Epsiode 1: Pilot / Series Premier
The Americans is a drama about two KGB spies posing as married Americans in Washington D.C. It is 1981 and Ronald Reagan is President. Our arranged marriage KGB spies are Philip (played by Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (played by Keri Russell) have two children, 14 year-old Paige (played by Holly Taylor) and 11 year-old Henry (played by Keidrich Sellati), who know nothing about their parents’ true identity. Season 1 is a 13 episode series that aired in 2013.
The pilot weaves key parts of their back story with the mission du jour. Their mission is to snatch a Russian defector and return him to Russia. The kidnapping does not go as smoothly as they hope, as the other KGB agent on their team is fatally wounded. They miss transferring the kidnapped Russian defector to the boat (yes, they literally missed the boat). Stuck with the Russian defector, they elect to hide him in the car trunk in their garage at home.
The Russian defector raped Elizabeth during her spy training days in Russia. She is keen to return him to Russian to let the KGB make him pay for defecting. Philip, on the other hand, becomes concerned when Stan (played by Noah Emmerich) and Sandra (played by Susan Misner) Beerman arrive as their new neighbors. Stan just happens to be a FBI Agent and his FBI spidey sense picks up spy-vibes from Philip.
Philip considers defecting to save their family. Now the schism between Philip and Elizabeth becomes clear. Her allegiance is to Russia first and her children second. His allegiance is to his family first and Russia second.
When Philip decides to turn in the Russian defector to save his family, Elizabeth tries to stop them with her fists (she’s an excellent fighter). The Russian defector apologizes to Elizabeth for what he did to her in the past, calling “it” (the rape) “a perk of training”. Disgusted Elizabeth starts to walk away telling Philip to do whatever he wants. Philip demands to know what the defector did to her but she won’t say. Philip guesses the truth and coldly kills the defector. Elizabeth is stunned that Philip killed FOR her. They dispose of the body. They affirm their trust by telling each other their real identities (something they had not done in their 16 years together).
The pilot ends with the FBI Agent Stan searching their garage for clues that the Russian defector was held there. Elizabeth has done an excellent job cleaning and no evidence can be found. As FBI Stan leaves the garage, you see Philip gun drawn ready to kill again if needed to save his family.
Comments: An excellent pilot episode. I can see why it was picked up to be made into a series. I’m a Keri Russell fan so that’s the draw for me. Her character Elizabeth is hard nosed and all business when it comes to the job of being a spy. Her soft spot is the kids who she hopes will never find out what she and their father do. The husband Philip was kinda awesome. He can totally kick butt. Loved the way he gave the mall guy leering at his daughter a major smack down later in the guy’s back yard. His devotion to his wife and children are evident and humanize him. There is sex and violence in this episode but it did not feel overly gratuitous.