Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings and Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings. (Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/FX)

This post discusses the plot of the April 30 episode of “The Americans.”

“It’s funny, you know. When you get older, you realize that your parents are also just people, like everyone else. And just like everyone else in the world, you can’t really know everything about them,” Stan tells Jared when he goes to visit the orphaned boy. “My sister Amelia, she was 14. Did she have secrets?” Jared wants to know, bitter at the implication that his parents were some sort of criminals. “I’ll bet she did. And that’s okay,” Stan says kindly. “I’m just hoping if I can figure out some of your parents’ secrets, I might be able to find out who did this.”

Stan is gentle with Jared, but his care is part of a larger untruth: Stan wants to know what happened to Jared not for the boy, but for himself. Their conversation, like the rest of “Yusuf,” is shot through with deceptions, double-talk, and the most uncomfortable unspoken thing of all: sometimes, you do not actually want to know the things that are being kept from you.

Stan fancies himself an international man of mystery, sophisticated enough to carry on an affair with Nina, enough of a schemer to figure out a way to get Oleg, his adversary, kicked out of the country. But as he confesses to Nina, he is floored by the news of Sandra’s affair. “It’s been bad for so long,” Stan confesses to his mistress. “Not bad, just dead. But the funny thing, the crazy thing is, it’s still a shock.” 

Stan and Nina’s bosses, Gaad and Arkady, reach a deal about the official lie the Soviet government will accept as an explanation for Vlad’s death. But they struggle to try to make each other confront the truth about what their services are doing to each other. For Gaad, the truth that Arkady will not accept is that both sides are equally complicit in the fight. And for Arkady, the truth is that every death is individual, and every death hurts. Watching them talk past each other in the snow, their words are colder than the accumulation on the roads.

“He was a 23-year-old first year officer,” Arkady tells Gaad, showing his counterpart a picture of the young man Stan killed. “He’d been here three months. Would have washed out in a year. Didn’t have the stomach for the trade. He wanted to be a doctor.” Gaad is having none of it. “He should have been a doctor,” the American tells Arkady. “I had a friend. Chris Amadour. Funny guy. What we like to call a character. He could light up a room. You target our people, we target yours.”

At the Jennings’ house, Paige and Elizabeth are caught in a similar web of misunderstanding. Elizabeth recognizes the sort of youthful contradiction Paige has worked herself into, where she has convinced herself that it might be justified to forge her mother’s signature as part of her efforts “to be a better person.”

But she cannot explain her own thinking to her daughter. Elizabeth cannot say that she is suspicious of religion because of her own ideology and upbringing. She cannot explain to Paige that she thinks her daughter’s life is soft because she grew up in extreme Soviet poverty. And Elizabeth really cannot tell her daughter what she can admit to her husband, that because of Elizabeth’s own experience with sexual assault, she worries that Paige is “never going to be ready for the real world if we do not get her ready.” Paige may want her mother to be fair, but it is unlikely that she would want to know the truth, even if Elizabeth was willing to reveal it.

Philip’s mission depends on Annalise wanting to believe two lies. First, this ornamental government wife wants to believe that she can be of use. After she finds out what use Philip really wants to make of her, Annalise tells Philip truth that is rougher than even she knows.“How could you do this?” Annalise demands of Philip. “What kind of man are you? You’re a pimp. You turned me out. God I hate you. I wish I never met you.” But she is ready to believe another lie, that even if Philip does not need her, he still wants her.

“You don’t think it kills me to watch the woman I love sacrifice herself like that?” Philip tells her. “Give herself to another man, even if it is for a cause bigger than either of us? It is not something I take lightly, ever.” The words are true. It is letting Annalise believe they are about her that is the lie.

Previously, on “The Americans”:

-‘The Americans’ recap: “Martial Eagle.”

-‘The Americans’ recap: “New Car.”

-‘The Americans’ recap: “Arpanet.”

 

Alyssa Rosenberg blogs about pop culture for The Washington Post's Opinions section.
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