History Series / TheAmericans

23rd Apr '16 3:33:15 AM TrollBrutal
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** Beeman figures out a simple, yet effective, plan to throw suspicion off the real mole, Nina

to:

** Beeman figures out a simple, yet effective, plan to throw suspicion off the real mole, NinaNina. The Rezident is [[PutOnABus put on a plane]] as a result, and all it required was a basic understanding of Soviet presumed-guilty paranoia regarding their high officials. [[note]] Not to mention some [[FrameUp planted diamonds]].[[/note]]
** The United States Government pulls off a Batman Gambit in season 2. They come up with faulty rotor designs for submarines and plant them at facilities all over the country, knowing full well that the Soviets will try to steal them. Russia obtains the plans and retrofits one of their submarines with the new rotors. The "improved" submarine has a rotor malfunction that kills the entire crew (over a hundred Soviet sailors). The US tricked Russia into stealing plans that would kill its own military personnel.
* BecomingTheMask: Seems to be the case with Philip, but then ultimately {{subverted}}.
-->'''Elizabeth''': You like it too much here.
-->'''Philip''': I '''''FIT IN!''''' Yeah, I like it here, '''''so what?'''''
** Philip and Martha's fake relationship and fake marriage starts to get more real by Season 4, like in season premiere "Glanders", when he's going to Martha for comfort and telling her things he doesn't tell his other wife.
* BerserkButton: Do not question Philip's loyalty. Or Elizabeth's for that matter.
** Do ''not'' murder Larrick's buddies in the Navy.
** It's also a bad idea to threaten Philip's wife and kids. Even though he is well aware what family ties are worth in his line of work he'll still kick your ass.
* BigBad: Larrick in Season 2. Neutralizing him is our VillainProtagonist's primary endgame since halfway through the season. [[spoiler: However, both he and the Jennings came to a collision course as a result of the actions of...]]
** BiggerBad: [[spoiler: Jared]].
* BlackAndGrayMorality: Our protagonists are murderous KGB spies. The FBI guy hunting for them murdered a newbie KGB agent in cold blood and cheated on his wife. Nina is a TripleAgent who also isn't above callously betraying her cellmates. Martha eventually knowingly betrays her country.
* BlatantLies:
-->'''Martha''': Is this real?
-->'''Philip''': Yes.
** Also Stan lying to Nina's face about murdering Vlad.
* BluffTheEavesdropper: After finding the listening device in Caspar Weinberger's office, the FBI does this in order to lay a trap for Directorate S.
* BondageIsBad: Or rough sex and erotic spanking is bad, as the guy who whips Elizabeth demonstrates.
* BoundAndGagged: Larrick does this to [[spoiler: KGB handler Kate]] after overpowering her. This trope is often used for {{Fanservice}} but in this instance is very scary and disturbing.
* BrattyTeenageDaughter: Paige, who was already more or less this, gets even worse in Season 1 after Philip and Elizabeth separate and he moves out of the house. And in Season 2 she gets into Christianity, in what is clearly at least in part an effort to irritate her unchurched parents.
* BriefcaseFullOfMoney: Philip hands one of these over in exchange for sensitive information in "Gregory", but not before he uses it to bust up a couple of {{Mooks}} who wouldn't get out of his blind spot.
* BringIt: Elizabeth before taking down Timoshev.
* BullyHunter: Philip tries to intervene when a pedophile starts hitting on his daughter, but backs down and doesn't try to stop him from leaving with another girl, proving him to be a {{subversion}} of this trope. However, later in the episode, he snaps Timoshev's neck when he learns Timoshev [[spoiler:raped Elizabeth during training]]. Even later, he beats the shit out of the pedophile and has to be stopped from murdering the target of a honey trap who beat Elizabeth during rough sex.
* TheBusCameBack:
** Episode 1-2, "The Clock", introduces Annelise, Phillip's girlfriend, the wife of a Defense Department official. She's clingy and emotional, and it seems it will be a major plotline--but she doesn't reappear until 21 episodes later in "Yousef", when Phillip maneuvers her into being a HoneyPot for a Pakistani agent.
** Vasili, the head of the KGB office in Washington, is framed for espionage in the first season by Nina and Stan and bundled off to the Soviet Union, presumably for execution. However, he pops up again in the second season as the dissident Russian scientist's supervising officer.
* ButHeSoundsHandsome: Elizabeth can't resist making offhanded remarks about how cool the Soviet Union's accomplishments are ("walking on the moon is ok, but getting into space is the real thing")
* BuxomIsBetter: In "Pastor Tim", Henry, now a teen awash in hormones, tells Stan Beeman that he lusts after one of his teachers. When Stan asks about her, Henry says "She's got..." and makes a gesture indicating large breasts.
* CaliforniaDoubling:
** New York doubling. Shot after shot after shot featuring present-day NYC parking restriction signs, MTA bus stops, bodegas, etc. One train station scene clearly shot along an LIRR line. A scene set in Philly clearly shot somewhere along the 7 line in Queens. The list goes on and on.
** Quite obvious in some of the later episodes of Season 2, supposedly taking place in DC and Virginia in March and April, but featuring snow everywhere due to the brutal winter of 2013-2014 in NYC.
* CallBack: In Season 2 episode "Echo" Philip starts to tell Elizabeth a story about when he was a boy in Tobolsk and gangs of kids would mug him when he was bringing milk home. He's interrupted before he finishes the story. Two seasons later in Season 4 premiere "Glanders", we see the violent end to that interrupted story, in a flashback to Philip's youth.
* ClarkKenting: One of the alter egos is also called "Clark". And this Clark looks a lot like Philip with a toupee and glasses. However, for the most part the disguises are not meant to completely change the agents appearances, just to look nondescript.
* ChekhovsGun: Several
** Chris's offhand comment early in the season about how he once dated Martha leads to Chris asking Martha out again in "Mutually Assured Destruction"--which leads to Chris seeing Martha looking in a file cabinet she shouldn't be looking in and acting all shifty, which leads to Chris getting suspicious and following Martha around.
** A literal one with the gun that Martha bought, much to Philip's unpleasant surprise, in episode 2-2, "Cardinal". Not fired as of yet. (Although Martha takes target practice with her ChekhovsGun in Season 3 premiere "EST Men".)
* ChronicBackstabbingDisorder: Nina betrays every 'side' she's on. Even [[spoiler: after being imprisoned for treason in season 3, she informs on her fellow prisoners in exchange for better treatment and meals from the guards.]]
* UsefulNotes/ColdWar: The early 1980s being an especially tense period of the UsefulNotes/ColdWar, following the accession of UsefulNotes/RonaldReagan to the presidency and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
* ConsummateLiar: Saying that the "Jennings" are extremely good at deception would be an understatement. This comes with the job description for cover agents, since their dual (and something trial or quadral) lives depend on it.
* ContrivedCoincidence: Who moves in right next door to two Soviet Deep Cover Agents? An FBI agent who works in counterintelligence and is hunting Soviet agents, that's who. Somewhat excused by the fact that it's a UsefulNotes/WashingtonDC suburb with a high density of government employees. {{Lampshaded}} by Elizabeth: "FBI agents have to live somewhere."
* CovertGroupWithMundaneFront: The Jennings run a travel agency. This provides them with sufficient excuse to travel and to meet different types of people.
* CowboyCop:
** Stan has a knack for unsanctioned work and is often following his own, accurate hunches. One time he bullies the guy in the stereo store without even a hint of a warrant, another he breaks into the Jennings' garage. When [[spoiler: Amador is killed]], this becomes even more pronounced, particularly in [[ItMakesSenseInContext his speech about how hunting dogs carry the birds they catch to their master's feet]] to a terrified captured KGB agent. He's also the first to become suspicious of [[spoiler:Martha]] and puts her under surveillance without telling the bosses.
** Elizabeth and Philip ignore direct orders from the Center and think outside the box sometimes, which doesn't sit well with the rigid Soviet structure.
* CrazyPrepared: The KGB, oh dear god. Probably justified, as the agents operate far from home and support, so such preparation comes in handy.
** They have a fake demented "Aunt" for the kids if they ask too many questions.
** Someone monitors Martha's line to ensure she does not reveal "Clark" to the US.
** Season 3 reveals that if Directorate S agents ever find themselves being tailed, they can call someone and get a made-to-order traffic collision that will allow them to escape the tail.
** Phillip has a fully-furnished and seemingly lived-in apartment for "Clark", in case Martha ever asks to go there. It comes in handy when she actually does, in the middle of the night.
* CriminalProcedural: The show examines what it takes to be an illegal spy (sleeper agent) in the United States. It involves murder and deception of regular people on a regular basis.
* CycleOfRevenge: A rogue faction of the KGB causes the deaths of three FBI agents, and the Americans retaliate by killing a number of KGB officers. The KGB wants to end the feud, but some of their agents seek personal revenge for the deaths of their friends.
* DealWithTheDevil: Larrick forces Elizabeth to take this while he strangles Lucia.
-->'''Larrick''': It's either her or me. You choose.
* DeepCoverAgent:
** "Directorate S", the KGB program which has installed {{deep cover agent}}s in the United States masquerading as American citizens. The Jennings' aren't even allowed to speak Russian to each other at home, and were instructed to never ask the other about their actual background, instead only learning their invented back stories.
** Stan was also a deep cover agent for the FBI, before the events of Season 1. He just recently returned from a very long mission and is clearly having trouble re-adjusting.
* DespairEventHorizon: The wife of an American working for the Russians died and he is on the verge of a mental breakdown. His handler is convinced that if he can just talk to the man, he would be able to calm him down and brink him back from the brink. However, the Russians cannot get away from FBI surveillance so Elizabeth is ordered to kill the man before does something that would expose the spy ring. In the same episode Claudia recounts the story of one of her assets in West Germany. The Russians decided that he was not useful anymore and recalled Claudia back. Shortly after being abandoned, the man killed himself since spying for the Russians had become his main purpose in life.
* TheDeterminator: Stan has elements of this, particularly after [[spoiler: his partner is killed.]]
* DiesWideOpen:
** Joyce, the wife of the agent who died in the pilot, meets an unfortunate end in "Gregory".
** The same happens to [[spoiler:Agent Chris Amador]].
** Poor unfortunate Annelise after an intelligence op ends with her getting strangled to death in "EST Men".
* TheDogWasTheMastermind: Season 2 finale "Echo" [[spoiler:reveals that Jared killed his parents and his sister after his parents refused to let him spy for the KGB.]]
* DoubleAgent: Nina becomes this after coming clean to Arkady. Actually, given that she was a KGB officer to begin with, she's really a Triple Agent. Or perhaps a DoubleReverseQuadrupleAgent.
* DramaticIrony:
** Paige and Matthew talk about his father Stan's dangerous job in "In Control". Paige says "My dad doesn't do stuff like that. He's just a travel agent."
** When [[spoiler: Amador]] is killed, Stan goes to Philip to blow off steam. Philip is the one who has [[spoiler: killed Amador, although Stan does not know that]].
** When in the first season finale, [[spoiler: Elizabeth is shot by Stan during a car chase, Stan knows the car contains agents but not who they are]]. The Jennings are forced underground while [[spoiler: Elizabeth heals]]. They ask Stan to take care of their kids.
** In "Cardinal", Martha, spooked by the murders at the hotel, justifies buying a gun by saying "Clark, I don't want to be a victim". She is of course a victim of Philip, who has lied to her and tricked her into a sham marriage to use her as an intelligence source.
* TheDreaded:
** Ronald Reagan to the Soviets. Which is TruthInTelevision-the Soviet government viewed Reagan as very dangerous (and they were right to).
** Larrick. Even Claudia is frightened of him.
* DreamSequence: Stan has a pretty bad dream in "The Echo" which features Vlad (the guy he murdered), his wife humping a Russian, and Martha stealing documents (possibly indicating that Stan has some subconscious suspicion).
* DropDeadGorgeous: There is a long, lingering shot of Annelise's naked corpse (face down) in "Baggage".
* TheEighties:
** The series starts off in early 1981, right after Ronald Reagan's inauguration. The March 30, 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan is a major plot point, and the main arc of Season 1 is Russian attempts to find out details about American research into what later became Reagan's [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_Defense_Initiative Strategic Defense Initiative]], derisively nicknamed "Franchise/StarWars" (Henry's "Star Wars" bedsheets may or may not be a HistoricalInJoke).
** The second season is set in 1982, and P and E discover the secret American support for Nicaragua's ''Contras'', which would later become a major scandal.
** The third season starts in November 1982, soon after the death of Leonid Brezhnev. Yuri Andropov, Breznev's successor, is alluded to a couple times over the course of Series 2.
* EnemyEatsYourLunch: In the pilot, after a child predator makes crude remarks about his daughter, Philip catches the guy barbecuing in his backyard. Philip beats his ass and then walks away with a hot dog off of his grill.
* EvilCannotComprehendGood: When Reagan was shot, Elizabeth believes there is some sort of power play behind the scenes in the American government meant for the war hawks to take over, just like how things happen in the Soviet Union. She does not understand that [[MemeticMutation one does not simply coup]] the President of the United States.
* EvilParentsWantGoodKids: The Soviet spies are not evil per se, but on the wrong side of history. Yet, they are good parents.
* FakeAmerican: Both Philip and Elizabeth are this in-universe, being Russians masquerading as Americans.
** Matthew Rhys is a Welshman playing a Russian pretending to be an American and thus is always speaking in an American accent and it is quite convincing.
* FakeGuestStar: Richard Thomas as Frank Gaad, Stan Beeman's supervisor at the FBI. Nearly two seasons in and Thomas has appeared in every episode of the series except one. Keidrich Sellati and Holly Taylor, who play the Jennings children, have appeared in less episodes, despite being main cast members
** Richard Thomas is finally PromotedToOpeningCredits in Season 3.
* FallGuy: When a Soviet submarine sinks with all hands lost, the tragedy is caused by faulty propellers that were built based on plans stolen by Philip and Elisabeth. The KGB is blamed for falling for a US trick and stealing defective plans deliberately planted by the Americans. Oleg uses his connections to discover the real truth: the submarine was rushed to sea without proper testing and the propellers were never designed to work with that type of submarine. However, since the official finding was that the plans were defective, the KGB will take the blame even if it was not really its fault.
* FalseFlagOperation: Philip is exploiting Martha, Agent Gaad's secretary, by pretending to be another FBI agent investigating the counterintelligence unit.
* FanDisservice:
** "Clark" and Martha are played by attractive / average people, and they don't do anything strange, but their sex scenes still come across as off-putting.
---> '''Martha''': Shoot it into me!
** Elizabeth begs Phillip to role-play in bed as ''Clark'', which ends terribly.
* FauxAffablyEvil: Claudia/"Granny," Philip and Elizabeth's new KGB contact, basically seems like [[{{Series/Justified}} Mags Bennet if she were a KGB agent]], and that's before she has Joyce murdered.
* FBIAgent: Stan, Chris, Agent Gaad.
* FiveFiveFive:
** On a news broadcast about the kidnapping of Joyce in "Gregory".
** On a Leo Buscaglia infomercial in "Comrades".
* ForegoneConclusion: President Reagan survives the assassination attempt. There is no military coup and World War 3 does not start. This trope is examined in-universe: the Russians assume that a military coup ''will'' occur based on their own experiences with America's ''allies'' (the first Soviet coup d'etat attempt happens many years after the series, in August of 1991). Philip, by all accounts the Soviet character who 'gets' America the best, is the only one who notices the Americans have no such expectations.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: In Season 2, Stan dreams about Martha stealing classified documents from the mail robot. Come Season 3, the FBI finally finds the bug Martha installed in Gaad's pen, which results in a full-fledged internal affairs investigation on Stan's department. When an internal affairs officer asks Stan if he could think of anyone being a mole in his department, he hesitates, but then, after he gets out, he asks to see Martha right away.
* GoingNative: Philip, but explicitly not Elizabeth.
** Oleg clearly has gotten himself assigned to the Washington DC KGB office for a chance to go native and experience American culture.
* GoodAdulteryBadAdultery: Elizabeth's relationship with Gregory can be seen as the good type in-universe given that she is a fish out of water in a "marriage" that is, at the time, only a professional arrangement "in a strange country with a strange man" as she puts it and is looking for some sort of real connection. It is bad to the viewer because Philip is sympathetic, probably cared for her long before she started caring for him, and is deeply hurt.
** {{Played with}} somewhat in that both of them are expected to seduce targets, to the point where Philip actually marries a source in character. Arguably it borders on OrangeAndBlueMorality.
* GoodGirlsAvoidAbortion: Averted with Nina, who's mentioned to have had an abortion in the past but is not portrayed badly for it. In fact, she's probably one of the nicest characters. The father, her estranged husband, seems to not hold it against her or be upset, merely speculative as to how things would have been different if she had kept it.
* GreedyJew: Alluded to by Philip in "The Deal" when he mentions the "shekels" he supposes an Israeli agent is working for.
* GreyAndGrayMorality: So very much of it. {{Lampshaded}} by Nina in "Duty and Honor":
--> '''Nina:''' You Americans are so white and black. For us, it's all grey.
* GrievousBottleyHarm: Henry breaks a beer bottle over a pervert's head in "Trust Me".
* GroinAttack: Elizabeth does this to an uncooperative bookie in "Duty and Honor".
* TheHandler:
** Claudia ("Granny") is this for Philip and Elizabeth. She and Elizabeth don't get along.
** In Season 2 Philip and Elizabeth get a new handler named Kate.
** At the end of Season 2, Claudia returns, ordering Phillip and Elizabeth to begin [[spoiler: preparing Paige for eventual service in the KGB]], as they had intended for [[spoiler: Jared]] to do.
** In Season 3 an older agent named Gabriel, apparently an old acquaintance of P and E, returns to work with them.
* HassleFreeHotwire: Philip does this to escape the FBI in Season 1 finale "The Colonel".
* HeadphonesEqualIsolation: In "Pastor Tim", Phillip strangles a security guard at the back of an airport shuttle bus and the teenage girl near the front is wearing a Walkman and listening to "Tainted Love" doesn't hear it. It helps that Phillip is very quiet in his killing, as usual.
* HeelFaceMole: "Stingers" reveals [[spoiler: that Stan was right about Zinaida. She's not really a defector, and in fact is spying for the KGB.]]
* HeroAntagonist: Stan. Initially a SympatheticInspectorAntagonist, he becomes less heroic when he shoots an innocent man working in the Soviet embassy through the head.
* HeWhoFightsMonsters: Stan Beeman after Philip's unplanned abduction and killing of [[spoiler:Amador]].
