The Americans Ep 1.06 ‘Trust Me’ is all about how you frame it

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the americans s1 ep9

The Americans Season 1, Episode 6 ‘Trust Me’
Directed by Dan Sackheim
Written by Sneha Koorse
Airs Wednesdays at 10pm (EST) on FX

 

An hour absent of the usual dose of espionage, ‘Trust Me’ puts all of the show’s characters – major and minor – into reaction mode after the events of ‘COMINT’, as the KGB looked internally for a mole in every corner of their operation. As the title suggests, the episode is all about the people they trust – and more importantly, how this loyalty comes about (or doesn’t).

Like I said in the title, ‘Trust Me’ is all about framing – but I’m not talking about how Dan Sackheim composes shots or orchestrates the events on-screen. I’m talking about the characters: ‘Trust Me’ is less about how people trust each other, but why people trust each other (or don’t). The easiest example of this actually comes from the worst story line we’ve seen thus far: Paige and Henry’s ill-fated hitch hiking adventure from the mall.

Although there’s plenty of hints the former military man (and free safety in high school: “those are usually the guys who hit the hardest”) is a creep, he doesn’t explicitly do anything that’s worthy of Henry smashing him over the head with the beer bottle. But the way they perceived his behavior is what led them to distrust him, and there are a number of POV shots from both children’s angles used to show this. While the plot itself is pretty lifeless (ooo, Paige and Henry have a secret!), there’s a great use of camera to firmly establish the themes of the episode: trusting someone is a decision made on perception, especially when it comes to a stranger.

These themes naturally play out different in the other story lines on the show: all the other characters are interacting with people they know, so issues of trust become much more emotional, affecting how they view others and their behavior. The Rezident doesn’t suspect Nina of anything because he’s sleeping with her and giving him some much-needed company. Nina doesn’t have any emotional attachment to him, however: her loyalties lie strictly with Stan, who draws closer and closer to her with every meeting they have (to the point he’s nearly breathing up her nose while they’re in the art exhibit).

The last two episodes have given a lot of signs of how reckless Stan might get to keep Nina safe: his lifeless marriage is obviously feeding his attraction to her, and in this episode, he frames a KGB officer without a second thought to deflect any suspicions that she is the FBI’s mole. Oddly enough, it seems the biggest threat to the balance in power of the Cold War right now is love – which as always, comes into play with Elizabeth and Phillip, always the heart of the show.

It went without saying that Phillip and Elizabeth’s kidnapping was a farce – there’s no way the US government would be snatching up the main characters and beating the shit of them in the sixth episode. So when it’s revealed that Granny’s behind it, it’s not really a big surprise, but it serves a distinct purpose in their relationship. Not only can they not really trust their own people (who vetted them through light torture, and just sent an innocent man to Russia), but they can’t trust each other.

Again, it’s all about how characters frame their perceptions: Elizabeth sees Phillip enjoying his life in America a little too much, but she doesn’t truly understand why. For Phillip, he’s ingrained himself in his American identity, even as he walks around in wigs, seducing an FBI secretary with his wife’s jewelry. In the short term of this episode, it causes a lot of friction between them, but it stands to help their relationship as the season progresses. For the first time, we can see a smidgen of doubt in Elizabeth’s eyes as she starts to wonder how one-sided her trust with her superiors really is. More importantly, the experience has her looking at things in a new light: trusting the person she shares her life with should’ve been her first priority – not maintaining her trust with a government that would kill her on the hint of any disloyalty, how false it maybe.

In that moment, the camera is looking straight at Elizabeth, giving us a clear view of the confusion going on in her mind – about the KGB, about Phillip, about Gregory, in a moment questioning everything around her. The final shot, though, is shown from outside the bedroom as Phillip closes the door, reinforcing the fact that she’s all alone without him, no matter what side of the fence he’s resting on.

 

Other thought/observations:

– it’s sad watching Nina eat up every promise Stan feeds her. All signs point to a bad end for her at the end of the season: as she points out, Stan can’t protect her if she’s shipped off to Russia.

– Gregory makes a quick appearance, smoking a cigarette with his smoothness, trying to start things up with Elizabeth again. She just wants eyes on Phillip and the kids… for now (wink, wink).

– Elizabeth puts quite a beating on Granny, it will be interesting to see how she reacts when she can move her face again.

– Paige stands super awkwardly in every scene – it can be a bit distracting at times.

 

— Randy Dankievitch

1 Comment
  1. Mario in Philly says

    Nice, perceptive comments on a really good episode.
    Interesting also is how the kids lie to the parents as well as the parents lie to the kids. The children seem well-adjusted but I sometimes wonder if their parents’ behavior sometimes comes through when raising them or how they’ll react I’d they should ever learn the truth about their parents. Probably will be just more secrets and lies…
    Good write up!

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