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Karen Fratti

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'The Americans,' 'COMINT' Recap: Who's Your Daddy?

Posted: 02/27/2013 11:35 pm

Note: Do not read on if you have yet to see Season 1, Episode 5 of "The Americans," titled "COMINT."

In Episode 5 of "The Americans:" Elizabeth gets stuck in an FBI agent's trunk. Nina learns a new word, again. Philip and Stan are officially BFFs, and basically every woman on the show puts out to get ahead.

I complained last week that the show wasn't gripping me with suspense. And it still isn't. But things are starting to unfold quickly and I'm hoping that at least one -- come on, just one -- plot line carries over into next week so this doesn't all turn into "Law and Order: KGB Unit."

This week, the FBI has new communication encryptors, which means that the Director of the KGB over at the Soviet embassy cannot get in touch with an agent he's mentored, and who also happens to be spiraling out of control. This agent, Udacha, has been working as a private contractor in the Ballistic Missile Defense Program. He's stolen blueprints, provided intelligence and has an entire network set up at the Defense Department. His wife just died, he's paranoid, lonely, and he wants to talk to the KGB Director. But the embassy can't set up a meet because it means potentially leading the FBI to him.

So, Claudia tasks Elizabeth and Philip with getting their hands on the new FBI encryption codes so they can once again know when the FBI is following them and go about their business.

Philip springs into action, after playing racquetball with Stan all morning, by putting on his silly wig and going to visit Martha, the aide from the counterintelligence unit. She thinks he's a quality control guy from the department, remember? She has a crush on him -- buys new shoes for their meet and cracks a bottle of red wine to steal a smooch. Philip rebuffs her, but does get some intel on who's running the system over at FBI headquarters. This is when Elizabeth steps up and puts on her own silly wig to seduce the guy who created the encryption codes. She finds out that the codes aren't just new, but they are also mobile! With all that info in hand, they stage a fender bender with an FBI agent's car. Clad in silly wig, Philip follows it to the mechanic, with his own car with a fake problem. He stalls the agent and mechanics with silly car talk, while Elizabeth crawls out of their trunk and into the FBI car's trunk. She manages to get the encryption codes, but not before the agent gets a call and pulls out of the garage, with Elizabeth in the back of it.

It's tense for about thirty seconds, the she just climbs out, and Philip picks her up and has donuts and coffee.

Meanwhile, Beeman is demanding more and more information from Nina. She's feeling the pressure to provide and takes his urgency to mean she should give the Director oral sex to get him talking. She does, he loves it, they flirt over tea, and she's able to pass onto Beeman what we already know at this point in the episode: the KGB wants those encryption codes.

As soon as the KGB has the codes in hand, thanks to Elizabeth's acrobatic skills, the director sets up that meet with Udacha. Nina gets the word out to Stan. The FBI is giddy. They change the codes immediately, rendering them worthless. Stan and his partner head out to tail the KGB director and get Udacha. But it's in vain; the episode ends with Elizabeth shooting Udacha on his way to the meet. And now, the KGB knows they have a mole.

There is only one conclusion you could come to about the world after watching this episode: women use sex for power, and are sometimes also smart. This is apparent from even the first scene, when Elizabeth is undercover and interviewing Udacha. One of the first questions she asks, posing as security personnel for the Department of Defense, is whether he had been approached by any women recently, or if he pays for sex. The implication is that that's how sneaky ladies get what they want.

Like Nina. Nina and Beeman, and Nina and the director. With Beeman, the conversation they have about trust and him being a "wall" that protects her had some weird sexual overtones. I can't tell if he's attracted to her or if he is just awkward. She plays the naive damsel at first, until she finally uses her body for sex, then her demeanor changes. She's tougher, smoking, and challenging Stan. With the Director, because of the work environment, she's still the damsel, clunky with her teapot and her use of English idioms. Between her statuesque pumps sticking out from under the desk and the defiant way she spits out her zavarka she's my favorite character so far, and, I think, the most complex one of them all.

So what about that whipping? It was awkward to watch until we got the obligatory sly eye-roll from Elizabeth letting us know she's just playing her spy game. I was glad she was mad at Philip for wanting to "take care" of the guy for her. They are spies. Spies have to do kinky things sometimes. I know we haven't been around for much of their marriage but the way he yells at Elizabeth and barks at the kids the next morning to reclaim his manhood, rubbed me the wrong way. If he wants to help, he should come up with a way for his wife to get information from sources without having to take off her clothes. Or is sex the only way spies can get intel? I relate to Elizabeth's instinct to keep Philip out of it. Her outburst, "You are not my Daddy!" to get him to stop playing the white knight felt real. Like she's torn between the young girl stuck in a foreign country with a strange man and being the bad-ass agent that she is.

That conflict was echoed in the conversation with Claudia about the difficulty in being female KGB agents. Claudia says that American women don't get it, that they can't just ask for equality, they have to go out there and take it, demand it, every single day. Like Martha. Poor Martha buys fancy new shoes and tries them on at the office. When Beeman's partner tells her they make her calves look good, she calls sexual harassment in front of the boss. The boss gives a mini-lecture about respect and then rolls his eyes at the guys as she walks away. When Philip, later, tells her that they can't be intimate because of their professional situation, she just sits there with a blank look on her face while he pries information from her. No questions asked. Why doesn't she kick him out? And why doesn't she see that he's wearing a wig? And why does Stan Beeman want to study Russian instead of going to bed with his wife? These are my burning questions.

"The Americans" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST on FX.

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