out on his suspicion of everyone. His snap judgments will most likely get him into trouble.
-It was great seeing Elizabeth be more maternal, because I was under the impression in the pilot that she didn't seem as family oriented as Phillip. I thought her use of "delicate" to describe her daughter was an interesting word choice. I don't think her fear is that her daughter wouldn't be able to function well if they were gone. I think her fear is that her daughter is too immersed into this American life and that she wouldn't understand their lifestyle or the motherland. Their son does seem as though he can easily adapt if his interest is piqued. I think she projects her own fears on her daughter because of things that have happened to her. I loved the scene with her piercing her ear though.
- They are both such amazing characters to watch, but I must say as much as I'm loving Elizabeth and Keri Russell's portrayal of her...I find Phillip to be the most interesting character in the series. He's soft and hard...he hates doing things, but he gets the job done. He flips from compassionate to calculating in the blink of an eye if necessary but even when he's calculated there is a warmth there. I don't know how to quite describe it, but it's so interesting to watch.
More+
2
Reply
Flag
I disagree with your interpretation of the faith thing. He was bothered because religious people are inherently irrational. His logic was straightforward - do as I say and your son will live. The mother, however, introduced an entirely illogical aspect - my god will save me. You can't deal with people like that on a rational basis, so his plan looked like going down the drain.
2
Reply
Flag
I had to laugh when I saw that little tape recorder in the back of the car. It hadn't much tape on it, it would run out of tape in less than 10 minutes, so I guess some one was changing tapes all day?
I also noticed two mistakes of the director: When Philip was mad about the maid not placing the clock back, he didn't close the door, but when he left it was closed. Also when Elizabeth was about to pierce her daughters ear, the needle pushed out a drop of blood just before the needle was hitting the ear.

It's fun to watch a series so low tech. Most shows make you believe everything is possible in the world of electronics, but in this show there are no computers, cellphones and stuff like that. It's fun.
Reply
Flag
I think this episode confirmed that The Americans is not only a strong show but also one of the best new show of the season. It's like watching a "not-boring Homeland". A spy show full of energy that knows where it's going and in which actors don't feel like they have to overplay and be excessive to be good. It's smart and it's humble in the same time.
6
Reply
Flag
The writers came up with a character that is fascinating without being saddled with mental illness as a plot and character crutch. What a novel approach.
1
Reply
Flag
I am really enjoying the subtle acting on this show. (Don't watch Homeland, so can't comment there, but I've seen the parodies). Matthew Rhys is doing great with the little moments that say a lot, like listening to Elizabeth have sex with that guy in the 1st episode or the look on his face after the blackmail ordeal ended. They *told* you he hated doing such a high-risk mission, but Rhys *showed* it, and that mastery of "show, don't tell" is the mark of a great TV show that can rely on talented actors and won't have to voice every little angle in the dialogue.
3
Reply
Flag
Brilliant.
1
Reply
Flag
I love this series, my favorite new series this year.
1
Reply
Flag
Starting to have "Terriers" flashbacks. I see trouble in the water for this new F/X drama. This is a very interesting, original idea and it sucks to see the large dip the ratings took from the premier. I'm worried ratings are going to continue to slide rather than jump. Hopefully I'll be wrong but this seems like a ride you need to be on from the start so how many viewers can it pick up or bring back? Is there reason for worry this early? Most Americans are a very Nationalistic - sometimes absurdly so - group. This show requires the viewer to at times root for characters that are acting in opposition to their tin-pot god Ronald Reagan and a lot of people still have mythologically inflated ideas about Ronald Reagan they don't want spoiled.

