In an effort to keep the raw nerve of Agent Amador’s somewhat sudden departure from the series exposed, The Americans picks up very soon after last week’s surprisingly dark episode, leaving Philip, Elizabeth and Stan in the uncomfortable but all too familiar position of wondering what they could have done differently.
‘Safe House‘ was, in many ways, the tipping point for Agent Stan Beeman (and it certainly was the highlight of Noah Emmerich’s many thrilling performances on the series), as he found himself facing a future in the FBI without Amador – the skirt chasing, shame-fearing opposite to the buttoned-down G-man Beeman was having such a difficult time being.
Among the many provocative moments of the episode, Stan’s use of the term “soft mouth” was his assurance to Vlad that he’d been properly trained as to how to handle this particular situation. But no amount of training (proper or otherwise) could help Stan get a grip on Amador’s demise and, in a moment of personal weakness, he bit down as hard as he possibly could.
In essence, personal weakness set the events of ‘Safe House’ in motion. If Philip-as-Clark hadn’t allowed his disintegrating home-life to factor into Martha’s request that he stay the night, then the snooping Amador might not have wound up being stabbed with his own knife. And so it goes, the cycle of blame, from one character to another on down the line, each one losing control in a moment of personal weakness that inadvertently winds up turning the wheels of the great governmental machine they all answer to. But ultimately, they’d have to answer to themselves for failing to recognize the situation was bound to get out of control.
As ‘Only You’ begins, Elizabeth tells Philip not to replay in his mind what he could have done differently to keep Amador from dying and to prevent the inevitable reprisal by the FBI. Of course, this conversation occurs outside the fleabag motel Philip’s been staying at since they agreed on a separation. (That’s always the best idea: tell someone not to ponder where it all went wrong as you push them directly into the situation that illustrates just how bad things have become.)
Elsewhere, Agent Gaad tells Beeman “don’t think twice about what you did.” Sure, the guy Beeman murdered wasn’t Arkady, but the FBI was planning an unsanctioned murder of somebody in the Rezidentura, so Gaad will just have to chalk it up to poor communication. Besides, he tells Beeman, it’s war, and “in a war, blood gets spilled.” Gaad’s words are meant as reassurance, but one can’t help to think something very similar was said to Beeman while he was spending all of his time around neo-Nazis, while Sandra and Matthew were going to the movies and not expecting him home for dinner.
The “war” is everywhere, and no matter where Stan turns, the darkness seems to follow him. It’s as inescapable as the ubiquity of crappy hotel rooms that serve as paltry stand-ins for homes filled with wives and children. On that, at least, Stan and Philip can almost certainly see eye-to-eye. And while Stan (barely) has Sandra to go home to, so he can come as close to spilling his guts about all the sinister places he’s been and all the vile things he’s seen or done, Philip’s left with a half-finished six-pack of beer and a handgun stuffed inside the same drawer as the Gideon Bible.
Still, nothing brings two spies together quite like a crisis, and this time, thanks to some quick thinking on behalf of poor, punctured Amador, Beeman’s investigation takes him right back to the days of tracking Joyce Ramirez – who, as you may recall, found out firsthand what Grannie’s definition of exfiltration was. Not long after Stan picks up Curtis (a.k.a. the one that got away), he’s hot on Gregory’s tail, and the love of Elizabeth’s life is suddenly bound for the metropolitan delight that is early-’80s Moscow.
But a life spent learning the Cyrillic alphabet, giving lectures to cadets and living off a modest government stipend, doesn’t fit into Gregory’s plans, and Grannie made it perfectly clear what needed to happen should springtime in Moscow not be on the asset’s itinerary. Gregory never had much of a future in the world of The Americans as long as he couldn’t let Elizabeth go, and in the end, it was she who had to turn him loose, trusting that he would do as he’d always done and be true to his word.
In that sense, Gregory was a lot like Amador: he didn’t fear death; he just wanted to live for something.
The Americans continues next Wednesday with ‘Covert War’ @10pm on FX. Check out a preview below: