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The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 13, “The Soviet Division”

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 13, “The Soviet Division”

Patrick Harbron/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 13, “The Soviet Division”

Unsurprisingly, just about the only thing The Americans puts to rest by the end of its season-five finale episode, “The Soviet Division,” is the matter of whether Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) are going to return to their Mother Russia. Actually, make that two. Before the episode even offers us a definitive answer to the biggest question hanging over the series this season, it dares to put another project on Philip and Elizabeth’s already busy plates: to figure out whether there’s anything behind that curious look that the C.I.A. bodyguard, Thomas (Clarke Thorell), who stands watch outside the Morozov home directs at Philip as Pasha (Zack Gafin) is pushed into an ambulance. There isn’t, and the swiftness with which Philip and Elizabeth get their answer feels like a mercy after a season’s worth of trials and tribulations marked primarily by their almost punishing sense of uncertainty.

The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 12, "The World Council of Churches"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 12, “The World Council of Churches”

Patrick Harbron/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 12, “The World Council of Churches”

Speculating what a television show is going to do next is a dangerous enterprise, especially for those who don’t like being wrong. I’ve recapped exactly two TV shows, The Walking Dead and The Americans, both works of narrative, and as such ones that turn on the expectation of what will happen next. But that’s all that the former turned on during the height of the whole “Is Glenn Dead?” business, meaning it was easy to predict how that plot arc was going to resolve itself given how everything that happened in the series was framed in relation to Glenn and his absence. The Americans, conversely, is the rolling stone that gathers no moss. It’s put so many cards on the table throughout its fifth season, many with no clear relationship to one another, that to predict where any of the characters will end up is a fool’s errand.

The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 11, "Dyatkovo"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 11, “Dyatkovo”

Patrick Harbron/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 11, “Dyatkovo”

Did I underestimate Paige last week? At the end of “Darkroom,” after handing her camera to her parents so they could process the photographs she took of Pastor Tim’s diary, it was as if she was showing them the proof of his hysteria—the essence of everything she wants to fight against. But in retrospect, there was enough confusion in the teenager’s face to suggest that Philip (Matthew Rhys), whose eyes were glued to the photographs, may be on to something when he tells Elizabeth (Keri Russell) in tonight’s episode of The Americans, “Dyatkovo,” that “maybe she wanted to see us read them right in front of her.” Paige gave her parents the permission to send Pastor Tim away, while at the same time instilling in them a sense of guilt. Does she want them to know that she thinks they’re actually hurting her?

The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 10, "Darkroom"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “Darkroom”

Patrick Harbron/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “Darkroom”

Last week I bemoaned the absence of Paige (Holly Taylor) from “IHOP.” But in tonight’s episode of The Americans, “Darkroom,” what happened during that absence is purposefully charted as a governing principle. Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) arrive home from a day of spywork and find their daughter obsessively mopping the kitchen floor. She reveals to them that she pried again into Pastor Tim’s (Kelly AuCoin) diary, learning that he thinks she’s screwed up in the head. What follows is a negotiation that serves, like most things in this series, dual purposes: a loving father and mother talking their daughter off the ledge with assurances that they know her better than anyone else, and Russian spies trying to communicate to a potential recruit that allegiance to the Soviet Union is an imperative.

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

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 8, “Immersion”

Jeffrey Neira/FX

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”

Patrick Harbron/FX

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”

Eric Liebowitz/FX

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 1, "Amber Waves"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 1, “Amber Waves”

Patrick Harbron/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 1, “Amber Waves”

The season-five premiere of The Americans is an insant reminder that the series is an edifice brilliantly constructed of contrasts. “Amber Waves” begins with the setting up of the pieces of Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings’s (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) latest spy game, as a young cohort, Tuan (Ivan Mok), pretending to be their adopted son ingratiates himself with a Russian-born teen, Pasha Morozov (Zack Gafin), at school. Blaring on the soundtrack is Devo’s “That’s Good,” anthemically attesting to the ease with which Tuan exploits his own difference to bait Pasha: “Everybody wants a good thing/Everybody ain’t it true that/Everybody’s looking for the same thing.”

The Americans Recap Season 4, Episode 8, "The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears"

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The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 8, “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears”

Patrick Harbron/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 8, “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears”

Behind the blue curtain, the lady vanishes—Lady Liberty, that is. As David Copperfield explains in the TV special that gives tonight’s episode of The Americans its title, the illusion is meant to remind viewers to cherish their rights and freedoms, to appreciate the opportunities of which their immigrant ancestors dreamed. It is, as Elizabeth (Keri Russell) might say, “very American”: a manipulation, an elaborate trick, mistaking the profit motive for much higher ideals. In “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears,” after all, another lady vanishes, and in her wake what might have seemed like liberty turns out to be a prison, one of the characters’ own design.

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 C.I.A. 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.”