The Jennings Family
Elizabeth & Philip
- Anti-Hero: They're ruthless government spooks who seduce, betray and even murder their various targets. However, they are also decent people at heart who truly believe that their work is making their homeland safer.
- Arranged Marriage: Their entire marriage is an arrangement, due to them being deep cover operatives. In season five, they decide to get married for real.
- Deep Cover Agent: They're Russian citizens, but have been undercover for decades; they don't speak Russian, don't use their real names, don't lapse into their native accent, they even have children.
- Honey Trap: Both of them are skilled at luring the opposite sex into... "difficult" situations.
- Karma Houdini: Subverted; They manage to flee the American authorities and escape to the USSR together, but they are forced to leave Henry behind and Paige decides to abandon them at the last second, meaning they'll probably never see their children again. They're also forced to return home to a Russia neither of them really recognizes, knowing the people they've been serving for years were really the enemy. And what's more, the Soviet Union is due to collapse in a few years anyway, meaning that despite their fervent belief in the meaning of their work, every awful thing they've done in service of their country will have been for absolutely nothing.
- Manipulative Bastard: They're quite good at getting people to do what they want without them realizing it and continuing to help the Jenningses even if they find out.
- Master of Disguise: Both of them are excellent at disguising themselves and using a variety of identities.
- Never Got to Say Goodbye: In the Grand Finale, they're both unable to give a proper goodbye to either of their children, due to Henry not knowing the truth about them and Paige deciding to abandon them at the last second by getting off the train she'd been traveling with them on.
- Not So Different: Many scenes juxtapose Philip and Elizabeth's efforts with the efforts of American intelligence operatives and show that they're not very different, they're just on opposing sides.
- Punch-Clock Villain: They're on the wrong side of history and commit plenty of unsavory acts, including the murder of innocent people, but they don't relish their job and are merely dutiful to their country.
- Sympathetic P.O.V.: It's very easy to forget that they're hardened killers serving a brutal dictatorship, considering their long list of sympathetic traits.
- Undercover as Lovers: With each other, and occasionally with others.
- Wig, Dress, Accent: They have a variety of wigs, clothing, make-up and other costumes to help them.
Elizabeth Jennings / Nadezhda
The wife of Philip Jennings as well as the mother of Paige and Henry Jennings. She, along with her husband, is an undercover KGB Directorate S agent operating near Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s. She is also a businesswoman who runs a travel agency with her husband.
- Action Girl: Elizabeth is a highly trained operative and has the combat skills to prove it; she's a fierce and merciless fighter who you do not want to get on the bad side of.
- Action Mom: She's one bad mother.
- Arranged Marriage: With Philip, for the purposes of their cover.
- Break the Haughty: In "Covert War", Elizabeth kidnaps a high-ranking CIA official and plans on killing him to get revenge for the assassination of her mentor, General Zhukov (in addition to two other high-ranking KGB officials). When she accuses her captive of murdering innocent people, her captive points out that they were not innocent. The captive then asks Elizabeth if she loves or cares about anyone, causing her to break down emotionally and leave the room. Elizabeth then decides to let him go in order to stop the covert war between America and the USSR from escalating any further.
- Do Not Call Me "Paul": She dislikes being called by her true name; not because she hates it, but because it 'confuses' her.
- Femme Fatale: Elizabeth uses her not-inconsiderable sex appeal to get her job done; it usually leaves her witless male targets the worse for wear.
- Hollywood Atheist: As a true believer in Communism, Elizabeth is a staunch atheist. When she finds out that Paige has been participating on a church youth group, she freaks out, as she believes religion to be "the opiate of the masses."
- Honey Trap: At several points in the show, Elizabeth seduces men in order to obtain information from them.
- Hypocrite: Elizabeth refuses to allow Paige to attend a church summer camp because she believes that religions "indoctrinate" people while they're young. Elizabeth herself was recruited into the KGB at a young age (and also, Nina attended a Soviet "Young Pioneer" camp as a child where she was taught how to be a good Communist).
- Ice Queen: Elizabeth is usually very cold and calculating, in contrast to Philip, who is more sensitive and emotional.
- It's Personal: When General Zhukov (Elizabeth's friend and mentor) is killed by an assassin, Elizabeth goes against direct orders and embarks on a mission to kidnap and kill the CIA official who ordered the hit.
- Mama Bear: In "Dinner For Seven" two men accost Elizabeth and Paige at a parking lot at night. One of them tries to make a move on Paige and Elizabeth knocks down one with a single punch and kills another by taking his knife and stabbing him in the throat.
- Marriage Before Romance: Deep Undercover as Lovers, Elizabeth only seems to develop real feelings for Philip after they've been "married" for years.
- Married to the Job: Ultimately, her commitment to the motherland is bigger than her desire to move back home.
- Moral Myopia: Elizabeth does not hold her own superiors and country to the same standards as she does for the Americans.
- More Deadly Than the Male: Whether or not it has anything to do with her being female, Elizabeth is more ruthless and devoted to the cause than Philip, whose conscience and doubt weigh on him more.
