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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”

Ali Paige Goldstein/Lionsgate Television/AMC

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 9, "The Day After"

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The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 9, “The Day After”

FX

The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 9, “The Day After”

It seems nigh impossible now, but when ABC aired The Day After on November 20, 1983, it attracted more than 100 million viewers—including, in tonight’s episode of The Americans, the Jennings family. Imagining the apocalyptic consequences of a nuclear conflict between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries, director Nicholas Meyer’s TV movie premiered at a moment of near-crisis in the late Cold War, yet FX’s sterling drama isn’t content simply to suggest the heightened geopolitical stakes. For a series in which the “evil empire,” the Strategic Defense Initiative, The Today Show, and David Copperfield come to the characters via vacuum tubes and radio waves, “The Day After” is also, fittingly enough, a tribute to the power of television: the foremost medium through which we enjoy, or endure, the experience of being alone together.

The Americans Recap Season 4, Episode 5, "Clark’s Place"

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The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 5, “Clark’s Place”

FX

The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 5, “Clark’s Place”

The song that concludes tonight’s blistering episode of The Americans is “Under Pressure,” but the force at work in “Clark’s Place” might be more aptly described as separation anxiety. Even Elizabeth (Keri Russell), relating her fictional tale of a troubled upbringing to Young Hee (Ruthie Ann Miles), draws on this organizing principle, discussing a mother’s abandonment and a father’s depression: It’s as if the growing gulfs and unbridgeable distances that the episode depicts are an atmospheric condition, blowing in with the cloud of suspicion that now hangs over Martha (Alison Wright). And while the pressure described in Queen and David Bowie’s 1981 hit eventually pushes Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth into each other’s arms, the episode’s overall effect is to suggest an unraveling. “Sat on a fence, but it don’t work,” the lyrics warn, as The Americans’s many compromises and détentes seem poised to crumble. “Keep coming up with love, but it’s so slashed and torn.”

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.”

The Americans Recap Season 3, Episode 8, "Divestment"

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The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 8, “Divestment”

FX

The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 8, “Divestment”

“Divestment” is an hour chock-full of interrogations. Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) examine their latest captives, Eugene Venter (Neil Sandilands), a member of the South African intelligence service, and his naïve stateside asset, Todd (Will Pullen); the F.B.I.’s Walter Taffet (Jefferson Mays) grills Agent Dennis Aderholt (Brandon J. Dirden), searching for the bureau’s mole; Paige (Holly Taylor) pries into her mother’s past and Martha (Alison Wright) finally confronts Clark. But the most troubling exchange in an episode run through with caustic conversations is the one Martha has with herself. As she brings the news of Taffet’s investigation to her absentee husband, her questions turn inward: “What have I done?” she asks, erupting into sobs. “Is any of this true?” “Revelation” derives from the Latin for “lay bare,” and indeed, “Divestment,” though named for the strategy of anti-apartheid activists, suggests another form of dispossession too. Revelation by revelation, The Americans continues to strip each character of what they think they know, until all that’s left is bone.

The Americans Recap Season 3, Episode 1, "EST Men"

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The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 1, “EST Men”

FX

The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 1, “EST Men”

Addressing the Soviet Union’s ongoing misadventure in Afghanistan midway through the season-three premiere of The Americans, Arkady Ivanovich (Lev Gorn), the KGB’s rezident in Washington, urges his comrades to consider the United States yet another front in the conflict. “They’re fighting this war from here,” he says of the Americans, “and so should we.” Seeping into every nook and cranny of both global politics and private life, the Cold War’s red-hot proxy fights have long defined FX’s superb spy game, but as with Arkady’s intimation of a growing battle, “EST Men” stakes out new terrain. Establishing the contours of a narrative that threatens to dissolve the familial bonds that Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) have worked so hard to forge, tonight’s episode of The Americans brings the series closer to home than ever before.