The Americans: Operation Chronicle
May 15, 2014 4:14 AM - Season 2, Episode 12 - Subscribe

Elizabeth acts on Kate's message; Philip and Fred plan a paint job; Larrick is still on the hunt; Arkady tightens Stan's noose.
posted by Snarl Furillo (31 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Martha: I love your toupee.

"Clark": How long have you known?


Am I psychic, or what?
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:15 AM on May 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Heh. I liked the toupee bit, too. I thought "Clark" was going to panic. I thought it interesting that he didn't mention it to Elizabeth. Knowing Elizabeth, she might have decided that Martha would have to be killed at that point.

What's Phil's real hair like? His "Clark" hair is so thin and shows so much forehead to where I start thinking his full head of dark Philip-at-home hair has to be the wig.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:13 AM on May 15, 2014




"Clark": How long have you known?

Duh, how could she not have known? You really think she doesn't notice that she can't see a scalp under the hair or that your hair doesn't grow? Martha's dumb, but she's not that dumb.
posted by orange swan at 6:57 AM on May 15, 2014


I don't know if Phil was more depressed that he'll probably have to kill her pretty soon (because how long is it going to take now before she demands to see his ostensibly balding head?) or that his Mad KGB Disguise Skills are not as stellar as he thought.

Anyhow, I like a show that, instead of handwaving away a ridiculous plot hole like "Clark's" wig, faces up to it and incorporates it into the story. The other really fantastic detail in this episode in terms of both realism and thematic import was the condom disposal bit. (I am grateful there was no Penis Beaker involved.)
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:19 AM on May 15, 2014


The condom was also a clever segue to the dialogue about not having children.
posted by planetesimal at 9:02 AM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


The other really fantastic detail in this episode in terms of both realism and thematic import was the condom disposal bit. And the passing of the tissue! Funny how there's usually never anything to wipe up in TV/movie sex. I was totally waiting for Martha to either start talking about having children or announce delightedly that she's pregnant. No wonder they're using condoms. No way would Philip leave it all up to her to look after the contraception.
posted by orange swan at 9:13 AM on May 15, 2014


I dread how Martha's story will turn out. She's not only going to wind up getting completely shattered emotionally, she'll also be going to jail for many years. I'm kind of hoping she'll take off after Philip with an axe when the big reveal comes, because that would be kind of awesome and he really deserves it. Also, aren't Martha and Clark legally married? He and Elizabeth are not so it isn't bigamy, and a marriage under an assumed name is still legally binding so far as I know. My guess is Philip is counting on being able to disappear when the time comes.
posted by orange swan at 2:11 PM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Martha is going to be colossally screwed. And, "Clark's" doctoring of the tapes have already isolated her, emotionally and trust-wise. All she will have is her mother.

Paige is clearly winding up to some sort of big investigational move/discovery which will be resolved to no one's satisfaction.

I am fascinated by Oleg's blind spot for Nina. He never questions her loyalty or the practical aspects of her will to survive, or how she will affect his career. It certainly gives Arkady a leg up in the battle for power in the embassy, which surprises me. I figured Oleg's family connections and daringness would help him beat Arkady who has a long record to be picked over and found fault with. Now I am not so sure.
posted by julen at 2:57 PM on May 15, 2014


Paige is clearly winding up to some sort of big investigational move/discovery which will be resolved to no one's satisfaction.

I bet she'll try to get arrested at the protest. She might think that it would put a law enforcement spotlight on Elizabeth and Philip. If only someone would ask her the kinds of questions Stan was asking Jared. She'd have a lot to say.
posted by fuse theorem at 4:48 PM on May 15, 2014


Oleg's doing it for love of poetry, or some such romanticism. He sees Nina as a master operator at the highest level of the spy game and is admiring the close up view. I don't think he wants to climb the ranks so much as transcend them.

I could be projecting a bit, though.
posted by planetesimal at 4:49 PM on May 15, 2014


Paige is clearly winding up to some sort of big investigational move/discovery which will be resolved to no one's satisfaction.