* HoldingHands: A lot in the first three episodes seeing as how the start of the series marks the beginning of the agents really connecting.
* HollywoodAtheist: Elizabeth. She reacts to Paige's joining a church youth group as if her daughter takes to drugs or prostitution. As a rule, while the average Soviets did frown upon religion, they wouldn't exactly freak out like Elizabeth either. Even Philip has to tell her to cool it a bit-she'd been shown to take stereotypical Soviet values far more seriously than him already.
* HoistByHisOwnPetard:
** [[spoiler:Amador]] and his knife.
** In the shootout between the West German bomber and Philip+Elizabeth, he ducks into the hotel bathroom. The KGB agents toss the bomb into the bathroom just as he sets it off.
** The Soviets actively steal American engineering designs. One of those designs are defective and when the Soviets try it on their sub the whole thing sinks.
* HoneyPot:
** Both Philip and Elizabeth act as Honey Pots regularly. Nina is a Honey Pot for Vasili after she gets turned by the FBI, and then for Stan after switching her loyalty back to the KGB.
** Philip gets his girlfriend Annelise to be a Honey Pot and seduce a Pakistani agent. She goes through with it but is very upset afterwards.
** [[spoiler: Kate was this for Jared, after his parents refused to recruit him.]]
* HopeSpot: In Chloramphenical, [[spoiler: Oleg's father agrees to help Nina in exchange for Oleg remaining in the USSR. There is a scene of Nina being "transferred" suggesting that just that might be happening... except then she is told her sentence hasn't changed and she is unceremoniously shot in the back of the head.]]
* IceQueen / DefrostingIceQueen: Elizabeth vacillates back and forth between these tropes in Season 1.
* IHaveAFamily: An excellent example in Season 2's "The Walk In": Philip & Elizabeth masquerade as inspectors to get into a shipyard to get a look at some secret military submarine propellers, and a worker catches Elizabeth breaking a crate open. While keeping her tone light and casual, she picks up a crowbar. The worker, still speaking casually but quite obviously terrified, leads Elizabeth to the propeller. While still speaking casually, he shows her pictures of his kids and says, in a quavering voice, "They're expecting me home." Elizabeth eventually leaves, but not before taking the picture of the youngest kid.
* ImmediateSequel: Season 3 finale "March 8, 1983" is set on...well, [[CaptainObvious duh]]. Season 4 picks up the very next day with season premiere "Glanders".
* ImpairmentShot: Used when Philip wakes up in "Cardinal", after being zapped into unconsciousness by a footlocker that was actually electrified.
* IntergenerationalFriendship: Paige and Henry develop one with Pastor Tim and Agent Beeman respectively, which serves to underscore that despite their genuine care, the Jenning's parenthood is lacking, as the boys seek out another father figures.
* ItsPersonal: Stan's actions after [[spoiler: Amador is killed]] can be seen in this light.
** A variation with Philip. When an Afghan freedom fighter presents an undercover Philip with a blade which he claims he killed many Russians with, note the way that Philip's expression changes. He would probably have killed him anyway and in fact that was almost certainly the reason for the meet but he was far more eager to comply after that statement.
** Lucia's motivation to kill [[spoiler: Larrick]] as his work in Nicaragua lead to the death of members of her family.
* JackBauerInterrogationTechnique: Philip is subjected to this in "Trust Me" when [[spoiler:the KGB is trying to determine if he is a mole]].
* KilledMidSentence: In "Comrades" Philip decides to end a meeting with an Afghan anti-Soviet guerrilla this way.
--> "You Russians have no idea who you're--" '''BANG'''
* LadyDrunk: The embittered middle-aged CIA officer who passes classified info to Elizabeth over drinks in a bar in "EST Men". She has immediate second thoughts, with unfortunate consequences for Elizabeth.
* LetMeTellYouAStory: Stan's hunting parable to Vlad after his abduction.
* LittleMissBadass / SmallGirlBigGun: In "Mutually Assured Destruction" Elizabeth goes to an arms dealer's house and finds him there with his daughter, who looks about ten. Dad tells the girl to go to her room and she does, only to come back toting a shotgun, getting the drop on Elizabeth. Philip then enters the scene from behind and disarms her.
* LossOfIdentity: Elizabeth may not believe so, but she seems to be going through this to some extent. Her softer approach to people now is a far cry from when she was little Nadezhda living in a hardened Soviet Union.
* LoveAtFirstSight: A one-sided example. At the start of the series it's fairly obvious that Philip cares deeply for Elizabeth, while Elizabeth still views her marriage to Philip as an assignment. It's also mentioned at one point that when Philip was introduced to Elizabeth for the first time he was relieved by how pretty she was, but he could tell by her face that she was disappointed by him. It isn't until the third episode that Elizabeth admits that she's starting to feel love for Philip for the first time in their twenty year marriage.
* LoveRedeems / LoveMakesYouCrazy: Or at least less rational. Philip was ready and willing to deliver the KGB defector to the USA and defect himself, in order to get a better life for his family than he could reasonably expect in Russia. However, once he gets to learns that said defector raped Elizabeth, he kills him with his bare hands, effectively cementing his career as a Soviet spy. Elizabeth on the other hand, who until then was cold and distant toward Philip, starts to warm up to him after this.
* LoveMakesYouDumb: Martha and Stan. Both are completely played by their supposed lovers.
* LudicrousGibs: In "Mutually Assured Destruction", Elizabeth kills a professional assassin by tossing a bomb at him right before it detonates. Afterward there is nothing left of the man but a mess of blood and tissue covering the floor and walls.
* MadBomber: A rogue faction of the KGB hires an assassin who likes to blow up his targets with bombs and does not seem to care about collateral damage.
* MakeItLookLikeAnAccident: In the episode "Gregory", the KGB murders Joyce (Rob's wife) by making it look like she died of an accidental heroin overdose.
** A variation in the episode "In Control". After murdering the security guard, the Jennings leave the body in a wooded area and leave behind clues suggesting the man was killed by a woman he was having sex with.
* MamaBear: Claudia is revealed as this in the final episode of season 1.
* ManlyGay / StraightGay: Larrick in Season 2. Blackmailed into working for the KGB, because he's a homosexual. Also a badass Navy SEAL who is exceptionally good at tracking down and killing people.
* MarriedToTheJob:
** Most of the FBI agents know for a fact that serving their country takes a serious toll on their personal lives.
** Philip and Elizabeth gradually provide a literal example.
* MasterOfDisguise: Phillip and Elizabeth, with their numerous false identities, are good at transforming their appearance. {{Lampshaded}} by Gregory in "Only You", in which he directly states "You guys are the masters of disguise".
* MightyWhiteyAndMellowYellow: Supervisor Gaad has a Vietnamese wife he met while he served there during the war.
* TheMissusAndTheEx: Irina, Philip's old girlfriend from his life in Russia, shows up in "Duty and Honor" as part of a mission.
* TheMistress: Nina becomes Stan's in "Duty and Honor".
* TheMole:
** Not our leads (who are sleeper agents) but Nina, a KGB officer stationed at the Soviet embassy, who the FBI caught stealing and smuggling caviar. Stan pressures her into working for them to avoid being turned over to the Soviet authorities.
** Martha is this without even realizing it, when "Clark" convinces her to spy on the FBI by saying it's a counterintelligence op. Eventually she figures this out, but rather than turning herself in, becomes Philip's willing mole.
* MoralMyopia:
** Elizabeth having a decade-long secret relationship with another dude? It's okay for her, because he was "passionate about her", while she herself clearly didn't feel that way about Philip at the time, and she apologized for it. Philip rekindling his relation with his first true love, after feeling betrayed by Elizabeth due to the events from an earlier episode, but immediately breaking it off? Kick the bastard out!
** Similarly, Elizabeth's dim view of Ronald Reagan often overlooks the fact that her country didn't have a great human rights record.
** Aside from Oleg, the Soviets are enraged that the Americans have purposely planted defective engineering plans, one of which results in the sinking of a Soviet submarine, killing everyone abroad. Oleg is the only one to question why the Soviet engineers did not find the defect and why more extensive testing was not done on the submarine before putting it in service. Also none of the Russians seem to consider that the disaster was caused by them ''stealing the plans'' and that they wouldn't have had this problem if they'd just designed their own submarine.
* MotherRussiaMakesYouStrong: A recurring, conversed theme, usually in tandem with "cushy America makes you weak."
** Elizabeth believes that "there's a weakness" among Americans (very specifically, the [[WhiteAngloSaxonProtestant white middle class]] she occupies), and wants to subtly encourage her children to become socialists, or at least sympathetic to the [[CivilRightsMovement radicals of the recent past]] who she admired deeply.
** Claudia is also skeptical towards American women since she considers them not being used to really struggle for a better life--as opposed to her own country's history, where the women's equality movement was ''very'' closely tied to violent communist revolution. At the time, in pure terms of elected representatives in office compared to the US, [[http://hetq.am/eng/news/60832/women-in-armenia-are-less-free-today-than-30-years-ago.html she's ''technically'' correct]].
** When discussing that a 5'4'' woman knocked out two FBI agents, one of them remarks "they make them tough over there."
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone:
** Philip's reaction when he gets rough with Elizabeth while wearing his "Clark" disguise. It was actually at her request (she was intrigued by a comment Martha made), but he tears off his hairpiece in disgust when she breaks down crying.
** Philip deals with this quite a bit in Season 2, like when the Russian scientist that he kidnaps gives him a YouBastard speech, or when his efforts to infiltrate the Operation Martial Eagle base lead to the deaths of three innocents.
** Martha says this in Season 4 premiere "Glanders" after realizing that Philip killed Gene to cover for her.
* NeckSnap: How Larrick the badass Navy SEAL [[spoiler: dispatches Kate in "Stealth"]].
* TheNeedsOfTheMany: The reason why the Israelis turn over Baklanov to the Soviets, so that 1,500 Soviet Jews are allowed to emigrate to Israel.
* NervesOfSteel: Reverend Tim, the pastor of Paige's church. He doesn't succumb to Philip's intimidation and even manages to force Philip to retreat in the end.
* NippleAndDimed: ''The Americans'' is a master class in the art of showing people rolling around naked in bed without ever revealing a woman's nipples. Notable examples are the sex scene between the gorgeous prostitute and the German assassin in "Mutually Assured Destruction", or Annelise's sex with Yousef in "EST Men".
* NobodyPoops: {{Averted}}. The Mossad agent Philip takes hostage has to do it. In front of Philip. Who has to wipe his asshole afterward.
* NoDelaysForTheWicked: Generally played straight although notably averted at times. The KGB is highly efficient. Forged government IDs? No problem. Safe houses across the Washington metro area? Got them. Files on American top-secret security personnel? Piece of cake. They even have an office facility that can pass itself off as the CIA's. Admittedly, the KGB has the advantage of surprise, by being undercover, they [[VillainsActHeroesReact have the advantage of deciding where and when to strike, the US has to react to them]].
** Averted in the very first episode, the Jennings miss the ship that they needed to send the KGB defector on.
** The Jennings fail to stop the bombings of scientists.
** In the first season finale, the Jennings fall for an FBI trap and only Arkady's quick thinking allows them to get away.
* NoHoldsBarredBeatdown: Elizabeth delivers a surprising and brutal one to Claudia after her torture at her own agency's hands.
* NotSoDifferent: Elizabeth uses this angle with Pastor Tim, arguing that they both work to end nuclear threat, for justice and for equality. Pastor Tim thinks otherwise and points out the mistreatment of religious grups in the Eastern Bloc.
* ObliviousToTheirOwnDescription: While he interrogates a group of Pentagon engineers, Stan warns them that the secrets they're embarrassed to admit the most are the one the KGB will use to turn them. That's exactly what happens to him.
* OffscreenMomentOfAwesome: The Americans planted defective submarine plans for the KGB to steal, so that when the Soviets try to build those submarines themselves the resulting product will kill the Soviets who board them. None of this is shown on-screen, but the subsequent shock among the KGB characters is still palpable. Then again, insider Oleg thinks the sinking was simply incompetence on the part of the Soviet navy.
* OhCrap:
** Elizabeth and Philip both have a subdued one when they realize their new neighbor Stan is an FBI agent who works in counterintelligence.
** The KGB officers in the embassy have one when they listen to the tape recorded at the house of the US Secretary of Defense. They are overjoyed over this massive intelligence coup, but then they get to the end of the conversation and hear that the Americans are planning a ballistic missile defense screen.
** The look on their deceased comrade's wife's face when she realizes they're spies.
** Philip gets a pretty spectacular one when he comes to Martha's apartment in "Covert War" and she confronts him with her parents.
** "The Colonel" gives us perhaps the most epic one yet when Claudia and Philip figure out [[spoiler: the titular colonel is not the trap, the routine tape pickup Elizabeth was sent on is.]]
** "Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?" gives one to an elderly bookkeeper who comes in late at night to do the bills for her family's Mail Robot repair shop....unfortunately at the same time the Jennings are planting a bug in a Mail Robot used by the FBI. Elizabeth watches over her, and the two strike up a casual conversation about their families....until the bookkeeper asks where Elizabeth's mother lives.
--->Elizabeth: Russia.
--->Bookkeeper: Oh. Your English is very good.
--->Elizabeth: We've been trained.
* OldFlame: Philip reunites with his ex-girlfriend Irina to discredit a Polish pro-democracy leader.
* OOCIsSeriousBusiness: Invoked by Philip when he approaches Arkady in a public place. It is a gross violation of operational security and Philip does it specifically to let Moscow know how deadly serious he is about [[spoiler: making sure that his children are off-limits and that he will never permit that they be recruited as spies, without consent of him and his wife]].
* OvertOperative: Everyone knows the real duties of the people in the Rezidentura. Most of their cover jobs are not ever mentioned at all, and the people themselves make no attempt to hide their actual responsibilities. TruthInTelevision, as it has always been common practice for intelligence agents to work in embassies as "diplomats", giving them diplomatic immunity.
** Kate does this when she shows up in a headscarf and trenchcoat to a meet. [[LampshadeHanging Lampshaded]] by Phillip.
--> "SERIOUSLY!!!??? You look like a character in a spy flick."
* PaperThinDisguise: Played straight mostly, but justified. Anyone who knows the Jennings will not be fooled, and indeed in season 1 at one point when under threat of capture a disguised Elizabeth says outright that Agent Beeman will recognize her. They also don't bother with disguises with people who might know them. The purpose of the disguises instead are to put on and highlight notable but false features, such as scars, moles, skin depigmentation, hairstyle, beards etc which the real couple do not have. So that when a description is given, it does not lead to Philip and Elizabeth. This works, the sketch that he FBI have is clearly show little resemblance to them.
** The disguises are different from each other so that any description will not match each other and make the FBI more suspicious.
** Another advantage is practicality, they sometimes have to go out quite quickly and they don't have time for elaborate disguises.
* ParentalSexualitySquick: Paige has to deal with this in "Comrades" when she barges in on her mom and dad going 69.
* PeriodPiece: The series is set in the '80s, at the height of the UsefulNotes/ColdWar.
* PetTheDog: The KGB is a brutal secret police organization whose agents and officers are responsible for a multitude of murders, tortures, abductions, sabotages, and human rights violations. Even so, they vehemently oppose South Africa's apartheid and institutional racism.
* ThePerilsOfBeingTheBest: Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings are two of the KGB's best undercover spies... which means they've both done a shitload of sleeping with and murdering people for no other reason than because the Centre told them to. They're both constantly dealing with the emotional toll of that kind of work.
* PlotTriggeringDeath: Each of the first three seasons use this trope.
** In the pilot, a Directorate S agent that is on a mission with Phillip is killed. This tips the FBI off to the existence of Directorate S.
** In the second-season premiere, two more Directorate S agents that had met Phillip and Elizabeth for a mission are killed in their hotel room. The mystery of who was behind the murders drives the plot for the whole season.
** In the third-season premiere, Yousef falls into the KGB's clutches when Phillip confronts him immediately after Yousef murdered Annelise.
* PoisonAndCureGambit: The whole plot of "The Clock", in which Philip and Elizabeth do this in order to force a maid to plant a listening device in Caspar Weinberger's house.
* PoorCommunicationKills:
** A badly phrased comment on TV by Secretary of State and retired four star general Alexander Haig causes the Russians to suspect that the US military is staging a coup following the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. As a result Philip and Elizabeth are told to prepare for the outbreak of World War 3 and start scouting out the best location for assassinating the Secretary of Defense. Elizabeth then kills a security guard who interrupts them. {{Inverted}} later when Philip refuses to tell the KGB about an important piece of intelligence because he believes that it will unnecessarily increase tensions and could trigger the war.
** A communication problem between Stan and his partner almost causes them to expose their agent in the embassy, which would get her killed.
* PornStash: Paige catches pubescent Henry with a photo of Sandra Beeman in a bikini top that he has no good reason to possess. Later, episode "Stingers" reveals that said photo is part of a collection of photos of scantily-clad ladies that Henry has torn from newspapers and magazines, and has hidden under the floorboards of his closet.
* PutOnABus:
** Vasili... and we learn in season two that TheBusCameBack.
* PrimalScene: In the second-season premiere, Paige walks in on her parents going 69 on each other. Ick.
* ProfessionalKiller: Both the Jennings are this in spades, but Elizabeth (at least as of the middle of season 2) comes off as the colder of the two.
* ProperlyParanoid: Stan. He stops being proper by the end of Season 1, when his feelings to Nina makes him unable to see her deceptions.
* PunkInTheTrunk: For most of the pilot episode-several days in-episode-the Jennings' Oldsmobile has a Soviet defector in the trunk.
* RapeAsBackstory: Elizabeth, in training. It's later revealed by the same individual that ''all'' the instructors were raping the female trainees as a "perk" of the job. Or not-the revelation ''is'' coming directly from the mouth of a defector who was being held at gunpoint for his transgression by Philip, desperately seeking excuses, making him an UnreliableExpositor.
