"The Americans" Pilot (TV Episode 2013) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • In the 1960s, two Russian KGB agents were trained and set up as 'sleepers', the inconspicuous all-American Jennings couple Philip and Elisabeth, along with their unsuspecting kids Henry and Paige. Now, they must prevent the defection of KGB agent Nikolai Timoshev, formerly one of their abusive instructors, whom they manage to kidnap. By coincidence, their new neighbor is FBI agent Stan Beeman. Loyalties are tested among the spouses and by KGB general Vijktor Zhukov, who promises the Jennings a small fortune if they allow him to defect.

  • Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings are two seemingly normal Americans who are really undercover KGB agents. After kidnapping a Soviet defector they discover their new neighbor is an FBI agent assigned to their case.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • With Quarterflash's "Harden My Heart" playing in the background, we're swept away to a bar in Washington, D.C., 1981. Elizabeth Jennings is getting some inside info from a member of the Department of Justice. That night, as she's removing his clothes in bed, he continues telling her about "the sheer number of people dedicated to destroying our way of life" while she pleasures him. We next see her leaving, removing her blond wig and driving away.

    Three days later, we see Philip Jennings and another man waiting to execute a hit. Elizabeth pays a man for a few moments worth of looking out his window. Philip waits for Elizabeth's signal from the window. He waits for the man to approach. The man pauses before reaching the spot where Philip is waiting, then runs away. Philip and his accomplice give chase, with Philip identifying himself as "immigration." Philip and his accomplice follow the man into an alley, where the man ducks in for a moment and stabs Philip's cohort in the stomach before continuing to flee.

    Philip catches up to the man, who pulls a blade on him. After a brief fight, the man tells Philip he knows he's not supposed to be killed, but Philip tells the man he has no idea how badly he's wanted. "I could deliver you in a hundred pieces and get a medal for each one." Philip secures the man and Elizabeth drives up in a car waiting to take the man away. The man shouts for help while being pushed into the car as Philip acts like he's a cop and gives the man his Miranda rights. Philip hops into the driver's seat and takes off. He stops in an alley to change the license plates on the car and drives away again.

    Philip and Elizabeth drop their colleague off near a hospital for treatment, instructing him to identify himself as a John Doe and walk to the hospital from the drop-off spot. Philip and Elizabeth drive off with their captor asking the to consider his offer to help. Philip droves up to a dock and they watch a cargo ship sail away. Philip turns and asks, "Why is everyone so punctual in this business?"

    At FBI headquarters, a couple of agents are heading to a meeting and waiting for the arrival of "Timochev," an ex-KGB colonel who blew the whistle on some undercover agents "supposedly" hiding in the U.S., Agent Chris Amador tells his colleague. He's not convinced such agents exist, saying that men like Timochev are paid millions to give up information. Timochev has told the FBI that these agents aren't allowed to say a single word in Russian once they get to the States. "Someone's been reading too many spy novels," Amador says.

    We next see Philip Jennings untying his captor, who tells him the FBI paid him $3 million when he "came off" and more since, as a consultant. He tells Philip he can get twice that, and another $3 million for returning him. Philip pushes the man back into the trunk. We next see Philip and Elizabeth in their very normal looking American home in the morning, ushering their kids off to school. After the kids leave, Philip and Elizabeth talk about the man's $3 million claim, but Elizabeth says, "He can buy himself a diamond-plated coffin."

    We next see Philip sitting on a park bench watching carefully at all the people around him. He sees police looking around for a suspect in some kind of robbery. Philip pulls something from his pocket and sticks it under the bench before walking away.

    Back at their house, Elizabeth goes into the garage and pauses for a moment while catching her reflection in the back of the car window. She's taken back to the Soviet Union in 1960 where she's doing some boxing training. The captain arrives and takes over the training session. He tries a few of her fighting techniques on him, which he easily fends off. Eventually he gets her into a submissive hold on the ground, tears off her sweats and rapes her as her original trainer walks away.

    Back in the garage in 1981, Elizabeth opens the trunk, looks inside and says, in a perfect American accent, "Remember me, captain?" She looks at him for a moment before slamming the trunk door back down.

    It's another day in the Jennings house, where their daughter Paige is learning about "how the Russians cheat on arms control." Philip gets home and tells Elizabeth he made the drop at the park and got no response. Elizabeth suggests "he can move in permanently" and she can fix the spare bedroom for him.

    Later, the family is out having ice cream and Elizabeth isn't in the mood to play. Philip talks about a client meeting he has later that night.

    Later, we see him visit a woman named Martha. She calls him Clark. Philip speaks quickly about being a part of the Committee to Oversee United States Counterintelligence Agencies, and that their meeting is classified. Martha tells him about a man who was kidnapped. "He was supposed to speak at a conference this morning, but he didn't show." Philip asks if there was a "centralized response" to the kidnapping. Martha says she's not allowed into such meetings. She says the man who was kidnapped was Russian, and they had a vehicle description: A 1977 Oldsmobile, gold with D.C. plates and bumper stickers. The kidnappers were two men and a woman  one of the men was "average height with dark hair."

    That night, Philip goes through a hidden storage space behind a circuit box and plays a tape of Elizabeth's encounter with the man she met at the beginning of the episode. He listens to some of her sexual exploits with the man before he tells her about his plan to give $100,000 to a KGB defector. Philip stops the tape.

