Air Date January 30, 2013
Directed By Gavin O'Connor
Written By Joe Weisberg
Next Episode "The Clock"
Images of Pilot

Pilot is the first episode of Season One of The Americans on FX, and the premiere episode of the entire series.


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.


In 1981, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings are deep cover Soviet intelligence agents from the KGB's secretive Directorate S, operating in Washington, D.C.  Elizabeth, dressed as a prostitute and wearing a recording device, meets an FBI bureaucrat and takes him to a hotel room, where she seduces him for information.  

Three days later, Phillip and another Directorate S operative (Robert McKenzie) are surveilling a Soviet defector named Nikolai Tmoshev.  When the latter realizes he is being tailed, he flees with Phillip and Robert in pursuit. Timoshev stabs Rob and fights with Phillip. Elizabeth catches up to them in a car; the Jennings put both injured men in. Phillip and Elizabeth argue briefly about whether to bring Robert to the hospital, with Elizabeth urging that the mission, not Robert's survival, must take priority. Phillip drives to the hospital anyway, leaving Robert, and then speeds off to a pier. They arrive in time to watch the boat meant to transfer Timoshev back to the USSR sail away. The Jennings return home with Timoshev bound and gagged in the trunk of their car, and park it in the garage.

Elizabeth and Phillip have an alternate life as a happily married couple working together at DuPont Circle Travel Agency. They live in the D.C. suburb of Falls Church, VA, with their two children, Paige and Henry, who do not know their secret.  In a flashback, Elizabeth is shown as a young woman in the USSR, practicing training until Timoshev takes over. He then proceeds to rape her. Back in the present, former deep cover and newly transferred FBI agent Stan Beeman meets a colleague in counter-intelligence, Chris Amador. They arrive for a training session at work entitled "KGB Activities in America: The Current Threat." Their supervisor, Agent Mark Bartholomew, tells them that the scheduled lecturer, Nikolai Timoshev, has not shown up.  

Phillip, posing as Clark Westerfeld, visits the home of a woman named Martha Hanson, who works in Agent Bartholomew's office. Clark pretends to work in a government office responsible for monitoring the various intelligence agencies. Martha reveals that the FBI tracked down a car and took the license plate number and that Timoshev was kidnapped by two men and a woman.  After Phillip returns home, he is shown listening to the recording Elizabeth made while having sex with the FBI bureaucrat. He is visibly pained hearing Elizabeth aggressively pleasure the man, and continues to torture himself by listening to her orgasm. Phillip locks the tape away with the rest of their disguises and goes upstairs to tell Elizabeth what Martha has said. Both worry their cover has been blown.

Meanwhile, Stan Beeman and his family have moved in across the street from the Jennings.  The Jennings family introduce themselves and Stan tells them he works for the FBI. Phillip and Elizabeth see this as a coincidence. They disagree on what to do with Timochev; Elizabeth wants to kill him but Phillip thinks this would be a mistake if the FBI is on to them. He proposes defection, at first as a joke, but then in a later conversation, more seriously. Phillip argues they could get millions of dollars for turning in Timochev, using the money to escape their current situation and live a normal family life. Phillip says America is not so bad: it has great food and electricity that works all the time. When Elizabeth realizes he is not kidding, she is appalled and disgusted, and questions his prioritizing family and comfort over the cause. She asks him what they would tell Paige and Henry. When Phillip replies "the truth," Elizabeth slaps him and says that if their children ever found out their lives had been a lie, they would never speak to them again. She also reminds him that they have both sworn to never tell their children about what they do, or involve them in their operations. Elizabeth's willingness to sacrifice anything for "the Motherland," contrasted with Phillip's doubts about the morality of his actions and a desire for a more traditional family life, emerges as a theme of the show.

Several flashbacks show the awkwardness of Phillip and Elizabeth's initial encounters: meeting for the first time and being given their mission by General Viktor Zhukov, arriving in the States and adjusting to the climate, and Elizabeth rebuffing Phillip's attempts at intimacy. Phillip accepts her rejection, postulating that perhaps she does not find him attractive, although he reminds her that they will be expected to produce children eventually. Back in the present, Phillip learns that Rob has died from his injuries.

Phillip decides to hand Timochev over to Stan but when he discerns that Timochev "hurt" Elizabeth in the past, he becomes angry and kills him instead. The Jennings dump the body in the Potomac River after dousing it in acid. Back in their car, Elizabeth initiates sex before they return home. Previously throughout the episode, she is shown refusing Phillip's advances. Soon after their encounter, Phillip dons a disguise and visits the man who came on to Paige when they were shopping. He nearly kills him with a barbecue grill and warns him to stay away from "little girls."

Elizabeth is shown meeting with General Zhukov, who has been sent to see her due to their string of recent failures: they missed the handoff for Timochev and now he is dead, as is Rob. Zhukov then mentions that Elizabeth has reported doubts about Phillip several times over the years, and asks her directly if he can be trusted. Elizabeth says yes, and that she had been wrong about him in the past. She takes all the blame for their mistakes when Zhukov asks if they were Phillip's fault. He tells her orders are going to change soon, and risks will be increased. Elizabeth later tells Phillip that things are going to get more dangerous. When he tries to reassure her, she tells him for the first time where she was born, a little bit about her parents, and that her real name is Nadezhda.

Stan becomes suspicious when he learns that a car similar to Phillip's was seen near the site of Timochev's abduction. He sneaks into the Jennings' garage at night and inspects the license plate and trunk, unaware that Phillip is hiding with a gun just around the corner. Stan finds nothing; he clearly feels foolish about his actions and leaves. In response to Timochev's disappearance, President Ronald Reagan issues a top secret executive order authorizing the FBI to use whatever means necessary to neutralize Soviet agents operating within the United States. 


Song Title Performer(s)
Harden My Heart Quarterflash
Tusk Fleetwood Mac
In the Air Tonight Phil Collins
Queen of Hearts Juice Newton
Roller April Wine


Season One
#101 "Pilot" #108 "Mutually Assured Destruction"
#102 "The Clock" #109 "Safe House"
#103 "Gregory" #110 "Only You"
#104 "In Control" #111 "Covert War"
#105 "COMINT" #112 "The Oath"
#106 "Trust Me" #113 "The Colonel"
#107 "Duty and Honor"