** Comes back in season two where Elizabeth makes Philip have sex with her as "Clark" and triggers a PTSD attack when he acts roughly.
* RealityEnsues: Sometimes {{averted}}, often {{played straight}}.
** Wounds suffered by the characters can be fatal (for example Robert in the series premiere) or require a long rehabilitation process.
** Highly trained agents are unable to fight their way out of sudden unexpected ambushes and are captured (in the KGB "test") or [[spoiler: the other spy couple and their daughter in their hotel room in the second season premiere]].
** Killing and other unpleasant activities take an emotional toll on the Jennings.
** Growing children are becoming more aware of their surrounding and are not oblivious.
** Nobody is above anybody when it comes to political dealings. Anton Baklanov, a Jewish refusenik himself, is traded by Mossad-the very Israelis who promised to protect him-for 1,500 more Jewish refuseniks from the USSR.
** Asking your husband to make love to you as he does to his mark makes both of you very upset and is not enjoyable or titillating.
** Your hostage has to shit. And he shits in front of you. And then you have to wipe his ass.
--->'''Mossad agent''': Mr. KGB-man! '''''I need to shit.'''''
** It's not a good idea to go after a highly-trained Navy SEAL colonel you're specifically and explicitly forbidden from attacking. Your boss not only has to stop using him, you'll also die.
** There are no second acts in Soviet lives, and no redemption. Treason and failling the motherland are rewarded with a bullet to the brain, [[Literature/NineteenEightyFour 1984]]-style. This is made painfully explicit in [[spoiler:Nina Sergeevna's]] storyline.
* ReassignedToAntarctica: Vasili is seen in Season 2 heading up a remote scientific outpost in the middle of Siberia.
* RedHerring: Both season one and season two have arcs within the Jennings family that don't pan out as expected:
** Season 1 seems to paint early on that Phillip has a desire to defect, but once [[spoiler: Elizabeth is nearly mortally wounded]] we realize each of them are still very committed to the cause, but have different attitudes to life in their posting.
** Season 2 amps up Paige's suspicion that something is not right about her parents - to the point of snooping through their belongings and then walking on them having sex. While she ultimately doesn't discover the truth, her suspicious nature may take on a new angle - as her parents have now been ordered to prepare Paige for eventual indoctrination as a KGB agent.
** At several points in Season 2, it appears that Clark/Phillip's sham marriage to Martha has become too complicated to be useful, with Elizabeth even posing as Clark's sister and getting her drunk to pump her for information about Phillip. While by the end of the season Martha is still OK, the relationship has grown more complicated when Clark discovers Martha has bought a gun for protection, against his wishes and that Martha has known for quite a while that Phillip is wearing a toupee when he poses as Clark.
* RedemptionEqualsDeath: [[spoiler: Col. Larrick at the end of season two resolves to capture the Jenningses and turn them over to the American government, and to confess to his own involvement with them and his betrayal of his country and his brothers-in-arms, saying that he doesn't care what happens to him. Just at the moment he seems on the brink of success, Jared shoots him in the shoulder, and then Phillip in the resulting struggle kills him.]]
* RememberTheNewGuy: KGB agent Gabriel, introduced in the first episode of Season 3 as an old friend. Apparently he was Phil and Liz's handler at some point before the time frame of the series.
* RewardedAsATraitorDeserves: In the pilot episode, the Jennings kidnap and later kill a former KGB agent who defected to America. TruthInTelevision, by the way: the Soviets had no tolerance for traitors, and they would often launch covert operations to assassinate defectors. Soviet defectors often spent the rest of their days hiding under new identities.
* RightHandVersusLeftHand:
** A group within the KGB hired an assassin to kill fourteen American scientists. Apparently they did so without informing their superiors who realize that this could start a war and order Philip and Elisabeth to stop the assassin at all costs.
** Philip invokes this when he is impersonating an FBI agent from the Oversight group. He complains that the other FBI divisions do not share information with them and then Oversight gets blamed because they do not know what is going on. This is a ploy to convince his asset/lover to give him information FBI counterintelligence has gathered on an assassin. It grows even more complicated when he later ''marries'' his mark.
** Phillip and Elizabeth first approach Larrick posing as American intelligence agents, but he sees through the ruse fairly quickly, especially when he later discovers Phillip tailing him.
* ScrabbleBabble: Philip and Gabriel play Scrabble during their meetings in Season 3.
* SecretIdentityIdentity: Philip seriously considers defecting to the United States in the pilot. Elizabeth doesn't exactly approve of this plan.
* SecretStabWound: [[spoiler:Elizabeth's gunshot wound]] in "The Colonel".
* ShoePhone: In "The Clock", Elizabeth poisons Grayson by injecting him with a needle hidden in the tip of an umbrella. This sort of device is TruthInTelevision, and the KGB used the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgarian_umbrella Bulgarian Umbrella]] in real life to assassinate a Bulgarian dissident writer living in London.
* ShownTheirWork: To a surprising degree; the entire arc around the Reagan assassination, for example, is based on actual KGB chatter and analysis.
** During the Cold War, male Stasi "Romeo" agents would seduce and even marry the secretaries of West German government officials, and would then spend months or even ''years'' extracting information from them. This is ''exactly'' the same thing that Philip/Clark ends up doing to Martha.
* ShoutOut: Episode "Stingers" is full of them. Stan goes to see ''Film/{{Tootsie}}'', and there is a poster for ''Film/TheVerdict'' outside the theater. Henry does an imitation of Creator/EddieMurphy's "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood" from ''Series/SaturdayNightLive''. And the last one is obscure enough to verge on GeniusBonus. The day after [[spoiler: Phil and Liz confess their true identities to Paige,]] they come home to find her watching an episode of ''Series/GeneralHospital''-- [[spoiler: specifically, a scene from a plot line in which one of the handsome young doctors at General Hospital is eventually exposed as a Russian illegal spy.]]
* ShutUpKirk: An interesting example. Arkady intends to play Kirk at Gaad by showing him the photograph of Vlad in order to guilt him of Vlad's death. Gaad quickly shuts him down by bringing up Amador's murder at the hand of the KGB. [[spoiler: Arkady doesn't mention that Amador was vengeful (and likely drunk) when he was killed, almost certainly in self-defense, unlike Vlad who was a prisoner.]]
* SlippingAMickey: A KGB agent does this to a Polish dissident in order to frame him for rape in "Duty and Honor".
* SpitefulSpit: Kate does this to Larrick after he questions her in "Stealth". [[spoiler:It ends badly for her.]]
* SpySchool:
** Elizabeth is shown in the pilot learning both physical combat skills and the finer points of idiomatic American English. Then things [[RapeAsBackstory turn very bad]].
** In Season 3 Elizabeth is giving a new character lessons on how to tail someone.
** Season 3 episode "Salang Pass" includes a flashback of Phillip going through KGB sex school. He is tasked with having sex with a hot lady. Then a wrinkled old lady. [[FanDisservice Then a fat man]].
* SpysSuspiciousSpouse: Suspicious daughter. Paige is becoming more and more suspicious of what exactly her parents are hiding. By Season 2 she's trying to listen in on their phone calls.
* SpyFiction: Of the Stale Beer variety.
* TheSpymaster: General Zhukov, who runs Directorate S and is a father figure for Elizabeth.
* StrictlyProfessionalRelationship: {{Invoked}}. Philip is pretending to be an FBI InternalAffairs investigator and has convinced a FBI secretary to help him investigate the counter-intelligence division. The secretary is clearly attracted to him and he makes a big show of convincing her that he reciprocates her feelings. Until his investigation is concluded, they have to maintain a strictly professional relationship. [[spoiler:However, Philip is actually a Soviet spy and has no romantic feelings for the secretary whatsoever. Despite this, he eventually gets into a relationship and even marries her to keep up the op.]]
* SuicideByCop: In "Only You", [[spoiler:Gregory chooses this route instead of fleeing to Moscow.]]
* SympatheticMurderer: By the middle of season 2, both Elizabeth and Philip have enough innocent blood on their hands for this trope to apply, with Philip considering himself one, particularly after the events of "Martial Eagle."
* SympatheticPOV: The show's focus reveals that the two leads really aren't bad people, but are forced to do heinous things for their country.
* TeethClenchedTeamwork: Philip and especially Elizabeth don't get along with Claudia, their new [[TheHandler handler]].
* ThisMeansWar: In the pilot episode, President Reagan effectively declares a covert war against undercover KGB operatives in the United States after Philip and Elizabeth kidnap a Soviet defector living on US soil.
-->'''Agent Gaad:''' The Attorney General and I have just come from the White House. President Reagan is outraged that the KGB thinks it can kidnap someone with impunity on American soil. The President has signed top secret executive order 2579 authorizing the Federal Bureau of Investigation counter-intelligence office to take all necessary measures to neutralize Soviet Directorate S sleeper cell agents in the continental United States. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to war. It is a war that will be fought quietly by the men and women in this room. It will not be short and it will not be easy, but we have truth and justice on our side and we will prevail.
* TitleDrop: Regularly with episode titles. Phil and Liz also sometimes speculate about what "the Americans" will do.
* TokenMinority: Stan's partner Chris is one of only three minorities in his department, which, according to Stan, gives Chris license to roughly interrogate suspects.
* TheToothHurts: Elizabeth gets a tooth busted up in a fight with FBI agents in the Season 3 premiere. Eventually she has to have it pulled, but the FBI is on a lookout for anyone matching Elizabeth's description who goes to a dentist. So Phillip has to extract her busted tooth, without benefit of anesthesia.
* ToplessnessFromTheBack:
** Provided by Nina as she slides into bed with Vasili in "Trust Me".
** And again by a hooker in "Mutually Assured Destruction".
** Elizabeth gets a full body version in Season 2.
* TruthInTelevision: Philip's long-term operation with Martha is based on a strategy used by Stasi spymasters where agents would marry "spinsters" and pump them for information for years, sometimes decades.
* TykeBomb: [[spoiler: What the KGB is hoping to get from a program for "second-generation illegals". They want to recruit the American-Born children of their sleeper agents, who would have a much better chance than their parents to get into high-level government positions.]]
* UndercoverAsLovers: A married couple with children, no less.
* TheUnfairSex: As stated in the MoralMyopia entry above: Elizabeth's affair with Gregory (which lasted for ''years'') is portrayed in a sympathetic light because he was "passionate" about her and Elizabeth hadn't yet started falling for Philip. But later when Philip has a one night stand with his former lover in the aftermath of Elizabeth betraying his trust, she decides to kick him out of the house.
* UniquePilotTitleSequence: Or a lack of one, as the names of the cast members pop up over the action movie-style. Starting with the second episode the show adopts more regular opening credits that feature Soviet iconography and Cyrillic letters.
* UnwittingPawn: Martha. She knows Philip as "Clark", and she believes he is another FBI agent [[WhoWatchesTheWatchmen investigating the counterintelligence unit]]. She starts off by passing him FBI gossip and then graduates to passing him classified documents, believing all the while that she's helping the good guys catch the bad guys.
* VerbalIrony: When commiserating about the supposed suicide of Gene from IT, who was also supposedly the leak in the FBI's office, Martha says "I guess you never really know anyone, do you?" Martha is the only one in the office who knows that she is the real mole.
* VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory:
** Creator Joseph Weisberg, who actually worked for the CIA from 1990 to 1994, was inspired by a totally real 2010 story in which [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegals_Program the FBI]] [[http://swampland.time.com/2010/06/29/the-8-coolest-things-about-the-alleged-russian-spy-ring/ arrested]] ten Russian {{deep cover agent}}s.
** One of the couples in that 2010 "Illegals Program" was apparently enlisting one of their kids as a second-generation spy when the group was busted.
** The scene in "The Clock" where Elizabeth poisons some guy by stabbing him with a tricked-out umbrella is inspired by the real-life [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgi_Markov#Murder murder of a Bulgarian dissident]] in London in 1978.
** The name of the Pakistani officer incharge of training and supporting the Mujahideen? Mohammad Yousaf: http://www.amazon.com/The-Bear-Trap-Afghanistans-Untold/dp/0850522676. Although, besides the name he shares little with the shows Yousaf, he was much more effective and competant for one.
* VictoriasSecretCompartment: Where Annelise keeps her spy camera in "The Clock".
* VillainProtagonist: The protagonist couple. The show aims for a PunchClockVillain angle in that they are soldiers fighting a covert war and whose violence and manipulations are not [[KickTheDog pointless]] but serve a purpose and have a cold logic behind them. All the same, while they're not in it for selfish reasons, the show also makes it clear that everything the Jennings couple does, they do it consciously, readily, and willingly, with varying degrees of [[NecessarilyEvil remorse]].
-->'''William:''' It eats you up... what we do.
* VillainsOutShopping: Loads!!!!! The trope may as well be named after this show.
** From the American viewpoint, the Jennings and the other KGB are evil. But, we see the Jennings doing decidedly non villainy things all the time, including raising their children, going out on family gatherings, having sex/relationship problems etc etc. After one mission to seduce and entrap a US Defense contractor, Elizabeth and a fellow female agent drink beer sitting on the hood of their car and discuss Elizabeth's [[spoiler: recovery from her injuries]] as they await their husbands return. When the men arrive, the conversation turns to their kids.
** The FBI is the villain for the protagonists. We see Stan's relationship with his family, other agents celebrating a promotion. When Stan shows up unexpectedly at the Jennings business, what is his purpose? He wants to set up a bachelor party for his brother in law.
** Even the KGB brass gets its turn, with Vasili being annoyed at the inability of his coworkers to brew tea properly. Arkady gushes about his new microwave. And later curses it when his potato exploded in it, forcing him to wear bandages for a time. And then Arkady is shown browsing the magazine rack, like any ordinary person.
* VodkaDrunkenski: {{Averted}}, for the most part, as the Jennings are under deep cover. If the vodka comes out, it's because something serious has happened.
* WhamEpisode:
** "Echo", the Season 2 finale. [[spoiler:Jared reveals, as he is dying, that he was complicit in the murders of his sister and parents, because he had found out that his parents, like him, were KGB agents and didn't want him being recruited. He also admits to having at least some kind of crush on Kate, his handler.]]
** "Stingers", in Season 3. [[spoiler:Paige finally has had it and bluntly asks her parents what their strange activities mean. They reveal to her that they are Soviets, and are spying on the USA.]]
** "March 8, 1983", the Season 3 finale. [[spoiler:Paige tells Pastor Tim that Philip and Elizabeth are Russians.]]
* WhatTheHellHero:
** Philip gives Elizabeth a major tongue lashing after he finds out that she told their handlers that he seems to like living in America a bit too much. Comments like that could get him executed, and he views it as a major betrayal.
** He also gives her a bit of this after she [[spoiler: murders a security guard in "In Control".]]
** Gaad gives it to Stan when the latter asks him to help about Nina. He flats-out refusing to listen at all, after being sacrificed for the Vlad murder mess.
* WigDressAccent: The Jennings use wigs, glasses, different clothes and makeup to put on a unique appearance for each asset. Philip's "Clark" wig remains amazingly durable during numerous sex scenes with Martha. Though Martha does know it is fake and assumes that it is a toupee, which actually strengthens his cover of being in love with her.
** In what may be a LeaningOnTheFourthWall gag about all the incredibly durable wigs that the protagonists wear, Philip has one ripped off during a struggle in "Comrades".
* WithMyHandsTied: In the second season finale Elizabeth fights Larrick after being handcuffed and does well enough that [[spoiler: Philip, who is also cuffed, is able to get the drop on him and steal the gun out of his waistband and shoot him with it. Justified in this instance, as Jared had shot Larrick in the back first.]]
* XanatosSpeedChess: The ending of Season 3 premiere "EST Men". Annelise is boning Yousaf with Phillip listening from the next room. Annelise starts to grow a conscience and tells Yousaf what's really going on. Phillip bursts in, moments too late from preventing Yousaf from strangling Annelise to death. Before her body is cold, Phillip is improvising on the spot, telling Yousaf "I can make this go away", getting him under KGB control.
* YouBastard: It's way too easy for the audience to forget that our [[VillainProtagonist Villain Protagonists]] are, in fact, ruthless career murderers serving a corrupt, oppressive dictatorship that bullies most of its own people into submission. Baklanov's desperate pleading to Philip at the end of "The Deal" is a painful reminder of that fact.
* YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness: The KGB is particularly bad at this, killing or abandoning agents and allies once they've learned all they can. Several characters lampshade the idiocy of this policy, in contrast to the Americans who encourage loyalty and defections with money and a better life.
* YouKeepTellingYourselfThat: Pastor Tim is not at all fooled by Elizabeth's NotSoDifferent speech about their work. He points out that in the Soviet Union, religious people are persecuted, bringing up not only the plight of Soviet Christians but also the Jews'. Elizabeth is thus reduced to admitting her country is not perfect.
* YouMonster: Tied with the YouBastard above. When Philip doesn't even look at him while he's pleading, Baklanov accuses Philip of this, and rightly so.
* YourCheatingHeart: All of the main characters. Elizabeth had a longtime affair with an American KGB asset, and Philip doesn't react well when he finds out in "Gregory". Then both Philip and Stan cheat on their wives in "Duty and Honor". In Season 2, Sandra actually ''tells'' Stan that she is going off on a sex weekend with her new boyfriend, and by the end of the season they've agreed to divorce.
22nd Apr '16 1:59:49 AM TrollBrutal
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** In Episode 3-9 "Do mail robots dream of electric sheep?" a woman is shown taking pills for her bad heart condition. Te pill bottle appears to say Lisinopril, which wasn't introduced in any form until at least the late 80s. She [[spoiler:overdoses and dies on the drug at Elizabeth's prompting]]. [[labelnote]] The class of drugs to which Lisinopril belongs is the ACE Inhibitors. Captopril, the first ACE inhibitor was first used in the 80's however was not a common cause of death via overdose of heart medications. Lanoxin (Digoxin) would have been a time-wise more accurate scenario as Lanoxin was widely prescribed for cardiac patients and was widely known to be one of the more lethal cardiac meds in overdose situations.[[/labelnote]]

