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Headscratchers / The Americans

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  • I understand the Russians wanted the agents to blend in, but allowing them to have children? That puts your best agent out of commission for nine months, gives them ransom bait, and further socializes them to America?
    • The KGB (and the CIA, MI-6, Mossad, ISI etc) have all done this in real life (although in most cases they used agents who were already married-to each other. A deep cover agent spends very little actual time "spying", compared to say a regular field agent. This would also 1) make it more palatable for agent in question, presuming that s/he are like most human beings, who want family; 2) makes some sort of support network for agents who are really far from home and 3) ensures that the KGB gets the best. The last thing you want is your most qualified recruit abandoning the programme after hearing they cannot have a family.
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    • It also lifts suspicion. Even today, the first thing intelligence agencies look for are single men with few connections and hazy histories when investigating espionage.

  • Shouldn't the KGB have assigned someone else to sleep with Martha after finding out that Phillip and Elizabeth were next door neighbors to Stan? He almost got caught by Amador that way when he was leaving her apartment. I have the feeling in real life, they wouldn't give spies so many undercover missions in the same city within the same group of people.
    • While the main characters have a lot more work than what a real undercover would do, it seems that the KGB gives the agents a lot of operational autonomy, due to the very nature of their operation.

  • Would Phillip really have gone after a child predator in his own backyard? What happened to maintaining a low profile?
    • Philip is a Papa Wolf who is very protective of Elizabeth and his Children. Pretty certain that this was just a case of Revenge Before Reason.
    • Also, what's the guy going to do? Call the cops and complain he got beaten up for flirting with a preteen?

  • Why kidnap Vladimir? The original plan makes some kind of sense; grab Arkady and kill him for revenge (if Amador is dead) or offer him for an exchange (if Amador is alive). But any leverage comes from having Arkady specifically, he's the highest ranking officer. Vlad, by contrast, is one of the most lowly ranked people we see (approximately equal to Nina). Even if the KGB actually had Amador, and even if they were willing to admit it, I would imagine their response to Beeman's threat would be "Go ahead and kill him, we've got thirty other guys capable of answering the phone." He just doesn't seem as valuable a prisoner as Amador, and a vastly unequal trade for the Russians.
    • Stan just wasn't thinking straight. Even Gaad gave him a bit of hell over it before deciding an eye for an eye was more important.

  • So, Paige and Henry have no family to speak of besides their parents. No Grandparents or Aunts and Uncles. Is that not a tiny bit suspicious?
    • Addressed in season 2. They have a great-aunt Helen, who turns out to be another Deep Cover Agent as well.
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    • And Paige still suspects something, as revealed in "Stingers".

  • Further to the above what exactly are they going to do with the kids if things go tits up for the rents.
    • Undoubtedly the KGB has an exfiltration plan which will be implemented if possible. If not.......they could become wards of the State, they are American citizens after all.
      • In real life, the children of the illegals were sent back to their parents.

  • Why didn't Leanne and Emmet warn Elizabeth and Philip about The Centre requesting them to recruit Jared? The two couples are shown to have very similar attitudes towards getting their children into spycraft. Why not give Philip and Elizabeth a heads-up?
    • Compartmentalization. Remember when Philip got badly beaten after Elizabeth expressed concerns to the Center about his loyalty? The same thing. If the Jennings turned out to be more hardcore than them, and they gave the Jennings a heads-up they weren't supposed to give, that might end badly for the Connors.
    • Plus, the Connors had no idea the Centre was recruiting/training Jared behind their backs until Jared told them. It might have been years since the Centre first asked the Connors if they could recruit him.

  • Why on Earth would the Center allow for two deep cover families to see each other without disguises, let alone to be family friends? Doesn't this automatically compromise both cells? This exact weirdness allowed Larrick to trace the Jennings by following the last remaining member of the other agent family - Jared.
    • They might have already known each other in Russia, negating the use of disguises. As for knowing aliases and addresses, I’m not sure.

  • Yousaf is supposed to be pretty high up in the ISI covert activities wing, yet he is shown to be pretty clueless about whats happening? Why?
    • It probable that Yousaf's less than steller espionage skills and instincts have been noted by his superiors and he is used more as a talking head to liaise with American/Western agencies (where his comfort with the Western lifestyle would be an asset) rather than an actual decision maker or field agent.

