The Americans: Keep It Under Wraps (S4 E1 Recap)

the-americans-season4 logoPreviously on The Americans, Paige was on the phone ratting out her parents to Pastor Tim. Those of us who still watch a show with ratings lower than Angel from Hell, waited anxiously for months. Would Tim turn out to also be an illegal or maybe a fellow traveler? Would the phone suddenly go dead before Paige could say another word? Would there be a Breaking Bad-style flash forward many months ahead that somehow worked its way back to that fateful night? It looks like we’ll be waiting a bit longer, because they are so going to be stretching this out.

We open with Philip having a nightmare, or maybe a flashback. He’s a kid sneaking up and attacking first one, and then another kid with a rock. There’s blood splatter plus the unmistakable sound of rock hitting gray matter. It’s the type of thing young Dexter Morgan might have only fantasized about.


Our gentle Phil? Sure we’ve seen him angry and violent, like that time way back when he discovered the would-be defector he’d kidnapped, Elizabeth’s former trainer, had raped her, but mostly Philip, unlike his wife, was more a lover than a fighter, “making it real” for the ladies like Martha, and the poor departed Annalisa, and almost for Tammi – the nymphet who seems to have disappeared from the storyline.

He wakes up and tells Elizabeth that he’d better go tell Martha that he planted her recorder at Gene’s and killed him, making it look like a suicide. Better she hear it first from him, so it won’t be such a shock when she gets the news at work. That Philip/Clark! What a protective considerate fake-husband he is!

So we can all breathe a sigh of relief because this means he definitely did not murderize Martha and stuff her into a suitcase after showing her his naked face. Martha of course, breaks down but then shows surprising resilience.

Early the next morning, Elizabeth is in the kitchen, and Paige comes down. The time line is now established to be the day after Elizabeth and Paige have come back from Germany. It’s the morning after Paige’s call to Pastor Tim. Elizabeth mentions that Philip had to leave, and Henry is still sleeping. Is this the Chuck Cunningham moment we’ve been waiting for? Will Henry ever be coming down those stairs?

Little did the Jenning's realize, they didn't even have a son named Henry. He was really a Chinese mole!

Have you seen this child?

Paige asks if her father is out doing the spy stuff, and whether it’s dangerous. Elizabeth tells her no. They get people to trust them so they can get information to save the planet, but they do it in secret because not everyone understands. She leaves out the part about sexing people up, stuffing bodies into suitcases, and forcing old ladies to take fatal overdoses. Given that this is the life she wants for her daughter, it’s hard to see her as anything but evil, yet somehow we don’t. She’s just a misguided, like someone voting for a socialist in a presidential election or something.

Stan is with his girlfriend Torrie kvetching about his recent problems at work. His boss is mad at him. His boss’ boss likes him. Feel free to check the previous recap if you can’t remember what that’s about, but fortunately your humble recapper couldn’t remember either and checked for you. Previously on The Americans, Stan had managed to turn handsome young Oleg, science office at the Rezidentura. Somehow this didn’t make his boss, John-boy Gadd happy. John-boy then told him (rather gleefully) that the US would not be trading any Russian spies for Nina. If you’ve never seen this show before, just bear in mind that John-boy is the worst. He’s not only mean to Stan, but he’s kind of an idiot who gets beaten up by girls.


Philip and Elizabeth go to see Gabe, who is super annoyed that they went around him to arrange Elizabeth and Paige’s special mommy-daughter time saying good-bye to Grandma. We may or may not also remember that Gabe had misgivings which he shared with the Jenning’s previous handler, about the whole recruiting Paige thing – especially given that the last time the Center tried to recruit a kid, the kid wound up taking out his entire family. Being the good soldier, and/or preferring the climate in the DC metro area to the climate anywhere in the Soviet Union, Gabe didn’t share these concerns with the Jennings, and was all about the plan. Gabe has a new assignment for our deceptive duo. It involves bio-weapons.

Nina and the Scientist are still living in the facility, and sometimes practicing English with each other – which is not a euphemism. He still has her in the friend zone, which seems unlikely given that he’ll never see his wife again.

The americans s4 e1 nina

If only there was some kind of fun way we could pass the time?

He’s continuing to work on his projects because he doesn’t have much of a choice. Nina’s job seems to be to keep him from becoming so hopeless he hangs himself. She continues to report on his activities to her handler, who was previously the boss she was blackmailed by the FBI into sexing up at the Rezidentura, who she then framed, and he got sent to a prison camp, and even after he was cleared, he was demoted to running the shithole camp where they all live. She demands her boss let her talk to her ex-husband. Just what we need! More characters.

Paige has an in person chat with Pastor Tim, who suggests that he meet with her and her parents to rap about this spy stuff. Paige, who doesn’t know what her parents actually do, knows enough to know that talking to them about it, would be a very, very bad idea, and they really can’t tell anybody ever.