to:

** In Episode 3-9 "Do mail robots dream of electric sheep?" a woman is shown taking pills for her bad heart condition. Te pill bottle appears to say Lisinopril, which wasn't introduced in any form until at least the late 80s. She [[spoiler:overdoses and dies on the drug at Elizabeth's prompting]]. [[labelnote]] [[note]] The class of drugs to which Lisinopril belongs is the ACE Inhibitors. Captopril, the first ACE inhibitor was first used in the 80's however was not a common cause of death via overdose of heart medications. Lanoxin (Digoxin) would have been a time-wise more accurate scenario as Lanoxin was widely prescribed for cardiac patients and was widely known to be one of the more lethal cardiac meds in overdose situations.[[/labelnote]][[/note]]



** Beeman figures out a simple, yet effective, plan to throw suspicion off the real mole, Nina. The Rezident is [[PutOnABus put on a plane]] as a result, and all it required was a basic understanding of Soviet presumed-guilty paranoia regarding their high officials. [[note]] Not to mention some [[FrameUp planted diamonds]].[[/note]]
** The United States Government pulls off a Batman Gambit in season 2. They come up with faulty rotor designs for submarines and plant them at facilities all over the country, knowing full well that the Soviets will try to steal them. Russia obtains the plans and retrofits one of their submarines with the new rotors. The "improved" submarine has a rotor malfunction that kills the entire crew (over a hundred Soviet sailors). The US tricked Russia into stealing plans that would kill its own military personnel.
* BecomingTheMask: Seems to be the case with Philip, but then ultimately {{subverted}}.
-->'''Elizabeth''': You like it too much here.
-->'''Philip''': I '''''FIT IN!''''' Yeah, I like it here, '''''so what?'''''
** Philip and Martha's fake relationship and fake marriage starts to get more real by Season 4, like in season premiere "Glanders", when he's going to Martha for comfort and telling her things he doesn't tell his other wife.
* BerserkButton: Do not question Philip's loyalty. Or Elizabeth's for that matter.
** Do ''not'' murder Larrick's buddies in the Navy.
** It's also a bad idea to threaten Philip's wife and kids. Even though he is well aware what family ties are worth in his line of work he'll still kick your ass.
* BigBad: Larrick in Season 2. Neutralizing him is our VillainProtagonist's primary endgame since halfway through the season. [[spoiler: However, both he and the Jennings came to a collision course as a result of the actions of...]]
** BiggerBad: [[spoiler: Jared]].
* BlackAndGrayMorality: Our protagonists are murderous KGB spies. The FBI guy hunting for them murdered a newbie KGB agent in cold blood and cheated on his wife. Nina is a TripleAgent who also isn't above callously betraying her cellmates. Martha eventually knowingly betrays her country.
* BlatantLies:
-->'''Martha''': Is this real?
-->'''Philip''': Yes.
** Also Stan lying to Nina's face about murdering Vlad.
* BluffTheEavesdropper: After finding the listening device in Caspar Weinberger's office, the FBI does this in order to lay a trap for Directorate S.
* BondageIsBad: Or rough sex and erotic spanking is bad, as the guy who whips Elizabeth demonstrates.
* BoundAndGagged: Larrick does this to [[spoiler: KGB handler Kate]] after overpowering her. This trope is often used for {{Fanservice}} but in this instance is very scary and disturbing.
* BrattyTeenageDaughter: Paige, who was already more or less this, gets even worse in Season 1 after Philip and Elizabeth separate and he moves out of the house. And in Season 2 she gets into Christianity, in what is clearly at least in part an effort to irritate her unchurched parents.
* BriefcaseFullOfMoney: Philip hands one of these over in exchange for sensitive information in "Gregory", but not before he uses it to bust up a couple of {{Mooks}} who wouldn't get out of his blind spot.
* BringIt: Elizabeth before taking down Timoshev.
* BullyHunter: Philip tries to intervene when a pedophile starts hitting on his daughter, but backs down and doesn't try to stop him from leaving with another girl, proving him to be a {{subversion}} of this trope. However, later in the episode, he snaps Timoshev's neck when he learns Timoshev [[spoiler:raped Elizabeth during training]]. Even later, he beats the shit out of the pedophile and has to be stopped from murdering the target of a honey trap who beat Elizabeth during rough sex.
* TheBusCameBack:
** Episode 1-2, "The Clock", introduces Annelise, Phillip's girlfriend, the wife of a Defense Department official. She's clingy and emotional, and it seems it will be a major plotline--but she doesn't reappear until 21 episodes later in "Yousef", when Phillip maneuvers her into being a HoneyPot for a Pakistani agent.
** Vasili, the head of the KGB office in Washington, is framed for espionage in the first season by Nina and Stan and bundled off to the Soviet Union, presumably for execution. However, he pops up again in the second season as the dissident Russian scientist's supervising officer.
* ButHeSoundsHandsome: Elizabeth can't resist making offhanded remarks about how cool the Soviet Union's accomplishments are ("walking on the moon is ok, but getting into space is the real thing")
* BuxomIsBetter: In "Pastor Tim", Henry, now a teen awash in hormones, tells Stan Beeman that he lusts after one of his teachers. When Stan asks about her, Henry says "She's got..." and makes a gesture indicating large breasts.
* CaliforniaDoubling:
** New York doubling. Shot after shot after shot featuring present-day NYC parking restriction signs, MTA bus stops, bodegas, etc. One train station scene clearly shot along an LIRR line. A scene set in Philly clearly shot somewhere along the 7 line in Queens. The list goes on and on.
** Quite obvious in some of the later episodes of Season 2, supposedly taking place in DC and Virginia in March and April, but featuring snow everywhere due to the brutal winter of 2013-2014 in NYC.
* CallBack: In Season 2 episode "Echo" Philip starts to tell Elizabeth a story about when he was a boy in Tobolsk and gangs of kids would mug him when he was bringing milk home. He's interrupted before he finishes the story. Two seasons later in Season 4 premiere "Glanders", we see the violent end to that interrupted story, in a flashback to Philip's youth.
* ClarkKenting: One of the alter egos is also called "Clark". And this Clark looks a lot like Philip with a toupee and glasses. However, for the most part the disguises are not meant to completely change the agents appearances, just to look nondescript.
* ChekhovsGun: Several
** Chris's offhand comment early in the season about how he once dated Martha leads to Chris asking Martha out again in "Mutually Assured Destruction"--which leads to Chris seeing Martha looking in a file cabinet she shouldn't be looking in and acting all shifty, which leads to Chris getting suspicious and following Martha around.
** A literal one with the gun that Martha bought, much to Philip's unpleasant surprise, in episode 2-2, "Cardinal". Not fired as of yet. (Although Martha takes target practice with her ChekhovsGun in Season 3 premiere "EST Men".)
* ChronicBackstabbingDisorder: Nina betrays every 'side' she's on. Even [[spoiler: after being imprisoned for treason in season 3, she informs on her fellow prisoners in exchange for better treatment and meals from the guards.]]
* UsefulNotes/ColdWar: The early 1980s being an especially tense period of the UsefulNotes/ColdWar, following the accession of UsefulNotes/RonaldReagan to the presidency and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
* ConsummateLiar: Saying that the "Jennings" are extremely good at deception would be an understatement. This comes with the job description for cover agents, since their dual (and something trial or quadral) lives depend on it.
* ContrivedCoincidence: Who moves in right next door to two Soviet Deep Cover Agents? An FBI agent who works in counterintelligence and is hunting Soviet agents, that's who. Somewhat excused by the fact that it's a UsefulNotes/WashingtonDC suburb with a high density of government employees. {{Lampshaded}} by Elizabeth: "FBI agents have to live somewhere."
* CovertGroupWithMundaneFront: The Jennings run a travel agency. This provides them with sufficient excuse to travel and to meet different types of people.
* CowboyCop:
** Stan has a knack for unsanctioned work and is often following his own, accurate hunches. One time he bullies the guy in the stereo store without even a hint of a warrant, another he breaks into the Jennings' garage. When [[spoiler: Amador is killed]], this becomes even more pronounced, particularly in [[ItMakesSenseInContext his speech about how hunting dogs carry the birds they catch to their master's feet]] to a terrified captured KGB agent. He's also the first to become suspicious of [[spoiler:Martha]] and puts her under surveillance without telling the bosses.
** Elizabeth and Philip ignore direct orders from the Center and think outside the box sometimes, which doesn't sit well with the rigid Soviet structure.
* CrazyPrepared: The KGB, oh dear god. Probably justified, as the agents operate far from home and support, so such preparation comes in handy.
** They have a fake demented "Aunt" for the kids if they ask too many questions.
** Someone monitors Martha's line to ensure she does not reveal "Clark" to the US.
** Season 3 reveals that if Directorate S agents ever find themselves being tailed, they can call someone and get a made-to-order traffic collision that will allow them to escape the tail.
** Phillip has a fully-furnished and seemingly lived-in apartment for "Clark", in case Martha ever asks to go there. It comes in handy when she actually does, in the middle of the night.
* CriminalProcedural: The show examines what it takes to be an illegal spy (sleeper agent) in the United States. It involves murder and deception of regular people on a regular basis.
* CycleOfRevenge: A rogue faction of the KGB causes the deaths of three FBI agents, and the Americans retaliate by killing a number of KGB officers. The KGB wants to end the feud, but some of their agents seek personal revenge for the deaths of their friends.
* DealWithTheDevil: Larrick forces Elizabeth to take this while he strangles Lucia.
-->'''Larrick''': It's either her or me. You choose.
* DeepCoverAgent:
** "Directorate S", the KGB program which has installed {{deep cover agent}}s in the United States masquerading as American citizens. The Jennings' aren't even allowed to speak Russian to each other at home, and were instructed to never ask the other about their actual background, instead only learning their invented back stories.
** Stan was also a deep cover agent for the FBI, before the events of Season 1. He just recently returned from a very long mission and is clearly having trouble re-adjusting.
* DespairEventHorizon: The wife of an American working for the Russians died and he is on the verge of a mental breakdown. His handler is convinced that if he can just talk to the man, he would be able to calm him down and brink him back from the brink. However, the Russians cannot get away from FBI surveillance so Elizabeth is ordered to kill the man before does something that would expose the spy ring. In the same episode Claudia recounts the story of one of her assets in West Germany. The Russians decided that he was not useful anymore and recalled Claudia back. Shortly after being abandoned, the man killed himself since spying for the Russians had become his main purpose in life.
* TheDeterminator: Stan has elements of this, particularly after [[spoiler: his partner is killed.]]
* DiesWideOpen:
** Joyce, the wife of the agent who died in the pilot, meets an unfortunate end in "Gregory".
** The same happens to [[spoiler:Agent Chris Amador]].
** Poor unfortunate Annelise after an intelligence op ends with her getting strangled to death in "EST Men".
* TheDogWasTheMastermind: Season 2 finale "Echo" [[spoiler:reveals that Jared killed his parents and his sister after his parents refused to let him spy for the KGB.]]
* DoubleAgent: Nina becomes this after coming clean to Arkady. Actually, given that she was a KGB officer to begin with, she's really a Triple Agent. Or perhaps a DoubleReverseQuadrupleAgent.
* DramaticIrony:
** Paige and Matthew talk about his father Stan's dangerous job in "In Control". Paige says "My dad doesn't do stuff like that. He's just a travel agent."
** When [[spoiler: Amador]] is killed, Stan goes to Philip to blow off steam. Philip is the one who has [[spoiler: killed Amador, although Stan does not know that]].
** When in the first season finale, [[spoiler: Elizabeth is shot by Stan during a car chase, Stan knows the car contains agents but not who they are]]. The Jennings are forced underground while [[spoiler: Elizabeth heals]]. They ask Stan to take care of their kids.
** In "Cardinal", Martha, spooked by the murders at the hotel, justifies buying a gun by saying "Clark, I don't want to be a victim". She is of course a victim of Philip, who has lied to her and tricked her into a sham marriage to use her as an intelligence source.
* TheDreaded:
** Ronald Reagan to the Soviets. Which is TruthInTelevision-the Soviet government viewed Reagan as very dangerous (and they were right to).
** Larrick. Even Claudia is frightened of him.
* DreamSequence: Stan has a pretty bad dream in "The Echo" which features Vlad (the guy he murdered), his wife humping a Russian, and Martha stealing documents (possibly indicating that Stan has some subconscious suspicion).
* DropDeadGorgeous: There is a long, lingering shot of Annelise's naked corpse (face down) in "Baggage".
* TheEighties:
** The series starts off in early 1981, right after Ronald Reagan's inauguration. The March 30, 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan is a major plot point, and the main arc of Season 1 is Russian attempts to find out details about American research into what later became Reagan's [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_Defense_Initiative Strategic Defense Initiative]], derisively nicknamed "Franchise/StarWars" (Henry's "Star Wars" bedsheets may or may not be a HistoricalInJoke).
** The second season is set in 1982, and P and E discover the secret American support for Nicaragua's ''Contras'', which would later become a major scandal.
** The third season starts in November 1982, soon after the death of Leonid Brezhnev. Yuri Andropov, Breznev's successor, is alluded to a couple times over the course of Series 2.
* EnemyEatsYourLunch: In the pilot, after a child predator makes crude remarks about his daughter, Philip catches the guy barbecuing in his backyard. Philip beats his ass and then walks away with a hot dog off of his grill.
* EvilCannotComprehendGood: When Reagan was shot, Elizabeth believes there is some sort of power play behind the scenes in the American government meant for the war hawks to take over, just like how things happen in the Soviet Union. She does not understand that [[MemeticMutation one does not simply coup]] the President of the United States.
* EvilParentsWantGoodKids: The Soviet spies are not evil per se, but on the wrong side of history. Yet, they are good parents.
* FakeAmerican: Both Philip and Elizabeth are this in-universe, being Russians masquerading as Americans.
** Matthew Rhys is a Welshman playing a Russian pretending to be an American and thus is always speaking in an American accent and it is quite convincing.
* FakeGuestStar: Richard Thomas as Frank Gaad, Stan Beeman's supervisor at the FBI. Nearly two seasons in and Thomas has appeared in every episode of the series except one. Keidrich Sellati and Holly Taylor, who play the Jennings children, have appeared in less episodes, despite being main cast members
** Richard Thomas is finally PromotedToOpeningCredits in Season 3.
* FallGuy: When a Soviet submarine sinks with all hands lost, the tragedy is caused by faulty propellers that were built based on plans stolen by Philip and Elisabeth. The KGB is blamed for falling for a US trick and stealing defective plans deliberately planted by the Americans. Oleg uses his connections to discover the real truth: the submarine was rushed to sea without proper testing and the propellers were never designed to work with that type of submarine. However, since the official finding was that the plans were defective, the KGB will take the blame even if it was not really its fault.
* FalseFlagOperation: Philip is exploiting Martha, Agent Gaad's secretary, by pretending to be another FBI agent investigating the counterintelligence unit.
* FanDisservice:
** "Clark" and Martha are played by attractive / average people, and they don't do anything strange, but their sex scenes still come across as off-putting.
---> '''Martha''': Shoot it into me!
** Elizabeth begs Phillip to role-play in bed as ''Clark'', which ends terribly.
* FauxAffablyEvil: Claudia/"Granny," Philip and Elizabeth's new KGB contact, basically seems like [[{{Series/Justified}} Mags Bennet if she were a KGB agent]], and that's before she has Joyce murdered.
* FBIAgent: Stan, Chris, Agent Gaad.
* FiveFiveFive:
** On a news broadcast about the kidnapping of Joyce in "Gregory".
** On a Leo Buscaglia infomercial in "Comrades".
* ForegoneConclusion: President Reagan survives the assassination attempt. There is no military coup and World War 3 does not start. This trope is examined in-universe: the Russians assume that a military coup ''will'' occur based on their own experiences with America's ''allies'' (the first Soviet coup d'etat attempt happens many years after the series, in August of 1991). Philip, by all accounts the Soviet character who 'gets' America the best, is the only one who notices the Americans have no such expectations.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: In Season 2, Stan dreams about Martha stealing classified documents from the mail robot. Come Season 3, the FBI finally finds the bug Martha installed in Gaad's pen, which results in a full-fledged internal affairs investigation on Stan's department. When an internal affairs officer asks Stan if he could think of anyone being a mole in his department, he hesitates, but then, after he gets out, he asks to see Martha right away.
* GoingNative: Philip, but explicitly not Elizabeth.
** Oleg clearly has gotten himself assigned to the Washington DC KGB office for a chance to go native and experience American culture.
* GoodAdulteryBadAdultery: Elizabeth's relationship with Gregory can be seen as the good type in-universe given that she is a fish out of water in a "marriage" that is, at the time, only a professional arrangement "in a strange country with a strange man" as she puts it and is looking for some sort of real connection. It is bad to the viewer because Philip is sympathetic, probably cared for her long before she started caring for him, and is deeply hurt.
** {{Played with}} somewhat in that both of them are expected to seduce targets, to the point where Philip actually marries a source in character. Arguably it borders on OrangeAndBlueMorality.
* GoodGirlsAvoidAbortion: Averted with Nina, who's mentioned to have had an abortion in the past but is not portrayed badly for it. In fact, she's probably one of the nicest characters. The father, her estranged husband, seems to not hold it against her or be upset, merely speculative as to how things would have been different if she had kept it.
* GreedyJew: Alluded to by Philip in "The Deal" when he mentions the "shekels" he supposes an Israeli agent is working for.
* GreyAndGrayMorality: So very much of it. {{Lampshaded}} by Nina in "Duty and Honor":
--> '''Nina:''' You Americans are so white and black. For us, it's all grey.
* GrievousBottleyHarm: Henry breaks a beer bottle over a pervert's head in "Trust Me".
* GroinAttack: Elizabeth does this to an uncooperative bookie in "Duty and Honor".
* TheHandler:
** Claudia ("Granny") is this for Philip and Elizabeth. She and Elizabeth don't get along.
** In Season 2 Philip and Elizabeth get a new handler named Kate.
** At the end of Season 2, Claudia returns, ordering Phillip and Elizabeth to begin [[spoiler: preparing Paige for eventual service in the KGB]], as they had intended for [[spoiler: Jared]] to do.
** In Season 3 an older agent named Gabriel, apparently an old acquaintance of P and E, returns to work with them.
* HassleFreeHotwire: Philip does this to escape the FBI in Season 1 finale "The Colonel".
* HeadphonesEqualIsolation: In "Pastor Tim", Phillip strangles a security guard at the back of an airport shuttle bus and the teenage girl near the front is wearing a Walkman and listening to "Tainted Love" doesn't hear it. It helps that Phillip is very quiet in his killing, as usual.
* HeelFaceMole: "Stingers" reveals [[spoiler: that Stan was right about Zinaida. She's not really a defector, and in fact is spying for the KGB.]]
* HeroAntagonist: Stan. Initially a SympatheticInspectorAntagonist, he becomes less heroic when he shoots an innocent man working in the Soviet embassy through the head.
* HeWhoFightsMonsters: Stan Beeman after Philip's unplanned abduction and killing of [[spoiler:Amador]].
* HoldingHands: A lot in the first three episodes seeing as how the start of the series marks the beginning of the agents really connecting.
* HollywoodAtheist: Elizabeth. She reacts to Paige's joining a church youth group as if her daughter takes to drugs or prostitution. As a rule, while the average Soviets did frown upon religion, they wouldn't exactly freak out like Elizabeth either. Even Philip has to tell her to cool it a bit-she'd been shown to take stereotypical Soviet values far more seriously than him already.
* HoistByHisOwnPetard:
** [[spoiler:Amador]] and his knife.
** In the shootout between the West German bomber and Philip+Elizabeth, he ducks into the hotel bathroom. The KGB agents toss the bomb into the bathroom just as he sets it off.
** The Soviets actively steal American engineering designs. One of those designs are defective and when the Soviets try it on their sub the whole thing sinks.
* HoneyPot:
** Both Philip and Elizabeth act as Honey Pots regularly. Nina is a Honey Pot for Vasili after she gets turned by the FBI, and then for Stan after switching her loyalty back to the KGB.
** Philip gets his girlfriend Annelise to be a Honey Pot and seduce a Pakistani agent. She goes through with it but is very upset afterwards.
** [[spoiler: Kate was this for Jared, after his parents refused to recruit him.]]
* HopeSpot: In Chloramphenical, [[spoiler: Oleg's father agrees to help Nina in exchange for Oleg remaining in the USSR. There is a scene of Nina being "transferred" suggesting that just that might be happening... except then she is told her sentence hasn't changed and she is unceremoniously shot in the back of the head.]]
* IceQueen / DefrostingIceQueen: Elizabeth vacillates back and forth between these tropes in Season 1.
* IHaveAFamily: An excellent example in Season 2's "The Walk In": Philip & Elizabeth masquerade as inspectors to get into a shipyard to get a look at some secret military submarine propellers, and a worker catches Elizabeth breaking a crate open. While keeping her tone light and casual, she picks up a crowbar. The worker, still speaking casually but quite obviously terrified, leads Elizabeth to the propeller. While still speaking casually, he shows her pictures of his kids and says, in a quavering voice, "They're expecting me home." Elizabeth eventually leaves, but not before taking the picture of the youngest kid.
* ImmediateSequel: Season 3 finale "March 8, 1983" is set on...well, [[CaptainObvious duh]]. Season 4 picks up the very next day with season premiere "Glanders".
* ImpairmentShot: Used when Philip wakes up in "Cardinal", after being zapped into unconsciousness by a footlocker that was actually electrified.
* IntergenerationalFriendship: Paige and Henry develop one with Pastor Tim and Agent Beeman respectively, which serves to underscore that despite their genuine care, the Jenning's parenthood is lacking, as the boys seek out another father figures.
* ItsPersonal: Stan's actions after [[spoiler: Amador is killed]] can be seen in this light.
** A variation with Philip. When an Afghan freedom fighter presents an undercover Philip with a blade which he claims he killed many Russians with, note the way that Philip's expression changes. He would probably have killed him anyway and in fact that was almost certainly the reason for the meet but he was far more eager to comply after that statement.
** Lucia's motivation to kill [[spoiler: Larrick]] as his work in Nicaragua lead to the death of members of her family.
* JackBauerInterrogationTechnique: Philip is subjected to this in "Trust Me" when [[spoiler:the KGB is trying to determine if he is a mole]].
* KilledMidSentence: In "Comrades" Philip decides to end a meeting with an Afghan anti-Soviet guerrilla this way.
--> "You Russians have no idea who you're--" '''BANG'''
* LadyDrunk: The embittered middle-aged CIA officer who passes classified info to Elizabeth over drinks in a bar in "EST Men". She has immediate second thoughts, with unfortunate consequences for Elizabeth.
* LetMeTellYouAStory: Stan's hunting parable to Vlad after his abduction.
* LittleMissBadass / SmallGirlBigGun: In "Mutually Assured Destruction" Elizabeth goes to an arms dealer's house and finds him there with his daughter, who looks about ten. Dad tells the girl to go to her room and she does, only to come back toting a shotgun, getting the drop on Elizabeth. Philip then enters the scene from behind and disarms her.
* LossOfIdentity: Elizabeth may not believe so, but she seems to be going through this to some extent. Her softer approach to people now is a far cry from when she was little Nadezhda living in a hardened Soviet Union.
* LoveAtFirstSight: A one-sided example. At the start of the series it's fairly obvious that Philip cares deeply for Elizabeth, while Elizabeth still views her marriage to Philip as an assignment. It's also mentioned at one point that when Philip was introduced to Elizabeth for the first time he was relieved by how pretty she was, but he could tell by her face that she was disappointed by him. It isn't until the third episode that Elizabeth admits that she's starting to feel love for Philip for the first time in their twenty year marriage.
* LoveRedeems / LoveMakesYouCrazy: Or at least less rational. Philip was ready and willing to deliver the KGB defector to the USA and defect himself, in order to get a better life for his family than he could reasonably expect in Russia. However, once he gets to learns that said defector raped Elizabeth, he kills him with his bare hands, effectively cementing his career as a Soviet spy. Elizabeth on the other hand, who until then was cold and distant toward Philip, starts to warm up to him after this.
* LoveMakesYouDumb: Martha and Stan. Both are completely played by their supposed lovers.
* LudicrousGibs: In "Mutually Assured Destruction", Elizabeth kills a professional assassin by tossing a bomb at him right before it detonates. Afterward there is nothing left of the man but a mess of blood and tissue covering the floor and walls.
* MadBomber: A rogue faction of the KGB hires an assassin who likes to blow up his targets with bombs and does not seem to care about collateral damage.
* MakeItLookLikeAnAccident: In the episode "Gregory", the KGB murders Joyce (Rob's wife) by making it look like she died of an accidental heroin overdose.
** A variation in the episode "In Control". After murdering the security guard, the Jennings leave the body in a wooded area and leave behind clues suggesting the man was killed by a woman he was having sex with.
* MamaBear: Claudia is revealed as this in the final episode of season 1.
* ManlyGay / StraightGay: Larrick in Season 2. Blackmailed into working for the KGB, because he's a homosexual. Also a badass Navy SEAL who is exceptionally good at tracking down and killing people.
* MarriedToTheJob:
** Most of the FBI agents know for a fact that serving their country takes a serious toll on their personal lives.
** Philip and Elizabeth gradually provide a literal example.
* MasterOfDisguise: Phillip and Elizabeth, with their numerous false identities, are good at transforming their appearance. {{Lampshaded}} by Gregory in "Only You", in which he directly states "You guys are the masters of disguise".
* MightyWhiteyAndMellowYellow: Supervisor Gaad has a Vietnamese wife he met while he served there during the war.
* TheMissusAndTheEx: Irina, Philip's old girlfriend from his life in Russia, shows up in "Duty and Honor" as part of a mission.
* TheMistress: Nina becomes Stan's in "Duty and Honor".
* TheMole:
** Not our leads (who are sleeper agents) but Nina, a KGB officer stationed at the Soviet embassy, who the FBI caught stealing and smuggling caviar. Stan pressures her into working for them to avoid being turned over to the Soviet authorities.
** Martha is this without even realizing it, when "Clark" convinces her to spy on the FBI by saying it's a counterintelligence op. Eventually she figures this out, but rather than turning herself in, becomes Philip's willing mole.
* MoralMyopia:
** Elizabeth having a decade-long secret relationship with another dude? It's okay for her, because he was "passionate about her", while she herself clearly didn't feel that way about Philip at the time, and she apologized for it. Philip rekindling his relation with his first true love, after feeling betrayed by Elizabeth due to the events from an earlier episode, but immediately breaking it off? Kick the bastard out!
** Similarly, Elizabeth's dim view of Ronald Reagan often overlooks the fact that her country didn't have a great human rights record.
** Aside from Oleg, the Soviets are enraged that the Americans have purposely planted defective engineering plans, one of which results in the sinking of a Soviet submarine, killing everyone abroad. Oleg is the only one to question why the Soviet engineers did not find the defect and why more extensive testing was not done on the submarine before putting it in service. Also none of the Russians seem to consider that the disaster was caused by them ''stealing the plans'' and that they wouldn't have had this problem if they'd just designed their own submarine.
* MotherRussiaMakesYouStrong: A recurring, conversed theme, usually in tandem with "cushy America makes you weak."
