The Americans: "If I Wanted to Deal with Him, You Don't Think He'd Be Dealt with?"

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One thing FX's The Americans is really excelling at is its nuanced portrayal of the show's female characters. While this week made it seem like Phillip and Agent Beeman were fumbling around trying to figure out how to deal with the women in their lives (Elizabeth and Nina -- and wife Sandra -- respectively), the women themselves were just getting shit done.

And if that meant degrading themselves, so be it. It's easy to forget, used as we are to the glamor of 007 or the frenetic action of the Bourne movies, the kinds of ugly compromises one has to make in the world of espionage. Elizabeth is obviously no stranger to the fact, but Nina, our budding spy, is only now learning this. And her eagerness to change her situation by making herself useful to Beeman may be her undoing. And his.

This week starts off with Elizabeth (Keri Russell) posing as a Government security expert questioning defense contractors working on the Strategic Defense Initiative. She seems melancholy talking to a guy who recently lost his wife, perhaps pining for the relationship he had.

OR he's an agent named Udacha who hasn't ben able to make contact because the FBI changed their encryptions codes. I hate when they do that. His cover is "Adam Dorwin," manager of something called the Laser Operations Group for Visiotech, which sounds pretty cool. He also can't come in from the cold and he's freaking out, man.

The Feds intercept Dorwin's call to Vasili at The Residence and Gaad (Richard Thomas) puts Beeman (Noah Emmerich) on it. He meets with Nina (Annet Mahendru), who has her doubts about obtaining the information Beeman reassures in a way that might come across as innocent if he hadn't just had a fight with his wife last week. Looks are exchanged, furtive smiles offered. In what may be chalked up to a miscommunication, Nina ends up blowing Vasili, who gives up the name but no other information. Beeman seems more taken aback at the news than a guy who worked undercover for two years ought to.

Phillip (Matthew Rhys) as "Clark" visits Gaad's secretary Martha, to get more info on the FBI's codes. She gives up a guy named Kurt Schultz, but the clock is ticking. If Dorwin/Udacha goes away, he takes a lot of people vital to the KGB with him. Elizabeth gets close to him, but Schultz deals with his premature ejaculation issues in a bad touch kind of way: beating her with a belt. He still brags about the new *portable* technology, so ... mission accomplished?

Phillip wants to kick ass, but Elizabeth talks him down. It's an interesting situation: we know she could've turned the guy into a quadraplegic at the drop of a hat, but the mission always comes first. She commiserates with Claudia (Margo Martindale), who continues to insinuate herself as a possible wedge between the couple, reminding Elizabeth women like them need to assert their rights "every minute of every day."

Obtaining a copy of the encryption ... what was that, a punch card? isn't too big a problem, giving Elizabeth a chance to prove she's easily the better spy by sneaking in and out of FBI trunks and strolling out of their HQ.

Agent Beeman's struggles with being a husband continue, as he elects to practice his Russian rather than join Sandra with the new negligee. Meanwhile Nina re-"comforts" Vasili, who inadvertently gives up the meeting time with Udacha when his assistant informs him the code has been captured.

The meet's bullshit, of course (how do you tell if you're being tailed in Washington, DC when everybody's dressed like a goddamn federal agent?). Elizabeth kills Dorwin/Udacha, and Claudia informs Phillip the swiftness of the FBI's discovery of the compromised codes indicates there's a mole. Vasili's second-in-command agrees, and cables Moscow behind his boss's back to let them know. Might be a good time for Nina to make like a tree and get out of there. Russell impresses more and more each week, especially this time around in defusing Phillip (whose traditional husbandliness is going to cause problems down the line, I suspect) and shouldering the load of the espionage nitty gritty. Rhys and Emmerich are both solid, but Russell is going a long way to making me forget Felicity.

Next week: "We know who you are, Mr. Jennings."

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