Philip is playing the video game Defender, but that doesn’t last long. Henry takes over the game as Elizabeth and Paige enter the house, clearly in a state of distress.
Paige just watched her mother kill a would-be attacker in a parking lot, and now the girl is grappling with just how deadly her parents may be in their secret roles as Soviet spies.
“Don’t we have to call the police?” Paige asks.
“We can’t draw any attention to ourselves,” her mother answers.
“Did you have to do that?” her daughter replies.
“Yeah. I did.”
Paige is overwhelmed. “I feel sick,” she says.
If she only knew the half of it.
So begins the penultimate episode of season 4 of The Americans, which is building toward … we don’t really know. The infiltration of the bio-weapons lab?
Philip tells Paige he has to leave, “for work,” per usual. Her mother, not exactly the nurturing type, stays behind with her daughter. She explains that she was trained to defend herself.
“It was just so fast, and I didn’t even know what was happening. I was just so scared … And you didn’t seem upset after. You were, like, calm. How could you be calm? You killed him … mom.”
“I wasn’t going to let him hurt you. Then it was all happening so fast,” Elizabeth answers.
Now a question she can’t answer. At least, not honestly. “Have you done that before?” her daughter asks.
“To protect myself, yeah.”
“How many times?”
Elizabeth shakes her head. “I don’t know.” Too many to count.
“Were you scared?”
Elizabeth doesn’t answer this one.
Elsewhere, Agent Aderholt is visiting the machine shop where the FBI’s mail robot was bugged. He wants to know about the owner’s mother, who was found dead there while the device was in the warehouse.
The owner doesn’t think anything suspicious happened. His mother was old and sick for a long time. Aderholt thinks a Soviet spy may have taken the woman down, and he’s exactly right. Elizabeth herself made the woman overdose on her medication before leaving the facility.
So count that old lady as one of the people she killed — you know, to “protect” herself.
In a park that night, Philip sits down beside William, the KGB’s man in the bio-weapons lab. “Four. Nine. Two. Six. Three,” he says.
This is the code for Level Four, acquired by way of an elaborate, painful ruse stage against Young Hee and her husband, Don. William doesn’t even want it, doesn’t want to secure this new virus for the Soviets.
Lassa, he says, is a miserable way to go. It dissolves a person’s insides, and those then pour out of every orifice. “I can’t do this one, Philip,” he says.
“It’s not that. I can do things I’m scared of … But this. This is one of the deadliest pathogens on the planet,” he says. “Say it actually gets out there. And I play a part in that…?”
“What do you want me to tell Gabriel?” Philip asks.
“Tell him the truth,” William answers.
William nods. “Yeah.”
At the Rezidentura, Oleg meets with Tatiana and learns she is taking over the KGB office in Nairobi. “Don’t blow it,” he tells her.
“The Rezident can sometimes choose their own deputy,” she says.
“Kenya…” he says. “Let me think about it.”
He congratulates her again, and she says, “As long as I don’t kill half the people on the Eastern seaboard in the next week or so.” She’s having doubts about the bio-weapons infiltration, too.
Later, while Oleg is studying schematics for the Challenger space shuttle (hm, wonder what that’s foreshadowing) he tells her he is feeling the draw to return home to his family.
At the Jennings house, Philip comes home to find Elizabeth still awake — and troubled by what Paige witnessed. She sighs and tells Philip that right before the attack, Paige was telling her about information she gathered from Stan’s son Matthew about the missing FBI secretary (whom we know was Martha) who is suspected of being a KGB mole.
“Paige was reporting this to me…” her mother says. In other words, their daughter is becoming more like them.
At the FBI office, Aderholt and a technician are poring over the mail robot when they discover the listening device. Aderholt has the technician replace it and they begin a stake-out for the person who must be gathering the device.
“They ought to tear this goddamn building down,” Stan says.
Their boss is frustrated. They’ll catch the person making the swap, pick up someone from the embassy, deport them due to diplomatic immunity, and then start all over again. This time, they’re going to aim to make it hurt for the Soviets by aiming “higher up the ladder,” which probably means Arkady Zotov, the face of the Rezidentura.
The FBI catches a woman in the mail room trying to change out the recorder. She claims she thought she was working for someone in the mafia. The title of the episode, “A Roy Rogers in Franconia” comes from the fast food restaurant where she met the supposed mobster who arranged the dead-drop.
At the Jennings house, Paige has a heart-to-heart with her mother. “Did you know it’d be dangerous when you joined?”
“I wanted to serve my country,” Elizabeth answers.
