The Americans: "This Place Doesn't Turn Out Socialists."

Categories: Film and TV

Praise the lord and pass the borscht.
The obvious parallel for The Americans, FX's new series about Soviet sleeper agents up to no good in 1980s USA, is Homeland. Minor differences aside (unlike Brody, the Jennings have no POW background) both shows focus on seemingly everyday folk tasked with attacking the United States from the inside and the toll that takes on both them and their families.

But unlike Showtime's perennial Golden Globe favorite, The Americans deals with a conflict we've already won. The Cold War effectively ended when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, so we already know the Jennings and their Soviet superiors don't succeed in bringing down the U.S. So the real questions are: what kind of damage will they end up doing, and what will the fallout (no pun intended) be for their kids?

Wednesday's pilot was promising, even if the spycraft left a lot to be desired. I guess FX is hoping the sex and violence will make up for any nitpicking.

And we're off: 1981! Quarterflash! Smoking in bars! We're in Washington, DC, and an obviously (to us) be-wigged Keri Russell is seducing some loudmouth from the Justice Department. Wow, haven't seen a BJ on TV in a while. From "Felicity," no less.

Does that make it "Feliciatio?"

Across town, a recent defector to the United States runs from two undercover KGB agents to the strains of Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" (man, they're going to lean pretty heavily on K Billy's Super Sounds of the '80s, aren't they?). "Not Felicity" picks up the agents (one of whom has been wounded) and the now apprehended defector, switches plates, and rushes to their drop site. They arrive just in time to see a freighter sailing off. Guess they [puts on sunglasses] missed the boat.


That's how we meet "the Jennings," a pleasant suburban family who just happen to be highly trained Soviet operatives. Husband Phillip (Matthew Rhys) goes to work (making message drops), wife Elizabeth (Russell) stays home with Temisov, the captured defector now residing in the trunk of the family Olds, and the kids go to school. Idyllic, really.

Real time events take place between flashbacks to their training. Turns out "Elizabeth," in 1960, was raped by -- oh shit -- Temisov. No wonder she's so eager to kill him and be done with it. Meanwhile Phillip, disguised as a government auditor, interviews a secretary in the FBI's Counterintelligence Bureau about the disappearance of the defector. Predictably, the Feds are going bananas.

The show wastes no time establishing Phillip as dangerously enamored with the American lifestyle. He jokingly(?) suggests to Elizabeth they take the $3 million they could get for defecting (plus another three Temisov promises them if they return him to the U.S.) and tries on some cowboy boots while scooting along to Juice Newton. If they play "Bette Davis Eyes" I'll shit myself.

And in what I can only describe as a ridiculous coincidence, the new neighbor is an FBI agent (Noah Emmerich) who works in Counterintelligence. Phillip is freaked out. Again. And wants to give themselves up. Again. If I were Elizabeth, I'd be worried about all the defection talk, kind of like a husband constantly "speaking hypothetically" about having sex with some hot girl at the office. The argument turns to the kids, whom Elizabeth still thinks they can turn into socialists. Phillip's reply: "This place doesn't turn out socialists."

How do you explain Obama, Phillip? HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN OBAMA?

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