The Americans Review: "The Colonel" (Episode 1.13)
A good season finale is tricky to pull off. The episode must simultaneously satisfy viewers while leaving them wanting more. “The Colonel” did precisely that in an hour filled with nail-biting tension and heartbreak.
Elizabeth and Philip remain concerned that the meeting with the Colonel is a set-up. Elizabeth wants Philip to take the children to Canada so if the meet goes badly the kids are safe. Philip wants Elizabeth to be the one to take the children. Struggling with the connection she has with her offspring, Elizabeth believes Philip is the one they would want to be with. In one of the night’s most touching scenes, she listens to a tape of her own mother talking about how much she misses her daughter. Philip and Elizabeth know they no longer have any built-in time before the FBI figures out who they are. Stan Beeman knows precisely what they look like.
But, of course, it’s not the Colonel they need to be worried about. It’s picking up the recording of Casper Weinberger’s home office. The FBI knows it exists and sets up a trap. Stan tells Nina that as soon as this big mission is over, he’ll be able to extradite her because his bosses will be so happy. I thought perhaps Nina would consider becoming a triple agent, but she reports back to Arkady and he scrambles to send a signal to abort the mission. Claudia and Philip quickly realize what the audience has known all along—the meeting with the Colonel is not the set-up.
Philip gets Elizabeth out of her mission just in time (seriously, how much easier is it to be a covert spy now that cell phones exist?), thwarting Stan and his colleagues. But Elizabeth has been shot and Philip doesn’t want to leave her side, so he asks Stan to watch the children (really, they have no other friends who could do this for them?). As Philip keeps vigil at Elizabeth’s bedside, she tells him to “come home,” in Russian. It’s a beautiful moment between the couple especially because we know that this is probably the first time they have spoken to each other in their native language since arriving in the United States. However, I’m weary of their constant “will they or won’t they commit to their fake marriage.” I hope this settles the issue once and for all next season.
Nina’s choice is an interesting one. She decided to remain a double agent even though she knows it ends with her returning to the Soviet Union and facing a trial. Nina seems to know inherently that an offer of no death penalty in the hand is worth two offers of extradition in the bush.
Arkady also wants Nina to turn Stan. “I don’t think he can be turned,” she tells him. But Arkady, perhaps rightly, believes that if Stan has already crossed the moral boundary by sleeping with Nina perhaps he’ll cross his patriotic boundary as well. Could the show be dropping a major hint about what might happen next season?
When Philip meets up with the Colonel, his intel is fairly simple. The technology behind the anti-ballistic missile program is “incredible” in the truest form of the word. “The damn thing is a fantasy,” he tells Philip. In 2013, we all know that turned out to be true, but will Philip believe him?
At the Jennings’ request, Claudia is being reassigned. But, in a twist that redeems her character, viewers learn she was merely following orders. She has been advocating all along that the mission be aborted. “Every instinct I have is telling me this is a set-up,” she tells Arkady. Claudia also kills Patterson because, it turns out, she really did have a relationship with Zhukov. Margo Martindale, the actress who has so brilliantly portrayed Claudia, has been cast in a CBS comedy pilot for next season, so whether or not Claudia will return for season two is unclear. But I sure hope she does. I will miss so much about her character—particularly her hilarious and highly entertaining undercover operations and her wicked exchanges with Elizabeth.
As hinted at earlier in the season, Paige has begun to suspect her mother. The final shot of Paige inspecting the basement to see if there really was folded laundry there was a powerful one. Elizabeth is such a well-trained operative that she will even cover her tracks with her own children. We did finally get an explanation for how the parents are able to leave their kids all the time. Both Paige and Henry know they are not allowed to wake up their parents in the middle of the night. (Obviously Paige and Henry are better trained than most children).
Through it all, I was rooting for Elizabeth and Philip—a continually impressive feat by the show. Will Paige grow increasingly suspicious of her parents? Now that his marriage seems truly over, can Stan be turned? Who will become Philip and Elizabeth’s new handler? (Looking forward to that casting). How will Martha redecorate her apartment? Will wig technology continue to advance?
I can’t wait for season two.