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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 9, "IHOP"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 9, “IHOP”

Jeffrey Neira/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 9, “IHOP”

Diehard fans of The Americans, particularly those who’ve learned to stop worrying about this fifth season’s increasingly unclear endgame and love its tapestry of emotion-rich character moments, may have cried “Uncle!” not even halfway through “IHOP.” The episode feels less like a continuation of this season’s efforts up to this point than a tangent—a revisiting of loose ends from past seasons. Throughout, there’s a distinct impression that old ghosts are about to be put to rest, but less certain is if anything revealed here will dovetail at any point in the future with Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth’s (Keri Russell) present-day sleuthing. Worse, the episode engages with all that’s unresolved in everyone’s lives almost solely at the level of plot.

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 7, "The Committee on Human Rights"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 7, “The Committee on Human Rights”

Eric Liebowitz/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 7, “The Committee on Human Rights”

Directed by Matthew Rhys, this week’s episode of The Americans, “The Committee on Human Rights,” begins exactly where “Crossbreed” left off. But let me begin at the end, specifically with that haunting image of Gabriel (Frank Langella) and Philip (Rhys) seated across from one another inside the former’s apartment. Throughout this evocatively staged sequence that serves as a tribute to Gabriel’s work throughout the years in trying to keep Philip and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) well informed and grounded, my eye kept gravitating to a patch of white unpainted wall near Gabriel’s head. And my mind went to Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Pulse, a film in which people leave behind splotchy black stains—redolent of the blast shadows of Hiroshima victims—on walls when they die, or simply go missing. That blackness is a symbol of all that’s inexplicable about our lives, just as the swath of unpainted wall here represents the one thing that Gabriel doesn’t come clean about throughout a profound unloading of his conscience: that he kept Mischa away from Philip.

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 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.