** Elizabeth believes that "there's a weakness" among Americans (very specifically, the [[WhiteAngloSaxonProtestant white middle class]] she occupies), and wants to subtly encourage her children to become socialists, or at least sympathetic to the [[CivilRightsMovement radicals of the recent past]] who she admired deeply.
** Claudia is also skeptical towards American women since she considers them not being used to really struggle for a better life--as opposed to her own country's history, where the women's equality movement was ''very'' closely tied to violent communist revolution. At the time, in pure terms of elected representatives in office compared to the US, [[http://hetq.am/eng/news/60832/women-in-armenia-are-less-free-today-than-30-years-ago.html she's ''technically'' correct]].
** When discussing that a 5'4'' woman knocked out two FBI agents, one of them remarks "they make them tough over there."
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone:
** Philip's reaction when he gets rough with Elizabeth while wearing his "Clark" disguise. It was actually at her request (she was intrigued by a comment Martha made), but he tears off his hairpiece in disgust when she breaks down crying.
** Philip deals with this quite a bit in Season 2, like when the Russian scientist that he kidnaps gives him a YouBastard speech, or when his efforts to infiltrate the Operation Martial Eagle base lead to the deaths of three innocents.
** Martha says this in Season 4 premiere "Glanders" after realizing that Philip killed Gene to cover for her.
* NeckSnap: How Larrick the badass Navy SEAL [[spoiler: dispatches Kate in "Stealth"]].
* TheNeedsOfTheMany: The reason why the Israelis turn over Baklanov to the Soviets, so that 1,500 Soviet Jews are allowed to emigrate to Israel.
* NervesOfSteel: Reverend Tim, the pastor of Paige's church. He doesn't succumb to Philip's intimidation and even manages to force Philip to retreat in the end.
* NippleAndDimed: ''The Americans'' is a master class in the art of showing people rolling around naked in bed without ever revealing a woman's nipples. Notable examples are the sex scene between the gorgeous prostitute and the German assassin in "Mutually Assured Destruction", or Annelise's sex with Yousef in "EST Men".
* NobodyPoops: {{Averted}}. The Mossad agent Philip takes hostage has to do it. In front of Philip. Who has to wipe his asshole afterward.
* NoDelaysForTheWicked: Generally played straight although notably averted at times. The KGB is highly efficient. Forged government IDs? No problem. Safe houses across the Washington metro area? Got them. Files on American top-secret security personnel? Piece of cake. They even have an office facility that can pass itself off as the CIA's. Admittedly, the KGB has the advantage of surprise, by being undercover, they [[VillainsActHeroesReact have the advantage of deciding where and when to strike, the US has to react to them]].
** Averted in the very first episode, the Jennings miss the ship that they needed to send the KGB defector on.
** The Jennings fail to stop the bombings of scientists.
** In the first season finale, the Jennings fall for an FBI trap and only Arkady's quick thinking allows them to get away.
* NoHoldsBarredBeatdown: Elizabeth delivers a surprising and brutal one to Claudia after her torture at her own agency's hands.
* NotSoDifferent: Elizabeth uses this angle with Pastor Tim, arguing that they both work to end nuclear threat, for justice and for equality. Pastor Tim thinks otherwise and points out the mistreatment of religious grups in the Eastern Bloc.
* ObliviousToTheirOwnDescription: While he interrogates a group of Pentagon engineers, Stan warns them that the secrets they're embarrassed to admit the most are the one the KGB will use to turn them. That's exactly what happens to him.
* OffscreenMomentOfAwesome: The Americans planted defective submarine plans for the KGB to steal, so that when the Soviets try to build those submarines themselves the resulting product will kill the Soviets who board them. None of this is shown on-screen, but the subsequent shock among the KGB characters is still palpable. Then again, insider Oleg thinks the sinking was simply incompetence on the part of the Soviet navy.
* OhCrap:
** Elizabeth and Philip both have a subdued one when they realize their new neighbor Stan is an FBI agent who works in counterintelligence.
** The KGB officers in the embassy have one when they listen to the tape recorded at the house of the US Secretary of Defense. They are overjoyed over this massive intelligence coup, but then they get to the end of the conversation and hear that the Americans are planning a ballistic missile defense screen.
** The look on their deceased comrade's wife's face when she realizes they're spies.
** Philip gets a pretty spectacular one when he comes to Martha's apartment in "Covert War" and she confronts him with her parents.
** "The Colonel" gives us perhaps the most epic one yet when Claudia and Philip figure out [[spoiler: the titular colonel is not the trap, the routine tape pickup Elizabeth was sent on is.]]
** "Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?" gives one to an elderly bookkeeper who comes in late at night to do the bills for her family's Mail Robot repair shop....unfortunately at the same time the Jennings are planting a bug in a Mail Robot used by the FBI. Elizabeth watches over her, and the two strike up a casual conversation about their families....until the bookkeeper asks where Elizabeth's mother lives.
--->Elizabeth: Russia.
--->Bookkeeper: Oh. Your English is very good.
--->Elizabeth: We've been trained.
* OldFlame: Philip reunites with his ex-girlfriend Irina to discredit a Polish pro-democracy leader.
* OOCIsSeriousBusiness: Invoked by Philip when he approaches Arkady in a public place. It is a gross violation of operational security and Philip does it specifically to let Moscow know how deadly serious he is about [[spoiler: making sure that his children are off-limits and that he will never permit that they be recruited as spies, without consent of him and his wife]].
* OvertOperative: Everyone knows the real duties of the people in the Rezidentura. Most of their cover jobs are not ever mentioned at all, and the people themselves make no attempt to hide their actual responsibilities. TruthInTelevision, as it has always been common practice for intelligence agents to work in embassies as "diplomats", giving them diplomatic immunity.
** Kate does this when she shows up in a headscarf and trenchcoat to a meet. [[LampshadeHanging Lampshaded]] by Phillip.
--> "SERIOUSLY!!!??? You look like a character in a spy flick."
* PaperThinDisguise: Played straight mostly, but justified. Anyone who knows the Jennings will not be fooled, and indeed in season 1 at one point when under threat of capture a disguised Elizabeth says outright that Agent Beeman will recognize her. They also don't bother with disguises with people who might know them. The purpose of the disguises instead are to put on and highlight notable but false features, such as scars, moles, skin depigmentation, hairstyle, beards etc which the real couple do not have. So that when a description is given, it does not lead to Philip and Elizabeth. This works, the sketch that he FBI have is clearly show little resemblance to them.
** The disguises are different from each other so that any description will not match each other and make the FBI more suspicious.
** Another advantage is practicality, they sometimes have to go out quite quickly and they don't have time for elaborate disguises.
* ParentalSexualitySquick: Paige has to deal with this in "Comrades" when she barges in on her mom and dad going 69.
* PeriodPiece: The series is set in the '80s, at the height of the UsefulNotes/ColdWar.
* PetTheDog: The KGB is a brutal secret police organization whose agents and officers are responsible for a multitude of murders, tortures, abductions, sabotages, and human rights violations. Even so, they vehemently oppose South Africa's apartheid and institutional racism.
* ThePerilsOfBeingTheBest: Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings are two of the KGB's best undercover spies... which means they've both done a shitload of sleeping with and murdering people for no other reason than because the Centre told them to. They're both constantly dealing with the emotional toll of that kind of work.
* PlotTriggeringDeath: Each of the first three seasons use this trope.
** In the pilot, a Directorate S agent that is on a mission with Phillip is killed. This tips the FBI off to the existence of Directorate S.
** In the second-season premiere, two more Directorate S agents that had met Phillip and Elizabeth for a mission are killed in their hotel room. The mystery of who was behind the murders drives the plot for the whole season.
** In the third-season premiere, Yousef falls into the KGB's clutches when Phillip confronts him immediately after Yousef murdered Annelise.
* PoisonAndCureGambit: The whole plot of "The Clock", in which Philip and Elizabeth do this in order to force a maid to plant a listening device in Caspar Weinberger's house.
* PoorCommunicationKills:
** A badly phrased comment on TV by Secretary of State and retired four star general Alexander Haig causes the Russians to suspect that the US military is staging a coup following the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. As a result Philip and Elizabeth are told to prepare for the outbreak of World War 3 and start scouting out the best location for assassinating the Secretary of Defense. Elizabeth then kills a security guard who interrupts them. {{Inverted}} later when Philip refuses to tell the KGB about an important piece of intelligence because he believes that it will unnecessarily increase tensions and could trigger the war.
** A communication problem between Stan and his partner almost causes them to expose their agent in the embassy, which would get her killed.
* PornStash: Paige catches pubescent Henry with a photo of Sandra Beeman in a bikini top that he has no good reason to possess. Later, episode "Stingers" reveals that said photo is part of a collection of photos of scantily-clad ladies that Henry has torn from newspapers and magazines, and has hidden under the floorboards of his closet.
* PutOnABus:
** Vasili... and we learn in season two that TheBusCameBack.
* PrimalScene: In the second-season premiere, Paige walks in on her parents going 69 on each other. Ick.
* ProfessionalKiller: Both the Jennings are this in spades, but Elizabeth (at least as of the middle of season 2) comes off as the colder of the two.
* ProperlyParanoid: Stan. He stops being proper by the end of Season 1, when his feelings to Nina makes him unable to see her deceptions.
* PunkInTheTrunk: For most of the pilot episode-several days in-episode-the Jennings' Oldsmobile has a Soviet defector in the trunk.
* RapeAsBackstory: Elizabeth, in training. It's later revealed by the same individual that ''all'' the instructors were raping the female trainees as a "perk" of the job. Or not-the revelation ''is'' coming directly from the mouth of a defector who was being held at gunpoint for his transgression by Philip, desperately seeking excuses, making him an UnreliableExpositor.
** Comes back in season two where Elizabeth makes Philip have sex with her as "Clark" and triggers a PTSD attack when he acts roughly.
* RealityEnsues: Sometimes {{averted}}, often {{played straight}}.
** Wounds suffered by the characters can be fatal (for example Robert in the series premiere) or require a long rehabilitation process.
** Highly trained agents are unable to fight their way out of sudden unexpected ambushes and are captured (in the KGB "test") or [[spoiler: the other spy couple and their daughter in their hotel room in the second season premiere]].
** Killing and other unpleasant activities take an emotional toll on the Jennings.
** Growing children are becoming more aware of their surrounding and are not oblivious.
** Nobody is above anybody when it comes to political dealings. Anton Baklanov, a Jewish refusenik himself, is traded by Mossad-the very Israelis who promised to protect him-for 1,500 more Jewish refuseniks from the USSR.
** Asking your husband to make love to you as he does to his mark makes both of you very upset and is not enjoyable or titillating.
** Your hostage has to shit. And he shits in front of you. And then you have to wipe his ass.
--->'''Mossad agent''': Mr. KGB-man! '''''I need to shit.'''''
** It's not a good idea to go after a highly-trained Navy SEAL colonel you're specifically and explicitly forbidden from attacking. Your boss not only has to stop using him, you'll also die.
** There are no second acts in Soviet lives, and no redemption. Treason and failling the motherland are rewarded with a bullet to the brain, [[Literature/NineteenEightyFour 1984]]-style. This is made painfully explicit in [[spoiler:Nina Sergeevna's]] storyline.
* ReassignedToAntarctica: Vasili is seen in Season 2 heading up a remote scientific outpost in the middle of Siberia.
* RedHerring: Both season one and season two have arcs within the Jennings family that don't pan out as expected:
** Season 1 seems to paint early on that Phillip has a desire to defect, but once [[spoiler: Elizabeth is nearly mortally wounded]] we realize each of them are still very committed to the cause, but have different attitudes to life in their posting.
** Season 2 amps up Paige's suspicion that something is not right about her parents - to the point of snooping through their belongings and then walking on them having sex. While she ultimately doesn't discover the truth, her suspicious nature may take on a new angle - as her parents have now been ordered to prepare Paige for eventual indoctrination as a KGB agent.
** At several points in Season 2, it appears that Clark/Phillip's sham marriage to Martha has become too complicated to be useful, with Elizabeth even posing as Clark's sister and getting her drunk to pump her for information about Phillip. While by the end of the season Martha is still OK, the relationship has grown more complicated when Clark discovers Martha has bought a gun for protection, against his wishes and that Martha has known for quite a while that Phillip is wearing a toupee when he poses as Clark.
* RedemptionEqualsDeath: [[spoiler: Col. Larrick at the end of season two resolves to capture the Jenningses and turn them over to the American government, and to confess to his own involvement with them and his betrayal of his country and his brothers-in-arms, saying that he doesn't care what happens to him. Just at the moment he seems on the brink of success, Jared shoots him in the shoulder, and then Phillip in the resulting struggle kills him.]]
* RememberTheNewGuy: KGB agent Gabriel, introduced in the first episode of Season 3 as an old friend. Apparently he was Phil and Liz's handler at some point before the time frame of the series.
* RewardedAsATraitorDeserves: In the pilot episode, the Jennings kidnap and later kill a former KGB agent who defected to America. TruthInTelevision, by the way: the Soviets had no tolerance for traitors, and they would often launch covert operations to assassinate defectors. Soviet defectors often spent the rest of their days hiding under new identities.
* RightHandVersusLeftHand:
** A group within the KGB hired an assassin to kill fourteen American scientists. Apparently they did so without informing their superiors who realize that this could start a war and order Philip and Elisabeth to stop the assassin at all costs.
** Philip invokes this when he is impersonating an FBI agent from the Oversight group. He complains that the other FBI divisions do not share information with them and then Oversight gets blamed because they do not know what is going on. This is a ploy to convince his asset/lover to give him information FBI counterintelligence has gathered on an assassin. It grows even more complicated when he later ''marries'' his mark.
** Phillip and Elizabeth first approach Larrick posing as American intelligence agents, but he sees through the ruse fairly quickly, especially when he later discovers Phillip tailing him.
* ScrabbleBabble: Philip and Gabriel play Scrabble during their meetings in Season 3.
* SecretIdentityIdentity: Philip seriously considers defecting to the United States in the pilot. Elizabeth doesn't exactly approve of this plan.
* SecretStabWound: [[spoiler:Elizabeth's gunshot wound]] in "The Colonel".
* ShoePhone: In "The Clock", Elizabeth poisons Grayson by injecting him with a needle hidden in the tip of an umbrella. This sort of device is TruthInTelevision, and the KGB used the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgarian_umbrella Bulgarian Umbrella]] in real life to assassinate a Bulgarian dissident writer living in London.
* ShownTheirWork: To a surprising degree; the entire arc around the Reagan assassination, for example, is based on actual KGB chatter and analysis.
** During the Cold War, male Stasi "Romeo" agents would seduce and even marry the secretaries of West German government officials, and would then spend months or even ''years'' extracting information from them. This is ''exactly'' the same thing that Philip/Clark ends up doing to Martha.
* ShoutOut: Episode "Stingers" is full of them. Stan goes to see ''Film/{{Tootsie}}'', and there is a poster for ''Film/TheVerdict'' outside the theater. Henry does an imitation of Creator/EddieMurphy's "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood" from ''Series/SaturdayNightLive''. And the last one is obscure enough to verge on GeniusBonus. The day after [[spoiler: Phil and Liz confess their true identities to Paige,]] they come home to find her watching an episode of ''Series/GeneralHospital''-- [[spoiler: specifically, a scene from a plot line in which one of the handsome young doctors at General Hospital is eventually exposed as a Russian illegal spy.]]
* ShutUpKirk: An interesting example. Arkady intends to play Kirk at Gaad by showing him the photograph of Vlad in order to guilt him of Vlad's death. Gaad quickly shuts him down by bringing up Amador's murder at the hand of the KGB. [[spoiler: Arkady doesn't mention that Amador was vengeful (and likely drunk) when he was killed, almost certainly in self-defense, unlike Vlad who was a prisoner.]]
* SlippingAMickey: A KGB agent does this to a Polish dissident in order to frame him for rape in "Duty and Honor".
* SpitefulSpit: Kate does this to Larrick after he questions her in "Stealth". [[spoiler:It ends badly for her.]]
* SpySchool:
** Elizabeth is shown in the pilot learning both physical combat skills and the finer points of idiomatic American English. Then things [[RapeAsBackstory turn very bad]].
** In Season 3 Elizabeth is giving a new character lessons on how to tail someone.
** Season 3 episode "Salang Pass" includes a flashback of Phillip going through KGB sex school. He is tasked with having sex with a hot lady. Then a wrinkled old lady. [[FanDisservice Then a fat man]].
* SpysSuspiciousSpouse: Suspicious daughter. Paige is becoming more and more suspicious of what exactly her parents are hiding. By Season 2 she's trying to listen in on their phone calls.
* SpyFiction: Of the Stale Beer variety.
* TheSpymaster: General Zhukov, who runs Directorate S and is a father figure for Elizabeth.
* StrictlyProfessionalRelationship: {{Invoked}}. Philip is pretending to be an FBI InternalAffairs investigator and has convinced a FBI secretary to help him investigate the counter-intelligence division. The secretary is clearly attracted to him and he makes a big show of convincing her that he reciprocates her feelings. Until his investigation is concluded, they have to maintain a strictly professional relationship. [[spoiler:However, Philip is actually a Soviet spy and has no romantic feelings for the secretary whatsoever. Despite this, he eventually gets into a relationship and even marries her to keep up the op.]]
* SuicideByCop: In "Only You", [[spoiler:Gregory chooses this route instead of fleeing to Moscow.]]
* SympatheticMurderer: By the middle of season 2, both Elizabeth and Philip have enough innocent blood on their hands for this trope to apply, with Philip considering himself one, particularly after the events of "Martial Eagle."
* SympatheticPOV: The show's focus reveals that the two leads really aren't bad people, but are forced to do heinous things for their country.
* TeethClenchedTeamwork: Philip and especially Elizabeth don't get along with Claudia, their new [[TheHandler handler]].
* ThisMeansWar: In the pilot episode, President Reagan effectively declares a covert war against undercover KGB operatives in the United States after Philip and Elizabeth kidnap a Soviet defector living on US soil.
-->'''Agent Gaad:''' The Attorney General and I have just come from the White House. President Reagan is outraged that the KGB thinks it can kidnap someone with impunity on American soil. The President has signed top secret executive order 2579 authorizing the Federal Bureau of Investigation counter-intelligence office to take all necessary measures to neutralize Soviet Directorate S sleeper cell agents in the continental United States. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to war. It is a war that will be fought quietly by the men and women in this room. It will not be short and it will not be easy, but we have truth and justice on our side and we will prevail.
* TitleDrop: Regularly with episode titles. Phil and Liz also sometimes speculate about what "the Americans" will do.
* TokenMinority: Stan's partner Chris is one of only three minorities in his department, which, according to Stan, gives Chris license to roughly interrogate suspects.
* TheToothHurts: Elizabeth gets a tooth busted up in a fight with FBI agents in the Season 3 premiere. Eventually she has to have it pulled, but the FBI is on a lookout for anyone matching Elizabeth's description who goes to a dentist. So Phillip has to extract her busted tooth, without benefit of anesthesia.
* ToplessnessFromTheBack:
** Provided by Nina as she slides into bed with Vasili in "Trust Me".
** And again by a hooker in "Mutually Assured Destruction".
** Elizabeth gets a full body version in Season 2.
* TruthInTelevision: Philip's long-term operation with Martha is based on a strategy used by Stasi spymasters where agents would marry "spinsters" and pump them for information for years, sometimes decades.
* TykeBomb: [[spoiler: What the KGB is hoping to get from a program for "second-generation illegals". They want to recruit the American-Born children of their sleeper agents, who would have a much better chance than their parents to get into high-level government positions.]]
* UndercoverAsLovers: A married couple with children, no less.
* TheUnfairSex: As stated in the MoralMyopia entry above: Elizabeth's affair with Gregory (which lasted for ''years'') is portrayed in a sympathetic light because he was "passionate" about her and Elizabeth hadn't yet started falling for Philip. But later when Philip has a one night stand with his former lover in the aftermath of Elizabeth betraying his trust, she decides to kick him out of the house.
* UniquePilotTitleSequence: Or a lack of one, as the names of the cast members pop up over the action movie-style. Starting with the second episode the show adopts more regular opening credits that feature Soviet iconography and Cyrillic letters.
* UnwittingPawn: Martha. She knows Philip as "Clark", and she believes he is another FBI agent [[WhoWatchesTheWatchmen investigating the counterintelligence unit]]. She starts off by passing him FBI gossip and then graduates to passing him classified documents, believing all the while that she's helping the good guys catch the bad guys.
* VerbalIrony: When commiserating about the supposed suicide of Gene from IT, who was also supposedly the leak in the FBI's office, Martha says "I guess you never really know anyone, do you?" Martha is the only one in the office who knows that she is the real mole.
* VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory:
** Creator Joseph Weisberg, who actually worked for the CIA from 1990 to 1994, was inspired by a totally real 2010 story in which [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegals_Program the FBI]] [[http://swampland.time.com/2010/06/29/the-8-coolest-things-about-the-alleged-russian-spy-ring/ arrested]] ten Russian {{deep cover agent}}s.
** One of the couples in that 2010 "Illegals Program" was apparently enlisting one of their kids as a second-generation spy when the group was busted.
** The scene in "The Clock" where Elizabeth poisons some guy by stabbing him with a tricked-out umbrella is inspired by the real-life [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgi_Markov#Murder murder of a Bulgarian dissident]] in London in 1978.
** The name of the Pakistani officer incharge of training and supporting the Mujahideen? Mohammad Yousaf: http://www.amazon.com/The-Bear-Trap-Afghanistans-Untold/dp/0850522676. Although, besides the name he shares little with the shows Yousaf, he was much more effective and competant for one.
* VictoriasSecretCompartment: Where Annelise keeps her spy camera in "The Clock".
* VillainProtagonist: The protagonist couple. The show aims for a PunchClockVillain angle in that they are soldiers fighting a covert war and whose violence and manipulations are not [[KickTheDog pointless]] but serve a purpose and have a cold logic behind them. All the same, while they're not in it for selfish reasons, the show also makes it clear that everything the Jennings couple does, they do it consciously, readily, and willingly, with varying degrees of [[NecessarilyEvil remorse]].
-->'''William:''' It eats you up... what we do.
* VillainsOutShopping: Loads!!!!! The trope may as well be named after this show.
** From the American viewpoint, the Jennings and the other KGB are evil. But, we see the Jennings doing decidedly non villainy things all the time, including raising their children, going out on family gatherings, having sex/relationship problems etc etc. After one mission to seduce and entrap a US Defense contractor, Elizabeth and a fellow female agent drink beer sitting on the hood of their car and discuss Elizabeth's [[spoiler: recovery from her injuries]] as they await their husbands return. When the men arrive, the conversation turns to their kids.
** The FBI is the villain for the protagonists. We see Stan's relationship with his family, other agents celebrating a promotion. When Stan shows up unexpectedly at the Jennings business, what is his purpose? He wants to set up a bachelor party for his brother in law.
** Even the KGB brass gets its turn, with Vasili being annoyed at the inability of his coworkers to brew tea properly. Arkady gushes about his new microwave. And later curses it when his potato exploded in it, forcing him to wear bandages for a time. And then Arkady is shown browsing the magazine rack, like any ordinary person.
* VodkaDrunkenski: {{Averted}}, for the most part, as the Jennings are under deep cover. If the vodka comes out, it's because something serious has happened.
* WhamEpisode:
** "Echo", the Season 2 finale. [[spoiler:Jared reveals, as he is dying, that he was complicit in the murders of his sister and parents, because he had found out that his parents, like him, were KGB agents and didn't want him being recruited. He also admits to having at least some kind of crush on Kate, his handler.]]
** "Stingers", in Season 3. [[spoiler:Paige finally has had it and bluntly asks her parents what their strange activities mean. They reveal to her that they are Soviets, and are spying on the USA.]]
** "March 8, 1983", the Season 3 finale. [[spoiler:Paige tells Pastor Tim that Philip and Elizabeth are Russians.]]
* WhatTheHellHero:
** Philip gives Elizabeth a major tongue lashing after he finds out that she told their handlers that he seems to like living in America a bit too much. Comments like that could get him executed, and he views it as a major betrayal.
** He also gives her a bit of this after she [[spoiler: murders a security guard in "In Control".]]
** Gaad gives it to Stan when the latter asks him to help about Nina. He flats-out refusing to listen at all, after being sacrificed for the Vlad murder mess.
* WigDressAccent: The Jennings use wigs, glasses, different clothes and makeup to put on a unique appearance for each asset. Philip's "Clark" wig remains amazingly durable during numerous sex scenes with Martha. Though Martha does know it is fake and assumes that it is a toupee, which actually strengthens his cover of being in love with her.
** In what may be a LeaningOnTheFourthWall gag about all the incredibly durable wigs that the protagonists wear, Philip has one ripped off during a struggle in "Comrades".
* WithMyHandsTied: In the second season finale Elizabeth fights Larrick after being handcuffed and does well enough that [[spoiler: Philip, who is also cuffed, is able to get the drop on him and steal the gun out of his waistband and shoot him with it. Justified in this instance, as Jared had shot Larrick in the back first.]]
* XanatosSpeedChess: The ending of Season 3 premiere "EST Men". Annelise is boning Yousaf with Phillip listening from the next room. Annelise starts to grow a conscience and tells Yousaf what's really going on. Phillip bursts in, moments too late from preventing Yousaf from strangling Annelise to death. Before her body is cold, Phillip is improvising on the spot, telling Yousaf "I can make this go away", getting him under KGB control.
* YouBastard: It's way too easy for the audience to forget that our [[VillainProtagonist Villain Protagonists]] are, in fact, ruthless career murderers serving a corrupt, oppressive dictatorship that bullies most of its own people into submission. Baklanov's desperate pleading to Philip at the end of "The Deal" is a painful reminder of that fact.
* YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness: The KGB is particularly bad at this, killing or abandoning agents and allies once they've learned all they can. Several characters lampshade the idiocy of this policy, in contrast to the Americans who encourage loyalty and defections with money and a better life.
* YouKeepTellingYourselfThat: Pastor Tim is not at all fooled by Elizabeth's NotSoDifferent speech about their work. He points out that in the Soviet Union, religious people are persecuted, bringing up not only the plight of Soviet Christians but also the Jews'. Elizabeth is thus reduced to admitting her country is not perfect.
* YouMonster: Tied with the YouBastard above. When Philip doesn't even look at him while he's pleading, Baklanov accuses Philip of this, and rightly so.
* YourCheatingHeart: All of the main characters. Elizabeth had a longtime affair with an American KGB asset, and Philip doesn't react well when he finds out in "Gregory". Then both Philip and Stan cheat on their wives in "Duty and Honor". In Season 2, Sandra actually ''tells'' Stan that she is going off on a sex weekend with her new boyfriend, and by the end of the season they've agreed to divorce.

