Going into last night’s episode of The Americans, I had mentally prepared myself for all things grisly. The borderline sadistic tenor of Season 3, combined with the fact that many of television’s “luxury brands” use the penultimate episode of a season to stage their climaxes, meant anything short of a Texas cage match between Agent Gaad (Richard Thomas) and the Mail Robot was on the table. So after viewing “I Am Abassin Zadran,” I was more than a little surprised to find myself contemplating, of all things, a cup of tea.
But this is The Americans we’re talking about, where even a simple cup of tea is not quite what it seems. Just ask Abassin Zadran’s countrymen who, after accepting an invitation to his late night tea party, found their throats being slit. While Zadran (George Georgiou) is the instrument of death for his fellow Mujahideen, he is also meant to represent Death in the broader sense that he is out there, waiting for everyone. But there are a couple of characters who might be getting the proverbial knock on their hotel room door from Zadran sooner rather than later.
Who exactly might they be?
Well, let’s consider that cup of tea again.
Two other conversations took place over tension-filled cups of Earl Grey last night, each involving a likely target. The first of these meetings occurs between Martha (Alison Wright) and Stan (Noah Emmerich). Following up on his hunch about Martha placing the bug in Gaad’s office, Stan visits her apartment, ostensibly to offer his help. Martha handles herself well during the visit (as does Hans (Peter Mark Kendall), who waves off Philip (Matthew Rhys) before he can barge in on them), but falls apart afterward. With the pressure of the investigation overwhelming her, she packs for a visit back to her parents. In a riveting final scene, Philip, in an effort to placate her, pulls off his wig, revealing his true self to Martha. Martha trembles at this show of trust from “Clark,” but as valiant as his gesture is, it comes with severe consequences. There’s no way Philip can allow Martha to stay in D.C. after seeing his real identity. Her tearful conversation to her parents was likely a farewell call. The only remaining question is whether next week will find Martha traveling to a foreign country or to a cemetery.
The other foreboding conversation that takes place over “just tea” confirms Philip’s (and the audience’s) worst fears about Gabriel (Frank Langella). Sent by the Centre, our old friend Claudia (Margo Martindale) shows up to push along the process of inducting Paige (Holly Taylor) into the second-generation illegals program. It’s the job, we learn, that Gabriel was sent to America to complete. Despite the disastrous results of their first attempt, the Centre is resolute in trying again. While Gabriel thinks this is an imprudent decision for everyone involved (particularly for Elizabeth (Keri Russel), who he senses is being negatively affected), he doesn’t show any signs of backing off, setting up a confrontation with Philip that promises to be the main event in a fully stacked fight card.
This clash seems all the more likely given the developments with Paige at home. After setting off a mini-scare at the start of last night’s episode by running off to a “potluck-poster-making-sing-a-long” followed by a sleepover at Pastor Tim’s (anyone who took Pastor Tim in the death odds at 100-1 must have felt their pulse racing at this point), Paige is dragged home by her parents, who are terrified that she will confess. Paige responds by demanding more answers about their family history. Elizabeth, who had been resisting Philip’s urging to visit her dying mother, is now willing to make the risky trip if it means bringing Paige into the family fold. But before this mother and child (and child) reunion can become a reality, Philip must gain Gabriel’s approval, something Gabriel has been unwilling to give so far. Philip threatened Gabriel last episode over this request last episode. Next week we’ll find out how serious those threats were.
Other than Martha’s predicament, none of the season’s major plotlines were fundamentally changed in “Zadran.” The Northrup operation went off without a hitch, though Maurice (Thaddeus Daniels) is becoming much too cocky for his own good. The Rezidentura, despite Arkady’s (Lev Gorn) skepticism, will continue to monitor the mail robot. Incremental momentum heading into the finale, but nothing earth shattering in either.
About that finale, it appears that we are not going to get closure on all of the myriad plots from this season. There are just two many balls in the air to satisfyingly wrap up them all up in one episode. There wasn’t enough time last night for even a token appearance by Nina (Annet Mahendru), Kimmy (Julia Garner), or Zinaida (Svetlana Efremova), three characters who we’ve invested considerable time with this season. A few cliffhangers heading into Season 4 seems inevitable.
Not that I have a clue how it will all be concluded. You could have given me countless guesses at how Season 2 would end, and I never would have come up with Jared as the shooter. All that’s left to do is prepare the best way I know how, by reading a little Shogun, watching The King of Comedy, eating a couple of Kolaches, and listening to some Ultravox.
The one thing I absolutely won’t be doing, though, is fixing a cup of tea.
Read all of Court Haslett's posts for Criminal Element.