The Americans: Naked Face

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This week on The Americans, Martha has a visitor, Paige and her mom plan a vacation, Gabe meets with an old friend, and Clark finally takes off his glasses. 

After doing some spy work on the phone lines over at the Crystal City hotel—this will all make sense later—Philip and Elizabeth head home to find Henry glued to the television and an electronic game. If you want to have the sadz, try to imagine what Henry’s life is like today. Paige is nowhere to be seen but has left a note that she’s gone to some churchy thing and will be spending the night at Pastor Tim’s.


And so the worst parents ever head over to retrieve their most important child, afraid she might tell her substitute father that her real parents are fakes. Henry is fine on his own because—as is true for many of us—television is his babysitter, parental substitute, and best friend.

"I'z always hear for u!"

“I’z always hear for u!”

They have to wait around at the Pastor’s house because these things can go on a while, what with all the choruses of Kumbaya. Finally, they grab their daughter from the clutches of Pastor and Mrs. Pastor Tim, who are apologetic because they didn’t know that Paige didn’t have permission, and also Pastor Tim doesn’t want Philip to beat the crap out of him. Paige is whiny and angry—her new favorite flavors. Sheesh. It’s not like she’s out partying with a creepy older guy who can score primo weed and fake IDs. Speaking of which, what the hell happened to Kimmi? Did the show decide it was too icky? Are we supposed to forget this was even a thing? Maybe they could have Hans take over as the new boyfriend/handler. It might be fun watching him play the bad boy, and while it would still be statutory rape, it would be 100% less gross.

americans 3.12 kimmi

They’ve ignored this subplot so long, the actress is about to graduate from college.

The Jennings drive Paige home and interrogate her in the garage, reminding her she needs to act like everything is normal—which it is in certain parts of Utah maybe. It’s Elizabeth who’s now stuck with the fallout because Philip has to go stay with his other fake wife. Ladies, don’t you hate it when your husband leaves you to discipline the kids because he has to go see your sister-wife?

Martha is making tea for Stan, who just happened to drop by for no particular reason. She just seemed “distracted” and it’s hard to talk at work. She must be looking at the tip of his nose like Clark taught her because she is one cool liar. He notices a copy of Shogun—a 1980s bestseller—and comments on it. Uh oh. Will Shogun be to The Americans as Leaves of Grass was to Breaking Bad? Or are we just being toyed with? Speaking of being toyed with, Martha mentions Stan’s divorce, implying he might be trying to seduce her. That’s enough to throw him off his game. Then she says she has an early morning and manages to get him out the door.

"Wait, does that mean he WASN'T trying to seduce me?"

“Wait, you mean he WASN’T trying to seduce me?”

Philip returns to the Jennings home, having been “waved off” (literally) by Hans, who saw the car with the government license plate parking at Martha’s.

The next morning as Martha is walking along the street, Hans pulls up, tells her he’s a friend of her husband, and takes her to some deserted spot where Clark is waiting for her. She fills Clark in on the details of Stan’s visit. He tells her if they actually knew anything, it would have been a much different conversation. He says he’ll figure things out, but they might have to “go someplace new.” He doesn’t mention she might be traveling there packed in a suitcase.


Over at the FBI, things are getting tense between New Guy and Stan. New Guy tells Stan he knows there was something going on between him and Nina, and asks him straight out if he planted the bug. Stan—who’s actually put a little of this together—suggests that maybe the female illegal he shot but didn’t get a look at back at the end of season one survived, and maybe that was the one who beat up agent Gaad, and maybe she got to somebody at the FBI, but it wasn’t him. This being television, he doesn’t share his suspicion that the person they got to might be Martha because then there wouldn’t be a season four.

Elizabeth-as-Michelle gives her A.A. sponsor Lisa a magic camera purse so she can take pictures of the new bomber at Northrup. When she goes to pick it up and give Lisa the money, it’s Maurice who meets her. Elizabeth mentions seeing Lisa soon “in person,” and he says, “Whatever,” which is not something even valley girls were saying back then. They really need to get their scripts geezer approved. (I know a geezer who would love the gig. Please call me, show.)

You can tell this photo is fake because even bras had shoulder pads back in the 80s.

For example, I can tell this photo is fake because even bras had shoulder pads back in the 80s.

On the home front, Paige is back asking questions again. This time she’s armed with a photo album. Philip gives her little bits of the truth—the same as he would with any asset he was developing—and shows her a real picture of her at her mother’s bedside the night Henry was born. This being before Photoshop, she buys it.

Scattered pictures, of the smiles we left behind... Misty watercolor memories, of the way we were...

“Now will you finally stop whining about your paternity and start asking some cool questions like how many people I’ve killed?”

Martha is home alone drinking red wine—the drink of ladies on television. If they really wanted to be historically accurate, it should have been Dubonet. She calls her parents who met Clark once. I see a fiery car crash in their future.

