The Americans recap: 'Urban Transport Planning'
“There’s trouble back home.”
Elizabeth is talking about Gorbachev and the party leaders working to secretly undermine him, but her warning also applies to the Jennings household. Paige witnessed the violent death of one of Elizabeth’s contacts. Not only does she know her mother has blood on her hands, but she also has it all over her face, clothes, and hair.
Paige makes it back to her family’s house before her mother, and Philip tries to comfort and reassure her. (Almost pathetically, he plies her with some EST self-help techniques.) Then Elizabeth blows through the door like a thunderstorm and rips Paige apart for reacting to the gunshots and running to the scene, rather than waiting in her position.
Nevermind that, one way or another, Paige was going to figure out what happened. Even if she’d stayed put, how was Elizabeth going to explain being covered in an Air Force general’s blood and brains?
Elizabeth may be more angry at herself for the operation going sideways, but she’s lashing out at Paige — not exactly a great way to build up her new teammate.
When Paige asks if she can stay at their house for the night rather than go to her apartment, Elizabeth coldly dismisses her. “It’s a work night.”
After she’s gone, Philip feels around the edges of the night’s mission. Elizabeth tells him she was trying to get her hands on a radiation sensor, but she stops short of telling him that it’s for the Soviet Union’s “Dead Hand” project, aimed at automatically launching a world-destroying nuclear counterstrike even if the U.S.S.R.’s leadership is disabled.
There’s trouble in another home as well. Sofia and Gennadi, the Russian courier who is cooperating with the FBI, are in tumult. As their handler, Stan is trying to hold them together, but Sofia casually drops some heart-stopping news: She has told her new lover about Stan and the FBI, and their efforts to pressure her to stay with Gennadi.
The red alarm is going off in Stan’s head. His two reliable sources could well be executed now that one of them is leaking about their collaboration with the Americans — to a journalist named Bogdan who works with the Russian TASS news service.
“We’re Soviets,” she says. “We know how to keep secrets.”
Stan isn’t sure he wants to keep working these two anyway. How long can Gennadi keep taking long trips to the bathroom to have his courier bag x-rayed from the neighboring stall? Evasive action proves to be necessary, and later in the episode the feds confront Sofia, Gennadi, and their daughter to give them the option of sanctuary.
Cover blown. But at least the informants are safe. And Gennadi wants help winning back his ladylove.
Elsewhere, we learn that the Jennings family is having money troubles. Philip gets a call from Henry’s school, where he makes a bargain to delay some tuition payments. This leads to Philip pumping things up at work, putting on a David Brent-style awkward pep talk.
This doesn’t seem like what he wants to be doing with his life.
Elizabeth and Paige have a heart to heart. “I made a mistake; a really bad one. I can’t get what I saw out of my mind,” Paige says.
“I miscalculated, too,” Elizabeth concedes. “It shouldn’t have happened.”
Paige wants to know if her mother is ever scared. “No matter what happens to me, if I’m fighting for something that important…” Elizabeth says.
“You don’t care if you die?”
“Of course I do. But I’m not afraid,” Elizabeth tells her. (Recap continues on next page)
Elsewhere, Stan goes to meet Oleg. He tells him how he protected him from further pressure by the CIA and FBI, even putting his own career on the line to defy them. But Oleg tells him they sent a tape of his previous collaboration anyway. He’s not convinced Stan had his back.
Stan isn’t convinced Oleg is really here for a transportation seminar. “What are you doing here Oleg?”
Then the ghost of Nina is summoned.
“Do you ever think about her at all. Or is all that in the past for you?” Oleg asks.
“I think about her,” Stan says.
“I used to think I saw her. In the streets. On subway. Parks.”
Neither fully lets down his guard, but this shared past leads Stan to offer sincere advice: “You are here without a diplomatic passport, Oleg. Whatever you’re doing here — don’t.”
Back in Claudia’s apartment, the Russian education of Paige continues as they watch Soviet TV and cook zharkoye, a Russian stew. Then Paige is sent out for an unnecessary ingredient so the two older women can discuss other means of procuring the radiation sensor.
There’s a supervisor at the warehouse. A new target.
“This really does smell good,” Elizabeth says of the zharkoye.
“I know,” Claudia says, sadly.
Back at the Jennings house, Elizabeth brings a small container of zharkoye for Philip. It’s forbidden. To maintain cover, they shouldn’t have such things in the house. But if he eats it fast…
“It smells great,” he says, looking lovestruck. “But I just ate a whole order of kung pao chicken and lo mein.”
“Well…we can’t keep it around,” Elizabeth says, heading for the garbage disposal. This seems unnecessary, like an overreaction. Is anyone going to notice the leftover stew in the Jennings family kitchen? Dumping it seems more like an act of contempt.
“That is delicious,” Philip says, taking one and only one bite.
“Honestly, the way things are going, I think in a couple of years we’ll have Stan over here for zharkoye,” he says. “Things are changing at home. Opening up.”
Elizabeth is unconvinced. “All this talk of perestroika and glasnost. They eat it up. The Americans want us to be just like them…I don’t want to be like them.”
Over in Stan’s house, his enigmatic girlfriend, Renee, tries to coax him into talking about work she thinks should “make him proud.”
She floats the idea that maybe she would like to be an FBI agent, so she could work with him. As a team.
It’s absurd, but for the sake of household peace, Stan says it’s a tip-top idea. Only…darn. The cutoff for new agents is 37.
The next day, Elizabeth has a meeting with the warehouse worker whose name she got from Claudia. The encounter is under the guise of a security audit. She asks questions, and he outlines all the areas where he thinks security is weak in the sensor facility.
Afterward, he is advised not to discuss the audit with any fellow workers, since secrecy is part of their mandate. He tells her he won’t say a word, but guesses his girlfriend already knows. She works in security.
Elizabeth nods. Oh. Yes. She’s great.
As the man leaves, Elizabeth seizes him from behind and chokes him to death. She is getting tired of having to kill innocent people.
Elsewhere, Philip descends some steps in a dark park. He’s in disguise.
We never hear him say anything, but he is meeting with Oleg, who had been urging him to help Gorbachev supporters by spying on Elizabeth and monitoring her actions on behalf of the anti-glasnost contingent.
Elizabeth now has her own security flaw.