May 5, 2018
Deutschland 83: The Kid(ney)s Are All Right (S1:E5)
What would you do after your fake-girlfriend gets killed in front of you and it’s sort of your fault and you have to bury her? Would you maybe go to Brussels and make sure her cats don’t starve?
Martin deals with this unusual situation by visiting Yvonne—a hotter girl who is not dead. They go clubbing. He gets wasted, dances (possibly naked) to Bonnie Tyler—NOT cool even in 1983—and sleeps with Yvonne. We get a peek at the two of them having die sexy-Zeiten and enjoying some intimate kissen sprach afterwards. Rarely has television been this good at conveying that special post-coital intensity that signals EPIC true liebe.
While Martin’s busy getting busy with Yvonne, back home in the East his knocked-up girlfriend Annett is not having such a good time. She’s still totally freaked after discovering she’s in a house with…BOOKS! Books that might give her IDEAS!
And if that’s not bad enough, she finds Ingrid unconscious and probably dying.
Tishbier, still in bed with Alex, gets a phone call and sneaks away. He shows up in the hallway of the commune and catches Martin, who’s just stepping out for some baked goods, and tells him he’s ordered to return to East Berlin. Given this is supposed to be top secret spy stuff, their VERY LOUD conversation about Linda’s death and Martin’s mission seems kind of risky. Martin wants out of the spy game, but Tishbier says that payday has arrived early: it’s time for his mother’s kidney transplant. As in today. In fact, he better get there by five o’clock because he’s the donor.
Tishbier also drops the information that Annett is with child—something Martin might not have known previously—and lets Martin know that Kramer will cover for him on the base. Martin runs out, and unless he ran back off camera with the baked goods to grab his stuff, we might have a continuity issue because he has a white duffle bag when he’s off the train.
Over in East Germany, Stasi’s top brass is meeting with Steponov, one of their KGB overlords, who’s telling them how Reagan is a dangerous madman intent on winning a nuclear war. Schweppenstette, the behind-the-scenes guy what broke Martin’s fingers in the pilot, subtly suggests that Reagan is a posturing actor and the KGB has too much intelligence to fall for his schtick. Steponov misunderstands him and agrees that KGB intelligence will indeed save the world, then explains that the new strategy will involve all the agents Lorena (whose cover by the way is Cultural Attaché in Bonn) has been running in the west, including Kramer (Lizard), Tishbier (Clever), and of course Kolibri (Martin).
The great plan, mapped out by none other than Yuri Andropov (the new old guy in charge of the Soviet Union and former head of the KGB), will anticipate NATO’s every move. The Germans try not to roll their eyes as a Russian lectures them about efficiency.
Martin is on a train, now sitting across from Nina, who doesn’t shoot him in the head but totally would if ordered to. She gives him a black shoulder bag and orders to deliver some of the contents after he gets to West Berlin before he crosses over to the East.
Ursula, who last week got accidentally hit in the face by her husband when she got between him and their son Alex, is not feeling too pleased with the General, who calls to yell into the phone that Alex is making an ass of him and appears to be AWOL. Turns out Ursula has a big fat shiner from the scuffle. She takes one of Edel’s beloved tropical fish and drops it on the floor. Maybe she’ll cook it up and serve it to him like Medea.
Alex is still hanging out in Tishbier’s bed. When Tishbier comes back, they kiss, but the romantic good times aren’t long-lived. When Alex tells Tishbier he wants to leave the army and fight the power with him, Tishbier tells him he can do more good on the inside. Alex takes this as “I’m not that into you” and storms off. Once outside, he makes a lot of expressions that often signal stomach issues and touches his hair many times. Please give this boy a Valium! Or acting lessons. Walter Groth (who plays Schweppenstette) could probably teach him a thing or two about how less can be more and better.
Speaking of Schweppenstette, he’s still hanging with Steponov, who’s too dumb to notice how condescending he’s being. Schweppenstette reports on the progress decoding Henrik Mayer’s report, but the code changed so it will take them a while to finish it. Steponov suggests that when they do, the conclusion needs to support the Soviet analysis because in Soviet Union you don’t let conclusion dictate strategy, you dictate conclusion!
Ursula, dressed in a black and white 1980s power dress with shoulder pads and walking with a military gate indicating several generations of army on her side of the family, stops by her husband’s office to drop off a forged doctor’s note for Alex. She tells the secretary, Mrs. Netz, that Alex has a virus. It doesn’t look good and he’s staying home. Mrs. Netz’s eyes go wide with terror. Once Ursula leaves, Netz puts the note in a drawer and takes out some hand sanitizer—which they didn’t really have in the 1980s, but we’ll let that go because if there were any early adapters out there, they would have been Germans. Turns out she’s been reading a story in Der Spiegel about AIDS, which at the time some people thought you could get by being anywhere in the vicinity of anyone who’d been in the vicinity of someone with AIDS, and we were all going to get it and die if we didn’t get nuclear apocalypsed first. Good times.