- Mother Russia Makes You Strong: Unlike Philip, Elizabeth believes that the capitalist society has made Americans weak and wants to encourage her children to become likes the socialists she so admires. She initially opposes Gorbachev's reforms, saying that she doesn't want her country to become like America.
- Ms. Fanservice: Elizabeth frequently dresses sexy when she's attempting to seduce a mark. She's also featured in a lot of sex scenes.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: Elizabeth is more rigidly devoted to Russia than Philip.
- This becomes a major point in the final season when Elizabeth realizes Claudia and others in the KGB are planning a coup against Gorbachev for how he's "weakening" the USSR. Elizabeth thus finds herself wrestling with whether her loyalty is to the country or the party.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: After Claudia has her and Philip tortured to test their commitment, an outraged Elizabeth goes primal and beats her almost to death.
- Not So Different: She tries to pull this with Pastor Tim, who isn't having any of it.
- Power of Trust: With Gregory. Why she tries to convince the KGB to work with him concerning his exfiltration.
- Principles Zealot: Elizabeth's slavish dedication to the cause is alienating to her colleagues. In Season 3, we learn that her overcompensating patriotism is likely the result of her father being a deserter.
- Rape as Backstory: Elizabeth was raped by a superior officer when she was being trained as a KGB agent. The man in question later reveals that one of the perks of the job was that high-ranking officers were allowed to rape young female recruits.
- Shoe Phone: At one point, she uses a poison-tipped umbrella.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: With Claudia.
- The Tooth Hurts: Her tooth is badly damaged during a fight with FBI agents; since the FBI are looking for anyone with her description, she can't go to a real dentist. Philip has to pull it for her...without anesthesia.
- Toplessness from the Back: In Season 2.
- Trademark Favorite Food: She frequently offers to cook eggs.
- The Unfair Sex: She has an ongoing affair with Gregory for fifteen years, and Philip forgives her after a while. However, when Philip has a one-night stand with an old lover in the aftermath of a betrayal by Elizabeth, she's outraged and separates from him. Granted, Philip lied to her about how nothing happened between him and Irina right after she had opened up to wanting to be in a genuine relationship with him and that they would not lie to each other anymore.
- Your Cheating Heart: Her role as a Deep Cover Agent and Femme Fatale requires her to sleep with people other than her husband. It's just part of the job, but she's also carried on an affair with Gregory, one of her assets, for years. She finally ends the affair when she starts feeling love for Philip for the first time in their nearly 20-year marriage.
Philip Jennings / Misha
The husband of Elizabeth Jennings as well the father of Paige and Henry Jennings. He, along with his wife, is an undercover KGB Directorate S agent operating near Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s. He is also a businessman who runs a travel agency with his wife.
- Becoming the Mask:
- Philip has come to enjoy living in the United States, and is more sympathetic towards the American people than Elizabeth is. In the pilot episode, he even considers defecting when he learns that another KGB agent who defected was paid $3 million by the US Government.
- In addition, it's strongly implied that Philip has actually been in love with Elizabeth the entire time they've been Undercover as Lovers, while for her it's (initially) a case of Marriage Before Romance.
- Downplayed with Martha; While he doesn't come to love her in the same way she does him, he comes to care enough about her well-being that he works to have her extradited safely to the USSR after their relationship is discovered by the FBI.
- Being Evil Sucks: Philip suffers from a growing and persistent self-hatred at what he does and who he's become.
- Bully Hunter: One of the few times we ever see Philip get sadistic is when he beats up a child abuser.
- Cool Car: His Z-28 Camaro.
- Deadpan Snarker: He deals with the stresses of his job and his qualms about the Motherland by developing a very dry sense of humor.
- Disappeared Dad: To his long lost son, Mischa (who he had unknowingly with Irina).
- Evil Parents Want Good Kids: Unlike Elizabeth, Philip is initially quite adamant Paige not become a second generation agent.
- Going Native: Over the years that he's been in the US, he's grown to appreciate some things about American culture, and is somewhat less sanguine about the whole "bringing down the West" idea.
- Mr. Fanservice: He's a handsome man who is often in a state of undress when pulling his Honey Trap operations.
- Papa Wolf: In the pilot episode, a pedophile hits on Paige, who is only 13 years old. Philip later tracks the man down and beats him severely. Later on he warns Claudia to stay away from his children.
- Only Knownby Their Nickname: In scenes that show his early life, he is always referred to as "Misha". The Soviets would never allow a diminutive as someone's legal name. In Season 4, his real name is confirmed to be Mikhail.
- Out, Damned Spot!: As the series goes on, Philip becomes more and more consumed by guilt over killing innocent people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the end of Season 5, he and Elizabeth decide that it has become too much and so he retires from active KGB Duty.
- Retired Monster: "Monster" is stretching it, but by Season 6 he has retired from active duty and started trying to run the travel agency as a legitimate business.
