One minute you’re sitting quietly in synagogue with your hair slicked back,wearing a fake beard and scoping out a target, and the next, you’re driving home and Margo Martindale shows up.
Yeah, Claudia’s back, along with all of her grandmotherly concern for the spies under her oversight and apparently no hard feelings over her thrashing at Elizabeth’s hands last year. Surely this will help solve some of the mysteries that have permeated the first few episodes of The Americans’ second season, right?
Not a chance. “A Little Night Music” opens with Philip in disguise, spending a Saturday morning among the chosen people while he gets a look at Anton Baklanov, a noted physicist but an even more noted Soviet defector. Across town, Paige is spending more time with Kelli, her new friend from last week’s bus trip, who takes her to—wait for it—church.
Philip and Elizabeth won’t learn about Paige’s new religion for a while, but they’ve already got their hands full. While driving home from synagogue, they figure Baklanov is too much of a true believer in the American way to flip back to the USSR, and then there’s Claudia, just standing there in the middle of a crosswalk. She gets in the car, and of course she’s got an assignment of her own.
What’s Claudia’s game here? She’s steely and concerned for her deep-cover agents, but she’s also out to get whoever bumped off Emmett and Leanne, and she’s already got her suspect: Andrew Larek, a Navy SEAL stationed in Virginia Beach. And the easiest apparent link to Larek comes in the form of a shy, classical-music-loving new sailor named Brad. Time for Elizabeth to go into seduction mode.
So for the third time this season, we’re back in the Hampton Roads. Elizabeth throws on a black, shoulder-length wig and her best Molly Ringwald sweater for a meet-cute in a record shop with nice-guy Brad. They bond over the first movement of Motzart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”—hence the episode’s title—and soon enough they’re in a motel room ready to go at it until Brad reveals his inexperience and Elizabeth goes into her damaged-girl cover story.
Meanwhile, at the Rezidentura, Baklanov appears to be a closed case, based on the Jenningses’ report on the physicist’s American fealty, but new arrival Oleg is still stirring up trouble, especially for Nina, of whom we see little this week. Oleg doesn’t have the security clearance required to read Nina’s reports, so he does what any 1980s brat would do: He uses his family connections to move up in the world. He gets his inkling of what Nina has been doing on her secret missions (i.e., Stan Beeman), but Arkady tries to throw him off the trail by reopening the file on Baklanov.
Date number two for Elizabeth and nice-guy Brad brings them to a coffee shop, where she spins a yarn about how Larek raped her but she couldn’t go to the cops because the Navy wouldn’t release his files. He immediately volunteers to retrieve them, but when he chickens out, Elizabeth motivates him the best way she can think of: with a handjob.
As for Philip, his sham marriage to Martha is veering dangerously close to the point where she might drag “Clark” to couples’ therapy. “Clark” is never around, and even when he does appear for a “lazy morning,” he’s uninterested and racing for the door. (Though in fairness to Philip, Martha’s postcoital phone calls to her mother are mood-killers.)
Things aren’t going so well for Stan, either. The FBI higher-ups are investigating Stan’s season-one offing of Vlad, but the sword falls on Agent Gaad, who gets transferred out of counterintelligence in place of a new boss to be introduced later. Stan, feeling a little remorseful of the lives he’s taken in the line of service, meets Philip in a bar and spills some feelings. He’s sad about having to kill people, and he admits to carrying on an affair. He stops short of saying it’s with that pretty woman from the Soviet embassy, but gives enough that Philip could really own him if he wanted.
While Stan is confessing in a tavern, Paige’s entry into the holy flock is not well received when Elizabeth stumbles upon her reading the Bible. If Elizabeth and Philip have taught their kids anything, it’s that Henry will never get that stupid Intellivision system and that religion is a bunch of baloney.
“Opiate of the masses,” Elizabeth grumbles later.
The episode closes before Elizabeth finishes reeling in Larek, but with the KGB still trying to get Baklanov back home, the Jenningses are assigned to conduct a “forced repatriation.” Lucky for our spies, Baklanov isn’t perfect. He’s having an affair, so Philip and Elizabeth can conveniently ambush him at his girlfriend’s place.
It seems to be going fine. Baklanov is bound, gagged, and thrown in the trunk. And then Baklanov’s girlfriend races into the scene along with a big burly guy, who proceeds to whale on the Jenningses. Elizabeth eventually gets the upper hand on the thug, but only after slamming the trunk on his head oh, 10 or 11 times. But Philip lets the girlfriend get in the car and drive off with Baklanov in the boot, leaving the Jenningses and a very woozy brawler deserted in the street.
Did the Jenningses get unlucky on the Baklanov mission, or did someone at the Rezidentura assign a different team to do the exfiltration? And are they really going to start trusting Claudia again?
What did you think of last night’s The Americans? Let us know in the comments.