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The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 8, "Immersion"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 8, "Immersion"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 8, "Immersion"

Another week, another episode of The Americans that's notable for its pervasive lack of hurry. Philip (Matthew Rhys) slowly drives home from his meeting with Gabriel, the camera hanging back to give us one of the widest-ever views to date of the exterior of the Jennings home, and fills Elizabeth (Keri Russell) in about their now-former handler's thoughts on Renee and Paige (Holly Taylor). They speak of Gabriel almost as if he's a ghost, and with an understanding that they will one day become every bit as haunted as he was when he walked out of the safe house for what was probably the last time. Unsurprisingly, then, they put up walls when they go to meet Claudia (Margo Martindale) and discuss their latest plan of attack, because to stave off a human connection with their new handler is to stand back from that precipice of moral oblivion they've been inching toward for so long.

The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 6, "Crossbreed"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 6, "Crossbreed"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 6, "Crossbreed"

Can you imagine The Americans without Frank Langella's Gabriel, who's emerged this season as the shoulder angel to Margo Martindale's devil-like Claudia? This much is clear: Levity will be in shorter supply. In the opening of this week's episode, “Crossbreed,” Elizabeth (Keri Russell) informs Gabriel of her almost certain belief that Alexei Morozov is trying to feed the world's hungry, to which he replies: “Just like Miss America.” Gabriel, in the moment, seems completely unperturbed by the news, concerned less with the next stage of Elizabeth's sleuthing than he is with Philip's (Matthew Rhys) mental well-being in the wake of the lab director's death. Gabriel may make room here and there for a good joke, but like the series itself for the last few episodes, he's obviously burdened by the emotional collateral damage caused by spywork. “The same as me, it's upsetting,” Elizabeth tells her handler after he asks her about Philip, and by the end of this finely detailed episode, she arrives at a place where those words come to actually feel true.

The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 5, “Lotus 1-2-3”

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 5, “Lotus 1-2-3”

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 5, “Lotus 1-2-3”

In my “What's the Matter with Kansas?” recap, I refrained from describing one important yuk that played out in the Jennings' kitchen that receives a very pointed rejoinder in “Lotus 1-2-3,” tonight's episode of The Americans. Last week, upon sensing that Henry (Keidrich Sellati) was getting sassy with her, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) admonished him: “Don't be smart, Henry.” To which a frazzled Henry blurted out: “I'm not!” This week, in a meeting with Henry's math teacher (Don Guillory), Elizabeth and Philip (Matthew Rhys) learn that their son is so good at math that his school is considering placing him in Algebra II. The parents' joy is the son's sadness in a subsequent scene, which very casually brings to the fore how Elizabeth and Philip's grooming of Paige (Holly Taylor) into a next-generation spy has unconsciously done a number on Henry, a wallflower of his parents' creation who deflects the praise heaped on him by retreating into the world of his video game.

The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 4, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 4, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”

Patrick Harbron/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 4, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”

Funny isn't something that The Americans often does, and “What's the Matter with Kansas?” is unique in the canon of the series for the sterling self-reflexivity of its sense of humor. The episode opens with Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) receiving an update from their supervisor, Gabriel (Frank Langella), about what their sleuthing in the Oklahoma science lab's rolodex uncovered. After being assigned two new targets who are, coincidentally, both single, husband and wife exchange looks, no doubt sensing the potential long game they'll have to play. It's clear that neither Philip nor Elizabeth care to bring another Martha or Gregory into their lives, but above all else, they have a lot on their plates right now, and as Elizabeth goes down the list of all their—and in turn the show's—outstanding commitments, she sounds like she's trying to get out of brunch plans with someone she disconnected from previously, and with good reason.

The Americans Recap Season 4, Episode 13, "Persona Non Grata"

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The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, "Persona Non Grata"

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The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, "Persona Non Grata"

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the sinner's fate is sealed. To be blotted out of the Book of Life, in scripture's cruel parlance, is to be culled from the ranks of the righteous, and it's this eternal exile to which Leonard Cohen turns in his 1974 track “Who by Fire.” The spare, tragic ballad, inspired by Jewish tradition, but attuned to fears of a more modern sort, forms the hardened heart of The Americans's plaintive season finale, rising on the soundtrack as Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) face an expulsion of their own. “Persona Non Grata,” in which Gabriel (Frank Langella) urges his agents to flee the country, forces these unwelcome guests in Cold War America to confront the question that defines the immigrant experience: At what point is the place from whence we came no longer the place we call “home”?

The Americans Recap Season 4, Episode 11, "Dinner for Seven"

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The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 11, "Dinner for Seven"

Eric Liebowitz/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 11, "Dinner for Seven"

Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) are no strangers to chance, and The Americans often generates suspense by thrusting them into the chaos created by others: Paige (Holly Taylor) revealing her parents' secret to Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin), Martha escaping from the KGB's safe house, Alice (Suzy Jane Hunt) accusing the spies of a hand in her husband's disappearance. But tonight's episode, perhaps because it scuttles narrative fireworks in favor of social cues, seems to press the issue further, raising the question of fate. Is there method in this madness? Is there meaning?

The Americans Recap Season 3, Episode 12, "I Am Abassin Zadran"

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The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 12, "I Am Abassin Zadran"
The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 12, "I Am Abassin Zadran"

After weeks of preparations, including a tap on the hotel switchboard, tonight's episode of The Americans witnesses Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) intercept one of the three mujahedeen commanders brought to the United States to discuss the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Posing as CIA officers, Philip and Elizabeth propose that the man (George Georgiou) betray his compatriots to secure a more favorable agreement, but it's the freedom fighter wary of both Soviet and American motives who sets the consequences of the Cold War in starkest relief. “I am Abassin Zadran,” he says, describing his brutal killing of young Soviet soldiers, probably no older than Philip's long lost son. “I am the one who cuts the throats of the communists.”

The Americans Recap Season 3, Episode 10, "Stingers"

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The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 10, "Stingers"
The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 10, "Stingers"

“We go to work, we hold our breath,” Philip (Matthew Rhys) counsels Elizabeth (Keri Russell) in tonight's episode of The Americans, and though he's referring to the emotional ambush that arrives midway through “Stingers,” he might well be describing the series itself. To watch The Americans is always to be waiting, much like the characters, for the other shoe to drop, and yet each episode depicts such a profusion of new developments that it becomes possible to lose sight of the long game. Rather ingeniously, then, “Stingers” deploys the recent distractions of mail robots and anti-apartheid agitators to surprise the viewer as surely as Paige (Holly Taylor) surprises her parents: When the truth comes out, it does so without warning, a reminder of the consequences the characters face when they let their attention drift.

The Americans Recap Season 3, Episode 6, "Born Again"

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The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 6, "Born Again"

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The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 6, "Born Again"

Tonight's episode of The Americans is quieter than usual, with the most suspenseful sequence sandwiched into the space between a teenager's bedroom and her father's home office, but “Born Again” carries the weight of the truth through its series of tremulous encounters. Though cloaked in the familiar guise of dissimulation, used to pry a strategic advantage from each terse exchange, the admission, the confession, and the honest assessment all emerge here as singularly effective modes of persuasion, as if to suggest the limits of lying. “When we immerse ourselves in these baptismal waters, we symbolically allow God's grace and forgiveness to wash over us,” Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin) says as Paige (Holly Taylor) prepares for her new birth in Christ, and “Born Again” is indeed a turning point. Whether the characters will turn further toward truth or retreat into fiction remains to be seen, but the moment of decision is upon them.