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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 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 4, Episode 10, "Munchkins"

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The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 10, “Munchkins”

Craig Blankenhorn/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 10, “Munchkins”

“This isn’t normal!” Paige (Holly Taylor) cried in last season’s “Stingers,” urging Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) to reveal the truth. “I’ve felt it for a long time now, and I thought it was me. I thought I was crazy. But it’s not me, it’s you!” With tonight’s episode, “Munchkins,” The Americans reopens the argument, and it appears that Paige’s sense of trust has been shaken loose by the knowledge of her parents’ double lives: In accepting the new “normal” of secrets and lies, the daughter of deep-cover agents has become as suspicious as they are, and Pastor Tim’s disappearance in Ethiopia forces her to examine her grim intuition once more. “Paige, this is crazy,” Elizabeth bridles, echoing the climactic moment of “Stingers,” but as we’ve come to learn in the season since, the sanest instinct in the world of The Americans is not faith, but doubt.

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

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The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 6, “Born Again”

FX

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.

The Americans Recap Season 3, Episode 5, "Salang Pass"

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The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 5, “Salang Pass”

FX

The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 5, “Salang Pass”

“You have a conscience, Philip,” Gabriel (Frank Langella) says during an exchange of Afghan weed and wary glances in tonight’s episode of The Americans, as Philip (Matthew Rhys) hesitates to take advantage of Kimmy (Julia Garner), the teenage daughter of a high-ranking C.I.A. official. “There’s nothing wrong with that,” Gabriel continues. “But conscience can be dangerous.” Releasing the tension of “Open House” and “Dimebag,” “Salang Pass” turns inward, constructed from nostalgic smiles and pangs of guilt. For Philip and Elizabeth (Keri Russell), conscience is dangerous because it’s instinctively honest, always interfering with the work at hand—which is, as Philip acknowledges, the work of making the lie real.

The Americans Recap Season 3, Episode 4, "Dimebag"

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The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 4, “Dimebag”

FX

The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 4, “Dimebag”

While helping his son, Henry (Keidrich Sellati), master the state capitals midway through “Dimebag,” Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) gently pries into his daughter’s religious life. He’s barely finished asking Henry if Paige (Holly Taylor) ever mentions church when she wanders into the kitchen, and though Philip saves face by asking what she wants for dinner on her birthday, it’s clear from his expression as she leaves the room that he’s puzzled by her faith. To Philip and his wife, Elizabeth (Keri Russell), Paige remains inscrutable. Indeed, as tonight’s episode of The Americans suggests, professionals in the art of reading people are most vulnerable to misapprehension when their judgment is clouded by the personal—rocky terrain for which even the most powerful intelligence service has no adequate handbook.