The season finale for The Americans starts with a stakeout of William’s apartment. The feds are on to him, and he has already stolen a vial of the Lassa virus, with plans to deliver it to Philip in a meet-up at a D.C. park.
Stan Beeman and his sidekick Aderholt are right behind him, along with a surveillance chopper and countless fellow agents on the ground. He’s surrounded. And Philip is walking into a trap.
From there we cut to Paige, reading a Spanish textbook in her bedroom. Elizabeth comes in and crawls into bed with her. Paige asks, “If we’re in danger … If things can happen … Maybe I need to learn how to defend myself.”
She’s thinking about the assailant she watched her mother kill in a dark parking lot.
“I can teach you a few things,” Elizabeth says.
Elsewhere, the noose tightens around William as he goes for his late-night stroll. Just before he enters the park to meet Philip, William picks up on the tail and tries to run. There’s no escape, however, and rather than surrender outright, William makes a fatal choice.
He breaks the vial of Lassa virus and drives it into his palm, infecting himself and creating a major problem for the agents trying to take him into custody. By offering up his own life, he may have just saved Philip’s.
“Don’t move!” an agent yells.
“I suggest you don’t move!” William responds. “You might want to get me to a hospital with a bio-containment treatment facility – as soon as possible.”
Philip returns home and tells Elizabeth that William didn’t show. Given William’s earlier squeamishness about delivering the virus, he isn’t sure whether he simply flaked or was captured.
“Stan didn’t come home tonight,” Elizabeth says.
There’s an alternate meet-up planned for William the next day. They’ll try again.
Elizabeth tells Philip that she told Paige about Smolensk. “Do you ever wonder what it looks like now?” she asks. “It could be totally different.”
“Probably not that much,” he says.
From there, we shift back to Mother Russia and a hospital of some sort — a mental ward. A young patient there named Semenov Mikhail (nicknamed Mischa) is brought before an official. “You are lucky to have such important friends,” he says. ‘I’m not sure who they are either. Frankly, I think they just found out you were here. How do you like it?”
Mischa doesn’t answer. He has been detained here because he has been speaking out against the Party after returning from military service in Afghanistan. “You know this is against the law,” the official says. “Only a criminal or a mentally ill person would talk like that.”
His evaluation is nearly complete. A determination of being insane would lead to his detention for up to eight years. But his powerful friends are offering a different choice: Stop speaking out against the state and the war, and he will be released.
The young man agrees.
Those powerful friends he doesn’t know about? It must be the KGB. This is Philip’s illegitimate son. Thanks to his father’s faithful service, the party is looking out for his other interests.
Back in the states, we see a different hospital, and William is already ailing from the Lassa infection. Stan and Aderholt talk to him through a microphone and look down at him through a sealed window on the floor above his bed.
They ask if there’s anything they can do to make him more comfortable.
“In a few days, everything that’s inside me that … matters … will have oozed out through my orifices,” William says. “I’m a dead man. It’s a very unusual feeling.”
“Would you like a Coke?” Aderholt offers.
At least William gets a hacking laugh out of that.
At the Rezidentura, Oleg Burov tells Arkady Zotov about his plan to return home to his family in the Soviet Union. Zotov tells him domestic service is boring. “I’ll be all right,” Oleg assures him.
“You’re a good son,” Zotov says.
At the Jennings house, Elizabeth comes home and is told by Paige that Pastor Tim’s wife Alice had her baby. “I guess we should all go visit them,” Elizabeth says.
“All three of us?” Paige asks.
“Henry too,” Elizabeth says.
“Is it too soon?” Paige asks. “How soon did you have visitors after having me?”
Elizabeth sighs. “I didn’t have many friends, so…” (God, that’s sad. A new mother who has no one to share her new baby with.)
Philip is at an EST meeting and is talking obliquely about his real job, making it sound like a mundane gig that he no longer wants to do. “One day you wake up and you don’t want to go into the office, you don’t want to make arrangements for people you don’t know and don’t give a shit about … You don’t want to do it. You just don’t.”
The life of tradecraft has caught up with him. “Every morning I wake up with this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach,” he says. The EST director asks him why he doesn’t quit, but of course, Philip can’t explain. When he says “I can’t,” it sounds like a cop out. In his case, it’s true. He can’t quit.
Later, Gabriel says that after numerous attempts to contact William, the Center now believes he has been captured. “I’m not saying he walked it over to them, but if they have him, they probably have something enticing to offer,” Gabriel says.
“I hadn’t thought about it like that,” Philip said. “He bitched and moaned and was an asshole… I guess it’s possible.”
“He’s been here,” Gabriel says of the safe house. “We’d better go.”
Back in Russia, Mischa goes to an apartment — his grandparent’s place — and embraces his grandfather, the one on his mother’s side. She left a package for his son. “Your mother sent it to me for safekeeping before she was arrested,” the old man says. (She was also with the KGB, and when she encountered Philip in an earlier season, she tried to get him to leave the organization with her. It seems she did break ties — and here’s why one can’t just quit the job.)
The package has passport documents and stacks of cash. Her son wants to know why she ran. Her father doesn’t know.
The young man asks about his father, but the old man only saw him once, kissing his daughter outside the house.
“What was he like?”
“He was a boy. Like you … She loved him. She was happy.”
The boy is planning to find him. And his mother said she would leave him instructions. He knows the man is a travel agent in America. This is surely a plot thread that we’ll be following well into Season 5. It seems Philip is being searched for by someone besides the FBI.
