Today, we look at how the Season 1 episode of The Americans, “Trust Me,” gave us all a heck of a present.
This is “All the Best Things,” a spotlight on the best TV episodes, movies, albums, etc.
This is a Year of Great TV Episodes, where every day this year, we’ll take a look at great TV episodes. Note that I’m not talking about “Very Special Episodes” or episodes built around gimmicks, but just “normal” episodes of TV shows that are notable only because of how good they are.
One of the drawbacks that a number of great TV shows have had is that they have X amount of regular cast members, and since those X cast members are getting paid no matter what, shows will go out of their way to give each cast member SOMEthing to do, even if they’re not very good cast members. Eventually, shows will handle this by simply reducing the commitment to the less interesting characters in the future, but in the short term, this means you get stuff like having to come up with something for, like, Ben Seaver to do on Growing Pains, when no one cares what Ben Seaver is doing ever.
That’s the funny thing about the classic early episode of The Americans, 2013’s “Trust Me,” is that it has one of the silliest subplots in the show’s run due to trying to find something to do for the children of Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys), and the result in this episode was to have their kids, Paige (Holly Taylor) and Henry (Keidrich Sellati) go hitchhiking and get picked up by some creepy guy, who Henry then KOs with a bottle, as he and Paige then run away and walk back home and that’s, like, it. It’s such a silly plotline.
However, the rest of the episode is THRILLING (and Paige and Henry’s plot is not that big of a deal), so it is still a great episode.
When the series begins, Elizabeth and Philip have been working undercover as Russian spies in the United States for roughly 17 years. Their lives have been turned upside down by the fact that an FBI agent, Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), has moved next door, and become good friends with Philip.
Between the two agents, Elizabeth is the true believer of the pair, while Philip is a bit more questioning in his orders, and as a result, the two have a certain distance between them when the series begins, and one of the main plots early on is that Elizabeth is finally ready for a REAL relationship with Philip, but is it too late for that?
The other main plot of the early episodes is that Stan turns a worker at the Soviet embassy, Nina (Annet Mahendru), into his asset. Nina gave Stan information about a man working for the Russians, and so the FBI changed some access codes right after Philip and Elizabeth acquired them. So the KGB knows that there is a mole, and Nina is FREAKED.
Meanwhile, in “Trust Me” (the sixth episode of the show’s first season), Philip is kidnapped, and tortured by people claiming to be working for the United States government. Elizabeth is also captured. She, however, isn’t tortured like Philip.
Stan works a clever plan that frames Nina’s boss, the head of the embassy, as the mole, so Nina is protected (for now).
Finally, the torture of Philip ends with the reveal that it was all a test of their loyalty by the Soviets, including their handler, Claudia (Margo Martindale). Elizabeth freaks out over the lack of trust in them, and in a brilliant sequence, assaults Claudia, buries her head in the water that had been used to waterboard Philip, and then begins beating her savagely, screaming, “I’m gonna kill you, you stupid bitch! Tell whoever approved this that your face is a present from me to them! Show them your face! Show it to them!”
Before they get home (they first crash their car to explain their injuries and why they failed to pick their kids up), Philip pushes Elizabeth on the fact that she wasn’t tortured like him. He gets her to admit that she told her handlers at one point that Philip “liked it here too much.” Philip is shocked. Elizabeth reminds him that of COURSE they are asked about each other. He counters that he would never have told them anything like that about her.
At the end of the episode (after Philip has soothed the FBI secretary that he has been wooing for information. He missed their date because of his kidnaping. In an excellent bit, Philip makes Elizabeth give him some of her jewelry as a present for the other woman. This is not an abnormal thing for them to do, of course, but it is obviously pointed here), Elizabeth gets bit irked at Philip being so upset at her, explaining, “You’re not the only one who got hurt today, okay? I was ripped from my house. I was attacked by the people I believed in, the people I trusted most my whole life.”
Philip counters back, “Yeah, I think that says it all,” as he slams the door and goes to sleep on the couch. This was such an important episode in letting Elizabeth realize that she should probably trust Philip MORE than their bosses.
Man, what a well-written TV show (besides Harry and Paige’s plot), with such stunning lead actors. This episode was written by Sneha Koorse, and directed by Daniel Sackheim.
Okay, if I’m going to have 345 more of these, I could use suggestions, so feel free to email me at email@example.com!