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The Americans recap: ‘The Day After’

Driving lesson – a rite of passage for any teenager.

Philip is gently guiding Paige through the steps of steering an automobile. She thinks she’d do better with a smaller c—

“Get the Camaro out of your mind,” he says.

Philip is quick to grab the wheel when he thinks she’s losing control, which is a nice reflection of how they’ve micromanaged Paige’s first forays into espionage. The girl suggests Philip join her at a church event so Pastor Tim will think they’re more “normal.”

Later, Philip and Stan are playing racquetball. Stan picks up on Philip’s new energy (he has a lot more free time now that Martha has been airlifted to the Soviet Union.) Stan can’t hang around long. He’s got to get to work because “the Munchkins,” one of which is his new boss, are cracking down on discipline and intolerant of any lateness or sloppiness.

He misses Gaad, his old boss. “He didn’t care how we got the job done,” Stan says. “As long as we stopped the Russians.”

Elsewhere, Elizabeth takes advantage of an absence in Young Hee’s household. Her mother-in-law is visiting Korea, and Elizabeth volunteers to babysit – which will gain her access to Don’s things. He works at the same bio-weapons lab as William, but has higher clearance. She needs a code, a card key, something.

William has alerted them that there’s a new disease being worked on. He doesn’t signal Gabriel directly because he’s not sure it’s the kind of thing anyone should have – even his home government. “It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” he says. The Lassa virus he describes sounds Ebola-like, liquefying organs and causing blood to seep through the skin.

Since Philip forced the KGB to liberate Martha, William admires his independence and trusts his guidance. “I was thinking about not telling the Center about this,” William says. “I’d like to make the right decision. … Nobody needs this. I don’t trust us with it.”

A big chunk of this episode is dedicated to highlights from the 1983 ABC telemovie The Day After, which explores the aftermath of a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was disturbing in its day – probably still is. And all the characters in The Americans tune in to watch.

“After watching that, I think maybe William is right,” Philip tells Elizabeth. He’s leaning toward not telling the Center about the new Lassa disease.

“They’re making that poison for us, to destroy us,” Elizabeth says. “These are the people who dropped the atom bomb. Twice.”

Unfortunately, on her babysitting night at the Hee household, she doesn’t find anything. (But in the movie cabinet, she does discover a porno – and a nice little Easter egg for their co-star Frank Langella – his 1970 Mel Brooks film The Twelve Chairs.) But there’s nothing that will gain them access to Don’s lab. More drastic measures will be necessary.

In another scene, Oleg and Tatiana consummate their recent flirtation. (In their defense, The Day After is kinda hot.) He admires how quiet she was, and she tells him of having to sneak around when she was younger and sharing an apartment with many extended family members in a place with extremely thin walls. “We were quiet as mice …” she says.

They end up talking about Oleg’s father, and he makes a stunning confession: The old man told him a story about a duty officer detecting what appeared to be a nuclear strike coming from the United States. He should have immediately launched a counter-attack, but he doubted the detection technology. It turned out to be sunlight reflecting off clouds.

That reflection nearly ended the world.

“I keep wondering what I would have done if that were me,” Oleg says.

Elizabeth and Philip discuss how to proceed with Young Hee and her family. She wants to fulfill her duty, her mission, but doesn’t want to ruin them. Ultimately, duty wins out.

She calls Don asking for a ride home from a date gone bad, then lures him to her apartment by asking him to help her move a cabinet. Playing off his love of wine, she slips him a Mickey. Don is a good guy, he can tell something is off, but by the time he gets up to leave, he’s overcome.

Elizabeth doesn’t have sex with him, but she makes him believe they did. He’s devastated.

At the church dinner, Pastor Tim tells Philip he’s worried about Paige and thinks she is being adversely affected by her parents’ secret profession. Philip thought they were past all this, but apparently the pastor isn’t. When he gets back from a missionary trip to Ethiopia, he wants to sit down with the Jennings family. “Just to see where we’re all at.”

Philip’s eyes say it all. This is a threat.

When he gets home, Philip takes Paige out for another driving lesson. This time, he lets her drive the Camaro. (That’s one way to make her seem happier to Pastor Tim.)

When she gets home, Elizabeth is the one who is hurting. She had really come to like Young.

“I’m going to miss her,” she tells Philip.