The Americans Review: Trust and Intimacy

at . Comments

"COMINT" provided a look at how both Soviet and American spies and assets acquire information and the sacrifices that are made to get a step ahead of their adversaries. Often, it involves sex.

In order to get information out of a target or asset, it's necessary to create a relationship built on trust. When there isn't time to make that deep connection, the next best option is intimacy.

Elizabeth and Philip have perfected the use of both methods during their years working for the KGB in America. In a short period of time, we have seen both spouses seduce targets and assets for information, though it seems that Elizabeth uses that tool more often.

Elizabeth Works On the Code

Now that they are beginning to have real feelings for each other, will they begin to be less willing to use that as an option? Philip's anger over the man beating his wife with a belt was understandable, but he was off base to try and go after that guy.

Elizabeth had control of the situation and could have hurt or even killed the business man. Instead, she played the victim, cried and brilliantly turned the situation around to gain the information she needed. He revealed a key secret that the FBI was using portable encryption radios.

When Philip met with his inside FBI source, Martha, he turned down her advances after acknowledging them with a kiss. Did he do that to protect his cover as a government employee? Or, was it because of his growing relationship with Elizabeth? For now, he doesn't need to go there in order to keep his asset happy, but that could always change in the future.

A troubled KGB asset set into motion a chase between the United States and the Soviet Union. Which side would come out ahead? In the end, I'm not really sure if there was a winner.

Elizabeth and Philip were able to get their hands on the FBI encryption code and turn it over to their government. That was a win though only temporarily. Stan's asset Nina found out that the KGB acquired the code and let the FBI know, which allowed them to change it. That was a victory for the Americans. 

In the end, both sides gained some intel on the other, but neither had a big win. If anything, the KGB came out ahead because they realized they had a mole in their midst. That will cause problems going forward for Nina and her boss, Vasili.

Nina's decision to seduce her boss for information was a confusing one initially. Sex clearly works as previously mentioned, but I didn't understand why she would go there. She has no loyalty to America, so why did she decide to go there?

When she gave the intel to Stan, she said that she did what he told her to do. I didn't recall him ever telling her that, so I went back and watched the initial meeting scene again to see if I missed something.

Here's what Stan said, "You are a beautiful, intelligence, initiative, and ... beautiful woman. I have complete faith that you'll figure out a way to find out all that you can."

When I first watched that scene, I took his comment to mean that Stan was falling for Nina. He has a troubled marriage at home and he is getting closer to Nina every day. His decision to spend his free time learning Russian was just another sign of his growing connection to his asset.

After her comment and reading what he said, it made sense that she assumed he wanted her to use her womanly ways to her advantage. Again, sex is a successful tool for manipulation. And, it worked for Nina not once, but twice.

The situation of the KGB asset that was ready to break and that the FBI was pursuing was handled quickly. Instead of meeting with Vasili, Elizabeth showed up and put a bullet in the former KGB asset's head. With the FBI on Vasili, he took them for a scenic afternoon walk.

The spy game is dangerous not only for the spies but for the targets and assets as well. It's surprising to see how many people are unwittingly providing information to the other side. Martha believes she is doing her country proud by protecting the FBI through her conversations with Philip, while Vasili and Stan have been tricked into giving intel away. 

Both of those men are as loyal to their governments as they come, but when someone becomes a target no matter how well trained, it is difficult to not fall into the trust or intimacy trap.

Odds and Ends

  • Nice move by Elizabeth to get from one trunk to the other in the repair shot. Stealth!
  • The FBI doesn't have the best security if Elizabeth was able to sneak into their compound in a trunk and then walk out the gate without any problems. Wonder if she will use that in a future mission.
  • Claudia's story about her former asset that the KGB didn't need any more is a story to remember. As is her belief that the CIA doesn't take care of their assets. Will that come into play later?
  • The growing trust and love between Elizabeth and Philip is touching. When she told him about her fears, she really let him in by asking to "Show me another way."


Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
  • 4.8 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating:

Rating: 4.4 / 5.0 (31 Votes)

Carla Day is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


Nina performed sexual favors on her boss as an 'in' because Stan threatened her.


An intense episode. Could it be that Elizabeth might be warming up to the idea of coming over to the US side when she challenged Philip to "show her another way?" It would certainly spice things up even more if they became double agents working for Stan. I think Nina's days are numbered, unless Stan sees the danger and gets her out of there. He laid it out in this episode by dangling the carrot of protecting her, like a wall, and eventually providing her with a complete new identity. Sounds something like the witness protection program.


This is now currently my third favourite show on TV after Walking Dead and The Good wife. I just loved how the spies in the 80s work, so retro, so lack of technology that is just so fun. Elizabeth scene on the cars was so old James Bond. Nikita which I also liked used way too much technology that makes it too easy and unrealistic to spy. Philip is clever in his way dealing with Martha. Unlike man who often want direct satisfaction, woman will fall even more for forbidden love. The kind that is so near yet so difficult to get. I think this round Soviet won. Though they had to killed their important asset but at least Vasili came out safe and most importantly they now know there is mole inside their agency. Just pray this show will be renew for more seasons to come. I would not say it is as good as Homeland but its really close.


This shows gets bumped to the back page on this lame web site .... What a joke ...Guess this show is way too hard for a typical basic cable nimrod to keep up with ......


One thing we have to remember is that this is the early 80's and not the paranoid 2000's... After 9-11, security as we all know got very tight for everything...Yeh we had the Russians but they were just spies.. not trying to blow us up with terrorist bombs... It is refreshing that it isn't so easy to spy back then... These days, stuff would be even tighter because everyone knows how easy it is to spy with remote mikes, drones, etc.. The spy game I think was much more interesting... Plus... since the Russians look like Americans, lots easier to be undercover.. Because of race differences, much much tougher in today's world for our so-called enemies to be undercover...


re: Philip's reaction - thinking back to the pilot, his desire to get back at those who harm his family isn't really surprising (think back to Errol the pedophile from the mall), but his impulse to handle it himself is. I kinda want to see that biker looking friend of theirs again, the one who's so handy with a grill fork.


Another great episode. I'm starting to feel like a broken record, but this show is so fantastic! I think my only complaint - and this surprises me because I usually hate kid actors - is that I wish they'd do more scenes with the whole family. Nina's actions didn't surprise me at all. She interpreted Stan's comments that way (rightly or wrongly - part of me thinks he DID mean it that way) and he holds her entire life and future in his hands. Not to mention, the question as to why she would go there so fast assumes she's a nice, innocent girl who never would have done something like that before. The only thing we know about her past is that she had an illegal operation going on with a rather scuzzy store clerk...


This is fast becoming one of my favourite shows! The writing and character development is superb. I particularly enjoy seeing how the different cultural perspectives result in viewing the intel in subtley different ways, or like last week with significant consequencess. My favourite part has to be the relationship between Elizabeth and Phillip - it is such a rare insight into the impact of an arranged marriage and how it can develop and change over the years. Can't wait to see how the show develops!

Tags: ,