I bet she'll try to get arrested at the protest. She might think that it would put a law enforcement spotlight on Elizabeth and Philip. If only someone would ask her the kinds of questions Stan was asking Jared. She'd have a lot to say.


I think she wants to know more than she wants to reveal. She's not upset that they might be evil -- I don't think the possibility has even really occurred to her -- so much as she's upset that she not in on whatever is going on. She wants to be included in things, hence her joining up with the church.
posted by Etrigan at 5:46 PM on May 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oleg has at least turned out to be much less of a fucker than he initially appeared to be. That scene with him giving Nina the emergency-exit money was actually rather poignant. Like Martha, Nina is pretty much screwed; we're just waiting to see how and by whom.

One thing I haven't understood all season is why Philip and Elizabeth have more or less ignored Paige's suspicions. Obviously, they have a lot of stuff going on "at work," but your kid skips school and takes a bus several states away to visit your sham auntie without mentioning it to you, and after sham auntie reports it to you, that doesn't concern you much at all? Not that they should call her on it since as far as she knows, she got away with it, but shouldn't master spies be tipped off from this that she's likely to be looking through their shit or listening in on phone calls, which could put them all in jeopardy? Next thing you know, Paige will be totally narc-ing on Mom and Dad to creepy pastor.

Something odd is up with Jared as well: Kate meeting with him sans disguise, the importance (to her at least) of extracting him, the question of when and how he found out about his parents' job. . . . I'm hoping for some answers next week!
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:50 PM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't get the not dealing with Paige's suspicions either. I can get fear and guilt tormenting them (Elizabeth especially), but they do seem off their game in general. They yell and punish Paige, but they don't seem to have the bandwidth (and sometimes it seems, the tools) to address the fundamentals.

Elizabeth never even considered that Larrick would use the kid to get to her; Larrick was clever to bug the kid's backpack and stay out of site, but the kid was his best shot at a path to them, and I think better precautions should have been taken.

I think the center was recruiting the kid to stay in the US and spy for them.

That pastor IS creepy, isnt he? Every spot of concern could also be read negatively, but what was most telling to me was that he is totally not encouraging Paige to talk to her parents or to look at it from their perspective or even saying their intentions are good. We also haven't seen him talking about the fact Paige gave him all her money without them knowing, or that she should love or honor her parents (even while disagreeing)...
posted by julen at 6:29 PM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Something odd is up with Jared as well: Kate meeting with him sans disguise, the importance (to her at least) of extracting him, the question of when and how he found out about his parents' job. . . .

Oh, ick. It's pretty obvious once you line it all up like that.
posted by Etrigan at 7:02 PM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I dread how Martha's story will turn out. She's not only going to wind up getting completely shattered emotionally, she'll also be going to jail for many years.

If she doesn't end up dead I think she could very easily cut some kind of deal to turn against Philip; she's as much a victim as the FBI. But yes, the heartbreak will be unavoidable no mater what. Poor Martha.

Now, Nina, on the other hand.... I don't know how everyone here feels about the speculation stuff, but I'll just say that I think the season might just hinge on Nina's storyline.

She's not upset that they might be evil -- I don't think the possibility has even really occurred to her -- so much as she's upset that she not in on whatever is going on. She wants to be included in things, hence her joining up with the church.

Frankly, I'm just annoyed with Paige. I agree that she doesn't think they're up to something evil, but parents are allowed -- and should -- have some secrets from their children. It's not like either parent is just gone for stretches of time without communicating with the rest of the family. I kind of wonder about the Beeman kid, though. It's kind of weird that he was MIA all season and now he's back, just so he can -- ahem -- walk by himself over to a friend's house. Maybe it's not P & E's kids who are in danger.

The other really fantastic detail in this episode in terms of both realism and thematic import was the condom disposal bit.

Yeah, not that I really wanted to see Philip's used up old condom but I did appreciate the matter-of-fact way they dealt with it.