to:

** Beeman figures out a simple, yet effective, plan to throw suspicion off the real mole, Nina. The Rezident is [[PutOnABus put on a plane]] as a result, and all it required was a basic understanding of Soviet presumed-guilty paranoia regarding their high officials. [[note]] Not to mention some [[FrameUp planted diamonds]].[[/note]]
** The United States Government pulls off a Batman Gambit in season 2. They come up with faulty rotor designs for submarines and plant them at facilities all over the country, knowing full well that the Soviets will try to steal them. Russia obtains the plans and retrofits one of their submarines with the new rotors. The "improved" submarine has a rotor malfunction that kills the entire crew (over a hundred Soviet sailors). The US tricked Russia into stealing plans that would kill its own military personnel.
* BecomingTheMask: Seems to be the case with Philip, but then ultimately {{subverted}}.
-->'''Elizabeth''': You like it too much here.
-->'''Philip''': I '''''FIT IN!''''' Yeah, I like it here, '''''so what?'''''
** Philip and Martha's fake relationship and fake marriage starts to get more real by Season 4, like in season premiere "Glanders", when he's going to Martha for comfort and telling her things he doesn't tell his other wife.
* BerserkButton: Do not question Philip's loyalty. Or Elizabeth's for that matter.
** Do ''not'' murder Larrick's buddies in the Navy.
** It's also a bad idea to threaten Philip's wife and kids. Even though he is well aware what family ties are worth in his line of work he'll still kick your ass.
* BigBad: Larrick in Season 2. Neutralizing him is our VillainProtagonist's primary endgame since halfway through the season. [[spoiler: However, both he and the Jennings came to a collision course as a result of the actions of...]]
** BiggerBad: [[spoiler: Jared]].
* BlackAndGrayMorality: Our protagonists are murderous KGB spies. The FBI guy hunting for them murdered a newbie KGB agent in cold blood and cheated on his wife. Nina is a TripleAgent who also isn't above callously betraying her cellmates. Martha eventually knowingly betrays her country.
* BlatantLies:
-->'''Martha''': Is this real?
-->'''Philip''': Yes.
** Also Stan lying to Nina's face about murdering Vlad.
* BluffTheEavesdropper: After finding the listening device in Caspar Weinberger's office, the FBI does this in order to lay a trap for Directorate S.
* BondageIsBad: Or rough sex and erotic spanking is bad, as the guy who whips Elizabeth demonstrates.
* BoundAndGagged: Larrick does this to [[spoiler: KGB handler Kate]] after overpowering her. This trope is often used for {{Fanservice}} but in this instance is very scary and disturbing.
* BrattyTeenageDaughter: Paige, who was already more or less this, gets even worse in Season 1 after Philip and Elizabeth separate and he moves out of the house. And in Season 2 she gets into Christianity, in what is clearly at least in part an effort to irritate her unchurched parents.
* BriefcaseFullOfMoney: Philip hands one of these over in exchange for sensitive information in "Gregory", but not before he uses it to bust up a couple of {{Mooks}} who wouldn't get out of his blind spot.
* BringIt: Elizabeth before taking down Timoshev.
* BullyHunter: Philip tries to intervene when a pedophile starts hitting on his daughter, but backs down and doesn't try to stop him from leaving with another girl, proving him to be a {{subversion}} of this trope. However, later in the episode, he snaps Timoshev's neck when he learns Timoshev [[spoiler:raped Elizabeth during training]]. Even later, he beats the shit out of the pedophile and has to be stopped from murdering the target of a honey trap who beat Elizabeth during rough sex.
* TheBusCameBack:
** Episode 1-2, "The Clock", introduces Annelise, Phillip's girlfriend, the wife of a Defense Department official. She's clingy and emotional, and it seems it will be a major plotline--but she doesn't reappear until 21 episodes later in "Yousef", when Phillip maneuvers her into being a HoneyPot for a Pakistani agent.
** Vasili, the head of the KGB office in Washington, is framed for espionage in the first season by Nina and Stan and bundled off to the Soviet Union, presumably for execution. However, he pops up again in the second season as the dissident Russian scientist's supervising officer.
* ButHeSoundsHandsome: Elizabeth can't resist making offhanded remarks about how cool the Soviet Union's accomplishments are ("walking on the moon is ok, but getting into space is the real thing")
* BuxomIsBetter: In "Pastor Tim", Henry, now a teen awash in hormones, tells Stan Beeman that he lusts after one of his teachers. When Stan asks about her, Henry says "She's got..." and makes a gesture indicating large breasts.
* CaliforniaDoubling:
** New York doubling. Shot after shot after shot featuring present-day NYC parking restriction signs, MTA bus stops, bodegas, etc. One train station scene clearly shot along an LIRR line. A scene set in Philly clearly shot somewhere along the 7 line in Queens. The list goes on and on.
** Quite obvious in some of the later episodes of Season 2, supposedly taking place in DC and Virginia in March and April, but featuring snow everywhere due to the brutal winter of 2013-2014 in NYC.
* CallBack: In Season 2 episode "Echo" Philip starts to tell Elizabeth a story about when he was a boy in Tobolsk and gangs of kids would mug him when he was bringing milk home. He's interrupted before he finishes the story. Two seasons later in Season 4 premiere "Glanders", we see the violent end to that interrupted story, in a flashback to Philip's youth.
* ClarkKenting: One of the alter egos is also called "Clark". And this Clark looks a lot like Philip with a toupee and glasses. However, for the most part the disguises are not meant to completely change the agents appearances, just to look nondescript.
* ChekhovsGun: Several
** Chris's offhand comment early in the season about how he once dated Martha leads to Chris asking Martha out again in "Mutually Assured Destruction"--which leads to Chris seeing Martha looking in a file cabinet she shouldn't be looking in and acting all shifty, which leads to Chris getting suspicious and following Martha around.
** A literal one with the gun that Martha bought, much to Philip's unpleasant surprise, in episode 2-2, "Cardinal". Not fired as of yet. (Although Martha takes target practice with her ChekhovsGun in Season 3 premiere "EST Men".)
* ChronicBackstabbingDisorder: Nina betrays every 'side' she's on. Even [[spoiler: after being imprisoned for treason in season 3, she informs on her fellow prisoners in exchange for better treatment and meals from the guards.]]
* UsefulNotes/ColdWar: The early 1980s being an especially tense period of the UsefulNotes/ColdWar, following the accession of UsefulNotes/RonaldReagan to the presidency and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
* ConsummateLiar: Saying that the "Jennings" are extremely good at deception would be an understatement. This comes with the job description for cover agents, since their dual (and something trial or quadral) lives depend on it.
* ContrivedCoincidence: Who moves in right next door to two Soviet Deep Cover Agents? An FBI agent who works in counterintelligence and is hunting Soviet agents, that's who. Somewhat excused by the fact that it's a UsefulNotes/WashingtonDC suburb with a high density of government employees. {{Lampshaded}} by Elizabeth: "FBI agents have to live somewhere."
* CovertGroupWithMundaneFront: The Jennings run a travel agency. This provides them with sufficient excuse to travel and to meet different types of people.
* CowboyCop:
** Stan has a knack for unsanctioned work and is often following his own, accurate hunches. One time he bullies the guy in the stereo store without even a hint of a warrant, another he breaks into the Jennings' garage. When [[spoiler: Amador is killed]], this becomes even more pronounced, particularly in [[ItMakesSenseInContext his speech about how hunting dogs carry the birds they catch to their master's feet]] to a terrified captured KGB agent. He's also the first to become suspicious of [[spoiler:Martha]] and puts her under surveillance without telling the bosses.
** Elizabeth and Philip ignore direct orders from the Center and think outside the box sometimes, which doesn't sit well with the rigid Soviet structure.
* CrazyPrepared: The KGB, oh dear god. Probably justified, as the agents operate far from home and support, so such preparation comes in handy.
** They have a fake demented "Aunt" for the kids if they ask too many questions.
** Someone monitors Martha's line to ensure she does not reveal "Clark" to the US.
** Season 3 reveals that if Directorate S agents ever find themselves being tailed, they can call someone and get a made-to-order traffic collision that will allow them to escape the tail.
** Phillip has a fully-furnished and seemingly lived-in apartment for "Clark", in case Martha ever asks to go there. It comes in handy when she actually does, in the middle of the night.
* CriminalProcedural: The show examines what it takes to be an illegal spy (sleeper agent) in the United States. It involves murder and deception of regular people on a regular basis.
* CycleOfRevenge: A rogue faction of the KGB causes the deaths of three FBI agents, and the Americans retaliate by killing a number of KGB officers. The KGB wants to end the feud, but some of their agents seek personal revenge for the deaths of their friends.
* DealWithTheDevil: Larrick forces Elizabeth to take this while he strangles Lucia.
-->'''Larrick''': It's either her or me. You choose.
* DeepCoverAgent:
** "Directorate S", the KGB program which has installed {{deep cover agent}}s in the United States masquerading as American citizens. The Jennings' aren't even allowed to speak Russian to each other at home, and were instructed to never ask the other about their actual background, instead only learning their invented back stories.
** Stan was also a deep cover agent for the FBI, before the events of Season 1. He just recently returned from a very long mission and is clearly having trouble re-adjusting.
* DespairEventHorizon: The wife of an American working for the Russians died and he is on the verge of a mental breakdown. His handler is convinced that if he can just talk to the man, he would be able to calm him down and brink him back from the brink. However, the Russians cannot get away from FBI surveillance so Elizabeth is ordered to kill the man before does something that would expose the spy ring. In the same episode Claudia recounts the story of one of her assets in West Germany. The Russians decided that he was not useful anymore and recalled Claudia back. Shortly after being abandoned, the man killed himself since spying for the Russians had become his main purpose in life.
* TheDeterminator: Stan has elements of this, particularly after [[spoiler: his partner is killed.]]
* DiesWideOpen:
** Joyce, the wife of the agent who died in the pilot, meets an unfortunate end in "Gregory".
** The same happens to [[spoiler:Agent Chris Amador]].
** Poor unfortunate Annelise after an intelligence op ends with her getting strangled to death in "EST Men".
* TheDogWasTheMastermind: Season 2 finale "Echo" [[spoiler:reveals that Jared killed his parents and his sister after his parents refused to let him spy for the KGB.]]
* DoubleAgent: Nina becomes this after coming clean to Arkady. Actually, given that she was a KGB officer to begin with, she's really a Triple Agent. Or perhaps a DoubleReverseQuadrupleAgent.
* DramaticIrony:
** Paige and Matthew talk about his father Stan's dangerous job in "In Control". Paige says "My dad doesn't do stuff like that. He's just a travel agent."
** When [[spoiler: Amador]] is killed, Stan goes to Philip to blow off steam. Philip is the one who has [[spoiler: killed Amador, although Stan does not know that]].
** When in the first season finale, [[spoiler: Elizabeth is shot by Stan during a car chase, Stan knows the car contains agents but not who they are]]. The Jennings are forced underground while [[spoiler: Elizabeth heals]]. They ask Stan to take care of their kids.
** In "Cardinal", Martha, spooked by the murders at the hotel, justifies buying a gun by saying "Clark, I don't want to be a victim". She is of course a victim of Philip, who has lied to her and tricked her into a sham marriage to use her as an intelligence source.
* TheDreaded:
** Ronald Reagan to the Soviets. Which is TruthInTelevision-the Soviet government viewed Reagan as very dangerous (and they were right to).
** Larrick. Even Claudia is frightened of him.
* DreamSequence: Stan has a pretty bad dream in "The Echo" which features Vlad (the guy he murdered), his wife humping a Russian, and Martha stealing documents (possibly indicating that Stan has some subconscious suspicion).
* DropDeadGorgeous: There is a long, lingering shot of Annelise's naked corpse (face down) in "Baggage".
* TheEighties:
** The series starts off in early 1981, right after Ronald Reagan's inauguration. The March 30, 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan is a major plot point, and the main arc of Season 1 is Russian attempts to find out details about American research into what later became Reagan's [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_Defense_Initiative Strategic Defense Initiative]], derisively nicknamed "Franchise/StarWars" (Henry's "Star Wars" bedsheets may or may not be a HistoricalInJoke).
** The second season is set in 1982, and P and E discover the secret American support for Nicaragua's ''Contras'', which would later become a major scandal.
** The third season starts in November 1982, soon after the death of Leonid Brezhnev. Yuri Andropov, Breznev's successor, is alluded to a couple times over the course of Series 2.
* EnemyEatsYourLunch: In the pilot, after a child predator makes crude remarks about his daughter, Philip catches the guy barbecuing in his backyard. Philip beats his ass and then walks away with a hot dog off of his grill.
* EvilCannotComprehendGood: When Reagan was shot, Elizabeth believes there is some sort of power play behind the scenes in the American government meant for the war hawks to take over, just like how things happen in the Soviet Union. She does not understand that [[MemeticMutation one does not simply coup]] the President of the United States.
* EvilParentsWantGoodKids: The Soviet spies are not evil per se, but on the wrong side of history. Yet, they are good parents.
* FakeAmerican: Both Philip and Elizabeth are this in-universe, being Russians masquerading as Americans.
** Matthew Rhys is a Welshman playing a Russian pretending to be an American and thus is always speaking in an American accent and it is quite convincing.
* FakeGuestStar: Richard Thomas as Frank Gaad, Stan Beeman's supervisor at the FBI. Nearly two seasons in and Thomas has appeared in every episode of the series except one. Keidrich Sellati and Holly Taylor, who play the Jennings children, have appeared in less episodes, despite being main cast members
** Richard Thomas is finally PromotedToOpeningCredits in Season 3.
* FallGuy: When a Soviet submarine sinks with all hands lost, the tragedy is caused by faulty propellers that were built based on plans stolen by Philip and Elisabeth. The KGB is blamed for falling for a US trick and stealing defective plans deliberately planted by the Americans. Oleg uses his connections to discover the real truth: the submarine was rushed to sea without proper testing and the propellers were never designed to work with that type of submarine. However, since the official finding was that the plans were defective, the KGB will take the blame even if it was not really its fault.
* FalseFlagOperation: Philip is exploiting Martha, Agent Gaad's secretary, by pretending to be another FBI agent investigating the counterintelligence unit.
* FanDisservice:
** "Clark" and Martha are played by attractive / average people, and they don't do anything strange, but their sex scenes still come across as off-putting.
---> '''Martha''': Shoot it into me!
** Elizabeth begs Phillip to role-play in bed as ''Clark'', which ends terribly.
* FauxAffablyEvil: Claudia/"Granny," Philip and Elizabeth's new KGB contact, basically seems like [[{{Series/Justified}} Mags Bennet if she were a KGB agent]], and that's before she has Joyce murdered.
* FBIAgent: Stan, Chris, Agent Gaad.
* FiveFiveFive:
** On a news broadcast about the kidnapping of Joyce in "Gregory".
** On a Leo Buscaglia infomercial in "Comrades".
* ForegoneConclusion: President Reagan survives the assassination attempt. There is no military coup and World War 3 does not start. This trope is examined in-universe: the Russians assume that a military coup ''will'' occur based on their own experiences with America's ''allies'' (the first Soviet coup d'etat attempt happens many years after the series, in August of 1991). Philip, by all accounts the Soviet character who 'gets' America the best, is the only one who notices the Americans have no such expectations.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: In Season 2, Stan dreams about Martha stealing classified documents from the mail robot. Come Season 3, the FBI finally finds the bug Martha installed in Gaad's pen, which results in a full-fledged internal affairs investigation on Stan's department. When an internal affairs officer asks Stan if he could think of anyone being a mole in his department, he hesitates, but then, after he gets out, he asks to see Martha right away.
* GoingNative: Philip, but explicitly not Elizabeth.
** Oleg clearly has gotten himself assigned to the Washington DC KGB office for a chance to go native and experience American culture.
* GoodAdulteryBadAdultery: Elizabeth's relationship with Gregory can be seen as the good type in-universe given that she is a fish out of water in a "marriage" that is, at the time, only a professional arrangement "in a strange country with a strange man" as she puts it and is looking for some sort of real connection. It is bad to the viewer because Philip is sympathetic, probably cared for her long before she started caring for him, and is deeply hurt.
** {{Played with}} somewhat in that both of them are expected to seduce targets, to the point where Philip actually marries a source in character. Arguably it borders on OrangeAndBlueMorality.
* GoodGirlsAvoidAbortion: Averted with Nina, who's mentioned to have had an abortion in the past but is not portrayed badly for it. In fact, she's probably one of the nicest characters. The father, her estranged husband, seems to not hold it against her or be upset, merely speculative as to how things would have been different if she had kept it.
* GreedyJew: Alluded to by Philip in "The Deal" when he mentions the "shekels" he supposes an Israeli agent is working for.
* GreyAndGrayMorality: So very much of it. {{Lampshaded}} by Nina in "Duty and Honor":
--> '''Nina:''' You Americans are so white and black. For us, it's all grey.
* GrievousBottleyHarm: Henry breaks a beer bottle over a pervert's head in "Trust Me".
* GroinAttack: Elizabeth does this to an uncooperative bookie in "Duty and Honor".
* TheHandler:
** Claudia ("Granny") is this for Philip and Elizabeth. She and Elizabeth don't get along.
** In Season 2 Philip and Elizabeth get a new handler named Kate.
** At the end of Season 2, Claudia returns, ordering Phillip and Elizabeth to begin [[spoiler: preparing Paige for eventual service in the KGB]], as they had intended for [[spoiler: Jared]] to do.
** In Season 3 an older agent named Gabriel, apparently an old acquaintance of P and E, returns to work with them.
* HassleFreeHotwire: Philip does this to escape the FBI in Season 1 finale "The Colonel".
* HeadphonesEqualIsolation: In "Pastor Tim", Phillip strangles a security guard at the back of an airport shuttle bus and the teenage girl near the front is wearing a Walkman and listening to "Tainted Love" doesn't hear it. It helps that Phillip is very quiet in his killing, as usual.
* HeelFaceMole: "Stingers" reveals [[spoiler: that Stan was right about Zinaida. She's not really a defector, and in fact is spying for the KGB.]]
* HeroAntagonist: Stan. Initially a SympatheticInspectorAntagonist, he becomes less heroic when he shoots an innocent man working in the Soviet embassy through the head.
* HeWhoFightsMonsters: Stan Beeman after Philip's unplanned abduction and killing of [[spoiler:Amador]].
* HoldingHands: A lot in the first three episodes seeing as how the start of the series marks the beginning of the agents really connecting.
* HollywoodAtheist: Elizabeth. She reacts to Paige's joining a church youth group as if her daughter takes to drugs or prostitution. As a rule, while the average Soviets did frown upon religion, they wouldn't exactly freak out like Elizabeth either. Even Philip has to tell her to cool it a bit-she'd been shown to take stereotypical Soviet values far more seriously than him already.
* HoistByHisOwnPetard:
** [[spoiler:Amador]] and his knife.
** In the shootout between the West German bomber and Philip+Elizabeth, he ducks into the hotel bathroom. The KGB agents toss the bomb into the bathroom just as he sets it off.
** The Soviets actively steal American engineering designs. One of those designs are defective and when the Soviets try it on their sub the whole thing sinks.
* HoneyPot:
** Both Philip and Elizabeth act as Honey Pots regularly. Nina is a Honey Pot for Vasili after she gets turned by the FBI, and then for Stan after switching her loyalty back to the KGB.
** Philip gets his girlfriend Annelise to be a Honey Pot and seduce a Pakistani agent. She goes through with it but is very upset afterwards.
** [[spoiler: Kate was this for Jared, after his parents refused to recruit him.]]
* HopeSpot: In Chloramphenical, [[spoiler: Oleg's father agrees to help Nina in exchange for Oleg remaining in the USSR. There is a scene of Nina being "transferred" suggesting that just that might be happening... except then she is told her sentence hasn't changed and she is unceremoniously shot in the back of the head.]]
* IceQueen / DefrostingIceQueen: Elizabeth vacillates back and forth between these tropes in Season 1.
* IHaveAFamily: An excellent example in Season 2's "The Walk In": Philip & Elizabeth masquerade as inspectors to get into a shipyard to get a look at some secret military submarine propellers, and a worker catches Elizabeth breaking a crate open. While keeping her tone light and casual, she picks up a crowbar. The worker, still speaking casually but quite obviously terrified, leads Elizabeth to the propeller. While still speaking casually, he shows her pictures of his kids and says, in a quavering voice, "They're expecting me home." Elizabeth eventually leaves, but not before taking the picture of the youngest kid.
* ImmediateSequel: Season 3 finale "March 8, 1983" is set on...well, [[CaptainObvious duh]]. Season 4 picks up the very next day with season premiere "Glanders".
* ImpairmentShot: Used when Philip wakes up in "Cardinal", after being zapped into unconsciousness by a footlocker that was actually electrified.
* IntergenerationalFriendship: Paige and Henry develop one with Pastor Tim and Agent Beeman respectively, which serves to underscore that despite their genuine care, the Jenning's parenthood is lacking, as the boys seek out another father figures.
* ItsPersonal: Stan's actions after [[spoiler: Amador is killed]] can be seen in this light.
** A variation with Philip. When an Afghan freedom fighter presents an undercover Philip with a blade which he claims he killed many Russians with, note the way that Philip's expression changes. He would probably have killed him anyway and in fact that was almost certainly the reason for the meet but he was far more eager to comply after that statement.
** Lucia's motivation to kill [[spoiler: Larrick]] as his work in Nicaragua lead to the death of members of her family.
* JackBauerInterrogationTechnique: Philip is subjected to this in "Trust Me" when [[spoiler:the KGB is trying to determine if he is a mole]].
* KilledMidSentence: In "Comrades" Philip decides to end a meeting with an Afghan anti-Soviet guerrilla this way.
--> "You Russians have no idea who you're--" '''BANG'''
* LadyDrunk: The embittered middle-aged CIA officer who passes classified info to Elizabeth over drinks in a bar in "EST Men". She has immediate second thoughts, with unfortunate consequences for Elizabeth.
* LetMeTellYouAStory: Stan's hunting parable to Vlad after his abduction.
* LittleMissBadass / SmallGirlBigGun: In "Mutually Assured Destruction" Elizabeth goes to an arms dealer's house and finds him there with his daughter, who looks about ten. Dad tells the girl to go to her room and she does, only to come back toting a shotgun, getting the drop on Elizabeth. Philip then enters the scene from behind and disarms her.
* LossOfIdentity: Elizabeth may not believe so, but she seems to be going through this to some extent. Her softer approach to people now is a far cry from when she was little Nadezhda living in a hardened Soviet Union.
* LoveAtFirstSight: A one-sided example. At the start of the series it's fairly obvious that Philip cares deeply for Elizabeth, while Elizabeth still views her marriage to Philip as an assignment. It's also mentioned at one point that when Philip was introduced to Elizabeth for the first time he was relieved by how pretty she was, but he could tell by her face that she was disappointed by him. It isn't until the third episode that Elizabeth admits that she's starting to feel love for Philip for the first time in their twenty year marriage.
* LoveRedeems / LoveMakesYouCrazy: Or at least less rational. Philip was ready and willing to deliver the KGB defector to the USA and defect himself, in order to get a better life for his family than he could reasonably expect in Russia. However, once he gets to learns that said defector raped Elizabeth, he kills him with his bare hands, effectively cementing his career as a Soviet spy. Elizabeth on the other hand, who until then was cold and distant toward Philip, starts to warm up to him after this.
* LoveMakesYouDumb: Martha and Stan. Both are completely played by their supposed lovers.
* LudicrousGibs: In "Mutually Assured Destruction", Elizabeth kills a professional assassin by tossing a bomb at him right before it detonates. Afterward there is nothing left of the man but a mess of blood and tissue covering the floor and walls.
* MadBomber: A rogue faction of the KGB hires an assassin who likes to blow up his targets with bombs and does not seem to care about collateral damage.
* MakeItLookLikeAnAccident: In the episode "Gregory", the KGB murders Joyce (Rob's wife) by making it look like she died of an accidental heroin overdose.
** A variation in the episode "In Control". After murdering the security guard, the Jennings leave the body in a wooded area and leave behind clues suggesting the man was killed by a woman he was having sex with.
* MamaBear: Claudia is revealed as this in the final episode of season 1.
* ManlyGay / StraightGay: Larrick in Season 2. Blackmailed into working for the KGB, because he's a homosexual. Also a badass Navy SEAL who is exceptionally good at tracking down and killing people.
* MarriedToTheJob:
** Most of the FBI agents know for a fact that serving their country takes a serious toll on their personal lives.
** Philip and Elizabeth gradually provide a literal example.
* MasterOfDisguise: Phillip and Elizabeth, with their numerous false identities, are good at transforming their appearance. {{Lampshaded}} by Gregory in "Only You", in which he directly states "You guys are the masters of disguise".
* MightyWhiteyAndMellowYellow: Supervisor Gaad has a Vietnamese wife he met while he served there during the war.
* TheMissusAndTheEx: Irina, Philip's old girlfriend from his life in Russia, shows up in "Duty and Honor" as part of a mission.
* TheMistress: Nina becomes Stan's in "Duty and Honor".
* TheMole:
** Not our leads (who are sleeper agents) but Nina, a KGB officer stationed at the Soviet embassy, who the FBI caught stealing and smuggling caviar. Stan pressures her into working for them to avoid being turned over to the Soviet authorities.
** Martha is this without even realizing it, when "Clark" convinces her to spy on the FBI by saying it's a counterintelligence op. Eventually she figures this out, but rather than turning herself in, becomes Philip's willing mole.
* MoralMyopia:
** Elizabeth having a decade-long secret relationship with another dude? It's okay for her, because he was "passionate about her", while she herself clearly didn't feel that way about Philip at the time, and she apologized for it. Philip rekindling his relation with his first true love, after feeling betrayed by Elizabeth due to the events from an earlier episode, but immediately breaking it off? Kick the bastard out!
** Similarly, Elizabeth's dim view of Ronald Reagan often overlooks the fact that her country didn't have a great human rights record.
** Aside from Oleg, the Soviets are enraged that the Americans have purposely planted defective engineering plans, one of which results in the sinking of a Soviet submarine, killing everyone abroad. Oleg is the only one to question why the Soviet engineers did not find the defect and why more extensive testing was not done on the submarine before putting it in service. Also none of the Russians seem to consider that the disaster was caused by them ''stealing the plans'' and that they wouldn't have had this problem if they'd just designed their own submarine.
* MotherRussiaMakesYouStrong: A recurring, conversed theme, usually in tandem with "cushy America makes you weak."
** Elizabeth believes that "there's a weakness" among Americans (very specifically, the [[WhiteAngloSaxonProtestant white middle class]] she occupies), and wants to subtly encourage her children to become socialists, or at least sympathetic to the [[CivilRightsMovement radicals of the recent past]] who she admired deeply.
** Claudia is also skeptical towards American women since she considers them not being used to really struggle for a better life--as opposed to her own country's history, where the women's equality movement was ''very'' closely tied to violent communist revolution. At the time, in pure terms of elected representatives in office compared to the US, [[http://hetq.am/eng/news/60832/women-in-armenia-are-less-free-today-than-30-years-ago.html she's ''technically'' correct]].
** When discussing that a 5'4'' woman knocked out two FBI agents, one of them remarks "they make them tough over there."
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone:
