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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 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 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 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 4, Episode 3, "Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow"

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The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow”

Jeff Neumann/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow”

Before his death in 1966, Walt Disney, inspired by the Garden City movement and the futuristic utopianism of the World’s Fair, drew up plans for an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) in the swamplands of north-central Florida. That his desire to reshape the urban landscape should founder is, in some sense, the subtext of the latest installment of The Americans: The Epcot Center that opened in 1982 was not the working city of Disney’s dreams, but another “attraction” for the Magic Kingdom’s visitors to tour, a strange amalgam of blind faith in technological progress and bland internationalism.