The Americans Review: "COMINT" (Episode 1.05)
Since its premiere, one of the most unsettling aspects of The Americans is that both Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) prostitute themselves in order to obtain classified information.
Things get even uglier in “COMINT” when one of the men Elizabeth is “honey trapping” gets abusive and whips her with his belt. A horrified Philip wants revenge but, as always, Elizabeth has her eye on the bigger picture—she obtained the intel she needed. Besides, as she so aptly told Philip, “If I wanted to deal with him, I would have dealt with him.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that Elizabeth can take care of herself and chose to act like the frightened damsel in distress because the end justified the means. Plus given how frequently Elizabeth “honey traps,” I don’t really believe this could be the first time something like this has happened. Would Elizabeth really be that shocked by Philip’s reaction? But still the episode highlighted just how debasing what they do for the love of their country truly is and the ongoing strain it puts on the Jennings’ marriage, especially now that they are trying to make their fake marriage a real one.
While each side believes they are fighting for what’s right, each side asks their people to do awful things in the name of justice. Stan (Noah Emmerich) tells Nina (Annet Mahendru) to use her feminine wiles to obtain the information he needs. But when he learns she performed oral sex on KGB Director Vasili, he acts horrified. He never asked her to do that, he claims. But, of course, he must have known that is what she would do. And it doesn’t stop him from asking Nina to get more information. “One day you’ll be living a different life,” he tells her. I’m becoming increasingly doubtful that Nina will live that long.
Poor Martha is in the middle of all this, inadvertently giving information to Philip believing he works in counter-intelligence. I fear things aren’t going to end so well for her either. Philip kisses Martha saying he’s been wanting to do that for a very long time but then demurs that their relationship cannot go any further because it wouldn’t be proper.
But the most tragic story of “COMINT” is Agent Ugchada, who has been living in America for 23 years posing as private defense contractor. His wife has recently died, and he wants to meet with Vasili, his handler. He’s got “jitters” according to Vasili. Vasili cannot meet with him because he can’t tell when he’s being followed—it’s too dangerous. When the KGB figures out how to detect the signals, the FBI rescrambles them and the KGB now know they have a mole (again, I worry for Nina). In the end, Elizabeth shoots Ugchada in the head. A nervous agent who could easily crack is way too risky for everyone.
“COMINT” took a stance on the inequality women face. Elizabeth has to sleep with a man to get information. Philip just has to act interested in Martha to achieve the same goal. Poor Martha is ogled at work by Chris (Maximiliano Hernandez), who is admonished by his superior Agent John Boy—I mean Agent Gaad (Richard Thomas). But then Gaad rolls his eyes as Martha walks away. Claudia (Margo Martindale) knows the job is twice as hard on women as it is on men and says the current argument over the Equal Rights Amendment makes her chuckle. “You can’t wait for the laws to give you your rights. You have to take them, claim, them, every second, every day of every year,” she tells Elizabeth.
The Americans is exploring fascinating topics amid all the espionage. The best news is the show has already been picked up for a second season, so we’ll be spending quite a bit of time with the Jennings.
Other thoughts on “COMINT”:
• Seriously, Philip’s disguises are so bad. Who would believe that wig is his real hair?
• Stan’s wife puts on a negligee and he still would rather study Russian? This is not good.
• You have to love how Elizabeth just sauntered out of the FBI with a casual “See ya.”