'The Americans' Recap: Season 2 'The Deal'

By Chris Baggiano,

When I saw that “The Deal” was 15 minutes longer than the usual episode of The Americans, I should have known that there was something special about it. And there was. “The Deal” was, somehow, this season’s best episode thus far. The episode saw Elizabeth return to her exceptional espionage self in multiple situations while also creating a possible turning point for both Phillip and Stan. Perhaps the most impressive aspect is that amidst all the action The Americans never deviated from itself, focusing on the emotional rather than opting for spectacle.

“The Deal” started right where it left off from last week’s “A Little Night Music.” Elizabeth and Phillip are stranded with a random agent who has just attacked them – their car and Anton, the physicist and kidnapping target, sped off into the night. After a brief run in with the police where the agent plays along with Phillip and Elizabeth pretending to be too drunk, find their safe house and Phillip and the agent hunker down there.

Until the end of the episode, Phillip and Elizabeth are split, Phillip taking watch duties over the Israeli agent (as revealed early in the episode) and Elizabeth traversing the Virginia coastline. While Elizabeth’s story contained more action and showed that she was still very capable of working assets, it was Phillip’s story that might have more of an effect as the season rolls along.

Throughout Phillip’s watch, the Israeli agent tests him. First he makes Phillip doubt whether the Soviets and Israelis will make a trade for the Israeli agent citing that the Israelis don’t value their agents as much as the Soviets do. Next, the Israeli agent attacks Phillip as Phillip is helping him in the bathroom. And when Phillip beats him he continues to draw parallels between the two agents as he says that Phillip would have tried the same thing. Finally, the Israeli talks about missing Israel and gets Phillip reminiscing about the Soviet Union, which is still on Phillip’s mind in the final scene of the episode when he asks Elizabeth whether she could remember icicles in Smolensk.

The Israeli agent isn’t the only one to work on Phillip’s psyche. Once Arkady pulls off the trade, which includes not only the captured agent but also the USSR allowing 1,500 Soviet Jews to immigrate to Israel, Phillip must take Anton to the docks to be shipped back to the USSR. And while Phillip was relatively stone faced with the Israeli agent, it seemed like he was on the verge of cracking as Anton appealed to his sympathy. Anton begs Phillip to allow him to work from the USA or, at the very least, stay for his son’s bar mitzvah, which is to happen in three months. Phillip didn’t say much while Anton begged but it seemed clear by his facial expression that he was trying his hardest not to think about anything Anton was saying.

During Phillip’s watch, Elizabeth is all over the place. First she returned home to have Paige continue her barrage of teenage angst. She then visits Martha, unannounced, after having checked Clark’s messages. Elizabeth is Phillip’s brother to Martha and the two bond over how absent Phillip always is. Eventually, Elizabeth convinces Martha to not out her marital status while becoming somewhat jealous over Phillip’s take charge attitude in the bed, which Martha tells her all about. In an episode that’s so busy, it’s nice to see it still include a little moment of jealousy instead of just the nuts and bolts.

Elizabeth then takes a trip to visit her Navy boy toy who gives her the files on Larek. Immediately after receiving the files, she breaks up with him, stating she’s just not ready yet after her rape. That guy was played like a fiddle and it should be interesting to see whether or not Elizabeth’s fairly erratic behavior with this guy gets her in trouble. Just when Elizabeth is about to check Larek’s file, back at home Paige walks in and apologizes to her mom.

On the FBI side of things, Stan brings back his old boss, Frank, to help him figure out what Anton was doing. All Frank can find out is that he was working on some top-secret contract for the Department of Defense. After a brief visit to Nina, which makes Stan believe Oleg will lead them to the place that Anton will be taken to, he puts together a tail to follow Oleg out of the embassy. The complicated tail ends up at a random dock, not the one Anton will be sailing from, where Oleg tells Stan he has figured everything out about Nina and if Stan wants Oleg to keep silent about Nina’s betrayal then Stan must offer something in return.

During Phillip’s time watching the Israeli agent, the new handler is revealed for the first time, surprising even Phillip. Kate is taking the place of Claudia and is clearly not very experienced in handling agents. Expect some conflict between the experienced Phillip and Elizabeth and Kate while she is learning on the job.

“The Deal” was a very busy episode and was executed perfectly. The pace always was moving, even in some of the quieter scenes with Phillip watching the Israeli agent, and the suspense never lulled. “The Deal” was one of the finest episodes of The Americans and of television as a whole.

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