The Americans: “The Clock” Recap
Elizabeth and Phillip are forced to be the bad guys when their bosses demand that they go through with a risky plan to plant a bug an important office.
“They shouldn’t ask us to do impossible things.”
The follow up episode to a great pilot is usually, and expected to be, a lesser-chapter; most often reiterating and re-explaining a lot of the premise that was set up in the first episode while not really expanding things out all that far story-wise. But “The Clock” was a rare example of a second episode that was as stellar as the show’s premiere. Even Elizabeth, who was so icy in the pilot, found herself doubting her orders and thinking about the welfare of her kids this week as the two of them, in two different scenarios, were forced to rely on others to do their espionage for them; one being a busty, blonde mark named Analise and the other being the Secretary of Defense’s housekeeper.
The difference in both of these perfectly heightened scenarios is that Analise, under the sexual spell of one of Phillip’s alter egos, was reckless and “off her rocker” while the maid, Viola, was being forced to bug her boss’ office because Phillizabeth had injected her her son with a freakin’ time-release poison. So Elizabeth really broke down on two levels. One being that the operation was so risky that all of a sudden she cared about getting caught and endangering her kids, and the other was her feeling awful while sitting in the housekeeper’s apartment and watching the son slowly die.
And, of course, we want the maid to go through with the mission because we’re aware that Phillip will keep his word. So there’s a slight dramatic irony at play here whereas we know that the Jennings’ mostly mean well. But, from the maid’s perspective, she was probably right in calling in reinforcements and forcing Phillip to have a big, nasty fight with her brother in the apartment hallway. And – holy crap! – when her conscience kicked in – Phillip was forced to put a pillow over her boy’s face. Man, it really did come down to “my family’s safety or yours!”
“There’s been a misunderstanding between you and your Lord.”
And we’re left with a traumatized woman who might break down the line and confess to her Clock crime, and a dangerously delusional woman who thinks Phillip’s going to start a new life with her.
As mentioned, Elizabeth began to thaw a bit, trying her best to bond with her purely “American” daughter, Paige, by piercing her ears – and even getting a little jealous when she catches sight of a photo of Analise. Still, this is a woman who’s much more willing to die, or kill herself, than get arrested. Beeman wasn’t as intrusive this week, but he did find himself his own mole with in the Russian embassy, tracking down a girl who was swiping caviar. So now, with the bug planted in the Secretary of Defense’s office, both sides have ears on the enemy, which includes, now, the Russians learning about the first draft ideas of Reagan’s ill-fated “Star Wars” missile defense program.
Again, another great episode featuring “heroes” who do ferociously wicked things in the name of their own family, and two countries who believe, in absolute black and white, that the other is their truest enemy.
Matt Fowler is a member of the Television Critics Association. Follow him on Twitter at @TheMattFowler