"The Americans" (FX)

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys star as a pair of Russian spies undercover in Washington, D.C. in "The Americans," now in its fourth season.

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Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) is the True Believer. We've known this from the first season of "The Americans," which showed her as the more fervent partner in the husband-wife undercover KGB unit. But even Elizabeth has her limits, as we saw in last night's episode, "Munchkins." Elizabeth might have wanted to kill Pastor Tim and Alice (Suzy Jane Hunt) after Paige (Holly Taylor) let it slip that she and Philip (Matthew Rhys) worked for Russia, and she was quick to reduce Philip's feelings when he lost Martha, but the past few episodes see her truly agonizing over what she's done to Young Hee (Ruthie Ann Miles) and Don (Rob Yang), an uncomfortable feeling made worse when Pastor Tim goes missing in Ethiopia and Alice gets it in her head that the Jennings are responsible.

Elizabeth is the more capable agent and actor in the family, as we see in the opening scenes: she's having dinner with Young Hee and Don, laughing at Young Hee's story while Don tries not to be noticed. Infidelity (staged, but he's convinced it happened) weighs heavily on his mind, but Elizabeth doesn't let it show that she's wise to anything. Meanwhile, Paige asks Philip about his past, leading to a story about how tough his mother was, cut to Elizabeth leaving Young Hee's. "She's tough," he says about his own mother, something that could easily carry over to his wife. But when the two meet with Gabriel (Frank Langella) the next day, he pushes for them to get the code from Don for William so they can steal a biological agent deadlier than the pathogen that nearly killed them. "Even their president says the best deterrent is strength," Gabriel intones, but the couple seems unsure.

They're put in a harder place when Alice shows up at their home, very pregnant and terrified that her husband met his doom in Africa. Her teeth are close to clenched: "Did you have anything to do with this?" before interrupting their protests with "I don't want to hear your stories." Alice has no way to know that they're not lying (they do lie for a living) and puts more trust in her feelings that something awful has happened, so she has a fail-safe: if Tim stays missing or something happens to her, a tape held by a lawyer goes to the Justice Department. Philip and Elizabeth are focused on the possibility that they may all have to run, but Paige is worried about something else: that her parents, or someone else on the Soviet side, really is responsible. "I thought I could live like this," Elizabeth says before trailing off. 

While the Jennings sweat over their latest possible disaster, Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) and Dennis Aderholt (Brandon J. Dirden) deal with their stickler of a new boss (he's very annoyed that Aderholt isn't watching the margins in his reports) and meet with Martha's father, who's not convinced that Martha's with the KGB and implores them to keep looking. "Martha's the most honest, loyal, kind person in the world." Stan tries to tell him that this is what made her more susceptible to being seduced by the other side, but he's not having it, and he's treating them more like sounding boards than people he's having a drink with. It's understandable, but the camera's long look at Stan suggests that it's not sitting well with him.

Still, it's a better position than the Jennings are left in, with Paige meeting with Alice and finding not a vindictive or furious woman, but someone who's never been more terrified in her life. Alice practically collapses into Paige's arms, putting all of her and her unborn child's weight on Paige's shoulders literally and metaphorically as she sobs over Tim. Paige's return home that night makes for the best scene in the episode, one attuned to her body language as her parents try to assuage her fears with little success.

Throughout the scene, Henry (Keidrich Sellati) throws a tennis ball against the garage door, something that gets on Elizabeth's nerves quickly ("He could break the garage door") and gives the scene an underlying tension, a rhythmic pounding that wears on everyone's nerves not unlike the metronome in Hitchcock's "Rope." Elizabeth asks about Alice, and Paige, her back turned to the camera, takes a long drink of water before answering. When the parents broach the question of whether or not they may have to leave, Paige, who's been about as collected as a terrified teenage could possibly be this season, given the circumstances, lets everything spill in a rapid-fire series of questions and objections: "Where? Are you serious? Henry too? Do you hear yourselves? I don't want to listen, everything you say is crazy. Are we going to go back to Russia? I've never been to Russia. Are we going to speak Russian? Who are you going to lie to? Who are you going to make disappear?" Philip and Elizabeth raise their voices but don't yell, seeing that any attempt to squash Paige's protests will only make things worse...not that they could if they tried. In the circumstances at home and with Pastor Tim, they are, in a rare moment, totally powerless, having given the wrong information to someone who wasn't ready and let the dominoes fall after she put her trust in the wrong person and her confidant extended it to someone even less reliable.