These "Jennings" are fascinating - glad Keri Russell didn't take a network job - they must have been lining up when she decided to return to television. She is doing a great job. Its really fascinating work playing the conflicted spy/mother and she is doing so well. Can't wait to meet Margo Martindale's character - maybe "Mags" can bring some viewers to the party. Fingers crossed .
More+
2
Reply
Flag
I imagine it has more to do with simple patriotism than any views about Ronald Reagan. I'm not surprised this show can make a significant portion of the general public uncomfortable, and I'm not old enough to remember much politics, policies, or public figures from that era.
Reply
Flag
I'M PISSED OFF ABOUT THE LOW-RATINGS OF THIS EPISODE! I MEAN WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!? THIS IS MATTHEW RHYS AT HIS FINEST!!
6
Reply
Flag
I gotta admit Americans is a campy show that requires good metabolism for implausibility and improbability, and demands rubber suspension of disbelief of its viewers.
1
Reply
Flag
Strangely enough, I don't feel any sympathy for any of the characters - except for the FBI guy (Stan Beeman). Both lead characters seem wooden and somewhat hollow - and the always dead serious look of Elizabeth makes it hard for me to "bond" with any of them. Does anybody share the same estranged feeling of distance? (Even though the series' start hasn't been bad, I don't really seem to care about its lead characters...- something that for example "Breaking Bad" or "Homeland" or "Boss" mastered right from the start...)
1
Reply
Flag
I'm a little under the weather, so I found the story a tad confusing, but the fight scene between spy-guy & victim's uncle was very nicely choreographed IMO. My fav character so far is the FBI guy.
1
Reply
Flag
Oh I hate him! But in a love-to-hate, not a he's-written-terribly, way.

I've loved the fight scenes too--they seem gritty and realistic, rather than overblown and ridiculous like so many shows seem to feel they need.
1
Reply
Flag
I absolutely love the "Breaking Bad" feel to the show right now.
Reply
Flag
Another really good episode. There hasn't been an OH SHIT! kind of moment on the show yet, but obviously, it's only been two episodes... and I don't need for this show to be like Homeland, hehe. So far anyway, the show has shown really good pacing and despite only being two episodes in, it looks quite polished and comfortable with the tone and perspective they want to work with. I like that this episode better solidified the FBI side of things, having Stan and his fellow feebs work cases and do things not directly related to the Jennings; and I hope the writers continue to approach the show in this way, rather than having him just be a bothersome neighbor.
3
Reply
Flag
I think this one was more about action and mission than about family. There weren't that many family scenes in 2 episode. Few of them were weak especially when Elizabeth said I love u to her daughter. It was not that convincing, too "for the sake of some sort of emotion".
Plot was highly implausible (but it is FX, no wonder). It was clear that this simplistic plot was for the sake of tension (as for the sake of tension were Viola's actions to not put clock first time in place, why we need this repetition? coz they didn't have enough to say if Viola would put clock at the first try). It's unbelievable that Viola didn't call the cops after her encounter with moustache creep (who happened to be our Phillip). It's unbelievable that she didn't thrown boiled water into Phillip's face or smack it with frying pan when he fought her brother. It was far out of reality, out of solid drama reality. No way russian profy spies would do such drastic stupid thing as to poison charwoman's son and then threatened her in her apartment and make her steal clock for them. It's more like some unstable criminal's way of thinking and acting or crackhead but not professional spy who lived undercover almost decade in enemy's country.
And it was NO SUPRISE that russian spies have been atheists and that Phillip have been puzzled by Viola's beliefs. USSR was atheistic country, no one believes in God in those times in Russia. I gotta admit that was one good point for series' creators.
Another problem for me was that we didn't get any explanation how FBI got on tail of that fine russian Embassy lady (or I should say caviar smuggler lady?) and how did Phillip manage to recruit sexy blonde chick to spy for him? He told her about his spy job? Why is he so careless about it? Telling some chicks that he's spy?
More+
1
Reply
Flag
I don't agree about the "unbelievable" parts of the story you point out. I think it would have been unbelievable that she called the cops because it would have threaten the life of her child and not a lot of mother would put the life of her child at risk (in fact the moment where she refuses to put back the clock is in my opinion the only unbelievable moment of the episode). As for the fact that their plan is too "drastic" I suggest you read spy memoirs or spy novels written by ex-spies or based on their testimony. You'll see that such kind of plan is far from being impossible and that they were sometime involved in plans far more twisted than that.
2
Reply
Flag
I doubt professional spies would have acted like these two. It's FX what to expect? It's TV, so implausible parts are to always expected. But in here it is too much. It was clear that this contrived plot of immediate action was made purely for the sake of immediate action despite realness. Sorry but I don't see here a point in all these drastic actions only sake of tension. Plus two main characters evoke no sympathy for me. Such in a way unbelievable premise is already enough to surrender. We need more solid work (polt-wise, character actions-wise) to convince us that is "can be" situation. In a way it is a campy guilty pleasure show and in that way I can swallow it.
Reply
Flag
Addressing your feelings that Elizabeth's "I love you" to her daughter was just for "the sake of some sort of emotion" I think what we are witnessing is exactly that - except not how you meant it.

