The Americans: “Mutually Assured Destruction” (Episode 1.08)

TV Reviews The Americans
The Americans: “Mutually Assured Destruction” (Episode 1.08)

Everyone had sex, but no one was intimate in “Mutually Assured Destruction.”

There were a few times during the hour where I thought to myself, “Well, I didn’t know you could show THAT on basic cable.” And while the hour veered into gratuitous territory, it did emphasize how challenging it is for Elizabeth and Philip to make a real connection.

“If you start to think of your marriage as real, it doesn’t work,” Grannie tells Elizabeth after smugly informing her that Philip and Irina were together in New York. When Elizabeth confronts Philip, he says, “I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t want to lose you. I love you.”

Philip and Elizabeth are chameleons. They become whatever the target wants them to be. And I couldn’t really tell if Philip was playing Elizabeth. How he talked to Elizabeth wasn’t that far removed from how Clarke talked to Martha. He told both women what they wanted to hear—the difference being, of course, that his sweet nothings worked on Martha. We know Philip loves Elizabeth. But does he feel bad about sleeping with Irina? Probably not.

In the least interesting mission to date, Philip and Elizabeth must stop an assassin. The KGB dispatched said assassin to kill 14 scientists and now wants to retract him before he begins killing. The KGB can’t even tell Philip and Elizabeth who they hired. You have to wonder was the KGB really this confused—did the right hand literally not know what the left hand was doing? Philip and Elizabeth do stop him, but not before he’s killed three FBI agents and one scientist in an explosion.

Basically everyone is in an uproar by the end of the episode which should propel the show nicely to the end of its first season. To Elizabeth, it’s their “worst failure in 15 years.” To Agent Gaad, “this will not stand.”

In another surprising twist, Chris also begins following Martha. I assume he’s following her because he was suspicious of how jumpy she was around the file cabinets. Of all the characters, Martha’s plight is the most tragic. She really has no idea what she’s gotten herself into. Chris may have been a jerk to her (we learned that they never officially broke up) but at least he is who he says he is. I don’t see how things can end well for poor Martha.

The Stan and Nina relationship might be the most disturbing of all. Stan is lying to himself. Nina is not there because “this is where” she wants to be, and Stan must know that. I’m also suspicious that Agent Gaad suddenly decided to provide Stan with a safe house for his meetings with Nina—very odd timing since he already seems to know that Stan’s feelings for Nina are less than professional.

My biggest concern with the episode is that the Philip and Elizabeth dance is getting repetitive. How many times can they debate whether or not they have real feelings for each other? In eight episodes, they’ve already flip-flopped at least four times on the fake marriage/real marriage conundrum. At the end of the hour, Philip throws out divorce as an option, and it will be interesting to see if the series pursues that angle.

Other thoughts on “Mutually Assured Destruction”:
• Some of the smaller moments on this show are simply great because they say so much by saying so little. Obviously Philip knows the secret ingredient to Elizabeth’s meatloaf (it was probably taught to them both before they even came to America) but Philip admitting to that was a slip-up.
• Sometimes I can get too caught up in how are Philip and Elizabeth able to do their jobs and raise two seemingly well-adjusted kids. I mean, these parents are never home, and they are always out in the middle of the night. But that kind of thinking is a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down because if I think about it too much the show won’t make sense. That being said—it was a nice touch to have Philip say “I’ll call the sitter.”
• How are Elizabeth and Philip able to saunter away from every single one of their crime scenes with no one noticing?

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