The Americans: “Cardinal” (Episode 2.02)

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The Americans: “Cardinal” (Episode 2.02)

The stakes for Elizabeth and Philip were always exceedingly high.

I mean, I get stressed out that I might be late picking up my daughter from school, and the biggest thing I would incur is a late fee. I would never make it in the world of The Americans.

But, remarkably, this season the stakes are even higher for the Jennings. Now everyone around them is a suspect and a possible threat. Are they being spied on, or are those men really doing electrical repair? Is that a jogger or someone surveilling them?

The Jennings are now living in a high level of danger that they have never experienced before. This is bringing them closer together while making their daughter Paige increasingly suspicious. This week, she calls looking for the phone number of Elizabeth’s supposed aunt. How long until she dials that number?

Viewers were also treated to a much more confident Martha, a welcome change because she was way too pathetic last season. Martha is looking for a promotion at work and considering a move to the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity. Of course, that kind of career move would make Philip’s fake marriage useless. I never really thought about what might happen to Martha if she stopped working in counter-intelligence, but I have to think it wouldn’t be good. By the end of the episode, she’s telling “Clark” she wants to buy a gun to protect herself and that she doesn’t want to be a victim. All I could think was, “Oh Martha, sweetie. You already are the biggest victim ever.”

Philip sets out to meet the contact of Emmett and Leanne, the KGB agents who were slain last week. Only the KGB knows they were agents; their deaths are being reported on the news as a tragic crime against tourists. While Phillip tries to convince the contact that they are on the same side, Elizabeth gets a call to help a distressed agent. So when it comes down to it, Elizabeth still chooses her job over her family and unceremoniously dumps Paige and Henry off at the movies.

A walk-in arrives at the Rezidentura, which provides Nina with the perfect thing to keep Stan occupied (giving him valid information but not the most important information) while keeping the brutal deaths of the KGB agents from him. One of the most distressing scenes is watching Nina type up her report of what transpired between her and Stan that afternoon. There’s something so degrading about Nina putting the intimate details of her interactions with Stan in a report.

Elizabeth continues to worry about what will become of Emmett and Leanne’s surviving son. Philip assures her that he will be taken care of. “Taken care of how,” she wonders. And that really is the crux of the problem. Will this college-bound kid suddenly be removed from everything and everyone he’s ever known and sent to live in Russia with strangers?

“All these years, I never worried about Paige and Henry being safe,” Elizabeth says. Well she has plenty to worry about now.

Other thoughts on “Cardinal”:
—Loved Stan randomly popping in at the travel agency. Is he checking up on them to make sure they really are travel agents, or is he really just trying to plan a good bachelor party for his buddy? Noah Emmerich’s performance is so great because I really don’t know.
—Paige, Henry and Elizabeth all played Life. If only their life was as simple as a board game.
—The show is asking a lot for viewers to believe that “Paul’s” disguise was so good that his contact wouldn’t even recognize him when his face is on the news as a murdered tourist. He wouldn’t even look vaguely familiar?
—“I’m a feminist. I only work for Mother Russia.” As I said last week Oleg is going to be fun and TROUBLE.

Amy Amatangelo is a Boston-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.