Elizabeth is beginning to grow emotionally and open up to her husband and children. She is trying to show the emotion that she has been suppressing for years. It was a little awkward, and her daughter felt that too. It's not that Elizabeth has only just begun to love her daughter - she (probably) always has. But she has been living the job and the job requires her to tell her daughter that she loves her 3.2 times a day. She is trying to be less "spy who's cover is a normal mother" and more "mother first/spy second", but she isn't very good at it yet, so we get awkward forced I love you's and ear piercing ambushes.

4
Reply
Flag
It was rather contrived I love you scene and unnecessarily one. It didn't convince me of what you think it was meant for. I don't know what purpose of that scene was. that's the problem. It was for sake of emotion but I didn't feel anything in this particular scene. Russel's character rather emotionless and detached. Two of them don't provoke any sympathy at all. Even flashback of assault didn't do it for me. But anyway it's small detail. Implausible actions and plot are concerning me more.
Reply
Flag
Staff
Don't think Phillip let her in on his spy status. Think he wooed her with his Swedish alias and charm. Someone made a point last week that all of TV is coincidence, so I can believe that Viola's fearfulness coincided with Phillip's violent confidence.
Reply
Flag
Staff
This comment has been removed.
Reply
Flag
I am really liking this show. I think it is being done very well and is leaving a lot up to the interpretation of the viewer. Like the religious aspect. I didn't see that as disgust of her religion. I saw it as more a obstacle to overcome, and a very difficult obstacle. If you look at it like a cult, the cult leader has to break a follower to the point where they see that the only salvation is through them, not their previous beliefs. The woman's faith in god allowed her to alleviate the situation in her mind and the psychology that Phillip tried to instill in her initially that the only way her son was going to get better is through him. If she didn't truly believe that, she wasn't going to replace the clock. And I liked that aspect.

I also liked the relationship between Elizabeth and Paige, Elizabeth was right with her son, he is like Phillip, because Phillip can act like who he is, he is the man in the relationship and they are adhering to the archetype of the era, where the man is in charge and the woman is secondary. So Elizabeth has to not act like she really is, she is really the woman that kicked the car door pissed and the one that whupped the defected agent. She is having a hard time relating to Paige, because she doesn't feel she has conveyed to her what she should really be like. And I like that aspect of the show. Elizabeth is the strong one in the relationship, she is the more professional. She once again used physical contact on Phillip when he was questioning the mission when she took his hand. It is very subtle and again something that I like.

And I really like Agent Beeman and the actor is doing a great job. He is exuding the confidence that someone that spent a long time undercover would. And his quip about how Amador is a minority, I don't think that is going to be a wedge driven through him. I think it was Beeman merely stating a fact. In the 80's that was 20 years after President Lyndon Johnson's Executive Order of Affirmative Action, and in the 80's you still had a the quiet quotas of the federal government, and he was right, Amador could get away with way more things than he would be able to. And his recruiting of the Embassy worker was great. I wonder how long he and Phillip and Elizabeth are going to be circling each other until he realized who they might be.

