Deutschland 83: Say It Like You Mean It

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Previously on Deutschland 83, Steponov, the Russian comrade hanging out at East German Spy Central, told Walter Schweppenstette (East German spymaster and wearer of hats) that the stolen NATO report, once decrypted, better echo Soviet concerns that the US is planning a first strike. The fate of the entire status quo could be at stake!

The Soviets are hyper-alert to any threats from the West—real or imagined—though to be fair those new missiles really could reach them in ten minutes and that crazy U.S. President did call them evil and “joked” about the bombs starting.

We open with a Greek chorus of television news reports that the Soviet Union has downed a spy plane aggressively flying over its territory, or if you listen to Western propaganda, the Russians just shot down a Korean Air passenger jet with 269 souls that drifted into its airspace. Annett, who’s watching from the hospital waiting area, goes in to see Martin, who was listening to the Walkman he got in the West and playing with the engagement ring he’s been carrying with him, except for the brief time Linda was wearing it, before he snatched it off her not quite cold dead finger.

How does he react to seeing the mother of his child-to-be? It’s a strangely subdued reunion. Granted the guy just lost a kidney, but he doesn’t even hand her the headphones as he did that time for the unfortunate Linda. He tells her he’s not going back. She tells him they’ll have a “modern” apartment and maybe even a car if he does… or at least she and the baby will. He might be away on business a lot. But his mind’s made up—until Walter stops by to chat with him about the end of the world and his role in preventing it. Then we see Martin saying goodbye to his mom, who tells him he’s being used, but he doesn’t switch back again.

What’s going on here? Has Walter convinced him? Or is Martin only convinced Walter won’t take no for an answer? Is he going back to save the world or to get back with Yvonne, or maybe to buy more cassettes for the Walkman?

Alex, per the subtitles, is in the “red-light district of Bonn,” which looks a lot less red-lighty than you’d expect. It’s daytime, so the implication is he slept in the car or drove around all night. Did he get an assignment from the East Germans? He sure looks like a man on a mission. He calls his sister and tells her, “No matter what, I love you.” We don’t hear her end of the conversation but imagine it included, “Dude, where’s my car?” Then we watch him loading a gun. Alex with a gun! This week’s German lesson: Dies ist nicht gut!

Back on the base, Alex’s daddy, General Edel, gets a visitor from a Military Intelligence guy who’s asking a lot of questions about his son. When Edel inquires why, MI Guy says, “Standard procedure.” Edel tells him Alex has been home for a week with a mysterious virus. There’s even a doctor’s note! The MI guy tells Edel that—very infectious virus that could be AIDS or not—he’ll stop by the house to talk to Alex. Edel says, “no problem,” and then he goes home to figure out what’s going on. Rushing home, Edel pushes Ursula out of his way—this time on purpose—and discovers Alex’s room is empty. He traps Ursula against the wall, and punches through the wall. Repeat bitte: Dies ist nicht gut!

Edel returns to the base, where MI Guy has been going through Alex’s things and has found… BOOKS!!! Which, while not strictly forbidden in the West as they are in the East, are still seen as a sign of a diseased mind. He also finds Cosima and Tishbier’s business cards, so he knows that Alex has not only been READING, he’s been hanging out with peaceniks and academics.

No, not that one.

And clones. What? Oh, sorry, different Cosima.

He confronts Edel with these horrific discoveries, and also with the grainy photo that could be Alex going into the East German Mission (and not, as some doofus wrote in last week’s recap, border control). Edel does a terrific poker face, denies that it’s Alex, and tells him he’ll give him a ride over at to the house at five.

D83 edel and MI

Can’t read my, can’t read my, no, he can’t read my poker face

So what’s the game plan? Will Edel pull a Henrik Mayer? Whom can he talk to? Naturally, he turns to his “go to” completely reliable colleague, good soldier Kramer, and assigns him the job of finding Alex and getting him home.

Meantime, Alex has put on a ski mask and gone into a quiet little brothel where powerful government ministers and military folk like to machen die heiße Zeit mit den Prostituierten. After shooting a guy in the hand and tying some people up—not in a fun way—he breaks into a room where it looks like General Jackson is about to do something very nice for a certain leather clad lady. Alex’s big plan is to force Jackson—who recognizes him immediately despite the mask—to make a video confessing to America’s nefarious first strike plot, which Jackson totally denies is for real because why would he blow up Germany when he enjoys living there so much?

Like everything else, Alex isn’t very good at film directing and can’t get the performance he wants out of Jackson, who has trouble reading the cue cards Alex painstakingly hand wrote for him.