“You never answer my questions. It’s always, ‘I want to make the world better,’ but it’s never what happened. Never the whole truth.”
Elizabeth tells her that growing up in Smolensk, which was destroyed by World War II, made her want to resist. “The people who survived had done without food. Freezing. Fighting. They all worked together and fought back. Somehow,” she says. “I guess I always wanted to be like that. To fight back. ‘Dangerous’ didn’t matter.”
Meanwhile, Philip and Gabriel go to a pay phone to call Martha’s family and reassure them their daughter is safe and being well taken care of by people who respect her.
As the mother begins to cry, Gabriel hangs up.
Another phone call is placed overseas, to Russia, from Oleg. He’s talking to his mother, who at first mistakes him for his brother, who was killed in battle in Afghanistan.
She misses Oleg and wants him to come home.
He’s starting to want that, too.
Stan gets a message at the FBI that leads him to disappear for a while. Oleg wants to meet. He tells Stan that the KGB has someone working in an Americans bio-weapons lab. “We have the best scientists in the world, but we don’t have the money. And it’s not a good combination,” Oleg says. “All those brains, with what they’re doing … Without the right resources, they get their hands on something that they can’t always handle in the right way.”
He can’t make it stop. But maybe the American intelligence community can bring it to a halt. After sharing this information, he says he’s finished. He gives Stan enough to get started tracking down the mole.
At the FBI headquarters, Stan’s new boss pulls every agent (except for one with a video camera) away from the dead-drop for the audio device, figuring it’s too risky to alarm the Rezidentura now that they have a much bigger fish on the hook with this bio-weapons news.
Elsewhere, Gabriel arranges a meeting face to face with William. “How can I believe in this, with all the damage it can cause?” he asks Gabriel.
Instead of threatening him, Gabriel works a different approach. “You haven’t seen the people you’ve been protecting for too long,” he says. “You’ve given almost your whole life to your country, to your people. It’s time for you to come home. You’ll be a hero.”
All he has to do is secure this weaponized virus.
“You’ll do this one last thing,” Gabriel says. “And when you go home, you, your loved ones, and all of our people will be safer because of it.”
William is persuaded.
“I didn’t think you’d be able to change his mind,” Philip says later.
“Deep down, he loves his country more than anything,” Gabriel says. “I didn’t change his mind. I reminded him who he is and gave him what he wants.”
“And if that wasn’t who he was anymore?”
“I don’t know,” Gabriel says.
Philip says he agrees with William — they shouldn’t go after a weapon this terrifying.
“I’m not sure who was right about this one,” Gabriel says.
“You can always count on Elizabeth.”
“You’re good for each other,” Gabriel says. “She’s steadfast. You need that.”
Philip nods. He has to concede: “The Center made a good match.”
Gabriel wavers and says he needs to sit. “I used to think I’d do better, serve the Center better if I kept to myself. If you work alone, there’s no one to tear away at you, weakening you,” Gabriel says. “But, you go to shit anyway. And you’re still alone.”
The next day, Paige and Matthew are hanging out at Stan’s house. She asks about his band, and about the girl he used to date. Then they stop, draw close to each other, and kiss. “Okay,” she says.
“Okay?” he asks.
“I should get home,” she says.
Back at her place, Paige tells her mother and father that Stan hasn’t been home in two days. They respond by asking her what’s going on between her and Matthew.
“I like him, but … Henry is close with Mr. Beeman, and we have no idea what he’s saying about us,” Paige says.
“You have to be careful who you open up to,” Elizabeth says.
“I’m just talking to him,” Paige says. “You talk to Mr. Beeman all the time. He’s practically a member of the family.”
“You want to be Matthew’s friend, be Matthew’s friend,” Philip says. But they don’t want Paige launching rogue missions on her own to benefit the family espionage business.
The argument is interrupted by a call for Philip. It’s the Center. He has to meet William, who has used the Level Four codes to acquire some of the lassa virus.
At the FBI, they are hard at work flipping through employee rolls trying to scan for threats among the various bio-weapon subcontractors. After two days of that, they hit on William Crandall — who has the identity of a dead 5-year-old from decades ago.
They have the mole.
As Philip prepares to go meet him, the FBI is scheduling its own encounter.
Before her dad leaves the house without explaining why, Paige has one more question. “Do you trust me or not?” she asks.
Philip tells her he’s going to meet a man who has something the country needs. “Part of a weapon we’ll use if we’re ever attacked,” Elizabeth adds.
Paige considers this. “Great,” she says.