- Romance and Sexuality Separation: Phillip has been trained by the KGB to seduce and have sex with targets without any emotional attachments. This creates significant psychological issues for him as the Centre increases his workload, forcing him to carry on affairs with multiple women.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: With Claudia.
- Your Cheating Heart: Before he was paired off with Elizabeth, Phillip was trained to be a honey trap. Many of his assignments thus involve seducing women in strategic places, sometimes carrying on long affairs with them. Elizabeth is surprisingly understanding about this.
The willful teenage daughter of the Jennings. She forms a friendship with Matthew Beeman.
- Antagonistic Offspring: Played with. Paige's rebellion includes joining an activist church and protesting nuclear weapons. She is smart, inquisitive and dedicated to a cause greater than herself. In virtually any other series this would make Paige come across as the mature, trustworthy and reliable child compared to the more impulsive, impish Henry. Given that her parents are Soviet spies, these traits are treated not as positives, as an American family might view them, but as a dangerous subversion of all they hold dear. Further, once she finds out the truth about her parents' work, her faith, her inquisitiveness and her unshakable belief in doing what she believes is right makes her a significant threat to their operation, especially when she tells Pastor Tim the truth in the season 3 finale.
- Character Development: While her change from being a relatively typical teen with a mild rebellious streak to a more clever young woman deeply suspicious of her parents happens toward the end of season 1, she gets a fair amount more in the second season. She goes from being the type of person that her own mother suspects would have trouble making it in the real world, to a willful, dedicated individual- seeking purpose in life through religion and anti-militaristic sentiments. Though she has misgivings about the particulars of Paige's budding transformation, even Elizabeth grows to respect her daughter's greater goals and convictions.
- Did Not Get The Guy: She decides to end her relationship with Matthew Beeman in Season 5, aware she could slip up and reveal the truth about her parents to him.
- HeelFace Revolving Door: Combined with Hazy Feel Turn. As expected with a teenager who finds out her entire identity is a lie, she takes on a more antagonistic role to them. On the other hand, she still cares about her parents, and her loyalty to her family leads her to waffle and dither between supporting them and rebelling against them.
- I Choose to Stay: In the Grand Finale she decides to remain in the U.S. rather than escape to the USSR with her parents.
- In the Blood: She has inherited a lot of passion for "greater causes". Elizabeth also discovers that Paige is quite talented at forging her mother's handwriting. She's also extremely observant and is developing some Manipulative Bastard skills.
- Locked Out of the Loop: Neither she nor Henry has any clue about their parents' true identities at first. Unlike Henry, she figures out that something's up pretty quickly and confronts them about it, forcing them to fill her in.
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: A non-violent example. Paige rats out her parents to Pastor Tim because she can't handle the years upon years of deceit.
- Parental Sexuality Squick: In "Comrades", Paige walks in on her parents while they're giving mutual oral sex to one another. The next morning at breakfast it's obvious that she was quite disturbed by what she saw.
- Secret Keeper: She becomes this in season 3's "Stingers." She's never comfortable with it and tells Pastor Tim about her parents in the season 3 finale.
- Tyke Bomb: What the KGB wants her to become.
The young son of the Jennings.
- Antagonistic Offspring: Like Paige, unintentionally. In Season 5 he gets much more serious about his schoolwork, and then applies to an elite New England boarding school. Most parents would be delighted by his hard work and drive, but his pursuit of a capitalist upper-class education is anathema to his parents' socialist values.
- Bring My Brown Pants: He has an "accident" after an incident with a random creep. For a kid his age and the kind of situation he was in, it's hard to blame him.
- Cheerful Child: He gets along pretty easily with his parents, in slight contrast to Paige who's hitting the rebellious stage.
- Grievous Bottley Harm: He smashes a weirdo with a beer bottle to escape.
- In the Blood: Henry possesses a knack for breaking and entering, as seen when he infiltrates a neighbor's home so he can play their Intellivision video game system.
- Locked Out of the Loop: Like Paige, he has no clue that his parents are Soviet sleeper agents, and his parents have no intention of changing that.Unlike Paige, he only finds out at the very end of the show, after Philip and Elizabeth have left the US (and by extension him) for good.
- Out of Focus: Henry has the fewest plotlines in the Jennings family. Once Paige finds out about her parents' true identities, he spends a lot of time conveniently out of the house so that people can talk openly. By the end of the show, he's been unceremoniously shipped off to boarding school out of state.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Much of Henry's role as of Season 3 seems to be bringing a little bit of humor to the usually grim proceedings.
- Porn Stash: Hidden under a floor panel, no less. Since he's about 12 and it's the early 80s, it's mostly Poor Man's Porn.
- Took a Level in Badass: He suddenly turns awesome when a possible weirdo picks up him and Paige. He decks the guy with a case of beer so they can escape.
- The Unfavorite: After Paige starts to follow in the family business, Phillip and Elizabeth don't pay as much attention to Henry, which he grows to resent. They don't even attempt to take him with them to the Soviet Union, leaving him behind in the US to be taken care of by Stan.