But what he really wanted was to direct

But he always wanted to direct

How did Alex know exactly which cathouse the General was likely to be in and when? Did he steal his date book? Did the East Germans tell him? That doesn’t seem very likely, as the East Germans happen to be listening in—BECAUSE SPIES ARE EVERYWHERE. Naturally they have the place bugged because in spy stories men are always trying to impress the ladies they hire to sex them by boasting about the size of their security clearance and then proving it by ejaculating all their unprotected secrets. Lorena is explaining to the Tech Guy that Alex is useless to them. She’s miffed that when Tishbier suggested Alex might want to talk to the East Germans, he forgot to tell him to use the side entrance—the one without the cameras. They sent Alex on his merry way and now they’ll have to clean up this mess so it won’t get laid on them. Fortunately, they have the same “go to” guy as Edel, and Kramer is already on it!

Kramer picks up Martin first and tells him they’ve got to pick up Alex, so they head for the bordello, which is called Lady Lola’s, as in Lola Lola because this show will not miss a good classic film reference.

This one, you classic film luddite.

This one, you classic film Luddite.

When they get there, the phone rings, and Kramer answers. It’s Lorena calling to warn him that the police are on the way, so make it schnell. Unfortunately, just as they reach the room where Jackson is being forced to liebe machen auf die Kamera Baby, Jackson and Alex get into a struggle over the gun, and the innocent by-standing hooker gets shot dead. Kramer gives Jackson the video and instructs everyone to get out before the police arrive. Jackson, Alex, and Martin make it, but Kramer gets shot by the cops. Martin has to be the one to tell Alex to keep moving because it’s a much better alternative to going to prison for the rest of his life.

Alex had dreamed of this moment...

Alex had dreamed of this moment…

You know how there’s been all this AIDS foreshadowing and talk? Turns out one of Tishbier’s boys has the virus. Well of sympathy that he is, Tishbier’s first reaction is, “Oh crap! That means I could have it.” Which also means Alex could, and this is the part of the 1980s that kills the nostalgia.

Back over at East German Spy Central, Walter is continuing to buddy up to Steponov… and possibly planning to depose his boss, Mr. Eye-Glasses, who is not so chill about the Korean Airliner thing. Mayer’s report has finally been decoded. Walter is going over it with the tech guy. The tech guy—who’s read the whole thing—explains it’s a plan in the event of a war, not how to start one, but Walter, barely glancing at it, suggests it’s a “classic first strike” scenario and tells him to leave out the introduction and conclusion when he does the translation, as they’ll only “confuse” their superiors.

"You want me to remove all context? I didn't realize you worked for FOX News. ZING!"

“You want me to remove all context? I didn’t realize you worked for FOX News. ZING!”

Five o’clock. Edel arrives home with the Military Intelligence guy, who dons a surgical mask and gloves because you can’t be too careful. Alex comes down the stairs, and a relieved Edel embraces him. Alex goes into the kitchen to chat with Military Intelligence. Martin is there to return Yvonne’s car. Edel can’t even take in what has or hasn’t happened. Ursula takes the call that Kramer is dead and they’ll be sending back his body. Edel stares out a window and watches Yvonne and Martin making out.

"Say, your dad hasn't mentioned any classified information over the dinner table, has he?"

“Say, your dad hasn’t mentioned any classified information over the dinner table, has he? ‘Cuz that kind of thing really turns me on.”

Let us grieve for Kramer, trusted confidante to General Edel and super cool spy. Who’s going to save Martin’s ass next time he makes a phone call to his girlfriend in East Germany or does some other stupid thing? Who’s going to assure Edel there is nothing odd about Stamm’s record at all even though all this weird shit started after he arrived? Martin’s job just got a whole lot tougher, and even if Alex manages to convince the MI guy that it’s not him in the photo, he’s no Kramer.

I guess this is my last chance to make a Seinfeld reference then.

I guess this is my last chance to make a Seinfeld reference then.

Any prediction how these events are going to be handled? Jackson probably won’t say anything as nobody likes having a dead hooker scandal on their hands, but it’s going to be really awkward next time he runs into Alex on the base. Will the police blame Kramer for the break-in and the hooker’s death? Your thoughts and theories welcome as we head toward the penultimate episode. One clue for you all: the finale title has not been officially announced yet. As all the titles have been NATO maneuvers, what do you think it will be? Hint: it’s totally going to be Able Archer, and if you read yer history, it should be awesome. Spoiler alert: World War III didn’t happen.

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

TV Show: Deutschland 83

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  • Historicat

    Not being a high-falutin’ cable subscriber, I can’t actually watch this but the 80s flashbacks just from reading this are enough to get me back into high school mode (shudder).

    • As someone who was there, lemme tell you they have the soul of the 80s in a way that other 1980s spy show doesn’t come close to.