All of this mixed with the bit of action and tenseness of some of the scenes are really just done well. This is the way to do it. The show has me as a viewer for as long as it is on. But then I liked Terriers and we all know what happened to that.
More+
5
Reply
Flag
Terriers!!! ;-)
3
Reply
Flag
Staff
Wow, really great point about gender roles playing a factor during that era. Just one more layer for Elizabeth to have adhere to, and maybe we'll get more of that should she interact with Mrs. Beeman. Also, by all means let's get some motherhood struggles in here. Who knows what direction this show will take, but the correlation between a citizen's national parent in a country, and the child-guardian relationship in an individual family could yield some ripe commentary.
1
Reply
Flag
This show is highly entertaining, but I feel as though I should like the leads more than I do. Methinks there's a little too much anti in the anti-hero sauce. I want to see them fail, even though such failure would limit the storytelling possibilities. My weird vestigial 3rd grade patriotism at work, I guess.

If the ability to generate internal conflict is the hallmark of dramatic prowess, this show is pretty frakkin great.
1
Reply
Flag
Huh. I guess I'm the opposite. I actually want to see Phillip and Elizabeth succeed! I find them much more likable than the FBI agents, even though I shouldn't.
Reply
Flag
Staff
This comment has been removed.
Reply
Flag
I trusted that the level of quality would continue and I was not disappointed. Yay! Anyway, I LOVE where they're going with the emotional stuff between themselves, their children and their targets. After the tension in the beginning episode, we saw the united parenting/espionage front, with just the slightest pause in the "in the event of capture" discussion.
-Last week, Elizabeth knelt down for some intel, and this week sees Phillip turning it around. What's interesting this time though, is that his contact is "in love" with him. With his confliction last episode, this, as you said, will prove problematic going forward, all the more so because he DOES want that happy suburban ending deep down. This will likely prove difficult for Phillip as he both wants to find a way to spare his contact's feelings because he knows exactly how she feels and still to complete the mission for Mother Russia. More emotional conflict like this, please! (On this show, as well as others that could learn a lesson or two.)
-Oh, I definitely think we'll see some arguments among the FBI. More than that, though, I look forward to seeing FBI Agent Stan Beeman's discomfort in the suburbs combined with his, as Phillip and Elizabeth worried over, uncannily accurate hunches. Let's not forget, he's new to DC and has already made a real splash at headquarters with his new CI in addition to his hunch about the Jennings, which, though he was disproven, we know was 100% spot on with essentially NO evidence whatsoever.
-Bring on "Jessie's Girl", and American song if ever there was one. I can also get behind some Kenny Rogers, or even Neil Diamond's "America" was 1981 (I think).
-The piercing was great, and an extremely regular mother-daughter bonding moment. I know it might get too challenging to weave them successfully into all of the plots, but I really hope that the kids' presence on the show remains this noticeable. They serve as wonderful foils for all of the emotion and secrecy. Love it.
-I agree, the fights have been great. What's more is this: The administering of the poison. So beautiful; the bumbershoot injection. So many spy shows/movies these days rely on super top notch, the top 1% of the 1% slight of hand skills. Picking the pockets of multiple people inside of a minute, planting devices all over the place in mid-stride, etc... This was simple work, carry a bunch of stuff and trip near the guy and as he moves to help/avoid stepping on your stuff, stab him and claim it was an accident. Not everyone can do everything. Thank you, show.
-Possibly could be the race thing... on the other hand, I feel like that was just used for this scene and an appropriate and reasonable use of the time period and a pragmatic take on reality.
-As I mentioned above, I think this will backfire. And it could be great. Looking forward to it.
-No comment.
More+
3
Reply
Flag
Staff
What keeps me liking Phillip and Elizabeth are the couple's good parenting examples and tenderness towards one another. It'd be different if the Beemans were the "Joneses," all outshining them at every turn, but so far, with such limited comparison the Jennings are the most loving family on the block. Also the underdog aspect. Who among us hasn't been in the minority in one way or another. Fiction let's us see past national ballistic defense systems and root for the individual. But yes, I do agree that the leads are on the line of likability.
1
Reply
Flag
I was afraid that the second episode will ruin what we saw in the pilot. Fortunately, it didn't.

