The Americans Season 4 Episodes Recaps
Episode 1 – Glanders
The Americans Season 4
As The Americans Season 4 Episode 1, “Glanders” opens, Philip and Elizabeth are still dealing with the fallout of reading their teenage daughter Paige into the fact that her parents are Soviet spies. Gabriel, their reptilian handler, is not pleased with them. He would be even less pleased if he knew that Paige has blabbed to Pastor Tim, her spiritual father and enabler in political activism.
Pastor Tim has the bright idea of having all four of them in his office for a conference, a bad idea considering that four might go in, but only three would come out. Paige hides outside her classroom when the pledge of allegiance is being said, a moment fraught with tension. Does she think that the Stars and Stripes is no longer her flag? Mommy has been sugar coating how Soviet spies operate, suggesting that all they do is try to convince people that we all want the same thing, a better world. The parts about lying, stealing, and murder are decorously left out.
Speaking of which, Philip has to tell his other wife, Martha, his asset in the FBI, that he had to kill a guy named Gene Craft and plant a recording device in his apartment. The reason for that murder is that someone has to take the fall for the bug that was found at FBI headquarters. Martha has an understandable meltdown but still continues to be Philip’s (who she knows as Clark) inside gal at the Bureau. Does she still believe that “Clark” is an external auditor working for another government agency? Does it matter?
Philip is also attending EST sessions and is unburdening himself about how he was bullied as a child. He leaves out some details, such as that the incidents took place in Soviet Russia and that he stopped the bullying by breaking open the head of one of the boys with a rock. Philip also has a dinner date with Stan’s estranged wife. When he finds out, Philip’s FBI counterintelligence neighbor makes his displeasure known quite violently.
Back in Mother Russia, Nina finds out from Anton, the kidnapped Russian scientist, that the Soviets have developed a stealth wing based on his design. He knows that no matter what happens, he is likely destined for the Gulag.
In America, Philip’s and Elizabeth’s mission, which they have to accept, is to retrieve a bioweapon that another Soviet spy has picked up at the American military’s medical research facility at Fort Detrick. Several false starts occur as Philip smells surveillance. Martha helpfully provides Philip with the surveillance schedule, so they are able to meet the spy on a night when his Bureau minders are busy elsewhere. The bioweapon is based on a disease that afflicts horses, called “glanders,” and it is said to be particularly deadly. Philip and Elizabeth have to store the stuff in their freezer next to the ice cream and the frozen pizzas. The joys of espionage in the 1980s. More thoughts on Glanders (The Americans Episode 1, Season 4)
Episode 2 – Pastor Tim
The Americans Season 4
First, they have a deadly bioweapon in their basement deep freeze. They are anxious to hand it off to a courier to get the stuff safely out of their house. However, complications ensue, one with an interruption on an airport shuttle that causes Philip to have to kill the interrupter, the other with a courier who doesn’t want to be anywhere near the weapon. Gabriel, their handler, would also like them to penetrate a section of the American biowar facility where some of the really deadly stuff is located.
Second, Elizabeth finds out, courtesy of a bugging device, that their daughter Paige has ratted them out to Pastor Tim. Clearly it is time for the good pastor to meet his God for the good of Mother Russia. Things get even more complicated when Paige confesses to her mother what she did. Now, if Pastor Tim meets with a fatal accident, the daughter might put two and two together and tell someone who really matters, like Stan, the FBI man across the street. This sort of thing can happen when work and family mix.
Elizabeth is also peeved that Philip is going to EST, the eighties self-help group. She questions him in that KGB interrogator’s voice that suggests that deep down inside she would like to have the help of some brute to beat the truth out of him in the classic style.
The other child, son Hank, is bonding with Stan, having lunch with him and pouring his heart out about a crush he has over a cute teacher. This is clearly leading to something, but to what, the viewer has no idea.
Finally, Nina, back in Mother Russia, is allowed to meet with her husband, a man whom she is fond of but is no longer in love with. She takes the opportunity to pass him a note from Anton, her fellow prisoner, to his son. This act turns out to be very bad for her, as her Soviet minder finds out. He is astonished that she would do such a thing, with freedom (such as it is in the Soviet Union) almost at hand. More thoughts on Pastor Tim Episode 2 The Americans Season 4 here.
