If last week’s episode felt like it was sucking the air out of your lungs as you waited for a shoe to drop, the penultimate episode of The Americans, “Jennings, Elizabeth,” is definitely that shoe dropping and picking up pace as it falls. Spoiler: no chance you’ll catch your breath this week.
Before we dive in, let’s address that in his second-to-last chance to be on-screen, Henry (Keidrich Sellati) was nowhere. One more week left and we’ll be able to officially put him on that Bobby Draper list of characters shows stuck themselves with and then didn’t know how to get rid of. Good luck making onto the list, Henry!
At the end of last week’s episode, Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) reunited in purpose. She had come around to his way of seeing the Gorbachev situation and asked him to get a message to Oleg (Costa Ronin) confirming all of Arkady’s suspicions. Then she left to make sure that nobody carried out the hit on Nesterenko (Alex Feldman) that she’d decided was wrong, and she asked Philip to take her place responding to a summons from Father Andrei (Konstantin Lavysh). Tonight we picked up with Elizabeth surveilling Nesterenko, chain-smoking and reminiscing about an early espionage experience in Russia.
When she was a trainee, out on a nighttime practice mission, she came across the scene of a fatal accident between a motorcyclist and a mounted policeman. The policeman was already dead, his horse was suffering and the injured motorcyclist noticed her and begged for help. She scurried away, taking in the scene without offering any assistance. Later, she told her supervisor about it and that she’d tried to follow the rules about not deviating from her mission. Her supervisor reprimanded her for leaving a fellow comrade dying in the street in Moscow. It’s clear that this is the advice she’s striving to follow now with Nesterenko– not leaving a fellow comrade vulnerable to death.
Sure enough, she spots a woman making a beeline for Nesterenko on the street and IDs her as an agent. She intercepts and silently shoots the woman in the street, in broad daylight, and then makes a smooth escape as Nesterenko and his companions step back from the dying woman, whose wig has fallen off and whose concealed gun has been exposed.
Elizabeth goes to the safe house then, where she DOES NOT KILL Claudia (Margo Martindale)! Instead, she tells her that Nesterenko is alive and that she’s both stopped the assassination and told Gorbachev’s people about the plot against him. Icy Claudia shames her for having failed so egregiously in this mission that it has negated the value of any good she’s ever done. Elizabeth tells Claudia that if she knew her at all, she would never have lied to her. When Elizabeth leaves, she understands that she has just burned her bridge to The Center, and potentially put some kind of target on her own back.
She goes home, where she’s surprised by an unscheduled visit from Paige (Holly Taylor). Paige has seen her intern friend, and he’s told her a pretty disturbing story about a fellow intern who got too drunk at a party and weepingly told everyone about an older woman he’d slept with who had ruined his life. Of course this was Jackson (Austin Abrams), and now he’s quitting Washington and going home. Paige asks Elizabeth point-blank if she’s the older woman.
Elizabeth, who just made a big scene to Claudia about being honest, looks Paige in the eye and swears that it wasn’t her. They go back and forth on the point, with Elizabeth standing firm in her story… until Paige tells her that she’s always known when Elizabeth was lying to her and that she knows she’s doing it now. Then Paige asks if her dad knows that he married a whore.
At this, something inside Elizabeth cracks. She turns almost purple, with veins pulsing in her forehead as she screams that she grew up differently than Paige, with people dying all around her, and that she would do anything to make sure that kind of thing never happened in her country again. She dismisses sex as meaningless, and makes a point that Philip has been using it just as strategically as she has.
Paige stiffens and walks out.
While all of this drama is unfolding for Elizabeth, she has no idea how much she has been moving from a frying pan into a fire. Stan (Noah Emmerich) has latched on to his theory about the Jennings being Russian spies– enough so that he looks Philip, Elizabeth and their business up in the FBI’s Automated Case Support (ACS) system, drops in unexpectedly at their travel agency to check things out, calls Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin) in Buenos Aires to ask if he should know anything about them and brings Agent Aderholt (Brandon J. Dirden) in on his suspicions.
It turns out that he remembers the Jennings owned the kind of car that was used in a case involving Illegals when he first came to DC, and that although he found cigarette butts in the Jennings’ back yard after Curtis told him the female spy had beautiful hair and chain-smoked, he’s never seen Elizabeth smoking. Aderholt dismisses the theory, but Stan is carrying a little photo of Philip and Elizabeth in his coat pocket now and he’s pulling it out to show anyone he questions.
This includes Oleg, whom the FBI picks up moments after he collects the dead drop from Philip that contains Elizabeth’s message. Meaning that Oleg is in jeopardy of serious prison time, and that Elizabeth hasn’t actually warned anyone on Gorbachev’s team after all.
Oleg refuses to talk when being interrogated by Stan in a room with a one-way mirror, but he gives him a meaningful look that communicates that he’ll talk to him privately. Stan visits him in his cell later, and Oleg admits that he’s in the U.S. purposefully, and that his purpose is peace. He tells Stan that if the message he collected doesn’t get translated and delivered, Gorbachev and peace are in danger from rogues in the KGB.
Stan doesn’t care at all about Gorbachev and tries to appeal to Oleg’s love for his family in an effort to get him to reveal the identities of the Illegals. He shows him the photo of the Jennings, and Oleg remains impassive. Then Oleg breaks down for Stan how Gorbachev and peace are the best thing for his family, and that protecting what’s happening at The Summit is so important that it warranted his risking everything by coming.
Oleg isn’t the only one in the FBI’s crosshairs. They are also interrogating a Russian Orthodox Priest who sings like a bird about how some of his colleagues serve the government back home. He names Father Andrei specifically, who is already on their radar and is meeting with Philip in a park that day.
It turns out that all Andrei wanted to tell Elizabeth in the meeting Philip attended on her behalf was that the FBI was talking to priests. When Philip hears this, he tenses into hyper alertness and tells Andrei to buy a plane ticket home right away. Then he makes as calm an exit from the park as he can, breaking into a marvelous sprint as soon as he’s clear of pedestrian traffic.
The moment Philip starts running, two FBI agents reveal themselves by giving chase. He gets out of sight and changes enough of his outfit to become less recognizable, then ducks into a cab and loses them. He doesn’t know what they’ve seen or heard, though, so he can’t go home.
Philip calls Elizabeth from a payphone, interrupting her nervous chain-smoking in the dining room after her blowup at Paige. He says pointedly that things are “topsy turvy” at the office and he won’t be home for dinner. She looks stricken, understanding the message he’s giving her.
She hangs up, bolts for the laundry room, pulls the dryer away from the wall and extracts a “go bag.” She opens the secret compartment behind the fuse box and grabs IDs, piles of currency, license plates and their real wedding rings. She tidies the room, closes the bag, and with one, last look, she is gone.
- No Renee (Laurie Holden) in this episode, but Stan and Aderholt discuss her upcoming job interview casually. I will be SO angry if she isn’t identified as a spy in the final episode.
- Is there actually a chance the Jennings will escape? Unless they make the mistake of going to any safe house or garage that the FBI is watching, maybe!
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