** Philip's reaction when he gets rough with Elizabeth while wearing his "Clark" disguise. It was actually at her request (she was intrigued by a comment Martha made), but he tears off his hairpiece in disgust when she breaks down crying.
** Philip deals with this quite a bit in Season 2, like when the Russian scientist that he kidnaps gives him a YouBastard speech, or when his efforts to infiltrate the Operation Martial Eagle base lead to the deaths of three innocents.
** Martha says this in Season 4 premiere "Glanders" after realizing that Philip killed Gene to cover for her.
* NeckSnap: How Larrick the badass Navy SEAL [[spoiler: dispatches Kate in "Stealth"]].
* TheNeedsOfTheMany: The reason why the Israelis turn over Baklanov to the Soviets, so that 1,500 Soviet Jews are allowed to emigrate to Israel.
* NervesOfSteel: Reverend Tim, the pastor of Paige's church. He doesn't succumb to Philip's intimidation and even manages to force Philip to retreat in the end.
* NippleAndDimed: ''The Americans'' is a master class in the art of showing people rolling around naked in bed without ever revealing a woman's nipples. Notable examples are the sex scene between the gorgeous prostitute and the German assassin in "Mutually Assured Destruction", or Annelise's sex with Yousef in "EST Men".
* NobodyPoops: {{Averted}}. The Mossad agent Philip takes hostage has to do it. In front of Philip. Who has to wipe his asshole afterward.
* NoDelaysForTheWicked: Generally played straight although notably averted at times. The KGB is highly efficient. Forged government IDs? No problem. Safe houses across the Washington metro area? Got them. Files on American top-secret security personnel? Piece of cake. They even have an office facility that can pass itself off as the CIA's. Admittedly, the KGB has the advantage of surprise, by being undercover, they [[VillainsActHeroesReact have the advantage of deciding where and when to strike, the US has to react to them]].
** Averted in the very first episode, the Jennings miss the ship that they needed to send the KGB defector on.
** The Jennings fail to stop the bombings of scientists.
** In the first season finale, the Jennings fall for an FBI trap and only Arkady's quick thinking allows them to get away.
* NoHoldsBarredBeatdown: Elizabeth delivers a surprising and brutal one to Claudia after her torture at her own agency's hands.
* NotSoDifferent: Elizabeth uses this angle with Pastor Tim, arguing that they both work to end nuclear threat, for justice and for equality. Pastor Tim thinks otherwise and points out the mistreatment of religious grups in the Eastern Bloc.
* ObliviousToTheirOwnDescription: While he interrogates a group of Pentagon engineers, Stan warns them that the secrets they're embarrassed to admit the most are the one the KGB will use to turn them. That's exactly what happens to him.
* OffscreenMomentOfAwesome: The Americans planted defective submarine plans for the KGB to steal, so that when the Soviets try to build those submarines themselves the resulting product will kill the Soviets who board them. None of this is shown on-screen, but the subsequent shock among the KGB characters is still palpable. Then again, insider Oleg thinks the sinking was simply incompetence on the part of the Soviet navy.
* OhCrap:
** Elizabeth and Philip both have a subdued one when they realize their new neighbor Stan is an FBI agent who works in counterintelligence.
** The KGB officers in the embassy have one when they listen to the tape recorded at the house of the US Secretary of Defense. They are overjoyed over this massive intelligence coup, but then they get to the end of the conversation and hear that the Americans are planning a ballistic missile defense screen.
** The look on their deceased comrade's wife's face when she realizes they're spies.
** Philip gets a pretty spectacular one when he comes to Martha's apartment in "Covert War" and she confronts him with her parents.
** "The Colonel" gives us perhaps the most epic one yet when Claudia and Philip figure out [[spoiler: the titular colonel is not the trap, the routine tape pickup Elizabeth was sent on is.]]
** "Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?" gives one to an elderly bookkeeper who comes in late at night to do the bills for her family's Mail Robot repair shop....unfortunately at the same time the Jennings are planting a bug in a Mail Robot used by the FBI. Elizabeth watches over her, and the two strike up a casual conversation about their families....until the bookkeeper asks where Elizabeth's mother lives.
--->Elizabeth: Russia.
--->Bookkeeper: Oh. Your English is very good.
--->Elizabeth: We've been trained.
* OldFlame: Philip reunites with his ex-girlfriend Irina to discredit a Polish pro-democracy leader.
* OOCIsSeriousBusiness: Invoked by Philip when he approaches Arkady in a public place. It is a gross violation of operational security and Philip does it specifically to let Moscow know how deadly serious he is about [[spoiler: making sure that his children are off-limits and that he will never permit that they be recruited as spies, without consent of him and his wife]].
* OvertOperative: Everyone knows the real duties of the people in the Rezidentura. Most of their cover jobs are not ever mentioned at all, and the people themselves make no attempt to hide their actual responsibilities. TruthInTelevision, as it has always been common practice for intelligence agents to work in embassies as "diplomats", giving them diplomatic immunity.
** Kate does this when she shows up in a headscarf and trenchcoat to a meet. [[LampshadeHanging Lampshaded]] by Phillip.
--> "SERIOUSLY!!!??? You look like a character in a spy flick."
* PaperThinDisguise: Played straight mostly, but justified. Anyone who knows the Jennings will not be fooled, and indeed in season 1 at one point when under threat of capture a disguised Elizabeth says outright that Agent Beeman will recognize her. They also don't bother with disguises with people who might know them. The purpose of the disguises instead are to put on and highlight notable but false features, such as scars, moles, skin depigmentation, hairstyle, beards etc which the real couple do not have. So that when a description is given, it does not lead to Philip and Elizabeth. This works, the sketch that he FBI have is clearly show little resemblance to them.
** The disguises are different from each other so that any description will not match each other and make the FBI more suspicious.
** Another advantage is practicality, they sometimes have to go out quite quickly and they don't have time for elaborate disguises.
* ParentalSexualitySquick: Paige has to deal with this in "Comrades" when she barges in on her mom and dad going 69.
* PeriodPiece: The series is set in the '80s, at the height of the UsefulNotes/ColdWar.
* PetTheDog: The KGB is a brutal secret police organization whose agents and officers are responsible for a multitude of murders, tortures, abductions, sabotages, and human rights violations. Even so, they vehemently oppose South Africa's apartheid and institutional racism.
* ThePerilsOfBeingTheBest: Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings are two of the KGB's best undercover spies... which means they've both done a shitload of sleeping with and murdering people for no other reason than because the Centre told them to. They're both constantly dealing with the emotional toll of that kind of work.
* PlotTriggeringDeath: Each of the first three seasons use this trope.
** In the pilot, a Directorate S agent that is on a mission with Phillip is killed. This tips the FBI off to the existence of Directorate S.
** In the second-season premiere, two more Directorate S agents that had met Phillip and Elizabeth for a mission are killed in their hotel room. The mystery of who was behind the murders drives the plot for the whole season.
** In the third-season premiere, Yousef falls into the KGB's clutches when Phillip confronts him immediately after Yousef murdered Annelise.
* PoisonAndCureGambit: The whole plot of "The Clock", in which Philip and Elizabeth do this in order to force a maid to plant a listening device in Caspar Weinberger's house.
* PoorCommunicationKills:
** A badly phrased comment on TV by Secretary of State and retired four star general Alexander Haig causes the Russians to suspect that the US military is staging a coup following the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. As a result Philip and Elizabeth are told to prepare for the outbreak of World War 3 and start scouting out the best location for assassinating the Secretary of Defense. Elizabeth then kills a security guard who interrupts them. {{Inverted}} later when Philip refuses to tell the KGB about an important piece of intelligence because he believes that it will unnecessarily increase tensions and could trigger the war.
** A communication problem between Stan and his partner almost causes them to expose their agent in the embassy, which would get her killed.
* PornStash: Paige catches pubescent Henry with a photo of Sandra Beeman in a bikini top that he has no good reason to possess. Later, episode "Stingers" reveals that said photo is part of a collection of photos of scantily-clad ladies that Henry has torn from newspapers and magazines, and has hidden under the floorboards of his closet.
* PutOnABus:
** Vasili... and we learn in season two that TheBusCameBack.
* PrimalScene: In the second-season premiere, Paige walks in on her parents going 69 on each other. Ick.
* ProfessionalKiller: Both the Jennings are this in spades, but Elizabeth (at least as of the middle of season 2) comes off as the colder of the two.
* ProperlyParanoid: Stan. He stops being proper by the end of Season 1, when his feelings to Nina makes him unable to see her deceptions.
* PunkInTheTrunk: For most of the pilot episode-several days in-episode-the Jennings' Oldsmobile has a Soviet defector in the trunk.
* RapeAsBackstory: Elizabeth, in training. It's later revealed by the same individual that ''all'' the instructors were raping the female trainees as a "perk" of the job. Or not-the revelation ''is'' coming directly from the mouth of a defector who was being held at gunpoint for his transgression by Philip, desperately seeking excuses, making him an UnreliableExpositor.
** Comes back in season two where Elizabeth makes Philip have sex with her as "Clark" and triggers a PTSD attack when he acts roughly.
* RealityEnsues: Sometimes {{averted}}, often {{played straight}}.
** Wounds suffered by the characters can be fatal (for example Robert in the series premiere) or require a long rehabilitation process.
** Highly trained agents are unable to fight their way out of sudden unexpected ambushes and are captured (in the KGB "test") or [[spoiler: the other spy couple and their daughter in their hotel room in the second season premiere]].
** Killing and other unpleasant activities take an emotional toll on the Jennings.
** Growing children are becoming more aware of their surrounding and are not oblivious.
** Nobody is above anybody when it comes to political dealings. Anton Baklanov, a Jewish refusenik himself, is traded by Mossad-the very Israelis who promised to protect him-for 1,500 more Jewish refuseniks from the USSR.
** Asking your husband to make love to you as he does to his mark makes both of you very upset and is not enjoyable or titillating.
** Your hostage has to shit. And he shits in front of you. And then you have to wipe his ass.
--->'''Mossad agent''': Mr. KGB-man! '''''I need to shit.'''''
** It's not a good idea to go after a highly-trained Navy SEAL colonel you're specifically and explicitly forbidden from attacking. Your boss not only has to stop using him, you'll also die.
** There are no second acts in Soviet lives, and no redemption. Treason and failling the motherland are rewarded with a bullet to the brain, [[Literature/NineteenEightyFour 1984]]-style. This is made painfully explicit in [[spoiler:Nina Sergeevna's]] storyline.
* ReassignedToAntarctica: Vasili is seen in Season 2 heading up a remote scientific outpost in the middle of Siberia.
* RedHerring: Both season one and season two have arcs within the Jennings family that don't pan out as expected:
** Season 1 seems to paint early on that Phillip has a desire to defect, but once [[spoiler: Elizabeth is nearly mortally wounded]] we realize each of them are still very committed to the cause, but have different attitudes to life in their posting.
** Season 2 amps up Paige's suspicion that something is not right about her parents - to the point of snooping through their belongings and then walking on them having sex. While she ultimately doesn't discover the truth, her suspicious nature may take on a new angle - as her parents have now been ordered to prepare Paige for eventual indoctrination as a KGB agent.
** At several points in Season 2, it appears that Clark/Phillip's sham marriage to Martha has become too complicated to be useful, with Elizabeth even posing as Clark's sister and getting her drunk to pump her for information about Phillip. While by the end of the season Martha is still OK, the relationship has grown more complicated when Clark discovers Martha has bought a gun for protection, against his wishes and that Martha has known for quite a while that Phillip is wearing a toupee when he poses as Clark.
* RedemptionEqualsDeath: [[spoiler: Col. Larrick at the end of season two resolves to capture the Jenningses and turn them over to the American government, and to confess to his own involvement with them and his betrayal of his country and his brothers-in-arms, saying that he doesn't care what happens to him. Just at the moment he seems on the brink of success, Jared shoots him in the shoulder, and then Phillip in the resulting struggle kills him.]]
* RememberTheNewGuy: KGB agent Gabriel, introduced in the first episode of Season 3 as an old friend. Apparently he was Phil and Liz's handler at some point before the time frame of the series.
* RewardedAsATraitorDeserves: In the pilot episode, the Jennings kidnap and later kill a former KGB agent who defected to America. TruthInTelevision, by the way: the Soviets had no tolerance for traitors, and they would often launch covert operations to assassinate defectors. Soviet defectors often spent the rest of their days hiding under new identities.
* RightHandVersusLeftHand:
** A group within the KGB hired an assassin to kill fourteen American scientists. Apparently they did so without informing their superiors who realize that this could start a war and order Philip and Elisabeth to stop the assassin at all costs.
** Philip invokes this when he is impersonating an FBI agent from the Oversight group. He complains that the other FBI divisions do not share information with them and then Oversight gets blamed because they do not know what is going on. This is a ploy to convince his asset/lover to give him information FBI counterintelligence has gathered on an assassin. It grows even more complicated when he later ''marries'' his mark.
** Phillip and Elizabeth first approach Larrick posing as American intelligence agents, but he sees through the ruse fairly quickly, especially when he later discovers Phillip tailing him.
* ScrabbleBabble: Philip and Gabriel play Scrabble during their meetings in Season 3.
* SecretIdentityIdentity: Philip seriously considers defecting to the United States in the pilot. Elizabeth doesn't exactly approve of this plan.
* SecretStabWound: [[spoiler:Elizabeth's gunshot wound]] in "The Colonel".
* ShoePhone: In "The Clock", Elizabeth poisons Grayson by injecting him with a needle hidden in the tip of an umbrella. This sort of device is TruthInTelevision, and the KGB used the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgarian_umbrella Bulgarian Umbrella]] in real life to assassinate a Bulgarian dissident writer living in London.
* ShownTheirWork: To a surprising degree; the entire arc around the Reagan assassination, for example, is based on actual KGB chatter and analysis.
** During the Cold War, male Stasi "Romeo" agents would seduce and even marry the secretaries of West German government officials, and would then spend months or even ''years'' extracting information from them. This is ''exactly'' the same thing that Philip/Clark ends up doing to Martha.
* ShoutOut: Episode "Stingers" is full of them. Stan goes to see ''Film/{{Tootsie}}'', and there is a poster for ''Film/TheVerdict'' outside the theater. Henry does an imitation of Creator/EddieMurphy's "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood" from ''Series/SaturdayNightLive''. And the last one is obscure enough to verge on GeniusBonus. The day after [[spoiler: Phil and Liz confess their true identities to Paige,]] they come home to find her watching an episode of ''Series/GeneralHospital''-- [[spoiler: specifically, a scene from a plot line in which one of the handsome young doctors at General Hospital is eventually exposed as a Russian illegal spy.]]
* ShutUpKirk: An interesting example. Arkady intends to play Kirk at Gaad by showing him the photograph of Vlad in order to guilt him of Vlad's death. Gaad quickly shuts him down by bringing up Amador's murder at the hand of the KGB. [[spoiler: Arkady doesn't mention that Amador was vengeful (and likely drunk) when he was killed, almost certainly in self-defense, unlike Vlad who was a prisoner.]]
* SlippingAMickey: A KGB agent does this to a Polish dissident in order to frame him for rape in "Duty and Honor".
* SpitefulSpit: Kate does this to Larrick after he questions her in "Stealth". [[spoiler:It ends badly for her.]]
* SpySchool:
** Elizabeth is shown in the pilot learning both physical combat skills and the finer points of idiomatic American English. Then things [[RapeAsBackstory turn very bad]].
** In Season 3 Elizabeth is giving a new character lessons on how to tail someone.
** Season 3 episode "Salang Pass" includes a flashback of Phillip going through KGB sex school. He is tasked with having sex with a hot lady. Then a wrinkled old lady. [[FanDisservice Then a fat man]].
* SpysSuspiciousSpouse: Suspicious daughter. Paige is becoming more and more suspicious of what exactly her parents are hiding. By Season 2 she's trying to listen in on their phone calls.
* SpyFiction: Of the Stale Beer variety.
* TheSpymaster: General Zhukov, who runs Directorate S and is a father figure for Elizabeth.
* StrictlyProfessionalRelationship: {{Invoked}}. Philip is pretending to be an FBI InternalAffairs investigator and has convinced a FBI secretary to help him investigate the counter-intelligence division. The secretary is clearly attracted to him and he makes a big show of convincing her that he reciprocates her feelings. Until his investigation is concluded, they have to maintain a strictly professional relationship. [[spoiler:However, Philip is actually a Soviet spy and has no romantic feelings for the secretary whatsoever. Despite this, he eventually gets into a relationship and even marries her to keep up the op.]]
* SuicideByCop: In "Only You", [[spoiler:Gregory chooses this route instead of fleeing to Moscow.]]
* SympatheticMurderer: By the middle of season 2, both Elizabeth and Philip have enough innocent blood on their hands for this trope to apply, with Philip considering himself one, particularly after the events of "Martial Eagle."
* SympatheticPOV: The show's focus reveals that the two leads really aren't bad people, but are forced to do heinous things for their country.
* TeethClenchedTeamwork: Philip and especially Elizabeth don't get along with Claudia, their new [[TheHandler handler]].
* ThisMeansWar: In the pilot episode, President Reagan effectively declares a covert war against undercover KGB operatives in the United States after Philip and Elizabeth kidnap a Soviet defector living on US soil.
-->'''Agent Gaad:''' The Attorney General and I have just come from the White House. President Reagan is outraged that the KGB thinks it can kidnap someone with impunity on American soil. The President has signed top secret executive order 2579 authorizing the Federal Bureau of Investigation counter-intelligence office to take all necessary measures to neutralize Soviet Directorate S sleeper cell agents in the continental United States. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to war. It is a war that will be fought quietly by the men and women in this room. It will not be short and it will not be easy, but we have truth and justice on our side and we will prevail.
* TitleDrop: Regularly with episode titles. Phil and Liz also sometimes speculate about what "the Americans" will do.
* TokenMinority: Stan's partner Chris is one of only three minorities in his department, which, according to Stan, gives Chris license to roughly interrogate suspects.
* TheToothHurts: Elizabeth gets a tooth busted up in a fight with FBI agents in the Season 3 premiere. Eventually she has to have it pulled, but the FBI is on a lookout for anyone matching Elizabeth's description who goes to a dentist. So Phillip has to extract her busted tooth, without benefit of anesthesia.
* ToplessnessFromTheBack:
** Provided by Nina as she slides into bed with Vasili in "Trust Me".
** And again by a hooker in "Mutually Assured Destruction".
** Elizabeth gets a full body version in Season 2.
* TruthInTelevision: Philip's long-term operation with Martha is based on a strategy used by Stasi spymasters where agents would marry "spinsters" and pump them for information for years, sometimes decades.
* TykeBomb: [[spoiler: What the KGB is hoping to get from a program for "second-generation illegals". They want to recruit the American-Born children of their sleeper agents, who would have a much better chance than their parents to get into high-level government positions.]]
* UndercoverAsLovers: A married couple with children, no less.
* TheUnfairSex: As stated in the MoralMyopia entry above: Elizabeth's affair with Gregory (which lasted for ''years'') is portrayed in a sympathetic light because he was "passionate" about her and Elizabeth hadn't yet started falling for Philip. But later when Philip has a one night stand with his former lover in the aftermath of Elizabeth betraying his trust, she decides to kick him out of the house.
* UniquePilotTitleSequence: Or a lack of one, as the names of the cast members pop up over the action movie-style. Starting with the second episode the show adopts more regular opening credits that feature Soviet iconography and Cyrillic letters.
* UnwittingPawn: Martha. She knows Philip as "Clark", and she believes he is another FBI agent [[WhoWatchesTheWatchmen investigating the counterintelligence unit]]. She starts off by passing him FBI gossip and then graduates to passing him classified documents, believing all the while that she's helping the good guys catch the bad guys.
* VerbalIrony: When commiserating about the supposed suicide of Gene from IT, who was also supposedly the leak in the FBI's office, Martha says "I guess you never really know anyone, do you?" Martha is the only one in the office who knows that she is the real mole.
* VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory:
** Creator Joseph Weisberg, who actually worked for the CIA from 1990 to 1994, was inspired by a totally real 2010 story in which [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegals_Program the FBI]] [[http://swampland.time.com/2010/06/29/the-8-coolest-things-about-the-alleged-russian-spy-ring/ arrested]] ten Russian {{deep cover agent}}s.
** One of the couples in that 2010 "Illegals Program" was apparently enlisting one of their kids as a second-generation spy when the group was busted.
** The scene in "The Clock" where Elizabeth poisons some guy by stabbing him with a tricked-out umbrella is inspired by the real-life [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgi_Markov#Murder murder of a Bulgarian dissident]] in London in 1978.
** The name of the Pakistani officer incharge of training and supporting the Mujahideen? Mohammad Yousaf: http://www.amazon.com/The-Bear-Trap-Afghanistans-Untold/dp/0850522676. Although, besides the name he shares little with the shows Yousaf, he was much more effective and competant for one.
* VictoriasSecretCompartment: Where Annelise keeps her spy camera in "The Clock".
* VillainProtagonist: The protagonist couple. The show aims for a PunchClockVillain angle in that they are soldiers fighting a covert war and whose violence and manipulations are not [[KickTheDog pointless]] but serve a purpose and have a cold logic behind them. All the same, while they're not in it for selfish reasons, the show also makes it clear that everything the Jennings couple does, they do it consciously, readily, and willingly, with varying degrees of [[NecessarilyEvil remorse]].
-->'''William:''' It eats you up... what we do.
* VillainsOutShopping: Loads!!!!! The trope may as well be named after this show.
** From the American viewpoint, the Jennings and the other KGB are evil. But, we see the Jennings doing decidedly non villainy things all the time, including raising their children, going out on family gatherings, having sex/relationship problems etc etc. After one mission to seduce and entrap a US Defense contractor, Elizabeth and a fellow female agent drink beer sitting on the hood of their car and discuss Elizabeth's [[spoiler: recovery from her injuries]] as they await their husbands return. When the men arrive, the conversation turns to their kids.
** The FBI is the villain for the protagonists. We see Stan's relationship with his family, other agents celebrating a promotion. When Stan shows up unexpectedly at the Jennings business, what is his purpose? He wants to set up a bachelor party for his brother in law.
** Even the KGB brass gets its turn, with Vasili being annoyed at the inability of his coworkers to brew tea properly. Arkady gushes about his new microwave. And later curses it when his potato exploded in it, forcing him to wear bandages for a time. And then Arkady is shown browsing the magazine rack, like any ordinary person.
* VodkaDrunkenski: {{Averted}}, for the most part, as the Jennings are under deep cover. If the vodka comes out, it's because something serious has happened.
* WhamEpisode:
** "Echo", the Season 2 finale. [[spoiler:Jared reveals, as he is dying, that he was complicit in the murders of his sister and parents, because he had found out that his parents, like him, were KGB agents and didn't want him being recruited. He also admits to having at least some kind of crush on Kate, his handler.]]
** "Stingers", in Season 3. [[spoiler:Paige finally has had it and bluntly asks her parents what their strange activities mean. They reveal to her that they are Soviets, and are spying on the USA.]]
** "March 8, 1983", the Season 3 finale. [[spoiler:Paige tells Pastor Tim that Philip and Elizabeth are Russians.]]
* WhatTheHellHero:
** Philip gives Elizabeth a major tongue lashing after he finds out that she told their handlers that he seems to like living in America a bit too much. Comments like that could get him executed, and he views it as a major betrayal.
** He also gives her a bit of this after she [[spoiler: murders a security guard in "In Control".]]
** Gaad gives it to Stan when the latter asks him to help about Nina. He flats-out refusing to listen at all, after being sacrificed for the Vlad murder mess.
* WigDressAccent: The Jennings use wigs, glasses, different clothes and makeup to put on a unique appearance for each asset. Philip's "Clark" wig remains amazingly durable during numerous sex scenes with Martha. Though Martha does know it is fake and assumes that it is a toupee, which actually strengthens his cover of being in love with her.
** In what may be a LeaningOnTheFourthWall gag about all the incredibly durable wigs that the protagonists wear, Philip has one ripped off during a struggle in "Comrades".
* WithMyHandsTied: In the second season finale Elizabeth fights Larrick after being handcuffed and does well enough that [[spoiler: Philip, who is also cuffed, is able to get the drop on him and steal the gun out of his waistband and shoot him with it. Justified in this instance, as Jared had shot Larrick in the back first.]]
* XanatosSpeedChess: The ending of Season 3 premiere "EST Men". Annelise is boning Yousaf with Phillip listening from the next room. Annelise starts to grow a conscience and tells Yousaf what's really going on. Phillip bursts in, moments too late from preventing Yousaf from strangling Annelise to death. Before her body is cold, Phillip is improvising on the spot, telling Yousaf "I can make this go away", getting him under KGB control.
* YouBastard: It's way too easy for the audience to forget that our [[VillainProtagonist Villain Protagonists]] are, in fact, ruthless career murderers serving a corrupt, oppressive dictatorship that bullies most of its own people into submission. Baklanov's desperate pleading to Philip at the end of "The Deal" is a painful reminder of that fact.
* YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness: The KGB is particularly bad at this, killing or abandoning agents and allies once they've learned all they can. Several characters lampshade the idiocy of this policy, in contrast to the Americans who encourage loyalty and defections with money and a better life.
* YouKeepTellingYourselfThat: Pastor Tim is not at all fooled by Elizabeth's NotSoDifferent speech about their work. He points out that in the Soviet Union, religious people are persecuted, bringing up not only the plight of Soviet Christians but also the Jews'. Elizabeth is thus reduced to admitting her country is not perfect.
* YouMonster: Tied with the YouBastard above. When Philip doesn't even look at him while he's pleading, Baklanov accuses Philip of this, and rightly so.
* YourCheatingHeart: All of the main characters. Elizabeth had a longtime affair with an American KGB asset, and Philip doesn't react well when he finds out in "Gregory". Then both Philip and Stan cheat on their wives in "Duty and Honor". In Season 2, Sandra actually ''tells'' Stan that she is going off on a sex weekend with her new boyfriend, and by the end of the season they've agreed to divorce.
Nina
22nd Apr '16 1:58:12 AM TrollBrutal
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** In Episode 3-9 "Do mail robots dream of electric sheep?" a woman is shown taking pills which are supposedly a heart medication. She states that she has a bad heart. But the pill bottle appears to say Lisinopril, a drug that was not available for medical use until the mid nineties and did not even exist at the time that the series is set. She [[spoiler:overdoses and dies on the drug at Elizabeth's prompting]]. The class of drugs to which Lisinopril belongs is the ACE Inhibitors. Captopril, the first ACE inhibitor was first used in the 80's however was not a common cause of death via overdose of heart medications. Lanoxin (Digoxin) would have been a time-wise more accurate scenario as Lanoxin was widely prescribed for cardiac patients and was widely known to be one of the more lethal cardiac meds in overdose situations.
*** Prinivil, the first of two brand names for lisinopril, was approved in December, 1987. It would not have been available under the generic name lisinopril at that time, however.