But that's what teenagers do, right? At least that's what Philip learns when he pays a visit with some pot to Kimmy (Julia Garner), the teenager he courted as "James" last season to gain access to her CIA-agent father. He plants another tape at his place before rejoining Kimmy, who shares a secret of her own: her dad isn't in the State Department, but the CIA. Philip acts surprised, but he also chastises her a bit: "I don't think you should've told me...telling it breaks your father's trust." The Kimmy/Philip quasi-relationship was uncomfortable for everyone last season, but here he sees a reflection of Paige's own mistakes in who she trusted. Kimmy seems disappointed that "James" didn't react the way she expected, and Philip maybe recognizes that she just needed someone to tell...anyone.

Paige finds another person to trust in Matthew Beeman (Danny Flaherty), who's clearly got a thing for her (much like she did for him in the first season), but who mostly acts as an empathetic listener for her Pastor Tim worries, leaning in and nodding as she holds her cup of coffee tightly, sipping nervously. Her concerns are short-lived: when Matthew gives her a ride to church, she's informed that he was found, and that the explanation — he went driving, ran out of gas and got lost trying to find some — is banal. Alice apologizes to her and asks her to relay an apology to her parents, which is paired with her own apology for accusing them of having something to do with it. All is well...except for the Young Hee situation. As Elizabeth gets a tearful phone call from Young Hee, who's noticed something is wrong with Don, she meets with Gabriel, who notices that there's finally a mission she doesn't seem totally up for. "Your feelings matter," he says sympathetically to a curt "No they don't. They shouldn't." But as Alice, Paige and more than a few others have demonstrated over the episode, they do control our actions, and Elizabeth has to be honest with herself about whether or not she wants Gabriel to ask Moscow to find another way in. Her lip twitches as she considers before breathing: "Yes."

It's not likely to matter, and just as another crisis was averted, a new one comes. Frank Gaad (Richard Thomas), now retired and in Thailand with his wife, visiting her family, gets an unwelcome visit from some Moscow thugs, who have a proposition he's not interested in. He struggles, gets shoved through a glass door, and falls on a shard of glass, bleeding out. The lead agent is sorry, saying it a few times while waiting for Gaad to expire (perhaps out of respect) before leaving. Arkady and Tatiana get the news that "an operation didn't go as planned," with Arkady voicing doubts about whether it should've been planned at all. And Beeman gets the bad news about his friend, who made it through dangerous times and found peace in retirement, only to have it stolen away. Emmerich doesn't shift things too much, but lets us project our thoughts and fears onto him as the camera stays on him after Aderholt leaves him. He's lost Nina, Martha and Gaad (not to mention Amador in season 1), and it's going to take a toll. There's no way it can just be part of the job. Personal feelings get in the way.

Stray thoughts:

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-Paige is also concerned Henry is going to break the garage door, asking if it's possible with Elizabeth yelling "Yes!" before she's even finished her question.

-Paige also wonders what I'm sure many of us are wondering: when will Henry find out? "A lot of that depends on Henry."

-Oleg and Tatiana are still sleeping together, and she's asked for a favor and revealed that she works for the poison laboratory in the KGB, and that the biological agents are going to her.

-How long before Paige and Matthew kiss? It's only a matter of time, I'd argue, and I imagine the problem of the daughter of KGB agents dating the son of an FBI agent won't be lost on the Jennings.

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