Episode 3 – Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow
The Americans Season 4
The Americans, Season 4, Episode 3, “Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow” sets up two subplots. The first involves Stan’s growing suspicions that Martha is the real Soviet KGB mole at the FBI counterintelligence office. The second has Elizabeth working a Korean-American woman named Young Hee by becoming a Mary Kay Cosmetics sales rep. The reason she is trying to get close to a lady who seems like an ordinary wife and mother is not entirely clear.
The main problem concerns Pastor Tim and his knowledge that Philip and Elizabeth are deep-cover Soviet agents. The two try to convince the cleric that their jobs are benign, secretly facilitating peace between the USSR and the United States. Pastor Tim, despite his hobby of leading impressionable young people on protest marches outside military bases, is not buying it. “I know what spies do,” he snaps. Actually, he doesn’t, because otherwise, he would not be meeting these two dangerous people alone in his office.
Philip and Elizabeth are beside themselves when they meet with their handler, Gabriel. It seems that Tim has told his wife Alice the news that one of his charges’ parents are spies. Gabriel concludes that both need to meet with an accident. The plan is for the Jennings family, Philip, Elizabeth, Paige, and Hank to take a long weekend at EPCOT. Then the KGB will take care of the pastor and his wife. Meanwhile, the two spies give the Glanders bioweapon to Gabriel to dispose of.
Philip and Elizabeth are dubious. Paige, despite being naïve about the reality of early 1980s Cold War politics, is not stupid. She will put two and two together if Pastor Tim and Alice die, even if Mommy and Daddy are with her and her brother in another state. But if they run back to the Soviet Union they will be condemning their kids to a life in a country where they do not know the language or the culture–not to mention that it is the Evil Empire.
They go back to Gabriel to tell him that the assassination is not an option. They are surprised to find their handler writhing on the floor, having been exposed to the Glanders virus. Likely exposed themselves, they run and contact William, who stole the bioweapon to start with. William listens and tries to run. Philip chases him down and tackles him, spitting in his face to infect him and thus force him to help.
William gets a wide-spectrum antibiotic and injects Philip, Elizabeth, Gabriel, and himself. It may work, or it may not. But they need to stay put for 36 hours for treatment to be sure. That means there will be no trip to EPCOT, and Philip and Elizabeth will be mysteriously gone from home the moment Pastor Tim and Alice are scheduled for liquidation. More thoughts on Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow
Episode 4 – Chloramphenicol
The Americans Season 4
In the opening of The Americans, Season 4, Episode 4, “Chloramphenicol” starts with Elizabeth calling “the Center” to call off the hit on Pastor Tim and his wife. The plan relies on the Jenner family being thousands of miles away at Epcot Center, therefore attempting to fool daughter Paige into believing that Mom and Dad did not kill her spiritual and political mentor. Elizabeth and Philip have a more important task ahead, which is surviving the weekend while dealing with their handler, Gabriel, being infected by a stolen bioweapon. The cover story is that they are in New York dealing with an irate client for the travel agency, their job that conceals their real occupation of espionage and terrorism.
The sequence in the safe house as Elizabeth, Philip, and William, the other deep cover agent who works for the biowar lab, is an interesting exercise in character development. William envies Philip and Elizabeth for having each other for support against the stress of leading a double life in a foreign country. William has had no one except a series of unsympathetic handlers. Elizabeth becomes sick, either as an adverse reaction to the antibiotic or the bioweapon. She begs Philip that, if she dies, he will blame the liquidation of Pastor Tim and his wife on her, leaving him free to raise their daughter and son as Americans.
However, both Elizabeth and Gabriel recover. Gabriel, duly appreciative of having been saved, recalls a memory of growing up under the Great Terror when Stalin was massacring millions out of his paranoia. He lived day to day in fear that it would be his turn at any time.
In the meantime, Stan’s friend at the FBI takes Martha out to dinner. Martha opens up by telling her dinner date that she is seeing a married man, which in fact she is, having been “married” to Philip, whom she knows as Clark. In the meantime, Stan enters Martha’s apartment and searches it.
Finally, Nina imagines that she is being released and, with Anton, being allowed to go to the West. But the sequence is only a dream. Instead she is escorted to a prison official and is told that her appeal is denied and that she remains under sentence of death for treason. She is allowed only a few seconds to process the enormity of the verdict before a soldier shoots her in the back of the head, carrying out the verdict with no fuss or ceremony.
