“My husband and I need to postpone deliveries for this weekend.”
That’s Elizabeth’s way of telling the Center: DO NOT KILL PASTOR TIM AND HIS WIFE. She and Philip are trapped, having discovered Gabriel overcome by the weaponized glanders, and they can no longer participate in the family trip to EPCOT that would have served as their alibi.
Instead, they’ll be spending the weekend in Gabriel’s apartment being administered the antibiotic that gives this episode its name: “Chloramphenicol.” Their reluctant doctor: William (Dylan Baker), the asset who is trying to deliver these chemical and biological weapons to the KGB.
Elizabeth also calls home and breaks the news to Paige that the trip is canceled due to unforeseen circumstances. Paige panics — she’s sure this has something to do with Pastor Tim leaking their family secret.
This will prove to be a monumental episode in the series — the first time since Agent Amador’s death in season 1 that a major character in The Americans will meet a grim end. But we’ll get to that … shortly.
While Philip, Elizabeth, and William take care of Gabriel (and themselves) in his apartment, Oleg Burov is on a family trip of his own, though it’s no trip to Disney World, either. He’s in Moscow for the funeral of his brother, who was killed fighting in Afghanistan. Oleg’s father, a powerful party official, wants him to stay and not return to the United States.
“Are you upset with me because of Nina?” his father asks.
“You didn’t help her,” Oleg answers.
His father dismisses his infatuation with her. “You think it’s easy to help someone like her?” the old man says. “She’s a traitor.”
“She came clean. She did everything they asked,” Oleg counters. “I don’t even know if she is still alive.”
“She’s not dead,” his father says.
“Dad…please,” Oleg begs. “I need you to find out what happened to her.”
His father sighs.
Back in the U.S. of A., Stan is continuing his budding friendship with Henry, who is a bit of a wild card in the Jennings household, unwittingly opening their family business to the FBI agent. He casually spills the beans about his parents canceling the Disney World trip, and Stan invites himself over to their house to poke around and ask questions that place Paige on edge. It’s hard to know if Stan actually is actually suspicious of the family or just blundering into this nest of secret KGB operatives.
Meanwhile at Gabriel’s, Elizabeth is facing potential biochemical death with an existential crisis: “Paige does know we love her, right?” She’s thinking of her own mother’s death and the report that her mother’s dying words were that she loved her daughter. She wants to know if Philip helped Henry study for his test.
She’s also not hungry, which makes William worry she has been infected. “Please listen,” she tells Philip. “If something happens, blame me for Pastor Tim and Alice. Don’t wait for Paige to get suspicious.”
“I’m not going to do that,” Philip answers.
“You could just raise them here,” she says. “Be Americans… Henry doesn’t even ever have to know.”
“I’m just saying if,” she says. “It’s what you want. It’s what you’ve always wanted.”
At FBI headquarters, Agent Aderholt is laying a trap for poor Martha, asking about her night, then springing a dinner request on her when she says she’s just going home to watch TV. This follows last week’s scheme for him to get her out of her apartment to allow Stan time to search the premises.
Martha calls her husband “Clark” for guidance, but Philip is holed up at Gabriel’s, so he’s not available to advise her. She’s panicking almost as badly as Paige.
During dinner, she puts off Aderholt’s advances by telling him she’s seeing someone — a married man who is not planning to get divorced. That’s why she’s keeping the relationship under the radar.
At her apartment, Stan doesn’t find much. Just her gun — which he already knew about — and her Kama Sutra book, which may contain some tricks they don’t teach at Quantico.
Elizabeth is feverish back at Gabriel’s. She’s got glanders. Now it’s just a question of whether the antibiotic will work. Or is it the antibiotic itself that’s causing a bad reaction? We see a fever dream — a young Elizabeth, nursing her ailing mother long, long ago while the woman battles a mystery illness that makes her cough blood. “You’re a good daughter, Nadezhda,” her mother says. “If I die, I want you to go to your cousins…”
“Hush,” Elizabeth says. “You’re not going to die.”
She wakes, fully aware that she and Philip don’t even have any remote “cousins” who can take in the kids if anything happens to them.
Back in the U.S.S.R., Oleg gets word from his father about Nina’s latest betrayal of the party and is told that there is no string strong enough to pull that can help her. Oleg doesn’t care and just wants to see her. “If you saw her, you’d be aligning yourself with a traitor,” his father says. “I can’t get you out of that kind of trouble. No one can.”
He tries to bargain with his son. If he can help Nina, would Oleg stay in Moscow? After losing her other son, his mother wants him home. “You can understand that,” his father says.
Oleg agrees to the demand. Finally, Nina has a chance at being saved.
At Gabriel’s, Elizabeth’s fever has broken. She’s getting better, and so is Gabriel, although the fight isn’t over yet. William is fascinated by their relationship, their bond. “You don’t know what it’s like to do this job and not have anyone to talk to,” he says. “Except a series of handlers.”
“My daughter is in a very bad place because of us. Because of this job,” Philip says. “She could sense something was off. The late hours. No family ever around. Elizabeth wanted to tell her who we were, and I didn’t. We fought about it for months — and then we did.”
“Nobody sane would do this work,” William says.
“She would,” Philip answers.
“I’d be normal,” Philip answers.
As the recovering agents prepare to end their extended sleepover, Elizabeth proposes that they permanently stop the execution of Pastor Tim and his wife. Her plan: Work them, turn them.
Gabriel hates the idea. “You would be living in a burning house,” he says, with the kind of delivery that makes Frank Langella this show’s secret weapon.
But he has a compromise: The Center could spare the pastor and his wife in exchange for Paige joining the KGB. “Perhaps they’ll see the value in sparing Pastor Tim and his wife if they believe their deaths will make Paige unrecruitable. I have to offer them something.”
Paige is beyond relieved to see them at home, and they are relieved to be back. We actually get to see them having fun, out at a bowling alley enjoying a moment of reprieve. (Although Elizabeth brings her signature intensity by delivering six strikes in a row.) She jokes to Paige that it’s part of her spy training.
Back at the U.S.S.R.’s gulag, Nina is seen getting a paper from her lawyer. Is it the absolution Oleg’s father promised?
She meets her scientist friend Anton Baklanov in a sunny hallway and presents him with one of two airline tickets. They are free. We watch them walk hand in hand into the snow, into freedom.
But it is merely another dream. She is awoken from her slumber by guards. They tell her she is to be transferred, and they roughly gather her meager belongings and march her through a repellent subterranean passageway — hardly the glowing escape she envisioned.
A bureaucrat waits for her. He has bad news. Her appeal has been denied. She is to be executed after all. “It will be carried out shortly,” he says.
Nina begins to weep, She staggers back, trembling.
Oleg’s father is going to have to work quickly, or perhaps Stan can pull some last-minute maneuver that—
But no. The bureaucrat said “shortly,” and no sooner does the word escape his lips than a guard presses a pistol against the back of her head and pulls the trigger.
It is a cold, abrupt, and brutal end.
RIP, Nina Sergeevna Krilova.
And congratulations to actress Annet Mahendru for bringing her to life so well that we mourn her death so deeply.