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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 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”

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 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 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 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.”

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.