Finally, Philip and Elizabeth decide that they can neither kill Pastor Time and his wife nor flee with the children back to the Soviet Union. Thus, the ruthless Soviet spies, who have killed people without number for over 20 years, can show that they have acquired humanity that supersedes their duty to the Soviet Union. More thoughts on Chloramphenicol
Episode 5 – Clark’s Place
The Americans Season 4
In The Americans, Season 4, Episode 5, “Clark’s Place” the cost of keeping secrets comes into full examination.
Martha, who Philip is running in the FBI as part of his persona as Clark, is starting to go into full-blown panic mode, downing Valium with a wine chaser as if it were candy. She has every right to be nervous. Stan and the agent who took her out to dinner have started to suspect her and are conducting a surveillance. Since Philip and Elizabeth are also keeping eyes on Martha, they spot the FBI minders and get nervous for their own situation. Can Martha be saved and, if not, can the two Soviet agents avoid detection? They will do what they can, but it may not be enough. Will Martha crack under the pressure?
Philip makes amends with Stan about meeting the FBI agent’s ex-wife after the EST session.
In the meantime, the matter of Pastor Tim has to be dealt with. Philip and Elizabeth bring in a Hispanic man who poses as a Salvadoran priest who is fighting against the death squads in El Salvador, at the time engulfed in a Soviet-supported insurgency. The idea is that the two Soviets are only trying to head off the more malodorous aspects of Reagan’s Central American policy. Of course, the story is a lie, and it doesn’t look like Tim is buying it altogether. Paige is also getting upset about keeping her parents’ secrets from her brother and their neighbor Stan.
Back in Russia, Oleg finds out about the execution of Nina and lays into his father, a Communist Party official, about his failure to save her.
It is not so easy to help traitors, Oleg is informed. Or his brother, Oleg retorts, who is now dead in Afghanistan. Because Soviet policy is to conceal the true extent of casualties happening in that war, the brother will not even be accorded military honors at his funeral. However, Oleg’s father defies the party by pulling out a pistol and firing his own salute over his dead son’s grave.
Oleg later returns to his post in Washington and tells Stan what happened to Nina. Stan, who failed to save her when he was running her as an asset, is devastated with grief and guilt. Oleg is starting to question the whole Soviet system that required a young woman to be shot in the back of the head.
In one fascinating scene, Philip and Paige is watching President Ronald Reagan making one of his inspirational speeches on television. Elizabeth walks in on this and laughs out loud. He looks so much like a clown, she exclaims. If only she knew what was in store, she would not be laughing.
Finally, Gabriel informs Philip and Elizabeth that William, their agent at the American biowar facility, may be on the cusp of providing intelligence that will tip the balance of power in the Cold War. Quite ominous, all things considered. More thought on Clark’s Place
Episode 6 – The Rat
The Americans Season 4
The Americans, Season 4, Episode 6, “The Rat” relates how Martha finally comes to realize how much trouble her beloved “Clark” (aka Philip) has placed her in. Stan and his partner Adeholt finally put things together to conclude that Martha is the KGB mole inside the FBI office. When they break the news to Gaad, the scene is electric.
Philip, who Martha knows as Clark, senses that his asset has been blown and takes her off the street and whisks her away to the safe house where Gabriel is recovering from the glanders virus infection. Gabriel is upset at Clark for pulling the plug. The loss of the asset inside the FBI complicates the effort by William to get more weaponized viruses out of the secure facility where he works. The old Russian spy master is terrified at the idea that the Americans will launch a first strike with biological weapons. He misjudges American strategy and character, but he had seen this movie before when it involved the Nazis.
Still, Gabriel agrees to have Martha spirited away to Russia. While the wheels are turning on this operation, the nebbish secretary quickly comes to realize how much she has been lied to by “Clark.” Philip, for example, admits that he was running a false flag operation and is, in fact, working for the KGB. She also realizes that the woman that she thought was “Clark’s” sister is not his sister and might be his lover (she is in fact Elizabeth, his other wife.)
