THE AMERICANS Episode Recap: “Safe House”

     April 3, 2013


The Americans took a break last week — something FX never does with its dramas — because of filming delays, but “Safe House” was well worth the wait.  Things got messy thanks to one personal mistake that lead to a Cold War crisis, and it was handled with controlled chaos.  What was great about the confusion and fallout that happened throughout “Safe House” was that it wasn’t arbitrary.  On some series, miscommunication and mistakes happen because people don’t speak or are unwilling to ask basic questions or confirm anything (Lost comes to mind, a show where almost no one asked anyone anything obvious).  The Americans pulled off an amazing feat of plotting this week by allowing things to happen realistically in turn, and following a situation until its natural, though most extreme, end.  Hit the jump for more on why “we should have fried chicken every day!”

fx-the-americans-safe-houseIf we thought the Jennings’ marriage was nuanced in its pain, that was child’s play compared to their divorce.  The Americans’ darker portrayal of marriage is one of the best on TV, and now it’s set the stage for a realistically painful separation.  When Elizabeth and Philip present the information to their kids, Paige and Henry have questions that neither parent can answer (or will answer).  There are hurt feelings, tears, slammed doors and an awkward social event that put the family together when they weren’t really ready to be.  Paige and Henry beg their father to come home, he says he can’t, and Paige turns her rage onto her mother while Henry internalizes it.  It is raw and it is hard to watch.  It’s not after school special, there are no easy lines and smiles at the end — just sadness.

But Philip no longer being beholden to return to the family home every night has freed him up to take his sham relationship with Martha to another level, and because he stays the night, he comes face to face with Amador in the morning.  Although, had he left in the night, it’s more than likely a similar situation would have happened because Amador has been stalking Martha quite a bit, and what he got for it was a knife in the gut.

A lot of characters went off script this week, from Boss Man Gaad and his secret mission to take out local KGB (Arkady), Amador using his personal time to stalk Martha, Philip allowing Martha to fall in love with him and spending the night, to of course Stan having agents capture Vlad in consolation for Arkady, then killing him as revenge for his friend.

fx-the-americans-safe-house-keri-russellRIP Amador, and RIP poor Vlad.  The show seemed to make a big statement this week about the confusion, frustration and impotence of the Cold War scenario.  Amador didn’t have to die, and Vlad certainly didn’t, but they were both quiet casualties by frustrated people in a larger war that nobody can really acknowledge.  Still, for Gaad to have suggested taking out an official in revenge for a top scientist and several FBI agents … that’s going pretty rogue and hugely escalating things.  Although Vlad’s death also sends a clear message of “tit for tat.”  After all, Amador was killed by Soviets, just not for the reasons anyone expected.

“Safe House” wove a really great and intricate tale this week.  I wasn’t surprised that, even after his fast-food overture, Stan killed Vlad — he had promised he would if Amador was harmed.  But I was surprised, just a little bit, at Amador’s death (especially over such a nothing thing).  But it shows that anyone’s life is on the line at any time, and how precarious Philip and Elizabeth are situated in their closeness with Stan.

As for the Jennings, will their marriage get back on track?  Maybe, but then again maybe a pause is a good thing.  Elizabeth can’t be such an absolutist, especially after her own long-term affair and, even worse, questioning Philip’s loyalty to her superiors.  His infractions seem far less offensive than Philip’s, but it may take her some time to see that.  As for him, he seems to finally be showing a tougher side of himself in their relationship, the same kind of toughness he shows on the job (though he’s still not as cold as Elizabeth).

I think that The Americans keeps getting better and better, and “Safe House” was just another example of how it masterfully weaves both painfully truthful personal issues with the Jennings in with the spy stuff, yes, but also with politics.  It’s incredible how deep we already are into this season, and with only a handful of episodes left, things should really start to pick up.

Episode Rating: A

fx-the-americans-safe-house-matthew-rhys-keri-russellMusings and Miscellanea:

  • It seems worth noting that with Gregory no longer on the scene, they just killed off the only regular Person of Color on the show …
  • I laughed out loud at Henry’s paper on the Revolutionary War: “America won.” Mic drop moment.
  • This show has a lot more explicit sexual content than you would expect, especially because it often comes out of nowhere and in sudden bursts.
  • I wonder a bit if Arkady had been tipped off about the hit and that the hand injury was a fake.  Is Nina playing both sides?
  • “Are you guys having a baby?”  Nope!  Divorce!  Eat your chicken.
  • Stan really put the (literally) squeeze on Nina this week, but still believes in her safety.  I think Gaad is full of shit and never plans to get her out.
  • “We’re gonna kick your motherland’s marbled ass, and there’s nothing you can do about it!” – Amador
  • Poor Martha is in for an unfortunate break-up sometime soon
  • Stan is going to be on the warpath now.  Or in other words: it just. got. personal. [cocks gun]