What I really like about "The Americans" is the fact that it's a show about love. Elizabeth and Phillip do terrible things for KGB, true. However they main concern is what will happen to their children if Americans catch them or if they refuse to carry out an order of their superiors. They are caught between a rock and a hard place. And they do what they can to save their family from looming doom.

The scenes with children were very touching. We knew from the pilot that Phillip is very close with both Henry and Paige. Elizabeth seemed the distant one. However, in "The Clock" we learned that in fact she's desperate to bond with her daughter, knowing that she can lose her in a flash. I really liked how Elizabeth came to Paige's bed and offered to pierce her ears.

I'm starting to hate the FBI guy. He's a bastard. I'm quite sure he was one of Hoover's favorites (I understand the FBI guy worked in the bureau for at least 20 years - so that's possible). The way he came into the hi-fi shop without any warrant and abused the clerk gave me the creeps. Seems like civil rights are not that important to him.

Deputy Undersecretary of Defense girl is as good as dead. She said she wanted to have kids with Phillip. She became liability and a threat to his family. I'm sure she will end up in the river.

I'm positive that Elizabeth reciprocates Phillip's feelings. She took his hand in the car to comfort him and she was very happy when he made a surprise dinner for her. From the talk at the table we learned she really cares about him. If that's not love then I don't know what is it. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys have great chemistry. They're well-matched pair of actors.

I can't wait for the next episode.

Ryan - thanks for the review. I liked it.
More+
2
Reply
Flag
Staff
Thank you for your comments. Try as I might, I still can't help but love Agent Stan Beeman. Definitely the mark of a good villain. I don't approve of him violating civil rights, but from an audience standpoint, you want a threat with some personality. He's working for an institution just like the Jennings, and I can always get behind a capable individual with a flaw (his being his family - they ditched him for the movies!)
2
Reply
Flag
I agree, both groups work for institution.

However IMO there is a major difference between them - Jennings are good people working for bad guys. Agent Stan Beeman (aka the FBI guy) is a bad man working for good guys.

Jennings have doubts about their work and their superiors. Beeman thinks the end justifies the means and as long as he cathes to Soviets he can do whatever he wants.

Jennings have no choice. The life of their children depends on their loyalty to KGB. Beeman can always change his ways and be a better man. And that's why Jennings are the (anti-)heroes and Beeman is the villain I despise.
Reply
Flag
Beeman only threatened--who knows if he would of done anything to the soviet woman smuggling via diplomatic pouches--make threats to get someone to do what you want for your country--fine by me. The Jennings almost killed an innocent (I assume innocent) young man, threatened the mother with her sons life and her ENTIRE family's life for the rest of time, as well as broke the uncle's hand who was trying to protect his family.

Maybe I need to re-watch the show but I just saw Beeman playing an ass to do his job (protect americans) and the jennings seemed kind of "schizophrenic", not the best term, but they seemed to switch personalities...last episode she seemed cold to her family whereas he almost defected to america for his family...now he is the tough one and she is the softy. I'm overstating it--he has always been tough and so is she but the character's underlying motivation and actions seemed so different from the pilot.

Regardless, it is a great show.

The maid and her son, since he got the antidote, need to confess and then get relocated.

At the end are they referring to star wars (aka Strategic Defense Initiative )? yea!!
1
Reply
Flag
Totally agree with you both (somehow?). I wanted to punch Beeman during his scenes in the Hi-Fi store, but at the same time he's charismatic and intriguing. He kind of reminds me (very tangentially/loosely/almost not-really) of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer in season two--he was clearly super duper evil, but he was SO FUN to watch.

I like how you've put this, about the Jennings being good people working for bad guys (though "bad guys" only because, per our perspective on history, the KGB was the enemy, really, maybe), and Beeman a bad(-ish) man working for the "good" guys.
1
Reply
Flag
KGB and it's predecessors were incarnation of pure evil, trust me. I've been in The Museum of KGB (also known as The Museum of Genocide Victims) in Vilnius, Lithuania. It's hard to even describe what atrocities these monsters were doing. So they were always bad guys and not only because Soviet Union was an enemy of US.

