The Americans Review: The Illegals Revealed

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With a halt in the killings on The Americans, the Americans and Soviets returned to their regular spy activities of doing whatever was necessary to infiltrate the other side.

In "The Oath," each side came away with some wins, but also some major losses when turned citizens found the strength to come clean with their betrayals. Weinberger's maid couldn't live with the lie anymore and revealed the clock she was forced to put in Secretary's office. Meanwhile Nina decided to take her oath to the Soviet Union seriously and told Arkady about her relatoinship with Stan to Arkady.

Achieving Results

The Americans season 1 has weaved a complicated relationship map between those working for each of the Cold War countries, plus those who were either forced into helping the other side or unwitting informants. The agents' abilities to manipulate people, while maintaining surprisingly high levels of secrecy make it a difficult web to untangle. With each day, the FBI seems to be getting closer.

The Soviets have confidence on their side. They are willing to take risks that the Americans either aren't taking or are happening off-screen. Philip took his manipulation of Martha to the extreme when he asked her to marry him. He has her so wrapped around his finger that she can't see what's right in front of her. A man wants to marry her, but they can't live together, she can't take his last name, and then he asks her to plant a bug in her FBI boss's office. 

Red flags, Martha! I feel bad for her, though how is it that she got security clearance to work in the FBI office and is able to keep it? At this point, I wonder if death would be a less painful ending for her than finding out how Philip has played her. When Philip was just dating her and using her for information, I didn't have much of an issue with it. She was happy and it wasn't necessarily hurting her, but Philip took it too far.

Even though he's a Soviet spy, I thought there were certain lines that he wouldn't cross, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I have to wonder if the Jennings' marriage hadn't fallen apart, would Philip have taken his relationship with Martha this far? I doubt he would have stayed the night if Elizabeth hadn't kicked him out. At least with Nina and Stan, they are both aware of the circumstances of their romance.

Well, they were until Nina turned on Stan. For the first time, the meeting between Stan and Nina was flipped on its head. Even before Nina exposed her betrayal to Arkady, she took the lead in the meeting with Stan. She was working him more than he was her. Stan's guilt over cheating on his wife has put him in a vulnerable place. Initially, Nina didn't have a choice but to help Stan for fear of being deported or punished by her own country.

Now, Nina is in a position of power both with Stan and at the consulate. While she asked Arkady to punish her, she was playing him too. She knows that her relationship with Stan can be used to her country's benefit and is counting on that saving her. Vlad's death and the realization that Stan was involved opened her eyes. When she spoke the oath to her country, she realized her priorities and took measures to live up to it.

Just as Nina's spoken oath mattered, Elizabeth wondered if the lack of spoken marriage vows hurt her marriage to Philip. While it may not have made a difference when they were first partnered together, at this point it definitely would. Their lack of trust in each other and without the vows to back up their commitment, it was easy to walk away from their marriage. Elizabeth clearly wants Philip back, but is she willing to vocalize her wish?

They continue to be committed to each other when it comes to the job, so why aren't they able to speak the truth regarding their love for each other? They are afraid of getting hurt even more than they already have been. It's easier for them to put up an emotional wall both for their job and in their personal life. 

Now that the Weinberger's maid has described the Jennings to the FBI, it's going to become even more difficult for them to work within the city. The sketches weren't very good, but Stan knows who they are and now so does Martha. At least, they have good wigs and disguises. 

"The Oath" has put all the relationships and informants in a precarious place going into next Wednesday's season finale. The Weinburger bug has been compromised, but now the Soviet's have one in Gaad's office. Will they offset each other? Or, will the Soviets mistakenly reveal themselves due to planted American information from the Secretary's office. Who will come out of the season alive and secure? 

Odds and Ends

  • Philip was so unlikable throughout the hour, but his interactions with Paige were genuine and fun. The love for family makes the rest of what's going on painful to see.
  • Is the Colonel a legitimate asset opportunity? Or, is it a set-up? It's risky, but the Soviets are willing to take a chance. See how it turns out in the finale. Unless Prince's arrest has put an end to this. That was a bit unclear.
  • "The Illegals" is an intriguing term used by both Arkady and the FBI. I don't remember hearing it before, but it provides a consistent name for the mysterious Jennings.
  • Nina: Did you kill Vlad?
    Stan: I would never do anything to hurt you. You know that. | permalink
  • The scene with Paige, Matthew, and Sara was a bit odd. Not sure what the point was, but maybe the band and the relationship between the two kids will develop more.


Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (30 Votes)

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


Great ep, though I spent most of it alternating between "Poor Martha" and "Martha, are you stupid?" For all the talk about how E is the cold, less relatable one, P's cruelty towards Martha (and E, asking her to be "family") in this episode was, IMO, worse than much of what we've seen E do. I liked the stuff with Paige. I agree it had a lot to do with setting up that question of "what we see" in people we love, reflecting P/E's relationship, but also Martha/Clark's, Stan/Nina's, even P&E's relationship with the KGB. Also as I saw brilliantly pointed out in another review, it hinted at why the sketches looked so different-because of how the witnesses saw them (threat vs. sex). It was also just nice to see a moment of parenting and them perhaps coming to some sort of understanding/truce with each other. Remember this show is at its heart about the domestic side of things.


Nina didn't buy Stan's "I would never do anything to hurt you" line. Her womanly intuition picked up on the fact that he didn't just say no. The mysterious "air force colonel" sounds like an offscreen setup and Elizabeth's intuition is picking up on that. Granny wants her to do it, but Elizabeth and Philip are probably skilled enough to be able to protect themselves. Comic relief: Granny and Elizabeth showing up as "family" at Philip and Martha's wedding. Granny beamed when Martha's mother even commented on the family resemblance. Carla, I think the band sitution was used to reveal Elizabeth's real feelings for Philip when she tried to explain to Paige how people often see what they want to see in others, but became very introspective when Paige asked her if that's how it was between her and Philip. Clearly, Elizabeth's feelings about him were deeper than that. I'm sad that next week is the finale...I enjoy this series so much!


Surprised you people even bother with the Americans , with all the commercial network crapola you gravitate to .....something that requires an attention span is way off your usual path ... Good show , right up there with basic cable Justified and Suits and Vikings and WD and BB and MM ....but not in the pay cable league ....GOT, Borgias , Banshee ...BE....

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