Is anyone else suspicious of the blase way Gaad acted when Beeman mentioned the ECHO stuff? He was just like, K have fun LOL computors how do they work.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:37 PM on May 15, 2014


Elizabeth never even considered that Larrick would use the kid to get to her

They don't suspect that Larrick is after them. They don't know that he was pissed off by the Americans being killed at the training camp. They think that whomever killed the other KGB couple & kid is the predator, and they ruled out Larrick as that killer.
posted by Gyan at 11:11 PM on May 15, 2014


If she doesn't end up dead I think she could very easily cut some kind of deal to turn against Philip; she's as much a victim as the FBI. But yes, the heartbreak will be unavoidable no mater what. Poor Martha.

Martha might be able to use willingness to testify against Philip as leverage to get a lighter prison sentence, but she's not going to walk away from this. She turned classified documents over to Philip, something she wasn't allowed to do regardless of whatever "Clark's" supposed reasons for wanting them were.
posted by orange swan at 5:19 AM on May 16, 2014


That pastor IS creepy, isnt he?

Oh, definitely! That interaction with Paige on the bus was full of "ewww".

I definitely think something is going to happen with Paige that will open her eyes to what her parents are up to. Either her being arrested and investigated (which opens her parents to scrutiny), or creepy pastor is going to try something with Paige and either Phil or Elizabeth will kick his ass.

Frankly, I'm just annoyed with Paige. I agree that she doesn't think they're up to something evil, but parents are allowed -- and should -- have some secrets from their children. It's not like either parent is just gone for stretches of time without communicating with the rest of the family.

I dunno. Her parents are supposed to be travel agents. Yet, they seem to be out of the house, singly or together, at a lot of weird hours. And, they're always down in the basement. And they both seem pretty damned guarded and slightly removed from Paige. Secrets are one thing, but Phil and Elizabeth's routines are just a little suspect when you try to see them from a family member's point of view.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:19 AM on May 16, 2014


Plus, Paige is a teenager. If she's annoying adults (whether her family or we observers), then she's being pretty average.
posted by Etrigan at 5:28 AM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Plus, Paige is a teenager. If she's annoying adults (whether her family or we observers), then she's being pretty average.

Oh, yes, I mean to me, an average adult, she's being an average teenager. Upon further reflection, I think I'm also getting a little impatient with this arc. I know this is about character development, and I have 100% faith in the writers, but I am missing some of the action from last season.

Martha might be able to use willingness to testify against Philip as leverage to get a lighter prison sentence, but she's not going to walk away from this.

I was actually thinking of Martha working undercover with the FBI against Phillip. I really like Martha, and disagree with the comment earlier that she is dumb. I think she is totally blinded by love but she seems to be very pragmatic and confident otherwise. I'd love to see a spurned Martha try to take down Phillip, even though I still think she winds up dead.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:40 AM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is anyone else suspicious of the blase way Gaad acted when Beeman mentioned the ECHO stuff? He was just like, K have fun LOL computors how do they work.

Every time Stan gets roped into spying for the Russians, they do this thing where he seems to build up all these worries about how he might get caught, and then it turns out it's incredibly easy for him to get whatever he wants because everyone trusts him without a second thought. They did pretty much the same thing with the computer printouts, earlier - Stan being all worried that he'll get caught printing out all this stuff and coming up with vague lame explanations to justify it and the tech guy is just like "yeah print whatever you want" without even being interested.

I think as the Russians lean on him harder for more info, and he keeps finding out how easy it is for him to spy, he'll gradually get more confident and more brazen about getting them what they want. Until he goes too far, of course, and then he'll be surprised to discover that all his feeble explanations and excuses, which he didn't need when he wasn't suspected, don't help him at all once he is suspected. Especially with Gaad, who, as they've shown us already when he was on leave, trusts Stan professionally (for the moment) but isn't at all sentimentally/emotionally attached to Stan or anyone at work.

One thing I haven't understood all season is why Philip and Elizabeth have more or less ignored Paige's suspicions.

I think there are three factors in play here: One is that they just don't have the parenting tools to know how to deal with a rebellious teenager yet, especially one that was always a good, obedient kid up until now. They've been experimenting with different approaches and so far nothing's really worked, which (as a well-behaved oldest child who grew up into a rebellious teenager) seems pretty reasonable to me.

