4

The Americans: A Push From The Left, And A Shove From The Right

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There's an obvious problem with a show that attempts to weave suspense around past real-life events. Can you guess what it is? Of course you can, it's that we already know the answers.

So while the Jenningses were running around like "cut off chickens" (oh, Nina) trying to determine if Al Haig was taking over the United States (not as far-fetched as you might think), we were all sitting comfortably on our couches chortling into our Chardonnay, knowing such an outrageous threat to freedom would ever happen in America.

Nowadays we'd just launch some drones to find the bad guys.

Agent Gado (Richard Thomas) has a Romanian diplomat busted for smuggling pot coming in for Beeman (Noah Emmerich) and Amador to "take a run at" before he gets sent back to Romania for castration. But that gets sidelined when everyone learns Reagan has been shot. Gado's immediate focus is any KBG/Soviet connection, including leaning on Beeman to pump Nina (Annet Mahendru) for info. But not in the fun way.

He's a little *too* focused, now that I think about it. Note to self: have Agent Gado followed.

The assassination attempt also throws some cold water on Phillip and Elizabeth's attempt at stoking the matrimonial flames. So much for the afterglow, as they say. Phillip (Matthew Rhys) meets with Charles, a journalist friend (whose cover is working as a writer for something called Conservative Statesman Magazine), and gets the names of Reagan's hospital nurses. He also praises Charles' commitment to the struggle in such a way that it doesn't really sound like praise.

Elizabeth (Keri Russell) meets with Claudia (Margo Martindale), who invokes something called "Operation Christopher" and emphasizes the need for immediate information about the government's disposition. I don't remember all the chaos surrounding the attempt on Reagan's life at the time. But then, I was 12.

Whoa, Claudia was at Stalingrad? Remind me not to bust out my German around her.

As it turns out, Operation Christopher involves guerrilla warfare against America, and as Elizabeth is removing a buried cache of weapons, she flashes back to 1953. Stalin had just died, and a young Nadezhda (you can see why they changed her name) remembers a man offering supplies to her mother as a clumsy marriage proposal. Mom refuses, telling Nadezhda never to rely on anyone else. Man, growing up in the Soviet Union was fun.

Preparations by the Soviets for a possible coup d'etat continue (I like how seeing Haig on TV made them think the worst, because who wouldn't assume a whack job like him wouldn't try?). Elizabeth brings home a trunkload of guns and explosives, then they obtain a government car from Gregory's guy and - in the guise of Vice President Bush's staff - question the nurses about Reagan's condition. They confirm to their superiors he'll be okay, but go on to mark potential sniper targets anyway, and Elizabeth kills a security guard while they're staking out Weinberger's place. By Jove, I suspect these new crises will put renewed stress on their relationship.

Phillip and Elizabeth are at odds over the significance of Haig's possession of the nuclear football; she thinks he's making a move, Phillip wants to wait and see. His feelings are confirmed when Beeman lets them know (over a relaxing glass of white wine) that Hinckley acted alone, which Phillip promptly relays to his superiors. Elizabeth apologizes, and all's right in the Directorate S world.

Unfortunately for Beeman, his wife's not happy, and he can't explain why the thrill is gone after spending two years undercover with white supremacists.

After a nice soundtrack in the opening episode, we've been largely '80s music-less until last night. It was an obscure cut, but discerning folk who were probably alienated adolescents will have recognized "Pictures On My Wall" by Echo and the Bunnymen.

Next week: Phillip might blow his cover to inflict grievous bodily harm a guy who hurt Elizabeth.

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