The last straw happens when Martha awakens from a nap to find Philip gone, having been sent by Gabriel to motivate William to go through with stealing another virus, and finding that the Valium and loaded gun (what did she think she was going to do with that?) are gone from her purse. After accusing Gabriel of having done away with “Clark” Martha walks out of the safe house and sets off down the street, perhaps intending to turn herself in, as Gabriel, too old and sick to stop her, looks on helplessly. More thoughts on The Rat
Episode 7 – Travel Agents
The Americans Season 4
The Americans, Season 4, Episode 7, “Travel Agents” concerns the hunt for Martha, the poor, put-upon, used, and abused secretary who Philip seduced, entered into a sham marriage with, and tricked into planting a bug in and stealing documents from the counter-terrorism unit at FBI headquarters. Martha had suddenly decided that she’d had enough and left the KGB safe house. Now Philip and Elizabeth have to hunt her down, either to bring her back so that she can be renditioned to Moscow, or to liquidate her if she resists. In the meantime, the FBI shortly realizes the full extent to which it has been penetrated. Gant is especially nonplussed because Martha was his secretary. His FBI career, he perceives, is over.
Martha, having escaped, is uncertain where she should escape to. If she turns herself in to her FBI employers, she faces a long jail sentence, not to mention the shame of being tricked into committing espionage and treason. She feels betrayed by the man she knows as “Clark” and doesn’t want to go back to him. Jumping off a bridge and ending it all is not attractive, either, even though she apparently considers it.
Martha, who seems incapable of making a decision herself, has her fate decided for her when Elizabeth finds her lost and alone in a park. Elizabeth quiets her complaining by punching her hard in the gut and then leading her away. So it looks like she will go to Moscow after all, alone in a foreign country whose language she does not speak. Despite Elizabeth’s advice, Philip does not even offer her the false hope that he would join her later. Martha is no longer valuable as an asset, so she is being discarded. Would it be a better mercy to shoot her in the back of the head instead?
It looks like another cargo is going to Moscow in the form of a dead lab animal infected and killed with a bioweapon. One suspects, considering what happened last time, that the attempt to smuggle this dangerous cargo out of the United States will not end well. More thoughts on Travel Agents
Episode 8 – The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears
The Americans Season 4
The Americans, Season 4, Episode 8, “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears” starts with the waking nightmare that Martha’s life has become. Philip’s former asset finds herself driven away in a car to a remote airport and bundled onto a small plane for a flight to Cuba. The leave-taking between her and the man she knows as Clark is heartbreaking. The only other news we have of Martha is that she has landed in Cuba, the first stage of her journey to the prison known as the Soviet Union.
Martha’s fate bothers Philip a great deal. In a loud argument with Elizabeth, he shouts that she is a human being. That is a dangerous attitude for a Soviet KGB agent to take. It is not one that Elizabeth shares. She is ruthless with her assets, whether it is the Korean-American lady with whom she is pretending to be a friend, murdering another asset named Lisa to keep her from going to the police, and even coercing her own daughter, Paige, to spy on Pastor Tim and his wife.
A number of issues are driving the KGB couple apart, from former lovers to Philip’s obsession with EST, which Elizabeth regards as a scam. The squabbling between Philip and Elizabeth comes to such a head that Gabriel has to intervene. He convinces the Center to ease up on their workload, so that they can have something resembling a vacation from espionage.
Back at FBI headquarters, Gant is called into the office of the Director and hears confirmation of his suspicions that his career at the Bureau is over. In a way, his forced retirement is liberating. He is already planning a trip to Thailand to visit some of his Vietnamese wife’s relatives. The Cold War and fighting Soviet spies are no longer his problem.
The episode ends with the famous disappearing of the Statue of Liberty by magician David Copperfield. Copperfield mentions that his illusion is a metaphor for how easily freedom can vanish if Americans are not vigilant. Our spy family, two of whom are working diligently to make that happen, watch this performance and, unwittingly, are exposed to the central issue of the long, twilight struggle, as President John. F. Kennedy called the conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. More thoughts on The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears
Episode 9 – The Day After
The Americans Season 4
The Americans, Season 4, Episode 9, “The Day After” starts with Paige and her father Philip engaging in a seminal American coming of age ritual, learning to drive. The nervous emotions of putting a teenager in control of a two-ton machine on the part of both father and daughter are all there. The scene gives a semblance of normality to the Jennings family.
