'The Americans' Season 2, episode 9: Failure to soul-search in 'Martial Eagle'

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"The Americans" may appear to be about the secret horrors of the Cold War, but "Martial Eagle" makes one thing very clear: No horror is greater than the personal one, and even those who work in this dangerous world have trouble looking inward.

That's why Stan spends the episode telling everyone to watch out for spies exploiting weakness, never noticing how exploited he already is. Philip, meanwhile, turns self-hatred on to the world, wreaking havoc at every turn.

Not even a political intrigue story partially credited to Oliver North (whoa) can turn "The Americans" away from an intensely personal investigation.

Philip and Elizabeth versus Martial Eagle

On a cold and dark night, Philip and Elizabeth sneak onto the Martial Eagle camp grounds in their septic truck. That part goes very well. The rest of it? Let's just say that three people on the base (at least) are dead by the time they leave, one with his throat slit at close quarters.

Still, Philip gets his photos, and Elizabeth gets her ... Well, she does something anyway.

The gate is again the easy part as the two escape, but that's where the good ends. That other septic driver didn't survive his night tied to a tree, so there's at least one more body dropped in the operation. Philip and Elizabeth are having a bad morning.

Stan versus Project Harvey (but not versus himself)

Somehow or other, Stan has worked his way into the Department of Defense stealth program, which is rather hilariously called Project Harvey. One of the things he figures out right away is that the meeting in Virginia -- the one going on when Emmet and Leanne died -- was the one time the Soviets might find enough stealth experts to do something with the technology.

Multiple interviews and statements about how the Soviets could use any weakness to turn a person are great for the investigation, but they fail to make Stan see how compromised he himself is. It's honestly terrifying just how oblivious Stan Beeman is to his own life. Not only does he not see his own glaring weakness -- Nina -- but he is shocked to learn that his wife (who totally knows he's cheating) might want out.

She's even taking a weekend to consider an affair.

Stan had just better hope he is better at outward investigation if he wants to tie the murders of Emmet, Leanne and their daughter to the espionage of stealth technology.

Philip versus God

What's worse than spending a freezing night slitting men's throats? How about following that up with a morning in church?

Yes, Paige has managed to convince her parents to visit her church for Youth Day. It doesn't go too well, especially after the youth leaders mention that Paige has donated $600 to their missionary work. This was supposed to be the girl's travel money, and she doesn't get why a "better" use isn't OK with parents.

And oh, are they not. Philip quite frankly loses it, ripping up the Bible and yelling about lies while even Elizabeth looks on in horror.

Later on, while Philip is out on a mission, Elizabeth drags Paige out of bed for some midnight cleaning, pretty much because the girl is all soft and stuff. Not like her parents and their Stalin-era childhoods.

"Your father and I never had a childhood. Nothing came easy for us, ever." -- Elizabeth

But Philip's anger at himself and the universe continues. It gets to the point where he can be mistaken for a homeless man in need of help. To the point where he's finally willing to destroy Martha for the mission. To the point where Philip goes back to the church, sneaking in while wearing gloves.

Fortunately for Pastor Tim, Philip isn't so far gone in his own grief to do more than make vague threats in the direction of Tim. It could even be argued that the minister wins the confrontation, standing his ground and offering forgiveness until Philip leaves.

The spy isn't exactly saved. But we can at least hope for a little less anger.

Gaad versus Arkady

To the subtle downfall of Agent Gaad that's been happening for most of this season, "Martial Eagle" brings a new twist. The hearing hasn't happened yet, but Gaad is definitely out. He might be out so far, in fact, that firing is definite and even jail is a possibility.

Gaad isn't going down alone though. In addition to whatever threat there is against Stan in all of this, the FBI spy boss tracks down Arkady at breakfast and makes it clear that he's taking the KGB down with him if necessary. Nothing can be proven, of course, but there are enough accusations of impropriety that much of the Rezidentura will get shipped home in the fallout.

It should be interesting to see how the two sides of the Cold War help each other in this one.

Photo/Video credit: FX