As for Beeman the Hi-Fi scene was horrible. However, I think the scene in which he was blackmailing / threatening a secretary of Soviet Embassy was much worse. He said he would rat her on to Soviets who would put her into a labor camp (in which, knowing the history and customs of Soviet Union, she would be raped by guards on daily basis) I think only a true bastard and monster could make such threats. For me, Beeman is beyond any redemption.
Flag
My congrats to FX. THE AMERICANS has become another guilty pleasure.
3
Reply
Flag
Why is it a guilty pleasure? You shouldn't feel guilty about watching a quality show.
3
Reply
Flag
Awesome review! I am really digging this show. Obviously there was some come-down from the ridiculously good pilot, but for a follow-up episode, it was solid. I'm glad this show isn't (so far, and at least for the Jennings), making the plot TOO convoluted. It allows the writers to spend more time fleshing out the characters and their relationships, and also doesn't make me think, "Uh oh, this could really easily go the way of Lost." So far, it's a great example of how simple is often best.
2
Reply
Flag
Great review, Ryan, you definitely nailed the main points. One of the biggest changes I saw between the pilot and this episode was a structural one, and had to with how the show viewed the FBI and the KGB respectively. In the pilot, most of the focus was understandably on the Jennings, as we were introduced to both the family and espionage aspects of their lives. Stan, the FBI counter intelligence agent, moving in next door was presented primarily as a threat to the Jennings, though there were a few scenes that had nothing to do with his work, or his suspicion about his new neighbors. And even the initial conversations within the FBI dealt with their opinions about the possibility of Russian agents posing as American citizens, with families and everything. So most of the focus was on the Jennings family and on the concept of Russian spies pretended to be Americans.

This episode, however, did a lot more to split these two opposing sides apart, FBI and KGB, and give them each their own stories. Philip and Elizabeth got a new mission, one that seemed impossible. Stan and Chris got a mission of their own as well, and this one had almost to do with either the Jennings or Russian sleepers. So we got to see both sides do their thing, both quite successfully, though the Jennings had to handle a bit of a bumpy road, what with convincing a woman to betray her caring employers in order to save her son's life. I think it was a good choice for the show to have both the Jennings and the two FBI agents be pretty darn violent with their methods. The Jennings were obviously more violent and cruel on their mission than Stan and Chris were on theirs, but the two FBI agents were surprisingly violent when dealing with someone who could barely be called a suspect. So far at least, the show has done quite a bit to not choose a side between either America or Russia/the Soviet Union, and I applaud this decision. Because the truth is that both sides fought pretty dirty during the Cold War, and using this truth will serve to make the tensions surrounded loyalty--which the Jennings are already struggling with--all the more genuine and real to watch.

So the way I see it, this episode made the show more of a struggle between the characters on each opposing side of the Cold War, without as much of a blinding focus on the Jennings family. And if this episode is an indication of what is to come, then a normal episode of "The Americans" will feature both Philip and Elizabeth, as well as Chris and Stan, working on a new assignment/case, or picking up where they left off on an old one. Potentially this could make the show look something like "The Wire," In that there will be endearing, lovable characters on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and different people will root for different sides, with some rooting for both or neither. Also similar to "The Wire," these two sides will probably circle closer and closer to each other, especially now that the FBI has a mole in the Russian embassy.