They didn't teach this in pastor school.

They didn’t teach this in pastor school.

He tells her, to just keep watching them in that case, until they figure out what to do. Sure. That sounds like a safe plan. Maybe Paige should go to someone who could actually, help her, like that nice FBI agent what lives across the street.

Elizabeth and Philip are sitting in an outdoor table in a restaurant. She’s wearing a short wig. He has a kind of Jeremiah Johnson look, even though the film came out a decade before.

Inspired by a real person!

Inspired by a real person!

They’re talking about Henry, who has apparently started using cologne. So does that mean Henry is going to come down the stairs? And if so, will he be the same Henry? They’re about to go meet their contact, but Philip gets spooked by something and they abort. Elizabeth wonders if Philip was nervous about something else, and if so, she would like her partner in all things to tell her about it, but he doesn’t. Instead, we see him, telling a whole room full of people at an EST meeting about the two older bullies who used to beat him up until one day he fought back. He leaves out a few critical details like this happened in the Soviet Union, and he bashed in their brains with a rock. But Philip does admit he feels bad because he didn’t need to hit them so hard. Oh give yourself a break Philip!

Sandra is there, and afterwards they go to get a bite to eat. Sandra encourages him to fess up about the EST stuff to Elizabeth, but he tells her “Elizabeth would kill me.” Sandra doesn’t realize he meant that literally, and not literally in a figurative way. Unbeknownst to them, Torrie is seated a few tables away and she is totally getting the wrong idea.


Back in their disguises, Elizabeth and Philip are listening to some tapes of phone calls to and from Pastor Tim. Elizabeth is scared that Paige may “walk in there and spill the whole thing out.” They miss the call where she does that because they’re running late and have to pick up a bio-weapon sample that could start the zombie apocalypse.

Turns out their contact is played by Dylan Baker, who plays the creepy serial killing millionaire on The Good Wife, and it looks like he’s playing the same guy here but poor. This time, Elizabeth gets the bad feeling, although she can at least come up with a reason, and they once again abort the mission.

Philip goes to see Martha at Clark’s apartment, since it’s no longer safe for them to meet at hers. She tells him about her really bad day at work. Not being a psychopath, she feels terrible about Gene, and asks his murderer if he suffered. Philip tells her he did everything he could to make it easy for him. He also mentioned the robot-action figure collection that Gene had. This becomes a detail that brings them closer together, and even though Clark offers to keep her out of the dangerous stuff from now on, she volunteers, and he asks her to get him some surveillance information, making it seem like “they” are asking for it. It’s the information he and Elizabeth need to figure out if it’s safe to meet creepy Dylan Baker.

The next day at work, Martha is making a copy of the file for Clark. Stan comes over and starts talking to her about Gene. Is he suspicious? If he is, he’s not telling us.

Just spontaneously making files that nobody asked me to.

Just spontaneously making files that nobody asked me to.

Over at the Rezidentura, something is going on that Arkady (the Resident) can’t figure out. He’d really like to know what Tatyana is up to, and enlists Oleg to help him.

Martha’s file show that Philip was just imagining things the first time they aborted the meeting, but Elizabeth spotted something real the second time they aborted the meeting. The good news is they aren’t planning any surveillance that night. Wait a second. If the government is already suspicious enough to be following Dylan Baker around, wouldn’t they also have noticed the missing samples? Wouldn’t a missing sample of something that cause the zombie-apocalypse be a really big deal? Wouldn’t they just grab him or be watching him all the time?

Philip and Elizabeth finally contact creepy Dylan Baker, who gives them a sample of something that makes meningitis look like hay fever. It’s glanders – which is real thing that can happen in real life, but fortunately is unlikely to happen here because it originates in horses, and we don’t have too many of them anymore. Yay horse eradication!

The sample is in a vial, sealed in bubble wrap, and placed inside a tobacco tin. What could be more secure than that? They have to get it to Gabe. You’d think they might want to just do that immediately instead of storing it for a while, but that’s not the plan, so they take it home. When they get out of the car, Stan comes running in and tells Elizabeth he needs to talk to Phil ALONE. He is super-pissed because of course Torrie told him about seeing Philip with the ex-Mrs. Beeman. Philip tries to explain that it was innocent but he’s keeping it from Elizabeth because of EST. Stan doesn’t buy  it because what kind of woman would LITERALLY kill her husband for going to an EST meeting? He grabs Philip and comes close enough to punching him that we have to wonder whether or not he just unleashed the zombie apocalypse. Philip tells him to stop. He does and walks off saying, “Screw you Philip.”

So you're saying my ex isn't attractive enough for you?

So you’re saying my ex isn’t attractive enough for you?

Philip checks the vial. It looks okay. Phew That was a close one!



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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