Cloak and dagger and brownies
Meet Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) Jennings. Elizabeth seduces a high-level government official in a bad*ss blonde wig. With her husband, she runs around the mean streets of Washington, DC, capturing deadly assassins to the pounding tune of Fleetwood Mac‘s “Tusk.” These hardcore spies actually debate about whether or not to take their dying colleague to a hospital. They rush to the docks in order to deliver a prisoner to Mother Russia.
And then they go home. To the suburbs. This is “The Americans.” It’s all about that incredible.
What’s going on?
Elizabeth and Philip are members of the KGB’s Directorate-S, a secret spy program that places young and wholesome couples in the United States for decades. Once there, they conduct spy missions that no one could ever discover.
How does one become a super-secret spy sent to destroy American from the inside? In the case of Elizabeth, it means joining the KGB at a young age, getting raped by the man she would eventually stash in a car trunk and then getting an arranged marriage to a man she only knows as Philip.
There’s a reason that Elizabeth Jennings is a bit messed up.
Home, sweet home
How many suburban households have bondage equipment handy in the garage? Not just for their own personal use, I mean. Philip and Elizabeth do.
This is handy when they need to stash the assassin in their car trunk for a few days. After all, can’t have the kids (Paige and Henry, played by Holly Taylor and Keidrich Sellati) figuring out anything! Unfortunately, bondage equipment isn’t quite enough. Elizabeth has to stay home from the couple’s travel agency in order to keep an eye on him.
“What do you do?” “I’m an FBI agent.”
That would be the FBI on this show. Although there are many men running around the agency’s counter-intelligence section, the one that we (and the Jenningses) need to worry about is Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich). He is friendly and disarming, probably to hide the fact that he’s a somewhat dark and brilliant investigator.
Stan naturally moves in across the street from the Jennings family.
It’s hard to be an agent of an enemy empire
Philip isn’t totally convinced about the merits of staying in the KGB at this point. That makes sense. He’s been in the country for decades and has a family to protect. And hockey was starting to really catch on in the US back in the 1980s. Why not stay and pick up a couple of million in relocation money from the government?
The reason would be Elizabeth. Despite everything, Elizabeth Jennings remains a patriot to the Motherland. Fancy grocery stores and a life making brownies aren’t enough to change that.
Meanwhile, Philip takes out his frustrations on Errol, a smarmy guy who was yucky enough to ogle 13-year-old Paige at the store. Errol ends up beaten to a pulp with a barbeque fork stuck through his hand.
As it turns out, the police got descriptions of the kidnappers and their car. Philip has declared the vehicle un-drivable, but the fact that it matches the cops’ description puts Stan on the alert. Even after Stan’s wife mocks her husband’s tendency to suspect everyone and everything, he wonders.
Stan does more than wonder, actually. He breaks in to the Jennings’ garage to see if there is any trace of the missing Russian assassin.
But Timochev is gone when Stan comes calling. Laughing at himself a little, the FBI agent sneaks out again, never seeing Philip standing in the shadows with a gun.
Where did the assassin go?
It’s hard to have a happy relationship when your marriage is based on lies and your career requires you to have sex with multiple assets. Somehow, despite this, Philip and Elizabeth come to a place of affection by the end of the pilot episode.
Granted, this place of affection requires Philip to beat to death Timochev in their car trunk after he finds out about Elizabeth’s long-ago rape. Then, with the assassin dead, Philip agrees with Elizabeth that staying in the KGB is a good idea too. But hey — no one said marriage was easy!
It’s even harder when you’re trying to make the world safe for socialism. Can Philip and Elizabeth manage to do both? It will be kind of incredible to watch them try.
“The Americans” airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.