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The Americans - S4E1 - Glanders

Previously on The Americans

Images: FX

This episode picks up just where last season left off. While there were a few fairly well-worked scenes to remind us of last season, we were dropped off in the midst of all the angst and torment we’ve been missing. It felt like going home, again – comforting, emotional, and darkly hilarious.

It Just Got Biological

Philip and Elizabeth visit their surrogate father and KGB supervisor, Gabriel. Gabriel is very cross they disobeyed him and threatens to leave them. His kids meekly (Elizabeth) and sulkily (Philip) promise to mind him in the future. Gabriel can’t protect them from getting involved in biological warfare, but he can inoculate them against the wrong kind of disease. He shoots them up and tells them to go meet an American scientist to get an insidious virus. Thanks, dad.

Philip and Elizabeth get wiggy with it. Philip goes prototypical hipster with a gingery mop and beard. I have no idea what Elizabeth has on her head. They discuss their son’s overzealous Axe Body Spray habit while keeping an eye on their mark. Philip’s spidey senses tingle. Elizabeth side-eyes him, but they abort mission. On their second attempt, Elizabeth spots a tail. Good Russian spies do not believe in gut feelings. Good Russian spies rely on facts.

Their third attempt works and they meet the sarcastic scientist who gives them a vial of glanders and goes along his merry, cynical way. Glanders is a thing. This disease is usually contracted by horses, but causes death in humans if it enters the bloodstream. It can also lead to nasal discharge. Very annoying.

The two return home and Philip just slips the glanders into his jacket when a very angry Stan accosts him about Sandra. Stan grabs Philip’s jacket and throws him against the wall, as we all cringed, straining to hear a tiny glass vial cracking. Stan leaves and Philip examines the vial, seemingly intact. No runny nose for Philip, this night.

“I guess you never really know a person, do you?”

Clark-Philip confesses to Martha he killed Gene, the FBI’s resident computer geek, to throw suspicion off her. He says he would do anything to protect her. Martha is at first horrified she was the reason for a coworker’s death, but calms down and accepts the truth. She is glad Philip was honest with her and wants him to tell her everything. He opens up and tells her a little about Gene and his childhood. He also tells her he needs her to continue being his inside spy.

It’s a bittersweet, ironic relationship. The only person Martha can go to for comfort is the man who causes her need for comfort. Philip no longer disguises himself when he visits Martha. He realizes he no longer needs to hide behind his wig and glasses. He uses his emotional truth to pull Martha in, but in doing so he can be honest with her in a way he can’t be with Elizabeth.

Incidentally, Martha is one of the few whose husband gets hotter after she marries him. Then again, she’s one of the few whose husband confesses to being a murdering Russian spy after she marries him. Shrug.

Why So Serious?

Philip is not fine, no matter how many times he says he is to Elizabeth.

Philip keeps thinking about his childhood and pummeling a bully to death over milk. He felt strong in that moment. Maybe his anger towards the bully explains his anger towards America. Maybe it’s the reason he’s a spy. Maybe it started his fight against injustice in the world. Maybe he’s Batman. Philip hasn’t put all those pieces together, but he’s working through it. Season 6: Philip transforms the basement into the Bat Cave.

There are two scenes of Philip awake while his wife (first Elizabeth, then Martha) sleeps. The women in his life might not be bothered by the same disquietude of conscience. He is able to be honest about his feelings in EST and when speaking to Sandra or Martha. He just can’t be honest with Elizabeth. Could he fear admitting it to Elizabeth would be admitting it to himself? Or could he just fear Elizabeth?

Never Trust Fluffy Hair

Paige confessed all to Pastor Tim and is still having a hard time accepting she has spies for parents. Pastor Tim asks if he can talk to her parents, but Paige is adamant they never speak of it to anyone. He tells her to learn more. So they can discuss it. It may be the hair, but I’m very suspicious of Pastor Tim. He either wants to join the commies or he wants to use Paige as a counter spy.

Everybody Hates Stan

Beeman has a babe. He seems to be keeping it cozy with Tori from EST. He tells her everyone hates him at work (especially Gaad) and Tori tries to EST Stan’s pain away. Unfortunately, EST and FBI don’t go well together. Just ask Sandra.

Stan confronts Philip about Philip’s dinner with Sandra (thanks, Tori). He loses his temper and his bromance. Don’t worry, Stan. Smelly Henry still likes you.

Da Plane! Da Plane!

Anton and Nina continue their confessionals. Anton is glum about his future, fearing he’ll be ground into dust once the Russians have used him to their satisfaction.

His invisible jet plans seem to be bearing fruit for the Russians. They’ve built a wing and are very happy with its low radar signature. Nina says she’ll continue to keep Anton happy if Vasili puts her in touch with her… husband. A real one?

Meanwhile, at the Rezidentura

Tatiana is scheming and Arkady is suspicious. He knows she’s part of Department 12 and involved in the biological business.

The Americans S4E1
  • 8.5/10
    Plot - 8.5/10
  • 9/10
    Dialogue - 9/10
  • 9/10
    Action - 9/10
  • 9.5/10
    Performances - 9.5/10


Oh, this show. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until it was back on my television. The foray into biological warfare is an interesting direction to take the show while we continue to explore the mental and emotional ramifications of last season. I was captivated by Matthew Rhys’s silent, and Alison Wright’s vocal, anguish. The Americans knows how to layer in humor and the mundane to offset the dark forays into espionage. The Jennings puzzlement over Henry’s use of cologne was well timed and well acted. The directing was excellent – young Philip wiping blood off his face cutting to old Philip wiping regret off his face, Philip taking off his glasses before talking with Martha, the twofer of Martha and Philip talking on the bed.

User Review
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About Mallika Chakravarti (99 Articles)
Mallika is a digital marketer, yoga teacher and nutritionist. She spends her fun time writing, podcasting, consuming vast amounts of media and wishing she could fly. Mallika can currently be found thinking of something else.
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