Early in last night’s episode of The Americans, “Salang Pass,” Philip (Matthew Rhys) listens to a BBC radio report of a deadly incident in Afghanistan’s Salang Tunnel. The initial estimate of fatalities released by the Soviet government was under 200, but it is now believed that the real number was closer to 2,000. The cause of the fire is also in dispute. The Soviets maintain it was a traffic incident, while the Afghani’s claim it as a successful military operation.
Neither the source of the Salang Tunnel Fire nor the number of casualties, however, is relevant to the rest of the episode. In fact, other than the radio broadcast, it is never mentioned again by anyone. Why, then, title the episode after it? The answer lies in the central conflict of Season 3, whether or not Philip and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) should tell Paige (Holly Taylor) the truth about their family in order to indoctrinate her into the second-generation illegals program. For Elizabeth, telling Paige is the normal progression. Why shouldn’t Paige know who she really is? As Elizabeth points out, Kimberly (Julia Garner), the troubled teen of a CIA officer, doesn’t know the truth about her parents, and look at how she’s turned out, a complete mess.