The Americans: "Sometimes What I Do Gets Scary."

"Brezhnev" was a poor choice of safe words, Phillip.
"Brezhnev" was a poor choice of safe words, Phillip.

There's something oddly soothing in winding down a long day of ... whatever it is you do for your daily drudgery with a nice helping of the Cold War. I know it's weird to be nostalgic about a period when the United States and the Soviet Union were at each other's throats, each poised to rain nuclear annihilation on the other, but there was a certain comfort in knowing precisely who wanted to kill you.

Plus there's that expression: "mutually assured destruction." It gives you closure.

So while we may fret over the individual fates of the Jenningses, or Agent Beeman, or the lovely Nina, at least we know America will lurch mightily onward regardless. It isn't like Game of Thrones, where three contenders for the Iron Throne died while you were reading this.

"We have a mole."

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That's a bad enough expression if you're a gardener, doubly so if you're a covert KGB agent. Phillip (Matthew Rhys) gets nabbed from a phone booth after making a rendezvous with FBI secretary Martha, which is one of the reasons I never liked those things. But which nefarious acronym is responsible? FBI? KGB? PTA?

His captors know who "Phillip" really is: a "commie prick." Some other goons grab Elizabeth (Keri Russell) at the house (she at least manages to incapacitate one of them, unlike wig boy). And there's a happy reunion in whatever subterranean warehouse they're being held. Torture continues apace: phone books and bobbing for apples (sans apples) for Phillip, locked in a room with pictures of the kids for Elizabeth. In a twist that isn't even close to being one (we knew it wasn't the Feds from interstitial scenes featuring Beeman and Gaad), Claudia (Margo Martindale) steps out to inform them "they" had to be sure.

Elizabeth takes the news a little worse than planned, beating Claudia until her face is leaking borscht. They bug out, until Phillip realizes wifey ratted out his love of rock and roll, or whatever. So much for the budding romance. And then for plausibility, they drive the car into a tree. Feelings are bruised as well as bones, especially when Phillip wants some jewelry to placate Martha for missing their date. Elizabeth, in turn, goes to Gregory for ... reassurance, and surveillance. Whatever.

Nina (Annet Mahendru) is getting closer to Vasili in more ways than one, and is rewarded when he informs her post-coitus they'll catch the traitor and kill him. Nina is freaking out, and rightfully so, but Agent Beeman (Noah Emmerich) is rather implacable. He's not made of stone, however (and indeed, his feelings for the Russian girl become more pronounced each week), and procures some confiscated diamonds and has them planted on Vasili in what turns out to be the most spy gamey part of the episode. The Rezident will soon find himself back in the U.S.S.R., and Nina is safe. For now.

There is no Russian word for "smile."
There is no Russian word for "smile."

Agents Gaad (Richard Thomas) and Beeman mull over the coincidence of that Visiotech guy getting shot just as they were tracking the Rezident. They dig deeper and learn he had some serious clearance, even though the CIA didn't even have him on his radar (how typical). Further digging into the missile shield thing seems unlikely in the near future, all that's important is their source is protected.

For now.

Page and Henry have their own problems. Mom is understandably late picking them up from the mall, so they hitch. Bad idea. Only Henry's canny wielding of a beer bottle saves them from the Ted Bundy treatment. This subplot felt slightly out of place, but served to highlight an area of danger to the kids neither Phillip nor Elizabeth anticipated, as well as strengthening the bond between the siblings. Something tells me they'll need each other before all this is through.

Finally, Beeman finds himself in the awkward position of explaining to Sandra why he's so relieved, without mentioning Nina by name. "Hey honey, I'm really happy the woman I'm slowly realizing I'm falling in love with wasn't sent to the gulag for being an imperialist spy. Good night!"

The Americans gets stronger each week. Even beyond our possible confused loyalties in pulling for a couple of godless pinkos is the way each character is drawn in such a way to shade them as sympathetic or blameworthy, depending on the situation. Was Elizabeth wrong to do her duty? Did Phillip overreact? Can we forgive Stan for falling for Nina when Sandra is trying so hard to make it work?

Keri Russell is fast becoming my favorite part of the show. And I hated Felicity. That's probably why.

Next week: Feelings are still a little raw, after that whole "tortured by your supposed allies" thing.

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