    Philip reports back to Elizabeth about how the FBI is putting the pieces together about their kidnapping and the increased surveillance is likely the reason they aren't hearing back from their contacts. Elizabeth wants to kill the man because he'll just be killed back in Moscow anyway. She says the man is putting them all in danger. Philip suggests that they defect themselves and become millionaires, and "a lot of our problems just go away." Elizabeth isn't amused.

    The next day, Philip and the kids are going to the mall. Elizabeth stays behind. At the mall, Philip embarrasses his daughter by trying on some cowboy boots and dancing along to a song playing in the store. Philip hears a man make a sexual suggestive comment to his daughter and decides not to handle the guy  which we know full well he could.

    Elizabeth, back at the house, takes a large knife from the kitchen and heads toward the garage. Philip and the kids get home. Philip notices the knife and Elizabeth asks, "What, you think I killed him?" Philip says he was "just checking." Philip kisses the back of Elizabeth's neck and she tells him to stop, eventually pulling the knife close to him. Philip reminds her that she's his wife, and Elizabeth says, "Is that right?"

    The Jennings' go over to welcome some new neighbors who've just moved in. They meet Agent Stan Beeman, who works for the FBI and tells them he works in counterintelligence. Philip jokes, "I have to make sure I don't do any spying around here." Agent Beeman tells him, "Especially not for the Russians."

    "Oh, they're the worst, right?" Philip says.

    "They certainly are, Philip," Agent Beeman says. "They certainly are."

    That night, Elizabeth tells Philip it's "probably just a coincidence." She says they need to get rid of Timochev that night. Philip thinks that's the last thing they want to do. He thinks it could be an opportunity just be "us." He says they might be blown, and they "are Philip and Elizabeth Jennings  we have been for a long time." He reminds her of the money they could get for Timochev.

    "Are you joking?" she asks him. "Is this a joke?"

    Philip asks her what's so bad about America. She asks him what he'd tell their kids and he says "the truth." She slaps him. She says their kids would never forgive them. She says they wouldn't get away with it and asks him, "Have you seen our trunk?" Philip says that Timochev was "a fool" and came back to give speeches and left clues about where he was staying. "We'd be more careful," he tells her. She leaves.

    The next day, Philip is out for a run and flashes back to Moscow, April 1962. He's looking at a picture of a woman, which he tears and throws in the trash when a colonel approaches. He's taken to a room, where he meets Elizabeth. They're left to "get acquainted." They're instructed to get to know each other and their new identifies, knowing nothing of their actual identifies. After his run, Philip calls the hospital to check on his colleague from the night of the kidnapping. He learns that the man "expired" that night.

    When he gets home, Agent Beeman comes over and asks Philip for some jumper cables. Philip brings Agent Beeman into the garage, who notices the make and model of the car. Philip opens the trunk, instructs Timochev to stay quiet, and retrieves the jumper cables. He hands them over. Agent Beeman says he has to go, and Philip leads him out.

    Back at FBI headquarters, Agent Beeman meets a CIA agent about the kidnapping of Timochev. Beeman says that if Russians kidnapped Timochev they'd probably want to just stay close to their own house.

    That night, Philip makes it through a school function with his son, where an American astronaut is on hand and the national anthem is played in all its glory. Later, Philip pulls Timochev from the trunk and tells Elizabeth he's taking Timochev to make a deal. She tells him she's a KGB officer and would die and lose everything before betraying her country. She decides to finish things herself. Elizabeth beats Timochev so hard, at one point she kicks his head through the garage's drywall. She picks up a crowbar and Timochev tells Elizabeth he's sorry and never meant to hurt her. "They let us have our way with the cadets. It was part of the job  a perk," he says.

    Philip asks what he's talking about and how Timochev hurt her. Elizabeth drops the crowbar and says nothing, but "do what you want with him  take him to the Americans if that's what you want."

    As she's walking away, Philip grabs Timochev, pushes him up against and a wall and chokes him until he dies. He lets Timochev's body fall, then turns to look at Elizabeth, who looks at him and says nothing.

    We next see Philip and Elizabeth driving in silence  with the exception of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" playing in the background. They're driving in the Oldsmobile. We next see them pouring acid on Timochev's body before sealing him in a bag and tossing him into some water. They get back into the car and look at each other. Saying nothing, Elizabeth climbs across the car and kisses Philip. They proceed to do more than kiss, right there in the car.

    The next morning, Philip and Elizabeth are helping conceal each other's wounds and bruises. They eat breakfast with their kids when the phone rings. Elizabeth answers and looks stunned. Not saying anything, she looks at Philip.

    Agent Beeman sees Philip taking his son Henry to hockey practice. Beeman notices Philip's band-aids on his neck and Philip says it's just a shaving incident. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is cleaning out the trunk of the Olds.

    Back at his house, Beeman tells his wife he likes Philip but wonders if there's something a little off about him. She teases him and tells him he's back in the real world with regular, boring people.

    Philip winds up in the backyard of Errol, the man who'd hit on Philip's 13-year-old daughter at the store earlier. This doesn't end well for Errol, who winds up severely beaten and with the wrong end of a barbecue fork stuck through his hand.

    Elizabeth gets around to telling Philip some of her real backstory: Her father died fighting Nazis.

    That night, a curious Agent Beeman breaks into the Jennings' garage and snoops around for clues, examining the car and even opening its trunk. Seeing nothing amiss, Beeman shakes his head and opens the garage just enough to make his way out. Meanwhile, we see, Philip has been standing there watching and holding a gun, but never even making so much of a move for Beeman to even have known he was there.

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