The sensation of watching these last episodes of The Americans is evocative of other stressful situations where you’re waiting for a shoe to drop. The tension is mounting, but even in “The Summit,” the third-to-last episode, the key players are all still alive at the end. 

RELATED: Re-read last week’s recap to refresh your memory before diving in!

Last week we closed with Philip (Matthew Rhys) sitting alone in the dining room with an unreadable expression on his face. As this episode opens we learn that he’s been waiting up for Elizabeth (Keri Russell) so he can tell her everything.

She is so angry when she learns that he’s been informing on her to someone from home, but he insists that he just wants her to think about what she’s being asked to do while she wears a cyanide capsule around her neck. He implores her to recognize that while they’re just following orders, the people who command them aren’t the ones who actually do horrific things like decapitating corpses in parking garages– that’s all them, and it’s on them if anything goes awry. 

Although Elizabeth walks out in a rage, the message gets through. The first sign of this is when she meets with Claudia (Margo Martindale) and Paige (Holly Taylor) the next day to listen to Gorbachev talk on TV about the treaties he’s signing with the U.S. When Elizabeth asks Paige to give her some time alone with Claudia, it seems like she might be about to rat Philip out to The Center, but instead she delivers a business-as-usual message about a meeting the Soviet negotiator Nesterenko (Alex Feldman) will be having with a room full of Americans. She plans to sneak a listening device in with her mark Glenn Haskard (Scott Cohen). No mention of Philip at all. 

Her plans change when she gets to the Haskard residence for her next nursing shift and discovers  Erica (Miriam Shor, earning her dang Emmy) laboring to breathe and Glenn in a state of panic. He’s given Erica all of the morphine he’s saved, but as “Stephanie” predicted, it didn’t kill her. Erica sounds like she’s death rattling, but she’s sounded like that for a day so far. He tells Elizabeth that he called in to work and told them that he wasn’t coming anymore, that he’d spent too much time in meetings already while his wife was dying.

Elizabeth assesses the situation and tells him to say goodbye and then leave. He kisses his wife, then steps out. Elizabeth uses a paintbrush to gag Erica, then clamps her mouth shut on the green bile that erupts from it and pinches her nose closed. Erica fights back for a minute, then succumbs to aspirating vomit in a way that should read as natural causes to anyone who inspects her. 

Glenn is so grateful that he insists Stephanie take one of Erica’s haunting paintings. Elizabeth’s eyes fall on a giant one of an old woman looking at the viewer through a rain-soaked window, and she is gifted it. 

She transports the painting to her secret garage in Stephanie’s station wagon, then regards it thoughtfully for a while once she’s back in her Elizabeth clothes. She removes all of the staples securing the canvas to its frame, and instead of rolling it to take home, she pulls out her lighter and moves as though she’s going to set it on fire. 

As a spy, she absolutely can’t take this intense and extremely noticeable giant painting back to her undercover identity’s house in the suburbs. As a thinking woman, influenced by Philip’s plea, she hesitates. 

She makes a decision and puts her lighter away, rolls the painting and folds it (ouch) and then secrets it behind a vent. However, her training takes hold, and she retrieves it and goes ahead with the burning, looking on as the woman’s face disappears. 

Because Haskard has pulled out of the job that would put him in the room with Nesterenko for the meeting she needs to overhear, Elizabeth wrangles her new recruit, 21-year-old intern Jackson Barber (Austin Abrams), into unwittingly placing the listening device in the meeting room. 

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Jackson falls easily enough for the glamorous (fake) management training spot Elizabeth’s alter-ego “Wendy” offers him, and for the night of passion she follows that with, and he’s eager to help by leaving something for “her friend” in the room in question. He catches her in a lie when he retrieves the box for her at the end of the day, though, and examines its contents, finding the listening device. 

