The life of a sleeper agent presents a conundrum to those harboring spy fantasies. Most of us grew up equating "spy" with James Bond or Jason Bourne, men of action whose duplicity was tested only so far as their baccarat dealer was willing to believe they worked for a company called "Universal Exports."
Somewhere between 007 and the tedium of intelligence analysis is the sleeper agent. Much of their job is simply to blend in to their environment, not arousing suspicion or calling attention to themselves. But unlike you or me, occasionally they're called on to perform an (often distasteful) service for their country. This week, Phillip and Elizabeth were set to a task with a high degree of difficulty, and left with few entertaining options to complete it. By show's end, they were questioning both their superiors and their methods.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Cue gnarly, Prokofiev-esque theme song!
This week's episode, "The Clock," opens with sex. Always with the sex, at least for the first two eps. Phillip (Matthew Rhys) is rocking blue contact lenses as well as a woman named Annelise (Gillian Alexy). He and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) discuss her strengths (open to suggestion) and weaknesses ("half off her rocker") before we cut to a diplomatic party where Annelise, the wife of an Undersecretary of Defense is taking pictures of a study with a cleavage camera. Bet she got it at Bizarre Bazaar.
Phillip's cover for "getting close" to Annelise is "Scott Birkland," Swedish intelligence officer. Talk about picking an identity no one would check. Most people's knowledge of the country begins with the Swedish Chef and ends with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Anyway, Annelise tells Phillip/Scott she loves him. He responds in kind before nailing her again. He definitely seems to be enjoying his assignation more than Elizabeth did last episode.
All this is to get access to the Secretary of Defense (Caspar Weinberger, for those of you who slept through history class), whose study Annelise was photographing. Back at the Soviet Embassy, an officer named Vasili and another man (Arkady?) discuss the necessity of getting access to the study in advance of a visit by British Prime Minister Thatcher and Defense Minister Nott. Vasili balks at the time frame (two days) and threatens to call General Zhukov when his visitor tells him the General "isn't who he used to be." Threatening, but then, who is?
Meanwhile, Agent Beeman (Noah Emmerich) and Agent Amador (Maximiliano Hernández) tail a mysterious woman who leaves a stereo shop with a mysterious package. Mysterious. They question the clerk before taking his expensive Russian caviar, incongruously sitting behind the counter.
Phillip doesn't think they can pull off the Weinberger caper, Elizabeth insists they must. Didn't see that coming. She loiters on a nearby campus and pulls a Rosa Klebb with her umbrella on a passing student. He's Grayson, son of Weinberger's maid Viola (Tonye Patano), and he's been poisoned. Phillip tells her he'll administer the antidote if she brings them the clock from Weinberger's study. Viola's not a calm customer, and though she procures the clock, she also brings her brother. Phillip incapacitates him after a brief melee, but leaves him alive after obtaining the clock. All that delicious fast food and three whole TV channels must have made him soft.
They need the clock is to plant a bug, you see. After that's done, Phillip is playing hockey with Henry when Beeman comes over to chill. Oh, and to offer the sleeper KGB agent some caviar. Awkward!
The mystery woman Beeman's tailing is a Soviet embassy employee swapping caviar for stereo equipment and currency to send back to the good old U.S.S.R. After some not so subtle threatening, she agrees to work for Beeman.
Viola resists planting the clock back in the study until Phillip threatens to smother Grayson. The bug is planted successfully, the antidote is administered, and the Jenningses sup on fine Russian caviar. All's well that ends well, until Elizabeth tells him she thinks things are "about to go bad."
Ironically, just as the Soviets are celebrating planting a bug in Weinberger's house, Beeman has successfully gotten his mole into the Soviet embassy. She's not very highly placed, though, and so doesn't know the details (all she's told about is a "big win" for Directorate S, as the sleepers are known). She also doesn't realize Vasili and Arkady are eavesdropping on the U.S/U.K.'s plans for a ballistic missile shield.
Finally, Annelise's half rockerness comes to the fore, as she uses Phillip/Scott's emergency contact to bitch and then threatens to tell somebody about "Scott Birkland." The crazy is strong with this one, and doubtless something's going to have to be done about her before too long.
"The Clock" was a solid follow-up. This week it was Elizabeth's turn to fret, as she wondered aloud how kids Henry and Paige would adjust if "something happened" to them, while Phillip was the one acting dismissive. This before he catches her packing heat and she replies, "I'm not getting arrested." Lady, I know what you mean, having once spent 45 whole minutes in a county jail waiting room myself.
But the kid raising thing presents issues, like when Paige buys bras on her own, or Henry mockingly asks "or what" when Phillip makes a toothbrush-related threat. Elizabeth is so concerned about neglecting her real-yet-convenient-cover children she wakes Paige for a midnight ear piercing. Do mom's do that? Seems ... Joan Crawfordy.
Next week: raquetball!
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