THE AMERICANS Episode Recap: “Comint”

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Another nuanced episode of The Americans this week, focusing on the tit-for-tat back and forth of intelligence and counterintelligence.  Just as the FBI found a way to not only encrypt but make portable its communication, the Russians (via Elizabeth and Philip) found a way to hear them anyway.  Within a day the FBI had adjusted the code to block out the Russians, and so forth.  The bigger revelation was not this cat and mouse game, though, but that the Russians discovered that there was a mole.  And, despite their Herculean efforts to keep their agent in the Department of Defense, Adam Dorma (who we meet briefly at the start of the episode), in the end he became as much of a liability to them as an asset because his loyalty was briefly questioned in his moment of distress.  In the spy world, the slightest hesitation could mean everything.  Hit the jump for why you shouldn’t ask questions, even for all of our 35 years and 8 months together!

matthew rhys-the americansThis little episode arc that focused on the fall (and further fall) of poor Adam Dorma, who was helping out the Russians, was yet another great spy caper that also dealt with ideas about loyalty and need.  In a haunting story from Claudia, we heard about an agent she worked who didn’t have many friends, so she became that to him.  When he was no longer needed, he killed himself.  “We didn’t need him, but he needed us.”  It was a moment that was important to her, as far as the emotional connections that are made — and that shouldn’t be — between the agent and their shepherd.

Vasili feels an obvious kinship and responsibility for Dorma, fretting for him when he is distressed.  He himself is visibly distressed when the word comes that Dorma was eliminated because of the mole (who is, of course, Nina).  Both Nina and Elizabeth’s experiences in “Comint” (which means “communications intelligence”) also illustrated the exploitation of that emotional — or in this case, sexual — bond.  After having sex or, as Nina puts it (and does it), sucking cock, the men seem far more ready and willing to talk, lowering their defenses after a moment of intimate human contact.

The act puts both parties in a certain amount of peril, as Elizabeth finds out when Schultz the security man beats her.  Philip naturally wants to come to Elizabeth’s aid (as he has done in the past), but unlike last time with her rapist, this time Elizabeth doesn’t find his actions chivalrous, but reckless.  Here, he is potentially interfering with their work, and what happened to her was just another part of the job.

The sexual politics of their relationship is one of the more fascinating aspects of their union, and it showed also just how difficult it is for the women who are essentially forced to take a subservient role.  While Philip plays coy with Agent Alvador’s ex, Martha, from the FBI, as he kisses her and extracts a small amount of information, and Stan states that his wife is “really killing him” in that lingerie in a tone that means “I’m busy, you should leave,” Nina is on her knees and so is Elizabeth, doing their part, too.

the-americansClaudia spends time commiserating with Elizabeth, who is still stubborn enough to not want any help from anyone, but she also makes it clear how important Dorma is to their continued operation.  It really resonated later, then, when it was Elizabeth who killed the loose-end point blank, and her long pause after doing so was really interesting to behold.  Sometimes Elizabeth can seem robotic, but it’s her moments of humanity like this that really brings depth to her character.  Last week, Philip questioned Moscow’s response to the “coup,” (and was right) but this week it seems like Elizabeth who thought, just for a moment, “what is this all for?”

The paranoia on both sides in coming weeks is sure to go sky-high with the idea of a mole in the ranks, and it probably won’t take long for Nina to be discovered (unless Stan can get her out sooner than later).  Perhaps Vasili will be blinded at first by the lust and comfort she brings him, but he’s too sharp to remain befuddled for long.  Meanwhile, it’s always fun to see the changes with Elizabeth and Philip’s relationship, which despite the fact that it’s completely strange also can seem quite real.  The way he was able to begin thawing her feelings towards him with something as simple as a thoughtful coffee and donut was a small but realistic gesture.  She’s not mad, but she is, as she told him, worried.

Episode Rating: A

Musings and Miscellanea:

  • No flashbacks this week.  It was mostly Elizabeth’s week but I’d like to learn more about Philip’s past as well.
  • Definitely some Stan and Nina sparks this week. I fear nothing but tragedy.
  • Wow, that was an intense sex scene, Keri Russell!  From the Mickey Mouse Club to this … what would Felicity think?
  • “I sucked his cock just like you told me to” – Nina
  • I love Philip’s disguises.  Elizabeth always kinda looks the same, but he really transforms.
  • “If he needed dealing with I would have already dealt with him!” – Elizabeth
  • I liked Claudia’s statement to women: don’t wait for the law, take your rights now!

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  • Darden

    I also love the disguises and it’s a credit to Matthew Rhys that he’s able to keep the gravitas in scenes where he has to wear those ridiculous 80s ‘staches and hairpieces, things that have always seemed really kitschy and laughable in other works. Elizabeth, while she may look similar in that she doesn’t put on a new face all the time like Phil does, I find too look super realistic in that she looks “American”… and “Russian” at the same time. If that makes sense. With her sort of hollowed eyes, she looks like the mugshots of people after they’ve been caught doing this typ of thing.
    Keri Russell and Noah Emmerich are real standouts. Love them every week. My only thing is, if the show has a decent run- can it avoid that protagonist-centered, “and now for a new seasonal adventure”, serial-type feel. The spy genre is tailor made for that.

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