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The Americans recap: ‘The Rat’

Calling this episode “The Rat,” is a little mean to Martha, but okay…

The feds are close on her trail, and Philip is the only one in the KGB who is convinced her cover has been blown. “I brought her into this,” he tells Elizabeth. It’s fascinating to see how much she means to him. This “fake” wife is not so fake after all.

Martha packs her handgun and turns off a Today show broadcast featuring a woman talking about how she no longer feels the need to be married. That has never been the case with Martha. Throughout this series, we’ve gotten the sense that this unwitting KGB asset was something of a lonely heart.

When Stan Beeman and Agent Aderholt go through her history back at the office, we get confirmation: Only child. Never married. Engaged to a high-school sweetheart, but that was long ago. “He dumped her after she got pregnant,” Aderholt says.

“She put the kid up for adoption?” Stan asks.

“She had an abortion. In 1964 — back when it was dangerous.”

“And illegal,” Stan adds, not very sympathetically. He studies her photo. “Do you find Martha attractive?”

“There’s something sexy about her,” Aderholt says.

“Not much of a romantic life,” Stan says. “Except for that thing with Amador.”

“Who was murdered,” Aderholt says.

“Yeah. I’ve been thinking of that, too. A lonely existence, a few scattered relationships, nothing longterm.”

“And then this new boyfriend.”

“A married boyfriend.”

“Who she can never bring around.”

Elsewhere, Philip meets with William, the KGB’s man in the American bio-weapons lab. “We need another glanders sample,” he says. “You’ve done it once; you can do it again.”

“Yeah,” William says. They all just spent the weekend desperately hoping to inoculate themselves against the disease. “I really want to do that again.”

“You’ve been waiting 25 years for this, William. It’s why you did this. Now’s your chance, and when it’s over, you’ll return a hero.”

William scoffs. “Yeah, in a coffin.”

He tells Philip that research on glanders is almost over. He can’t get a sample of that, but he might be able to get his hot little hands on some tularemia, which sounds like a flower you might want in your wedding bouquet. (But it’s actually a bacteria that mimics the bubonic plague and can cause lesions, fever, and inflammation of the face and eyes.)

Or as William puts it: “Nasty stuff.”

Philip tells him he’s worried about his source, Martha, and expresses frustration about the KGB’s lack of urgency on the matter. “Our bosses don’t know what they’re doing,” William says. “You’ve figured that out. Right?”

“She trusts me.”

“Yeah,” William says. “That’s always a problem.”

Back at FBI headquarters, Martha exchanges a pleasant nod with Aderholt. On her walk home, “Clark” swings by and tells her to get into the car. “I think they may know, Martha, about you. We have to get you off the street.”

He takes her to a safe house, but now life as she knows it is over. The crummy, dilapidated safe house makes Martha ask: “Does someone live here?”

“No,” “Clark” answers.

“I don’t understand what’s happening. I’m scared. What am I doing here?”

“Everything is going to be all right,” he promises. Then Gabriel shows up — Frank Langella in charming, avuncular mode.

“It’s a great pleasure to meet you, Martha!” he chirps. “Clark has told me so much about you!”

Martha goes to make tea, and Gabriel is furious — the Center wanted her to stay put. They need her intelligence to coordinate meetings with William. “I don’t know what you were thinking,” Gabriel says. “You’re acting impulsively, Philip. You promised me this would never happen. I know the things that we do are complicated, but we can fix this. Have Martha return to work tomorrow. This never happened.”

“That’s your plan?”

“Yes. We can go back to the way we were.”

But Gabriel doesn’t know the full story. “Martha has seen me,” Philip says.

“You just decided — on your own — you were going to show her what you really look like?”

“If the FBI gets to her… If they break her…”

“What you did was flat-out wrong,” Gabriel said. “How long has she known? You’ve risked lives. When were you going to tell me?… Or were you going to tell me?”

“Stop handling me, Gabriel. Because Martha is done,” Philip says. He rips off his wig. In the kitchen, a teakettle is whistling.

The unhappy trio set about making dinner, and Elizabeth shows up in her Nancy Reagan-esque disguise as “Clark’s sister.” She brought Martha clothes and a toothbrush.

“You’re part of all this?” Martha asks.

Philip’s “real” wife tries to reassure “Clark’s” real wife. “We’re all here for you.”

She is aghast to see “Clark” out of his disguise.

“Things were falling apart,” Philip says. “I had to.”

“Did you…want her to? To see you?” his wife asks.

He doesn’t have a good answer for that.

“You should have told me you were bringing her in,” Elizabeth says. She tells him he can go home; she’ll stay with Martha.

“I think it’s better if I stay the night,” he says.