Of course, nothing is typical for the Jenningses. Paige is burdened with the knowledge that her parents are Soviet spies. She is also overwhelmed with the realization, thanks to the airing of the ABC drama “The Day After,” that the Cold War could go sideways at any moment with the result that everything could end in nuclear fire.
The importance of “The Day After” cannot be overstated and is depicted neatly in the episode. The miniseries depicted the effects of a full-scale nuclear exchange on the town of Lawrence, Kansas in graphic detail. The show was controversial on a lot of levels, not the least of which being the political, since it took place just before an election year. If “The Day After” was meant to forestall the reelection of President Ronald Reagan, it did not work. Reagan was reelected in a 49-state blowout the following year.
In any case, the various characters react to the show in different ways. Philip and William, the spy embedded in a bio-war laboratory, begin to have their first doubts about the work they are doing. Elizabeth, ever the Soviet patriot, is unmoved. The evil Americans dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan (and thus forestalled an even bloodier seaborne invasion, which she does not mention.) Paige is just depressed and hopes that when the end comes, as she expects it will, they will be together, and it will be quick.
In the meantime, the spy game must continue. William gets wind of a new designer germ being developed in “level 4.” It seems that Elizabeth’s cultivation of Young Hee, her Korean-American friend, is related to getting William access to level 4. Having not found anything in her house, aside from some softcore porn, Elizabeth proceeds to entrap Young Hee’s husband, Don. She roofies his drink and then strips his unconscious body and places it in bed. She climbs into bed, naked herself. When Don wakes, he draws the obvious conclusion, and hurriedly gets dressed, scurrying away, apologizing. Elizabeth is human enough to express regret that she will miss her friend, whom she has now betrayed.
In the meantime, Pastor Tim is headed on a relief mission to Ethiopia, at the time in the grip of a horrific famine. Philip and Elizabeth have used their travel agency cover business to facilitate the venture. Tim would like to have a family meeting when he returns, as he has noticed that Paige has started to seem sad to him.
Oleg and Tatiana discuss a little-known incident that took place two months before. The duty officer at the Soviet equivalent of NATO noted that a computer had sounded an alert of multiple ICBM launches from North America. Against orders and training, he neglected to tell his higher ups until he verified that the alert was the result of a glitch, sunlight being reflected from the tops of clouds. If the officer had followed procedure, the world would have likely ended that day. Thus, the episode drives home that the stakes of the Cold War were serious on a cosmic level. More thoughts on The Day After
Episode 11 – Dinner for Seven
The Americans Season 4
The Americans, Season 4, Episode 11, “Dinner for Seven” handles a couple of main story lines, the relationship between the Jennings family and Pastor Tim and the operation against Don and Young-Hee. Meanwhile, Stan struggles with his role as a counter-intelligence agent in the wake of his old boss’s death.
The Young-Hee operation goes into its end game when Elizabeth, as Patty, confronts Don, claiming that she is pregnant. She had already fooled him into thinking that they had sex when they had not. Panicked about what the revelation would mean for her marriage, Don advises her to get an abortion. Elizabeth pretends to stomp off in anger.
Later, Gabriel, an unnamed KBG computer expert, and Philip visit Don at his work at a biotech firm, pretending to be “Patty’s” family and announce that she has killed herself and demand money to take her body back to California and bury her. While Don and Philip go to the bank to get money, Gabriel and the computer expert ransack his office, looking for the code for William to get into Level 4. They don’t find it right away but hope that it is in the computer files.
In the meantime, Pastor Tim shows up at the Jennings residence and apologizes for his wife’s bit of blackmail. Tim and his wife are invited to dinner, which eventually includes Stan. A lot of secrets are unspoken at that particular get-together.
Later, Elizabeth appears to seek some kind of counsel from Pastor Tim. Is she genuinely anxious, racked with guilt over the Young-Hee operation? Or is she running another operation against a man who could expose her and Philip at any moment?
Later, when Elizabeth and Paige are leaving the church, they are jumped by two muggers. The two thugs have made a grave mistake. Elizabeth dispatches them both, one set to flight, and the other left to die on the pavement. This is a side of Mommy that Paige has never seen before.
Stan, in the meantime, breaks ties with Oleg and seems to be devoting his time to finding out the truth behind Gaad’s death. That truth, unknown to him, may be just across the street. More thoughts on Dinner for Seven