04/18/2013 12:09 am ET Updated Jun 17, 2013

'The Americans' Recap: Elizabeth Rebels In 'Covert War'


Note: Do not read on unless you've seen Season 1, Episode 11 of "The Americans," titled "Covert War."

Elizabeth gets told, Beeman's ladies take charge, and Martha ... well, Martha is still pretty loony. The storytelling in this episode was first class and the way they used each of the female characters to tell it struck me as the best possible utilization of the actresses.

Elizabeth's mentor, Gukov, is assassinated by the CIA in Moscow and though Granny and the Center say they don't want to escalate the violence, Elizabeth takes things into her own (and Philip's) hands. Her character is really rounding out for me, and I even find comfort in the way she flips between her 'spy mode' voice and 'real human' voice. She was handpicked by the KGB because of her skills, but also because, as Gukov notes, she has a fear of surrender. Philip calls her reckless, Richard Patterson calls her cold and empty, and Granny calls her predictable. And even though it seems impossible, Keri Russell has been great at being all of those things. She's also, to give credit where it's due, just a woman who can dance. Beeman's wife is so taken by her carefree moves on the floor that she has to take stock of her life and her marriage, run to the nearest payphone, and pull a bottle of vodka out of the pantry.

Who would have thought: a KGB spy empowers an FBI wife.

The only thing really predictable about Elizabeth is that she has powerful, swinging emotions: for Philip, for her country, for her mentor. She doesn't want to be alone and she doesn't want to be vulnerable, but she she is. And every time she opens herself up, she gets slammed. Last time it was when she tried to work on creating a loving marriage and Philip had a fling with Irina. In this episode, she surrenders to her need for revenge and to Philip by calling a ceasefire to their separation. When Philip turns her down it only proves her view of the world, and she's provoked enough to give Granny a talking-to.

Elizabeth and Nina are more similar than I thought. Nina says she has nothing but Beeman, and Elizabeth has nothing but a bureaucratic tie to Philip and her dedication to her job. Both women have no country or family to speak of. Nina will be outed as a mole, and Elizabeth only has so many more orders she'll be allowed to disobey. I'm thinking some lonely montages for these women are in store for the finale.

Nina's last ditch hope, Mr. Beeman, is just as pathetic as Elizabeth's prospects with Philip and the KGB. He's empty in there and I'm glad Sandra finally sees that. Between her monologue and Mad Men's Trudy this week, it's been a big television week for deadbeat husbands and the women that yell at them in the kitchen. Poor Stan, the only good thing that happens to him this week is a lead that a man and woman kidnapped Patterson. And that's just going to lead him to lose his other, new, best friend. Both of his ladies now have the upper-hand. His wife is stomping out and Nina's purring to him about her newfound power and access as a senior lieutenant. The guy can't win, but then again, he's not really trying.

And then there is Philip. It's odd that he helped Elizabeth to disobey orders at the same time he was signing a lease on a new apartment to move on with his life. I feel like being ambushed by Martha's family would have veered him in the other direction -- to let the crazy, reckless ladies get themselves into trouble without him. He and Elizabeth's relationship is hanging by the thread that is their children. Elizabeth's been spurned and defiant yet again. If push comes to shove, I don't think she should trust him. Their interests were never aligned; we learn that she didn't even tell him she was pregnant with Henry right away, in case she changed her mind about a second kid. As much as they're a team, they're strangers to each other. And as both the FBI and KGB note this episode, nothing is fair in covert war.

On a lighter note, this episode had top notch '80s dance music and the best selection of silly wigs we've seen yet.

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

What did you think of "Covert War"?

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