“Tell her I’ll see her tomorrow,” Elizabeth answers.

Later, Martha asks Philip if he is involved with the woman posing as his sister. “We’ve worked together for a long time,” he says.

“For who?” she asks.

We’ve all been privy to the reality for so long, it’s startling to realize Martha hasn’t put it all together yet. Sure, Clark initially convinced her he worked for a rival federal agency monitoring the FBI, but surely now she has put two and two together, right? But, no… Maybe she had suspicions, but now she knows the answer.

“For the KGB,” Philip says. This blows her away. Full tears.

Philip — we can just call him Philip now, right? — tells her that her work is finished. “All you have to do now is breathe,” he says.

“I don’t care. Doesn’t matter. Not anymore,” she says. “As long as we’re together.”

Hoo boy.

Martha lifts her skirt (a nice echo of the seduction Elizabeth initiated at the end of the last episode) and mounts her husband. “We can run away,” Martha says. “There are places no one can find us.”

Downstairs, Gabriel sleeps in a chair while we hear the sounds of their lovemaking — mostly Martha. Clark/Philip is silent.

The next morning, Stan Beeman and Aderholt notice Martha has called in sick. They call her house. “Answering machine,” Aderholt says.

They waste no time and immediately head over to search her apartment.

In the light of day, Philip is a little more forthcoming with Martha. When she fantasizes about running away together, he says, “I wish we could.”

A tear runs down her face. “I’m never going home, am I?”

He shakes his head. Later, while she naps, Gabriel tells Philip he has received an emergency signal from William: He has obtained a new bio-weapons sample.

Philip doesn’t want to go, but Gabriel explains how vital these weapons are to the Motherland. If the U.S. knocked out the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons capabilities, they’d have nothing else with which to defend themselves. But these weapons… These could still be unleashed.

Philip goes up to say goodbye, then notices pills in her purse. And a gun. He takes the gun.

Aderholt and Beeman go to “Clark’s” apartment. Aderholt notices the answering machine tapes are gone. They ask to see the lease, and it becomes clear that the noose is definitely tightening around Martha. They figure out pretty quick that Martha’s married boyfriend, Clark Westerfeld, doesn’t really exist.

It’s time to tell Agent Gaad the bad news: “I think Martha’s bad,” Beeman says. They lay out her secret life, the married boyfriend who isn’t real, the lack of photos, and her current disappearance.

Gaad looks like a scared, lost little boy. “Martha’s worked here over 10 years,” he says, in a brilliant, trembling moment from Richard Thomas. “That’s… That’s crazy.”

The truth is hitting him hard. “Nobody could have put that pen there easier than Martha. She could have been working with Gene,” Gaad says. “Or…they could have killed him to protect her. She had access to everything.”

At the Rezidentura, Oleg talks about his family troubles, and his colleague Tatiana listens sympathetically, although when he says things like, “Maybe I shouldn’t even be here,” she gets a look in her eye that suggests she isn’t so sure either.

Their boss, Arkady Zotov, tells them they may need to exfiltrate someone — immediately. An American asset. Martha.

“If they’re looking, airports, train, and bus stations will be covered,” Oleg says. They must find another way to ghost her out of the country.

Philip goes to his meeting with William, which is risky business since they aren’t sure if he’s being tailed by the feds or not. What William has brought them this time is not a vial, but — gah — a dead lab rat. (Hey, this episode’s title has a nice double meaning now.)

“I had to improvise,” William says. He couldn’t get a culture of tularemia, but he was able to acquire one of its test subjects. “You can get a sample from its tissue.”

Philip looks grossed out. He goes to leave, and William asks: “Hey, what’d you do? About your agent?”

“I’m bringing her in.”

William nods. “Good for you. When my wife was sent back, I stayed quiet. I didn’t think I could take them on. I wanted to…but I didn’t.”

At the safe house, Martha wakes up and is distressed to find her husband gone. She’s still calling him “Clark,” by the way.

She rejects Gabriel’s offer of an omelet. Her gun is gone, and she starts to feel trapped and helpless. As she bolts from the house, Gabriel shuffles out after her.

“Where’s Clark? What have you done to him?”

“Nothing. Clark is all right. He will be back here very soon. Will you please come back to the house. We are all working very hard to get you to a safe place.”

“Why would he leave me here with you?”

“Because you can trust me.”

“Trust you? I don’t know you,” she snaps. “No… NO! Get away from me. I know what you are!”


“Stay away from me,” she says. “And then everybody will know that you’re KGB.”

Hoo boy, again.

Applause for actress Alison Wright. I think all fans of The Americans are amazed Martha has survived this long, but now she is truly teetering on the edge.

If looks could kill, the one Gabriel gives her as she walks away would end poor Martha for good.