Back in the States, Arkady Zoltov is told about William’s capture. He says that can’t be possible — how could the KGB be infiltrating a bioweapons lab when such labs are a violation of the treaties the two countries have signed?
He thinks he’s got them.
“We only work on research for antidotes and medicines for the weapons we know you’re making,” the deputy attorney general says. “President Regan expects your country to keep to the treaties it signed. And he will be bringing this episode up with Andropov shortly.” That would be Yuri Andropov, general secretary of the Communist Party at the time.
They slide a piece of paper across the table. He’s being expelled from the country.
Agent Wolf, who took over the FBI’s counter-intelligence team, recites a litany of crimes that we’ve seen play out over the past four seasons. All of the accusations are true, including the last one: “You killed Frank Gaad.”
Zoltov has 48 hours to get back to the U.S.S.R.
At the hospital, it doesn’t seem like William is going to last even that long. He’s got hemorrhagic fever already. Stan and Aderholt ask if there’s anyone William would like them to contact. “After so many years in your country as your unwelcome guest, there is no one,” William says. “Besides, anyone who needs to know … knows.”
“They don’t know if you’ve told us anything,” Stan says.
“No,” William agrees. “They don’t know that.”
Aderholt asks William if he liked his work.
“It was exciting,” William says. “I was committed to something. And I was invisible.”
“To us,” Aderholt says.
“To everyone,” William says. “That made me feel special. Like I was the star of my very own movie. … My secret power, as it were, became a curse. I was alone. Isolated. I’d reach out to people, not friends, exactly. Maybe acquaintances, more like. But there was always a distance. A barrier…”
He’s rambling. It’s the fever.
“The absence of closeness makes you … cry … inside,” William says.
“But still committed,” Stan says.
“It was the only thing I had left,” William tells him.
Elizabeth and Stan meet with Gabriel. They’re worried that William might be turning on Philip. “If William talks to the FBI, it’s risks on top of risks,” Gabriel says. “I think you two and your children should return home.”
“What?” Elizabeth says.
“Philip, your heart hasn’t been in this for a long time,” Gabriel says. “Elizabeth, you’ve been doing this for over 20 years. The job wasn’t meant to be forever.”
“So the Center wants us to pack our bags and come home?” Philip asks.
“You’ve had a good, long tour,” Gabriel says. “The Center would welcome you back with honors the moment you said you were ready. But with William under arrest, you’re in immediate danger. I know …. I know you’ve always been in danger. But I think it’s time.”
He tells them to go home, get their kids, and get themselves to a safehouse.
“But of course,” he adds, “it’s your decision.”
Elsewhere, we see Paige visiting Pastor Tim and Alice and holding their newborn at the hospital. (I kinda wonder if William is in some sealed basement room in the same facility.)
The montage plays out over Leonard Cohen’s desolate “Who By Fire”: Zoltov sits alone at the Rezidentura, gazing at a bust of Lenin. Tatiana tells Oleg not to bother him.
“It’s a shock,” she says. He was a good man.
“He’s not dead,” Oleg tells her.
She informs him that she’s no longer leaving for Kenya, but staying to run the Rezidentura on a temporary basis.
Oleg hesitates, then tells her he’s transferring back to Moscow to be closer to his family.
“You’re a good son,” she says. It’s the second time he’s been told that.
At the vigil beside William’s death bed, Stan and Aderholt watch as their prisoner/patient gargles on his own dissolving innards. Blood spills from his mouth as he babbles. “They … always wanted more … information … of samples …. they wanted me married,” he says. “I tried. We were fighting. I was … I wish I could’ve been with her for all these years. Like them.”
“A couple kids …” William goes on. “The American dream … Never suspect them … She’s … pretty. He’s lucky.”
At the Jennings house, Henry is watching the Super Bowl alone. Philip and Elizabeth go upstairs to talk. Across the street, Matthew is watching the game with Paige.
He talks about distance with his father, and the affair his father had. “In a way it’s good, right? Seeing them as people?” Paige says, grasping for a silver lining. “Sometimes, don’t you wish you could go back to being a little kid again?”
“I don’t know,” Matthew says.
“I used to think my dad was having an affair at work,” Paige says. “He was working late a lot. I asked my mom about it. She said no, she trusted him. But they’re just people and … s— happens, you know?”
The two lock eyes. Then they lock lips. Matthew’s hands start creeping under her blue Freddy Krueger sweater.
Philip and Elizabeth sit quietly in their room. “You want to pack? Get the hell out of here?” Philip asks.
“Maybe,” his wife says. “I don’t know.”
“Are you trying to picture them there?”
Across the street, Stan comes home. “Hasn’t been watching the Super Bowl,” Philip says. “Work must be busy.”
Elizabeth sends her husband to retrieve Paige. When he does, Stan is giddy at having caught Matthew and Paige making out. “Father of the bride — you’re paying!” Stan declares. “You can use my backyard if you want to.”
Philip isn’t feeling it. “Okay, let’s go, sweetie,” he says.
“Bye,” she tells Matthew, abruptly.
Stan sets a racquetball match for Tuesday. “You bet,” Philip says.
As they cross the street, Philip tells his daughter, “I don’t want you to see him. Don’t do this… You have no idea. No idea.”
He walks fast. Almost like he’s ready to run.
And that’s where things end — dangling off a cliff.