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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"

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 4/22/2015

Season 3 : Episode 13

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