Nina may outlive everyone on The Americans. That, or she will meet a gruesome end for the games she is playing. In “Arpanet,” the seventh episode of Season Two, Oleg helped her sharpen her deception skills to successfully trick the polygraph test Stan insisted she take to prove her trustworthiness to the FBI. The stress of her situation had her losing her cool, but the enamored Oleg calmed her nerves and afterward, found himself in bed with her. “You have no armor, nothing to protect you — except your wits, your courage, and your beauty,” he said to her then. “How is it possible you’re here?” Nina and her other comrades are still around because they’re survivors, and they’ll do what is necessary to save themselves. For Nina, the most reliable weapon she has is her sexuality, which works for The Americans, one of the sexiest shows on TV and one that is quite happy presenting viewers with its stars’ backsides. Yet for agents in the field such as Phillip, brute force often is the only option.
Returning drunk journalist Charles Deluth (Reg Rogers) helps Phillip get information about PDP-10 (“The Beast”), a mainframe computer family that runs multiple operating systems, one of which is Arpanet. Phillip isn’t entirely sold on the notion of a virtual highway taking us to the future, but, disguised as a janitor, he’s able to gain access to the system to download its information. Unfortunately, an innocent computer guy gets in Phillip’s way, and the sequence of events here is chilling — The computer guy notices something is wrong; Phillip appears behind him; Phillip is seen pushing his janitor’s trash can away from the scene, holding one hand on the lid. “I killed someone. Someone who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Phillip tells Charles, whom he had been chiding for falling off the wagon and not being as strong an asset as necessary. “What was the point? … Do you know how many people I’ve killed? Looked into their eyes, watched them die?” “It’s what you do,” Charles tells him. “And you do it very well.”
Larrick (the always great character actor Lee Tergesen) continues to be a wild card for the Jennings, and Lucia is just as dangerous if not more so thanks to her impassioned beliefs and desire to kill Larrick as revenge for what he has done in Nicaragua. He’s an asset to their cause, Elizabeth warns her — “Larrick is a monster, but he is our monster.” Lucia’s impetuous nature has Elizabeth rightfully worried. The last thing they need when dealing with someone as dangerous as Larrick is a loose cannon, especially now that Larrick has thrown a wrench in the operation and won’t be able to get Lucia access to the training camp where two Contra field officers are scheduled to visit. It’s not a surprise that he’s skeptical of Phillip and Elizabeth, answering her plea of still needing his help to gain access to the camp with “Are you alone?” … Can’t be too careful nowadays. It’s hard to feel safe, anywhere.” While Lucia “burns hot,” Larrick is cold and calculating. Both mean trouble.
Lucia’s behavior reminds Phillip of Elizabeth, but lately, Elizabeth has exhibited almost an ease and wisdom about her work. She’s no longer amused at Lucia’s idealism but instead sees it for the danger it presents: That when you let emotions enter the picture, you are bound to make huge mistakes. Just look at Stan and what he’s willing to do for Nina — he admits to her that stealing Oleg’s surveillance files is worth it if it means keeping her safe. Phillip and Elizabeth are doing their best to distance themselves emotionally from their roles — they have to do what they have to do, as Charles said to Phillip — but as we have seen all season, it takes a toll. Even if they are keeping their heads, few others appear to be doing the same.
What else we learned from “Arpanet”:
Sarah Carlson is a TV Critic for Pajiba. She lives in San Antonio. You can find her on Twitter.