  • The ISI is portrayed as fairly stupid, even more so than the FBI. They don't know what "Stingers" are. They could have consulted Janes, or the Pakistan Army, who had them in service at that time. They don't seem to put two and two together... Is it not a tiny bit suspicious that every operation that goes badly had Yousef involved in it? The real life ISI ran rings around the KGB in Afghanistan. They also seem to think that they can guage an officer's religious views solely through questionnaire.
    • The questionnnaire could have been a way to catch less than truthful officers. In real life when applying for a position which requires a security clearance, people are advised to be truthful about private matters, since the security services would know anyway. Indeed the purpose of the question is to see whether you would hide that (and therefore are blackmail-able) showing yourself to be unreliable. Asking about religious fervour would be another question and one less obvious.
    • As for the ISI, the only ISI officer seen in any detail is Yousaf, who even in show (as I stated above) seems to be considered by his superiors as less competent, and therefore kept out of the loop on many matters. We cannot see how good or bad ISI is in the shows universe from Yousaf.

  • After nearly half of both their lifetimes spent as deep-cover agents, and having shown to have preparations and planning for most situations (to varying degrees of success), then how come Philip and Elizabeth didn't have any sort of cover story prepared whatsoever to use when Paige confronted them in "Stingers"? Not even a story with some semblance of plausible truth, but couched in ways to cushion the danger? Especially since Philip has been adamant against their own children being recruited into the KGB.
    • Perhaps they did have a good cover story. But since they were resigned to recruiting Paige anyway, it seemed like an opportune time to come out.
    • Their cover story is work. Being travel agents with clients in various states and packages in foreign countries, they have a good excuse to take calls at strange hours (working with clients, airlines, cruise lines etc in other time zones), suddenly need to leave, or book trips to other places. It's a plausible enough story to fool a trained counterintelligence officer who lives next door to them. They simply told Paige because they decided she was ready for it and needed to hear the truth.

  • Couldn't Martha just decline Agent Aderholt's invitation to take her out on a date and maybe Stan wouldn't have searched her place to begin with.
    • Aderholt was being somewhat pushy about it, and Martha isn't a very assertive person.
    • It would have aroused more suspicion. As far as anyone in the FBI knows, she’s single. Accepting makes it look like she has nothing to hide.

  • How did Stan and the FBI learn about the death of Oleg's brother Yevgeny when he was one out of many deaths in the Soviet-Afghan War and the details of his death were so secret that Soviet officials would not even admit he died fighting in a war?
    • He is a spy under official cover, they are Counter-Intelligence official, knowing as much as they can about him is part of their job. Secondly, Yevgeny was the son of a senior minister in the USSR government, that would be noted anyway. Thirdly, the Soviets never said there were no troops in Afghanistan, their official position was that they were there to assist the Afghan Government, and were only ocassionally taking part in fighting (which was not wrong, the main forces the USSR deployed were support elements, outside of of Special Forces, Air Assets and division on the Pakistan border).

  • Episode 2x09: Philip and Elizabeth have been sleeper agents for 15+ years. Seems kinda odd that they wouldn't at least do something like go to church on Sundays to blend in, or celebrate Christmas (even if it was just putting up lights to decorate the house). Why are they so against Paige joining the church?
    • I think the family does celebrate a secular form of Christmas, since it would be very unusual if they didn't. However, their general secular lifestyle is unexceptional enough to not arouse any suspicion, at least in their East Coast, suburban community. Furthermore, being a member of a church would mean more eyes on them, more people keeping tabs on them, and more opportunities for them to slip up.

  • Why are the illegals like Elizabeth/Philip not allowed to visit the home country Russia?
    • They were actually trying to have no ties to the Soviet Union at all, including their heritage. Remember when they made a big deal out of eating some food from the homeland? They had to do it privately. Back in the 80s, anyone who went to the USSR was most certainly investigated. It would flag them as visiting a country with whom America is at war. The FBI would be tracking people who visit Russia (during the Cold War) and so they don’t travel there to avoid being added to a watch list. So they had to make a clean break from their past lives to be embedded here and not arouse a hint of suspicion, especially when Stan is their neighbor.

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