Over at the Rezidentura, Arkady is realizing that the Mail Robot bug was the stupidest idea ever because no one says anything important in the hallway (as was previously pointed out in last week’s recap). He wants to stop the project so his agents can do something more important than say “beep-beep” to each other and giggle. Tatyana is trying to work Oleg for whatever nefarious reason of her own, by bringing him delicious Hungarian pastries. Because who can resist pastries? She wants to enlist his help in talking Arkady into extending the project. It’s clear she has an agenda, but what? Is it just her excuse for spending more time around Oleg? Does she know the project’s a dud and want to get Arkady fired so she can take over? Oleg falls for her scheme, and they make their case to the boss by having Oleg repeat some dialogue between two agents—a man and a woman talking about the new Jerry Lewis film The King of Comedy. Tatyana thinks this could be an “opening” as one of the agents is married and may be “looking for something.” It might have played better if they’d both read the script together and then hotly embraced each other at the end. Remember how Arkady warned Oleg about Tatyana earlier in this season? It looks like he may still be harboring some suspicions.

Yes, that's Jerry Lewis in a Martin Scorsese film. The 1980s were seriously not ready for this.

Yes, that’s Jerry Lewis in a Martin Scorsese film. The 1980s were not even close to ready for this.                 

Philip in another bland wig and aviator glasses, and Elizabeth in a short blond wig and clunky black glasses that look retro chic now but were not actually worn by any woman ever in the 1980s, return to Crystal City where Philip shows up outside the hotel room of Abassin Zadran—their targeted mujahedeen. Philip’s pretending to be a government official who needs him for a few minutes and gives the agent guarding him a card. The agent calls from the hotel room, and the call is of course routed to Elizabeth in the basement, who tells him that Philip is authorized. Philip gets Abassin outside to a car, where he and Elizabeth are now CIA agents who convince him the other two mujahedeen are actually selling out to the Soviets and he alone must testify to Congress the next day because they can’t be trusted.

"They also said your mother is ugly and youre only getting *71* virgins when you die."

“They also said your mother is ugly and you’re only getting *71* virgins when you die.”

Abassin talks about killing Soviet soldiers he came upon at a swimming hole, and the camera turns to Philip, who has got to be thinking of his own son in Afghanistan and how this mission may actually be worth it. Abassin is returned to his room and tells his keeper he needs to talk to his friends. He knocks on the door of one and then they go into the room of another. In very little time, sounds of a scuffle are heard, and the FBI or CIA or Secret Service or whoever bust into the room—but of course it’s too late. The other two mujahedeen have been gutted like goats.


Knock knock. Who’s there? Interrupting religious fanatic. Interrupting reli– MOOOOOOO-jahedeen.

Five minutes with two Americans whom he doesn’t know or trust would be enough to convince him to kill the other two mujahedeen? This wily leader of men wouldn’t have asked a few more pertinent questions like why is the CIA allowing them to testify in the first place if they have this intelligence? Besides all that, wouldn’t the guards be able to describe Philip pretty well? Wouldn’t there be an investigation into how the phone line was compromised, and couldn’t that lead back maybe to the hotel manager and Elizabeth (and Philip at the front desk) on videotape? If Abassin is taken alive—and presumably he expects to be since he still thinks he’ll get to talk to Congress—then wouldn’t he be interrogated and able to give some useful information? Isn’t Elizabeth and Philip’s plan at least partly premised on the idea that if Congress understood that the mujahedeen were murderous fanatics they would be less likely to support them in a proxy war when, in fact, Congress probably wouldn’t have cared as long as they were anti-communist?

And now the scene we’ve been waiting for. Claudia and Gabe at the diner. After looking over the overwhelming number of choices on the menu—so American, so unnecessary—they decide to make their waitress’ day and just order tea, which they don’t drink from a glass because that would totally blow their cover. Claudia tells Gabe she was at Directorate S when news broke about “the boy” killing his family. Gabe wonders whether, in light of that, recruiting Paige is such a brilliant idea. But Claudia assures him the Centre thinks he can do it.

1950s diners were never more popular than in the 1980s.

One look at the Cheesecake Factory menu would give them both a brain hemorrhage.

Between decisions like getting into a quagmire in Afghanistan, bugging the Mail Robot, and signing up angry teens as spies, no wonder the Soviet Union fell! They didn’t even need Chernobyl!

Back at the Jennings’ home, Elizabeth announces to Paige that she’s going to Russia to see her dying mamushka, and guess what? Paige can come too. It’s totally her choice. So is the plan to get her there and then hand her over to Directorate S because that worked out so well for Elizabeth what with being raped and all, and what mother wouldn’t want that for her daughter?


Philip has donned his Clark attire for a visit to Martha’s, where he finds her sitting on her bed surrounded by packed suitcases. Does he wonder if any of them are big enough to fit her body into, or whether he and Hans might have some chopping to do first? She’s planning on going to her parents. Yeah, that won’t raise any red flags with the FBI. What does Philip do to dissuade her? He takes off his glasses—the ones he sleeps, showers and sexes in—and then starts to unpin the wig, which looks a lot a scarier than it sounds. It takes so long, it seems like he’s going to reveal a lizard face underneath it, like those aliens on V, which may or may not have aired yet. And then he stands before her, naked of face. It’s a haunting image that answers viewers’ questions about the wigs—pins, glue, and nets. But what’s the end game? Oh, Martha, we can only hope you keep that gun handy and loaded!

Next week is the finale, and it’s a pretty safe bet that somebody is going to die. But who? Shall we place our bets?

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

TV Show: The Americans

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