- Special Features
- Blogs & Columns
- Fun & Games
“COMINT” was an intricately crafted, well woven episode that continued to raise the bar for FX’s The Americans. There is not much else to say. This is the best episode of the already good first season show and, if it continues to improve, could easily be considered in the upper echelon of any show on TV this year.
Cultural differences, mainly involving the view of sex, between Americans and Soviets played center stage in “COMINT.” The episode began with Elizabeth meeting Adam Uchada, a KGB informant working for a government contractor that makes lasers. Elizabeth found him to be lonely, due to his recently deceased wife, and easily compromised while interviewing him. Despite his loneliness he let’s Elizabeth know that he has never had sex with anyone while married or since his wife’s death.
Elizabeth was sent to meet with Uchada because his normal handler Vasilli, the head of the Soviet Embassy, was unable to set up a meeting with him due to the KGB’s new inability to listen into FBI communications. Uchada ended up contacting Vasilli that tipped the FBI off to his wavering beliefs. Claudia tasks Elizabeth with finding the key to decrypting the FBI communications, which ended up seeming as though Claudia and Elizabeth were beginning to bond because they were women.
Stan also puts the pressure on Nina to get more information. It seems that Stan may be developing some romantic feelings for Nina as he flirts with her by telling her how beautiful and resourceful is. Unfortunately Nina takes this the wrong way as she takes Stan’s flirtation as him hinting he should use her sexual wiles to get some more intelligence about Uchada. Even though Stan, at the very least, empathizes with Nina and doesn’t seem to just be using her Nina still does not trust Stan which is probably the reason for her misreading Stan’s comments.
And so the sex begins. The Americans, whether making a statement or not, continues to push the utilitarian and capitalistic (Marx is rolling in his grave) use of sex in the Soviet women. Elizabeth, already seen using some of her sexuality to gain information, ends up having sex with the CEO of the company who has developed the mode of mobile encryption for the FBI. She finds out that the system is in the FBI’s trunk but at a cost as the CEO finds it quite arousing to whip Elizabeth with his belt. Even though she seems to have played him when she smirked after she began to cry out loudly for help, it clearly wasn’t how Elizabeth would like it to have gone. When Phillip finds out about the abuse he wants to exact revenge on the CEO but Elizabeth reminds him that he really isn’t her husband, which stops Phillip but also shifts his anger to her.
Nina, on the other hand, decides to cozy up to Vasilli, the head of the Soviet Embassy and her boss, by giving him some oral pleasure. She took what she believed to be was Stan’s advice to get some information on Uchada, which she does. The shot of her using the Soviet tea rinse her mouth after her first sexual act with Vasilli showed her actual desires in the matter and also was a nice visual analogy showing her rejecting the USSR.
Eventually Elizabeth and Phillip set up a car accident to get into the FBI’s trunk. Elizabeth climbs in and in a tense moment is driven back to FBI’s headquarters while getting an imprint of the encryption device. Phillip picks her up in a gesture of apology for his earlier fight. Nina and Vasilli are almost caught a different time but aren’t, allowing Nina to overhear a conversation about the KGB finding a way to decrypt the FBI’s communications while also setting up a meet with Uchada.
Nina relays this information to Stan that causes the FBI to tail Vasilli to the meeting while also changing their encryption. The encryption change forces Vasilli to make a tough decision whether to go to the meet or not, but he does and takes the risk of the FBI tailing him. Uchada doesn’t show up, however, and instead goes to a different location where Elizabeth kills him and seemingly showing a little melancholy and regret that she did. This also informs the KGB that they have a mole.
The cultural differences between the two countries are brought to light in the original conversation between Elizabeth and Claudia. Claudia tells Elizabeth that the USA has no morals because they allow multiple handlers to handle their informants while the KGB goes for a more personal touch. Claudia believes it is more civilized to do it the KGB way even after regaling Elizabeth with a tale of one of Claudia’s former informants killing himself because she ended their “friendship” due to him not being useful to the KGB anymore. Likewise, Uchada could have easily remained alive had the KGB not opted for the personal touch and allowed other people to handle him. However, it could be argued that Stan’s budding relationship with Nina and her reporting to only him is why he gets such good intelligence from her.
The sexual encounters as well seem to help disprove Claudia’s statement of taking change and not waiting for it to be given. Despite the supposed personal bonding the KGB does it seems that most of the information was gathered, unknowingly, through sexual transactions. The portrayal of sex as a means to an end as opposed to a personal connection further refutes Claudia’s point. The sex also puts the women in a very vulnerable position. While the women are technically taking the information for themselves it is also heavily reliant on them not having ultimate control.
The Americans continues to impress. The way the show doesn’t take a stance on right and wrong or bad and good and just presents the facts and actions without pushing an opinion continues to impress. The world of Cold World espionage is often murky and The Americans deftly presents that viewpoint.