to:

** In Episode 3-9 "Do mail robots dream of electric sheep?" a woman is shown taking pills which are supposedly a for her bad heart medication. She states that she has a bad heart. But the condition. Te pill bottle appears to say Lisinopril, a drug that was not available for medical use which wasn't introduced in any form until at least the mid nineties and did not even exist at the time that the series is set.late 80s. She [[spoiler:overdoses and dies on the drug at Elizabeth's prompting]]. [[labelnote]] The class of drugs to which Lisinopril belongs is the ACE Inhibitors. Captopril, the first ACE inhibitor was first used in the 80's however was not a common cause of death via overdose of heart medications. Lanoxin (Digoxin) would have been a time-wise more accurate scenario as Lanoxin was widely prescribed for cardiac patients and was widely known to be one of the more lethal cardiac meds in overdose situations. \n*** Prinivil, the first of two brand names for lisinopril, was approved in December, 1987. It would not have been available under the generic name lisinopril at that time, however.[[/labelnote]]
22nd Apr '16 1:30:20 AM TrollBrutal
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* VillainProtagonist: The protagonist couple. The show aims for a PunchClockVillain angle in that they are soldiers fighting a covert war and whose violence and manipulations are not [[KickTheDog pointless]] but serve a purpose and have a cold logic behind them. All the same, while they're not in it for selfish reasons, the show also makes it clear that everything the Jennings couple does, they do it consciously, readily, and willingly.

to:

* VillainProtagonist: The protagonist couple. The show aims for a PunchClockVillain angle in that they are soldiers fighting a covert war and whose violence and manipulations are not [[KickTheDog pointless]] but serve a purpose and have a cold logic behind them. All the same, while they're not in it for selfish reasons, the show also makes it clear that everything the Jennings couple does, they do it consciously, readily, and willingly.willingly, with varying degrees of [[NecessarilyEvil remorse]].
-->'''William:''' It eats you up... what we do.
16th Apr '16 9:15:03 PM catt_al
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Added DiffLines:

***Prinivil, the first of two brand names for lisinopril, was approved in December, 1987. It would not have been available under the generic name lisinopril at that time, however.
7th Apr '16 8:21:57 AM DarthHowie
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Added DiffLines:

*HopeSpot: In Chloramphenical, [[spoiler: Oleg's father agrees to help Nina in exchange for Oleg remaining in the USSR. There is a scene of Nina being "transferred" suggesting that just that might be happening... except then she is told her sentence hasn't changed and she is unceremoniously shot in the back of the head.]]
7th Apr '16 8:18:44 AM TrollBrutal
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7th Apr '16 8:18:07 AM TrollBrutal
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** We also discover in a dream sequence that Agent Beeman suspects Martha's leaking files, but so far has been too caught-up in trying to save Nina from being deported to act on it.
7th Apr '16 8:16:15 AM TrollBrutal
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** Stan Has a knack for unsanctioned work and is often following his own, accurate hunches. One time when he bullies the guy in the stereo store without even a hint of a warrant or when he breaks into the Jennings' garage. When [[spoiler: Amador is killed]], this becomes even more pronounced, particularly in [[ItMakesSenseInContext his speech about how hunting dogs carry the birds they catch to their master's feet]] to a terrified captured KGB agent. He's also the first to become suspicious of [[spoiler:Martha]] and puts her under surveillance without telling the bosses.

to:

** Stan Has has a knack for unsanctioned work and is often following his own, accurate hunches. One time when he bullies the guy in the stereo store without even a hint of a warrant or when warrant, another he breaks into the Jennings' garage. When [[spoiler: Amador is killed]], this becomes even more pronounced, particularly in [[ItMakesSenseInContext his speech about how hunting dogs carry the birds they catch to their master's feet]] to a terrified captured KGB agent. He's also the first to become suspicious of [[spoiler:Martha]] and puts her under surveillance without telling the bosses.
7th Apr '16 8:14:57 AM TrollBrutal
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** Stan on occasion, especially when he bullies the guy in the stereo store without even a hint of a warrant or when he breaks into the Jennings' garage. When [[spoiler: Amador is killed]], this becomes even more pronounced, particularly in [[ItMakesSenseInContext his speech about how hunting dogs carry the birds they catch to their master's feet]] to a terrified captured KGB agent.

to:

** Stan on occasion, especially Has a knack for unsanctioned work and is often following his own, accurate hunches. One time when he bullies the guy in the stereo store without even a hint of a warrant or when he breaks into the Jennings' garage. When [[spoiler: Amador is killed]], this becomes even more pronounced, particularly in [[ItMakesSenseInContext his speech about how hunting dogs carry the birds they catch to their master's feet]] to a terrified captured KGB agent. He's also the first to become suspicious of [[spoiler:Martha]] and puts her under surveillance without telling the bosses.



** There are no second acts in the Soviet lives, and no redemption. Treason and failling the motherland are rewarded with a bullet to the brain, [[Literature/NineteenEightyFour 1984]]-style. This is made painfully explicit in [[spoiler:Nina Sergeevna's]] storyline.

to:

** There are no second acts in the Soviet lives, and no redemption. Treason and failling the motherland are rewarded with a bullet to the brain, [[Literature/NineteenEightyFour 1984]]-style. This is made painfully explicit in [[spoiler:Nina Sergeevna's]] storyline.
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http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/article_history.php?article=Series.TheAmericans