Martin has gotten through customs on the train and is now in West Berlin. For those of you who’ve never studied geography or history (That would be you, America!), the western part of the city of Berlin was controlled by and part of West Germany, even though the eastern part was controlled by East Germany and all of Berlin was geographically in East Germany. So West Germans had to pass through East Germany to get there, and East Germans couldn’t get in. Got that?
On the street, the contact, a man dressed to blend in with a baseball cap covering his forehead—which unless you’re in a ballpark can only mean one thing on television, and that thing is no goodnik—comes up to Martin and asks for some coffee. He takes the two red cans and goes off. Martin walks away, but a few seconds later there’s a big explosion behind him. He turns and sees several floors of a building gone, and the injured struggling. Martin sees the cap-man running away, drops BOTH the white duffel and the black shoulder bag, and runs after him, following him down into the bowels of the metro, where he catches him and hits him. The man hits back, but then Martin grabs him and knocks him out or maybe kills him before he can plant the second red can, which Martin grabs and opens. It’s a detonator, and he tears it apart.
Alex, having fled Tishbier’s, drops by the commune to crash. Yvonne warns him to behave, but it’s beyond his capacity. While helping out in the kitchen, he argues that love is not the answer; it’s bullshit and won’t save anyone from the mushroom cloud about to rain down on them. Then he runs out and Yvonne runs after him, gives him a hug and the keys to her car to better run away from the army. Maybe she should have gotten him to meditate first.
Edel comes home and doesn’t notice that Ursula isn’t speaking to him. Then again, he doesn’t notice that a crapload of odd events have occurred since his new aide de camp arrived. He discovers the fish and starts yelling.
Thomas comes to the hospital to see Ingrid. He tells Annett, who’s also there, he loves her and confesses he was using Ingrid’s car for a mobile library of forbidden books. Annett is upset because everyone knows that the government forbids depressing literature to keep people happy, and maybe they have a point. Do you know anyone who reads those things and isn’t a miserable misanthrope?
Back over at Stasi HQ, Schweppenstette and Steponov are sitting down to lunch. Schweppenstette has to explain Worcester sauce to his Soviet counterpart who probably survives on a diet of vodka and potatoes. Another Stasi bigshot tells them about the explosion—which is a thing that really happened in real life—and that the notorious terrorist, Carlos the Jackal, was probably behind it. Schweppenstette remarks that Carlos had been in East Germany, and when they let him go, they gave him back his bombs but kept his detonators. The other big shot is worried that the West will now retaliate, but Schweppenstette and Steponov bond over taking it lightly. They’ll never trace it to the East, and they like keeping the West “unsettled.” They invite the other Stasi bigshot to sit down and enjoy the Worcester sauce.
Unlike on a certain American spy series that posits the civil rights movement and opposition to supporting torture in Central America were Soviet-sponsored plots, the Maison de France bombing was a real thing for which Carlos took credit and the Stasi was likely involved.
Over at the hospital, they’re running out of time and prepping Ingrid for surgery even though they’re still waiting for Martin, who finally arrives and mysteriously once again has the black shoulder bag but not the white duffel. Looks like she’ll make it!
Annett missed Martin’s entrance, having gotten a ride home in Ingrid’s car with Thomas. Why did she leave if there was a chance of Martin’s coming there and with Ingrid’s condition being so uncertain? (This feels like a bigger plot hole than the mystery of Martin’s luggage.) Yes, Lorena sort of insisted, and Annett follows orders, but still? Did she really think Martin would be a no show?
Thomas again professes his devotion and asks her to give him a chance, but she looks like she’s got other things in mind. He walks off and she checks the trunk, which is loaded with all sorts of corrupting influences, by which I mean books. What were you thinking? Do you think about your mother with that mind?
With the Phil Collins song In the Air Tonight in the background (used in the 1983 film Risky Business and in 1984 on Miami Vice), she heads over to Schweppenstette’s office. Schweppenstette, who was about to leave, has already put on his hat. It’s an anachronistic hat for 1983, or maybe a too hipsterish one, like the kind they wore in some New York arthouse movie, but it makes him look Heisenberg sinister, and that works. She puts a copy of 1984 in front of him and says she’ll tell him where there’s more like that if he’ll give Martin a message.
Alex has driven to West Berlin. He leaves the car and obscures his face with a hoody, which is a good thing because there are cameras clicking away as he approaches the East German border control. He walks in and tells them he’s in the West German army and there to offer his services. They tell him someone will talk to him in a minute. Can’t hardly wait ‘til next week to see who it’ll be!
Looks like Martin was ready to ditch the spy biz until Tishbier brought up his mom. Wonder if they’ll use her involvement in the library scheme to pull him back in? Thoughts? Theories?