I think this is a much better choice than making Stan be just a nosy neighbor, who has little to do on the show except constantly suspect the Jennings family, with the rest of the FBI only popping up when they're doing something that involves one of Elizabeth and Philip's missions. Because that wouldn't be nearly as good a show as "The Americans" is shaping up to be. I know that only two episodes have aired, but I'm already very excited about this show, more so than I have with any show for a while. Everything so far has clicked so well, and I do believe that if the show can sustain itself, and continue to push forward as it is currently doing, it could end up being something quite incredible.
More+
2
Reply
Flag
Staff
Good point about the mutual violence being employed on both sides. Because we see so much of the Jennings' home life, it's easy to forget that they are ALSO government agents. Odd, how as viewers a suit and a badge forgives a lot of misbehavior. Perhaps the difference lies in how upfront the FBI is about its intentions (though they do have undercover agents) and how mysterious the Jennings are in their mission.
Reply
Flag
To be fair to though, the Jennings were pretty up front with the housemaid, in that they said quite honestly: "do this one thing or your son will die." And while it took her a while to do that one thing, they were going to let son die otherwise, and in return for her taking and replacing the clock, they did give her son the antidote. Now Philip may have been lying about the poison only having one antidote that no one else could make, but the same could be said for Stan saying that his partner could beat that guy up as much as he wanted without being fired. And while Philip and Elizabeth never told that woman what they did with the clock, it was pretty obvious.

And the FBI weren't that upfront about their intentions in this episode. Sure, they told the guy in the store that they just wanted information about the girl, but they didn't actually tell him: "based on what you say we may or may not turn her into a spy." They gave him as little information as possible, and used as much intimidation and threats as possible, with some inventive violence thrown in. The Jennings's intentions, on the other hand, were pretty darn clear to that woman.

Still, I do see what you mean, since the FBI is an official organization with a headquarters and everything. Stan was even able to the Jennings that he was an FBI counter intelligence agent, and that their focus was on Russian spies. The Jennings, on the other hand, can't disclose their true occupation quite as freely. But if you consider the Jennings to be part of the KGB, then things become a lot more balanced. After all, Stan himself was a deep cover agent for several years, and he was still an FBI agent at the time. So it's more that Stan's current position in the organization he works for allows him to be more upfront and clear about his intentions, while the Jennings's current position in the organization they work for forces them to be more secretive about their true intentions.
More +
Reply
Flag
I agree and noticed the same thing regarding the bigger emphasis on the FBI side of things, particularly Stan. While I had no problem with the pilot, going forward, I think it'd be much better off if they continue this split in perspective.
Reply
Flag
And he hadn't even realized that the clock was missing for 2 days from his office. THE AMERICANS.
1
Reply
Flag
I wondered about that too, and that was really the only thing that bugged me about the episode. I can understand maybe not noticing the missing clock after one day, but two? Too convenient. I guess one can make the argument that the office isn't busy enough for anyone to notice, but uh, isn't the fact that the Russians want it bugged mean it's busy enough?
Reply
Flag
Staff
I'm okay chalking this one up to TV mechanics. I know I would notice a missing clock earlier than two days into the item's absence, but maybe that's why Phillip's agitation increased the longer the mission went on. He knew that the longer the clock was missing the bigger risk there was in being found out. At the same time, it is possible for a regular object to become so innocuous as to not be missed for a while, so I'll let the show have this one.
2
Reply
Flag
but not the damn clock :P Of course the senator (or whoever he was :P) had a wristwatch, but he would want to check time on it from time to time, wouldn't he? Even though everybody's got a cellphones now, I would notice if my clock was missing.

But ok, it is possible that he didn't notice, so that not a big problem.
Reply
Flag
With all respect to the show, so far, the two Jennings' kids have less personality than Chris Brody from Homeland. I mean, Chris is basically Dana compared to these two!
Reply
Flag
Staff
Man, people hate Dana so much she's making it into conversations about completely different shows. On that note, Paige and Henry exist as an innocence at stake, to be protected from knowledge of Phillip and Elizabeth's true nature, and from being used against their parents. I think the best route storytelling-wise is to have it played real. Certainly, it'd be a unique position for a child and teen to learn your parents were spies. But kids are impressionable. Maybe they'd be cool with it. I think there's a tendency for adult viewers to be less interested in child storylines, but there's still room for unique drama in youth.
2
Reply
Flag
I think I'd rather have boring kids. Dana is the worst
3
Reply
Flag
Darn it. I don't know why I keep making Homeland comparisons with this show. -____-
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook