And so the near-flawless first season of ‘The Americans’ comes to an end with a near-flawless episode, cementing this as one of the best TV seasons in the last decade and freshman seasons ever.
“The Colonel” paid off the storylines that ‘The Americans’ has been meticulously building over the last 12 episodes in thrilling, satisfying fashion. A lot happened in this hour, of course, but it all culminated with an edge-of-your-seat car chase through the city as Philip and Elizabeth scramble to escape Stan and the FBI. For a spy drama, ‘The Americans’ has been light on big action set pieces, but the show really let it fly here as Philip and Elizabeth narrowly escape unidentified, but not unharmed.
Of course, that car chase would have ended much worse for them had it not been for a woman they’ve never met. Nina’s double-crossing of Stan and admission of betrayal to the Russian consulate last week came just in time, as a completely-in-the-dark Stan moves her to the safe house a few hours before the operation goes down. That gives Nina just enough time to warn Arkady, who in a bit of classic spy show (pre-cell phone!) ingenuity, paints the abort signal on a fleet of cars that he dispatches to the meet location. Philip gets the message, and realizing it’s not for him but for his (ex) wife, is able to traverse the city just in time to rescue her.
Ironically, it was Phillip’s desire to protect Elizabeth that put her in harm’s way. She’s assigned by Claudia to go through with the meet with the Air Force Colonel, though everyone acknowledges the overwhelming possibility that it’s a set-up. Philip, meanwhile, is given the more mundane job of retrieving the tapes of an important meeting that occurred at the office they bugged earlier in the season. At the last minute, Philip, thinking the kids will be better with Elizabeth than him, heads off to the meet, leaving Elizabeth to pick up the tapes.
What they don’t know, of course, is that they maid they bullied into placing the bug has informed the FBI. The meeting they bugged was a set-up, designed to lure one of the illegals to the parked car where the tape recorder is located (tracked down by tracing the signal from the bug). Meanwhile, while Elizabeth’s former contact in the Air Force does eventually get turned, the FBI was not yet on to the meet with the Colonel, which would have gone as planned had it not been for the abort signal.
If not for Nina’s intervention, it would have been over for Elizabeth. And going forward, she may just be the Russians’ most valuable asset. Her task to turn Stan would seem impossible; but with Stan’s marriage broken beyond repair and his professional disappointment, it’s not as out of the question as it first appears. It’s conceivable that when Stan finally meets the real Elizabeth and Philip, it won’t be because he caught them, but because he’s introduced to them.
That’s a ways down the road, though. For now, we can just enjoy the majest of “The Colonel”, which weaved together action, intrigue, and emotion in a way that you rarely see on the small (or big) screen.