The second factor is spycraft - if they make too big a deal out of it or react too strongly, it just cues Paige to think that there is really definitely something big going on. Whereas if they're mad about Paige being disobedient, but without [seemingly] caring about what she might find out, she gets the message that there's nothing to find out. (Of course since there actually is stuff to find out, they're sending kind of mixed signals on that front.) I think it's great that when they're confronting Paige they do a great job at the spy stuff - making it about respect, or trust, or whatever, and *not* about the secrets in question - and only a mediocre job at the parenting stuff.

The third factor is that on some level, they probably blame themselves. It's tough enough to discipline your rebellious teenager when your teenager is completely wrong and being dumb - but Paige isn't wrong: her parents are hiding major secrets from her, secrets which she really does have a right to know about considering those secrets put her in serious danger all the time. That's always gotta be in the back of their minds somewhere when Paige acts up again.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:45 AM on May 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


The second factor is spycraft - if they make too big a deal out of it or react too strongly, it just cues Paige to think that there is really definitely something big going on. Whereas if they're mad about Paige being disobedient, but without [seemingly] caring about what she might find out, she gets the message that there's nothing to find out.

I absolutely agree; I just meant P&E didn't seem to react to it much themselves or take any steps to relocate their easily findable spy gear to their wig-and-costume staging place, etc. Speaking as a former teenager who found the secret porn stash of every couple I babysat for, if you currently have residing in your domicile a teenage girl inquisitive enough to take a multi-state bus trip to check up on your cover story and who saunters into your bedroom without knocking when she thinks you're not home, then you can safely assume she has exhaustively ransacked the whole house.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:58 AM on May 16, 2014


take any steps to relocate their easily findable spy gear to their wig-and-costume staging place

I'm not sure their stuff is all that easily findable - in the house, at least, they don't seem to have a lot of stuff that ties them to spycraft except for the box in the wall behind the laundry machine. Which they're probably relying on Paige just not being physically strong enough to go moving, as much as anything.

My brother suggested to me that maybe (one of) their secret wig-and-costume staging places is a secret room in the back of the travel agency.
posted by mstokes650 at 1:06 PM on May 16, 2014


You also have to know the fuse combination (which switches to turn on/off) to open the hideyhole door ( the whole fuse box). It is a little harder to get lucky and get it right. It is a good thing this is the 1980s and not now because Paige would have used her cash for some micro camera if it were, and she would just know.

As for Gaad, I do think he is still harboring a bit of a grudge about Stan putting him in the position he was in. Having Stan haring off about the computer stuff is a relatively "safe" pursuit, or so one might thnk. He certainly won't be shooting any diplomat/spies and making Gaad's life harder.... Right?
posted by julen at 3:03 PM on May 16, 2014


I was actually thinking of Martha working undercover with the FBI against Phillip. I really like Martha, and disagree with the comment earlier that she is dumb. I think she is totally blinded by love but she seems to be very pragmatic and confident otherwise. I'd love to see a spurned Martha try to take down Phillip, even though I still think she winds up dead.

Perhaps it's fairer to call Martha naive rather than dumb. She is committing treason against her country based on nothing more than Clark's word as to why he needs the information from the CIA. She's never seen the place that he supposedly lives in when he's not with her and all she has in terms of contact info is the number for a phone message service. She's met no one from his life but his "mother" and "sister" — wouldn't you think she'd wonder why he has no friends and no interests? Why he never talks about his life prior to meeting her?

Martha seems to be a woman who has gotten so little in the way of companionship and affection from men that she's willing to settle for very little indeed. It's very heart-rending, and again I hope to see her go for Philip with an axe at some point. And I agree that there is a good chance she will wind up dead.
posted by orange swan at 5:55 PM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hey, what exactly is a "rezidentura" anyway? Is Arkady the Soviet ambassador to the U.S.? He seems to have some sort of diplomatic cover, but his work appears to be 100% spook stuff.
posted by chrchr at 11:16 PM on May 16, 2014


Hey, what exactly is a "rezidentura" anyway? Is Arkady the Soviet ambassador to the U.S.? He seems to have some sort of diplomatic cover, but his work appears to be 100% spook stuff.