When Wendy collects Jackson and the box in her Mercedes, he’s visibly shaken. She drives into an alley to ask him what’s wrong, and he tells her what he’s found and that it’s illegal. He tries to leave the car, and she grabs his arm and coldly tells him to get back in. Then, this woman who has racked up at least one corpse per episode all season, watches his eyes filling with tears and instead of killing him tells him to leave Washington and never say anything about what’s happened between them. 

Elizabeth listens to the recording Jackson helped her secure, and it’s clear that Nesterenko is completely on the up-and-up as a negotiator. He isn’t doing the nefarious things Claudia has had her looking out for. He’s actively working to broker peace between Russia and the United States. He’s a loyal Russian patriot. 

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She delivers the recording to Claudia, who tells her that she needs to take care of him right away. Once again, Elizabeth thinks about what she’s being asked to do. She dons a disguise that night and approaches Nesterenko, armed with a discreet gun concealed in a newspaper, but when she sees him happily engaged in conversation with men he’s negotiating peace with, she walks past without pulling the trigger. 

Instead of killing Nesterenko without details, she meets Claudia at their safe house to demand a reason. Claudia tries to dodge, but ultimately admits that the same people who talked to Elizabeth in Mexico have decided to frame Nesterenko for dealing Russian military secrets to the United States on Gorbachev’s orders so they can depose the President. Elizabeth digests the fact that she’s been being used to set up the leader of the Soviet Party and refuses to carry out the hit. Claudia seems to accept this, but warns Elizabeth not to throw her career away by saying anything. 

If the fact that Claudia escaped that scene alive doesn’t confirm that Philip’s message hit home, the fact that Elizabeth goes straight to him to ask him to pass everything she’s just learned to his contact does. She leaves him to deal with an incoming message from Father Andrei (Konstantin Lavysh), whom we know the FBI is looking at, and goes out to watch over Nesterenko. 

RELATED: Read my interview with Americans music supervisor Amanda Krieg Thomas!

It’s a good thing that Philip and Elizabeth are on the same team again at the end of the episode, because he looks so dire before that that it seemed he might be preparing for Elizabeth to kill him. He tries calling Henry (Keidrich Sellati) at school, but he can’t reach him. He goes to visit laid-off Stavos (Anthony Arkin), begging for some understanding of why he had to let him go, and instead learns that Stavos has been deliberately protecting him and Elizabeth by not reporting them for what goes on in the travel agency’s back room. He tries on a suit in a fancy store with an expression that suggests he’s picking something out for his burial. Then he puts on a disguise and goes to a video store to rent a Russian movie, probably the first he’s seen in 20 years. What a relief to find out that Elizabeth is not gunning for him after all. 

Unfortunately, the FBI is. 

Stan (Noah Emmerich) is increasingly suspicious. Agent Aderholt (Brandon J. Dirden) has finally got the sketches from Chicago, and the FBI does feel like this couple might be the one they’ve been chasing for a decade, but there’s no way for them to know for sure.

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Stan feels like he knows, though. He digs out photo albums to find a picture of Elizabeth that he can show to Curtis (Curtis Lyons), an old friend of Gregory’s whom Stan let slide on a treason rap back in season one. Curtis can’t identify Elizabeth as Gregory’s girlfriend with certainty, but he does recall that she smoked like a chimney, which makes a lightbulb go off for Stan. 

At bedtime, Renee (Laurie Holden) is happily ready to snuggle after receiving an offer of a job interview from the FBI’s personnel department, but Stan just wants to stare out the window at “the moon,” a.k.a. Philip and Elizabeth’s house. 

Keep up with my season six recaps here!

Theories:

  • The only way I see for the Jennings to survive is if Renee is either outed as a spy in a way that discredits Stan, or if she kills Stan when she discovers he’s on to Philip and Elizabeth. 
  • Elizabeth has got to kill Claudia. I’m afraid that it will be in retaliation for Claudia killing Paige. 

No notable musical placements in this episode, but some masterful use of silence in the scene where Philip confesses everything to Elizabeth!

 

Leona Laurie