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It’s really the little things that give The Americans such high quality. Whether it’s an inconsequential, at the time, conversation between two characters or the threat of very consequential changes that have yet to happen that make the show as enjoyable and tense as it is.
“A Little Night Music” is one such episode. While there were plenty of huge moments, including the shocking end scene, it will probably be the now innocuous happenings that will have the biggest impact.
“A Little Night Music” threw a complete wrench in the works with the return of Phillip and Elizabeth’s former handler, Claudia. She tasks the two with finding the killer(s) of Emmet and Leanne, seemingly sincerely wanting vengeance. However, this is not a Centre sanctioned mission. Claudia’s number one suspect is a Navy Seal named Larek and Elizabeth needs to get his files. But none of this seems exactly legitimate. Claudia’s random reappearance and her immediate fingering of Larek casts some doubt over her true motives, regardless of what she says. Elizabeth begins to work Brad, a Naval officer who has access to Larek’s file, but not everything goes to plan – maybe.
Elizabeth’s game plan is somewhat cloudy. Originally she approaches Brad like any other mark, sex him up and have him do whatever you want, but before they are about to hook up in a motel room she stops. What look like genuine emotions from Elizabeth, and not the character she is playing, end up forcing her from the motel room. This is one of those aforementioned little moments. While it would have been nice to know for sure whether this was part of her game or not it certainly adds some more complexity to the show and her potential relationship.
This incident results in Claudia giving Elizabeth a pep talk, in which she tells Elizabeth she believes Elizabeth is afraid since being shot – another classic Claudia and Elizabeth back and forth. More interesting, however, is how Claudia is painting Larek as a force to be truly reckoned with. Whether it comes to fruition or not it looks like there may be a true villain introduced. Later, when Elizabeth forces herself to manually service Brad in the car because he is unsure about risking his skin to get the files it is clear that Elizabeth is not nearly as comfortable as she once was. It remains to be seen whether this strong move will end up making Brad suspicious of Elizabeth’s rape story she told him earlier.
Phillip was central to two of the other three little moments of the episode. First Frank, Stan’s boss, is relieved of his duties at the FBI in the wake of Stan’s shooting of Dameron from last week’s episode. This will almost certainly have serious repercussions on Stan and probably for Elizabeth and Phillip. It also becomes the catalyst for Stan to reveal most to Phillip. While talking at a bar, Stan talks about shooting Dameron and quickly tells Phillip that he is having an affair, which Phillip already knew. He lies about who the affair is with but there’s no way this doesn’t come back later in the season. Stan opening up to Phillip about this could mean a whole spectrum of possibilities down the line, from Stan revealing FBI secrets to Phillip trying to get Centre to stop using Nina as a double agent.
Later, Phillip has a fight with Martha over little things, which seems like a way for him to have more excuses to not spend nights over at her house. This almost immediately comes back to bite him as Martha, who can’t reach Phillip because he’s on a mission to kidnap Anton (to be discussed later), finally gets around to filling out the application for the promotion Phillip suggested to her. On the application there is a marital status question, which also requires the name of your spouse. Martha leaves a message for Phillip saying that she is tired of hiding it and she will put his name in the box if he doesn’t respond. Again, the fight is a seemingly little moment that could have dire consequences depending on if Martha can turn in the form.
Unfortunately for Phillip, he can’t call Martha back because he and Elizabeth are about to kidnap Anton. Right after Phillip puts Anton in the trunk, two random trained agents – affiliation unknown – come out of nowhere and attack Phillip and Elizabeth. After a knockdown, drag out fight, the female agent drives off with the car that has Anton in the trunk and leaves her male counterpart with Phillip and Elizabeth in the middle of an indistinct Washington D.C. neighborhood. “A Little Night Music” ends there.
Next to nothing is known about these operatives. Claudia’s return is very suspicious but the Anton mission was a Centre mission and Claudia at least seemed to be working on her own accord. Could these agents be the two who killed Emmet and Leanne? And if so, under whose jurisdiction are they? It was a shocking moment that was beautifully set up with the previous scene of Phillip and Elizabeth arguing over Paige’s newfound religious zeal, courtesy of her new friend Kelly.
Phillip and Elizabeth have clear reservations about this with Elizabeth invoking her Communist beliefs while also worrying about her safety. And Paige’s reasoning that her family is screwed up also adds another worry to her parents’ thoughts. But it is good to see Paige given something a little more believable to do for her character after last week’s leap with her bust trip to Harrisburg.
Last, things at the Soviet Embassy have hit a bit of a snag as well. Oleg, tired of not being a priority for Arkady, uses his family connections to get him a security clearance. Instead of reading why his project was canceled he decides to read Nina’s reports about Stan. Arkady lets Nina know that Oleg doesn’t yet have access to the files that outline her original betrayal but Nina knows it’s only a matter of time.
image courtesy of Fox/FX