"Rezidentura" is the Russian equivalent of something like "intelligence station" or "outpost" (a place where resident intelligence officers work or check in). Arkady isn't the ambassador but works at the embassy/consulate, and yeah, he and Oleg would have some sort of official cover like security attaché or commercial fishing liaison or something.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:14 AM on May 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh, definitely! That interaction with Paige on the bus was full of "ewww".

I definitely think something is going to happen with Paige that will open her eyes to what her parents are up to. Either her being arrested and investigated (which opens her parents to scrutiny), or creepy pastor is going to try something with Paige and either Phil or Elizabeth will kick his ass.


I feel like Paige's involvement with a church is a stroke of pure brilliance from the writers, because it exactly mirrors the way that Philip and Elizabeth recruit their assets. It's not a coincidence that it starts with a cool older girl, then the fun youth group, and then the six hundred dollars. Philip and Elizabeth aren't wrong that Paige is being seduced and soothed into a cause much larger than herself- it's just that that cause is Jesus. The pastor gives us a window into how invasive and insidious Philip and Elizabeth must really be to their assets (which we've sort of seen with Annelise and Fred, and I'm not counting Stan because he's outside the Jennings family locus. Fred is sort of both Paige and Philip in this comparison, I think. He articulates what Paige wants when he tells Philip (paraphrasing), "You inherited me. You didn't see something in me, the way Emmett did." Paige wants someone to see something in her.).

When Philip confronts the pastor, he quickly offers the money back, and works to connect emotionally with Philip, which is the kind of trust-building play we see Philip and Elizabeth pull all the time. Paige is "worth" more than 600 bucks to this guy, so he makes this play, and the thing is, it works on Philip. The church immediately comes back with a bigger ask- praise camp! And Philip agrees to it, because he got the trust-me treatment at the church; it's Elizabeth who is still like, "Fuck no" and shuts it down. But they still get the weekend nuclear freeze protest! How many times have we seen the Jennings pull this on someone? It's seriously brilliant writing, I love every second of it.

That's partially why I think Paige is going to go deeper into the church next season- I think her plot this season is the counterpart to Martha's last season, which ended with the wedding, plus the show has a general tendency to go deeper into plots rather than cut them off. So I think season three Paige is going to be hell of religious and her parents might realize they've missed the window on making her a socialist.

Side note unrelated to anything: Does anyone else remember when one of the haunting undercurrents of this show was that Stan was somehow fundamentally altered by his time undercover with the white supremacists? And it was indicated that this was somehow going to come into play, maybe with regard to the Jennings and the difficulties of living undercover? And then everyone conveniently forgot that ever happened? Is anyone else REALLY REALLY PISSED ABOUT THAT? Yeah, me, too.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:56 PM on May 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Side note unrelated to anything: Does anyone else remember when one of the haunting undercurrents of this show was that Stan was somehow fundamentally altered by his time undercover with the white supremacists? And it was indicated that this was somehow going to come into play, maybe with regard to the Jennings and the difficulties of living undercover? And then everyone conveniently forgot that ever happened? Is anyone else REALLY REALLY PISSED ABOUT THAT? Yeah, me, too.

Yes, especially since it was also indicated as the cause of the strife in Stan's marriage, which seems conveniently EST-ed away. I wonder if the actress who plays Sandra got another role. (Too lazy to google.)

As for the rest of your comment, I think it's very insightful.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:37 PM on May 17, 2014


Also, aren't Martha and Clark legally married? He and Elizabeth are not so it isn't bigamy, and a marriage under an assumed name is still legally binding so far as I know.

My understanding was that Clark came up with an excuse for how his job wouldn't allow him to be legally married (to her, at least), so the best he could offer Martha was a ceremony just for them.
posted by lizzicide at 3:49 PM on May 18, 2014


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