“I’m sorry to drop by unannounced. It’s so hard to talk around the office these days.”
Good Lord, what a terrifying reveal! After several expository installments, this penultimate episode of season 3 of The Americans was a live-wire of action as some of the slow-build machinations of The Center came to fruition and a few loose-cannon actions threatened to upend everything.
The sentence above is spoken by Noah Emmerich’s Agent Stan Beeman, lately an avuncular presence on the show as he bonds with the Jennings’ outcast son Henry, but as he utters that line he is the Sword of Damocles, dangling over that family’s head.
Matthew Rhys’ Philip is heading over to Martha’s house for the night, and he’s still so nervous about how she’s absorbing the news that her husband has been manipulating her for information that they send Hans the KGB intern to scout her place in advance. As Philip, disguised as “Clark,” approaches her home, Hans drives by and gives him a signal.
Then we cut to Martha, the indispensable Alison Wright, musing about changes to her apartment. “I keep thinking I want to paint, blue or something bolder. Then you have to live with it. And the smell, it lingers you know. Much longer than they say.”
The camera pans to reveal who is sitting at her kitchen table, and it isn’t “Clark.”
“Hmm. It’s a nice place,” Beeman says.
Since it wasn’t clear to me right away what kind of signal Hans gave Philip (I assumed it was “all-clear”) the tension was unbearable as I waited for Stan’s good-buddy Philip Jennings to walk through that front door in his “Clark” disguise. How could he possibly explain that? The solution could only be a bloodbath.
Soon it becomes clear that Beeman is on his own rogue operation to flush out the person who planted the listening device in FBI headquarters. He’s not so much accusing poor Martha, but he wants her to know she can count on him if there’s anything she needs to get off her chest. You know, away from the office, where it’s not so safe to talk anymore.
He’s scanning her apartment, seeing the book she’s reading, looking for something. My God, is he going to spot a wedding picture of her and “Clark”?
You’ve got to hand it to Martha. She may have been bamboozled for a long time, but she is now quick on her feet. “I hear the gossip at work about your marriage. And you should talk to somebody, but I’m not the right person,” she says. Way to turn it around on him and hit the bull’s-eye of his insecurity.
Stan takes his leave, and Martha goes to a drawer where she removes that wedding picture. Quick, Martha. Very quick.
I’m losing faith in the idea that she may be working with Gaad to bring down “Clark” and his operation.
When Philip arrives home, he breaks the news to Keri Russell’s Elizabeth. Hans waved him off. “Hans did good,” he says.
Things aren’t nearly so good between Philip and Elizabeth.
After breaking into the hotel where the CIA plans to send Mujahideen leaders to discuss providing them with Stinger missiles to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, they hook up a phone intercept to one of the rooms. The fellow staying there gives this episode its title, “I Am Abassin Zadran.” We’ll get to know him soon enough, but he’s the one Philip was warned about in the previous episode—the guy who likes to torture and decapitate his enemies.
Despite a fluid, albeit tense, mission into the hotel to set up the intercept, the husband and wife operatives are at odds. When they get home, they find son Henry (Keidrich Sellati) vegging out in front of the TV and a note from Paige (Holly Taylor) informing them that she is staying the night with Pastor Tim.
This sets off alarms. Philip and Elizabeth know Paige is still freaking out after discovering her parents’ true history and occupation, and they’re terrified she may confess this to Pastor Tim, whom she seems to trust more than anyone else in the world. They race to the good pastor’s place and stake-out his empty home. This is when the sparks really fly.
“Where the hell are they?” Elizabeth asks.
“I don’t know. How long does a church lecture go?” Philip says.
“You’re asking me?” Elizabeth snorts. “It probably turned into some pot-luck, poster-making sing-a-long.”
Suddenly, a car pulls up and Paige gets out with Pastor Tim and his wife.
“Don’t jump all over her,” Philip says. “You know what I mean.”
“No, maybe I don’t,” Elizabeth snaps. “You want to teach me how to handle my own daughter?”
The pastor is slightly defensive, but agrees that she needs to obey her mom and dad and go home. The pastor thanks Philip for the information about those mission tickets to Kenya.
Back home, the family pulls into their garage, which has become the equivalent of the FBI’s safe room.
“You asked for the truth, and with that comes responsibility. Do you understand that,” Elizabeth says.
Philip tells his daughter she can still see pastor Tim, “But you need to act as if everything is perfectly normal.”
“But it’s not!” Paige cries.
As if she doesn’t have enough going on, Elizabeth has to deal with her friend from the Northrop Gruman plant, Lisa (Karen Pittman), who’s going to get her photographs of one of the new stealth planes. She shows Lisa how to walk with a purse loaded with a camera, and Lisa’s surly, drunkard of a husband, crazy old Maurice (Thaddeus Daniels), second-guesses everything. He’s more jumpy than Lisa.
Later, instead of Lisa delivering the film, it’s Maurice, and Elizabeth is not thrilled to be doing business with this abusive lout. “This wasn’t the arrangement.”
“I’m dealing with this side of things now,” he says. “You got a problem with this?”
“Suit yourself,” he says, and begins to walk away.
Elizabeth folds. She gives him the money, and takes the camera. “Tell Lisa I said I’ll talk to her soon. In person.”
“Whatever,” Maurice says.
Oh Maurice, you’re going to die, my friend. Watch yourself.
Elsewhere, Hans catches Martha on the street and whisks her away to a safe meeting with Clark, who is trying to figure out whether she is giving him up to the FBI or merely a victim of their suspicions herself. He believes her when she says it’s the latter.
“What am I going to do, Clark?” she asks. Remember when Gabriel asked Philip in the last episode if he was falling apart. That’s what’s happening to Martha now. Maybe.
“I don’t know quite how to say this. But we might have to go away. Some place new,” Philip, er, “Clark” tells her.
He tries to calm her down by saying that if the FBI really suspected her, they wouldn’t send Stan Beeman by at night to ask her mildly invasive questions, they’d be bugging her phones and storming that apartment. Beeman dropping by, he thinks, is evidence they still have no idea and are on fishing expeditions now.
“I will figure this out,” “Clark” says. “I promise.”
At the FBI office, Beeman is finding himself to be the object of suspicion. Agent Dennis Aderholt (Brandon J. Dirden) sternly tells him, “I have a few more questions about Nina.”
“What is with you?” Beeman responds.
“I don’t know, Stan. There was something going on with you and Nina. That much is clear to me.”
“What are you accusing me of?”
“Did you plant the bug?”
“No. And you are not as smart as you look,” Beeman says, before tearing him a new one. “You read all those files. Let’s say the woman I shot didn’t actually die. Maybe she’s the one who beat the shit out of you and Gaad. Maybe she even killed my partner, Chris Amador. Our office is a target of The Illegals. The best, most dangerous officers the KGB has. Now they got to somebody inside, and it wasn’t me. Work on that.”
We don’t see it, but we hear a machine roll by at that point with a familiar “Beep! Beep! Beep!” The mail robot is listening …
This conversation could be a potentially vital piece of information, but back at the Rezidentura, Arkady Zotov (Lev Gorn) is thinking of giving up on the mail robot initiative. It picks up nothing but small talk.
Oleg Burov (Costa Ronin) and Tatiana Ruslanova (Vera Cherny) petition him to keep the program going a little longer, arguing that it will give them insight into the personal lives of the FBI employees and could yield info that may help turn or pressure one of them.
For now, the mail robot lives.