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The Americans recap: Dyatkovo

The punishment doesn’t always fit the crime. Sometimes it merely worsens the crime.

This is as close to a stand-alone episode as we’re likely to get this season, with Philip and Elizabeth dispatched to investigate whether a late-middle-aged woman from Boston is actually a Nazi collaborator hiding under a new identity.

We start with Henry getting a promise from his father that he will be allowed to leave for the private boarding school he wants to attend.

“I’m going to have to talk to your mother. But it’s fine by me,” Philip says.

Then Philip goes to see Tuan, his “other” son, and the two sit silently watching TV while Philip daydreams of his own father, pretending to be airplanes as they fly around their old apartment.

Checking in with Claudia, they tell her the good news about Paige being willing to see Pastor Tim shipped off to other whereabouts. And Claudia gives them their new assignment.

The woman in Boston is living under the name Natalie Granholm. Her husband is an ophthalmologist. She’s also suspected of being a Russian collaborator who served on a Nazi execution squad during World War II.

“She personally shot hundreds of our boys,” Claudia says. “Prisoners. They used to line them up on a pit outside of town.”

There are no documents linking the two, and most photos of this collaborator were destroyed during the occupation. They have one small headshot, from decades ago.

“The Center wants you to find out everything you can. We’ll make sure it’s her before we do anything,” Claudia assures them.

She also has some bad news: “I looked into what you asked me about. The Center did weaponize the Lassa virus you harvested from William. They named it Variant V, for Vitaly — his Russian name.”

At FBI headquarters, Stan brings Henry in for a visit to write his school paper. And when Henry gets home, he is brimming with information. He met Agent Wolfe, Stan’s boss; his partner Aderholt; spotted The Vault room; and even had a brief encounter with our old friend the Mail Robot.

His parents are impressed by all the information he gleaned. Maybe they chose the wrong child to recruit as a spy.

Philip and Elizabeth stake out Natalie Granholm and get some new close-up shots of her, but they can’t discern an obvious resemblance to the young woman in the old photo.

As they develop the film, they think back to last episode, when Paige showed them photos she took of Pastor Tim’s diary, which described them as monsters.

“Do you think Paige wanted us to see those photos? Maybe she wanted to see us read them right in front of her,” Philip says.

Maybe. Maybe.

In Moscow, Burov searches the office of the secretary Lydia Fomina, his new lead in the food corruption investigation. His partner finds a ledger, hidden in a drawer that’s not even locked.

They take her into custody and slide it across the table to her. She slides it back.

They tell her they understand she’s just doing the job her boss, Kirillov, assigned her. The bribes and corruption in those pages could put her away for 15 years, but they’ll be lenient if she explains how it all works.

“How do they get all these people to do exactly what they want them do with our nation’s food supply?” Burov says.

She seems amused. “This is how the whole country works. It’s how people get fed. It isn’t going to change.”

“You think you can beat the KGB?” Burov’s partner, Ruslan, asks.

“It’s not just me,” she answers. “Every official and warehouse supervisor and grocery store manager. You think you’re above it all. That’s because you don’t have to worry about any of these things. So high and mighty…”

Back in the states, Philip and Elizabeth turn over their photos and give a little more information about the potential war criminal they’re stalking.

She’s a part-time nurse. She has two daughters and volunteers at a free clinic. Some days she babysits her granddaughter.

They also receive some information from Claudia. “When the Red Army took back Dyatkovo, she was in a hospital in Germany recovering from a venereal disease,” the handler says. This collaborator did not just help the Nazis kill Russian prisoners; she was having sex with many of the Third Reich troops.

Hospital records matching her weight and height led them to Natalie Granholm.

It’s thin evidence, so Philip and Elizabeth will wait for a final judgment.

Back home, Stan reads and loves Henry’s exposé on the FBI counterintelligence unit. But he cautions Henry about life in the bureau.

Henry asks him to explain what it’s like, and Stan struggles. “I can’t explain it to you Henry, because I don’t trust you,” he says, explaining it perfectly. “No, I’m not allowed to. You’re the greatest kid in the world, but I have to think of you as if you are a spy. That’s what the FBI is like.” He can’t trust anyone, not his wife, not his kid.

“That sucks,” Henry says.

“Yup,” Stan answers.

Some time later, Elizabeth gets a call from the Center:

“Natalie Granholm, they’re sure it’s her,” she tells Philip. “They just said to go ahead.”

“They saw the same pictures we saw,” he protests. Neither of them is sure. The Center can’t possibly be either.

“I want to be sure before,” he says. “I can’t just get this order from them and do whatever they say. We talked about this.”

“We’ll make sure,” Elizabeth says.

That night, they sneak into her house while she sets her dining room table for dinner. “I don’t have much money,” the woman says when she sees the gun. “You can have what there is.”

They haven’t come for money, though. “What do you want?” she asks.

“The truth,” Elizabeth says. They say the name of the collaborator.

“Who is she? What did she do to you? You think she me. You mistaking,” Natalie Granholm insists. “It’s not me. I’m a wife, I’m a mother. I –”

“You’re a traitor. You betrayed your own people. You slaughtered your own people, young boys who were fighting, unlike you,” Elizabeth says.

She flattens the woman against her chair and snarls in Russian: “We are them.”

Something about her denial rings true. Philip and Elizabeth have a brief argument about whether to believe her. Philip isn’t sure he wants to execute her even if it is her.

Finally, they tell her they will be waiting. For what? Her husband, John, who will be home soon.

Natalie Granholm breaks. She admits she’s who they say, to spare her husband. But this, this feels false, too. They want to know specifics about the executions, and she is unable to give them. Also… would this cold-blooded killer be so quick to sacrifice herself for someone else, even her husband?

They hear a car. The door opens. John is home. Then he’s in another chair with a gun in his face. He can’t grasp what is happening. Finally, his wife tells the truth. All of it.

It’s a confession to him, not them. It’s about when the Nazis came to her town of Dyatkovo. “We were rounded up and taken to square in center of town. My father was shot along with many other men and boys. I held on to my mother, but she was shot.

“They made me dig a hole,” she goes on. “I use a shovel, pail, and my hands. They threw them in like garbage. I was 16. I didn’t know anything about world. About anything. They let me live.”

“Why?” Philip asks.

“There was no reason. Nothing made any sense,” she answers. “They gave me food. I was obedient. Helpless. The first time, they gave me so much to drink, I could barely stand up.”

First time… what? Her husband doesn’t understand.

“That they shot,” Natalie says. “Soviet prisoners.” She leans closer to him, as close as Philip and Elizabeth will allow. “It was me, my body. It wasn’t me.”

It’s a stunning performance by actress Irina Dubova. “How could I say, what could I say…?” she asks, explaining why she never told him before. “I wanted to be the person you thought I was.”

“I know who you are, Natalie. You are good,” he answers.

“I’m sorry,” she tells him. She tells Philip and Elizabeth, too. “I’m sorry.”

Philip aims his gun. Both husband and wife are begging for their lives.

Finally, Elizabeth kills them both. First the husband, then the woman.

Was it justice? Or was Elizabeth just finishing the Nazis’ work in Dyatkovo, adding two more bodies to the pile of Soviet victims?

Afterward, they drive home. And we discover where Elizabeth is leaning.

“I want to get out of here,” she tells Philip. “We should just go. I mean it. Let’s go home.”

She’s not talking about their place in Virginia.