The Americans, “I Am Abassin Zadran.”
Spying is largely a profession about knowledge — stealing it, knowing it, and sometimes transforming it into lies. Not everyone does very positive things with the knowledge they’ve been given this week, and sometimes it’s downright terrifying.
Martha’s been having a pretty tough time beneath the strain of the investigation over the bug, so it’s especially nerve-racking when Stan Beeman shows up unannounced at her apartment at night. He makes some small talk about the novel Shogun and proceeds to ask friendly but somewhat leading comments that act like something’s wrong: “If there’s on anything your mind, you can always come to me.” To Martha’s credit, she really keeps it together, but the second she closes the door, there’s nothing but fear on her face.
Although Philip/Clark nearly barges in in the midst of their tête à-tête — and wouldn’t that have been quite a meeting — Hans waves him off. The next day, Hans rolls up to Martha on the street and tells her he’s a friend of her husband, and takes her to meet him at a safe location. After hearing about Beeman, he adds an all-new wrinkle of stress: “I don’t know quite how to say this, but we might have to go away someplace new,” he says. He asks her to trust him, but it seems like she’s fraying. Later, when she calls her parents to catch up, she’s on the verge of bursting into tears, despite her insistence that “nothing’s wrong.”
Looking for some easy money, Lisa prepares for her first day of accidental treason, as she hooks up a camera in her purse and gets ready to get those secret photos the KGB wants so badly. She also gets a quick tutorial from Michelle/Elizabeth on how to take secret photos. But once Lisa gets the goods, it’s Maurice who shows up to make the trade. “I’m dealing with this side of things now. Got a problem with that?” asks Maurice. Elizabeth does, but she forks over the money anyway to get the precious, precious photos.
Back at the Rezidentura, Arkady seems insistent on ending Operation Zephyr, a.k.a. Operation Mail Robot. They’re not getting good information, and he thinks it’s a waste of time and money. Tatiana seems troubled by the political implications of shutting it down so quickly, confiding to Oleg that Arkady could even lose his job. She and Oleg return as a united front and offer advice: “It’ll be better for you if the mission slowly starts to fail.” It’s the time-honored tradition of bureaucrats everywhere!
Elizabeth and Philip set up yet another intricate spy mission, this time around the Mujahideen, specifically three of them who want the U.S. to give them weapons for their battles against the Soviets. Philips sneaks into the hotel room where one of the Mujahideen will be staying while Elizabeth hacks into the phone line, allowing them to connect so that she can answer outgoing calls. Later, after returning to the hotel dressed like a CIA agent, Philip goes to pick up Abassin Zadran. They call out for clearance — and get Elizabeth, who’s on the line and immediately confirms.
Once they get Zadran out to the parking lot, Philip and Elizabeth pretend to be CIA agents who are there to try to help him; they say they want the senators to approve portable anti-aircraft weapons for the Mujahideen, but that his two Afghan compatriots are secretly working for the Soviets and that he needs to go to the meeting without them.
Zadran is a pretty intense guy, to put it lightly, one who loves talking a lot about martyrdom, being covering in blood, and gutting people like goats. So when Elizabeth and Philip tell him there’s a way for the meeting to work out, you get the sense that it’s not going to be pretty. “I have killed many people with my knife,” he boasts. And indeed, when he gets back to the hotel, he immediately walks to the rooms of the other two and stabs them to death.
Gabriel and former handler Claudia meet up at a diner, where Gabriel admits that Philip might be right about not pushing Paige into the program. And regardless of whether or not it’s right for her, it might not be the right thing for Elizabeth and Philip — it might be breaking their relationship down, and that’s not worth the cost. They talk briefly about the last time they tried to bring a second-generation kid into the fold, and how he, oh, murdered his whole family.
Elizabeth and Philip come home to learn that Paige has gone rogue: She’s left a note informing — not asking — them that she plans to attend a church lecture and then spend the night at Pastor Tim’s house. I kind of love that Paige’s version of rebellion is going to church without permission? Of course it is. But they’re still displeased, and probably a little bit concerned that Paige might spill the Big KGB Secret.
After her parents show up at Pastor Tim’s to pick her up, Paige defiantly insists that she’s staying anyway, but the adults finally goad her back into the car. After a long, silent ride home, they remind her that she can’t just run, and — again — that she “asked for the truth and with that comes responsibility.”
While she’s a long way from mass murder, Paige is still struggling; she brings her parents a photo album so they can play a fun new game: Which people in my family are actually real! It escalates quickly, and soon Paige is shouting so loudly about Russia that Elizabeth gets up to put a hand over her mouth. Philip goes into her room later with two pictures: one from the night Henry was born, and one from a family camping trip. “It’s not all a lie, Paige,” says Philip. Later, it’s Elizabeth’s turn to talk to her daughter alone, and she drops a big bombshell: She’s going to Russia to visit her mother after all, and she wants Paige to come. Who needs fake family when you can meet your real one?
Clark/Philip heads back for another night at Martha’s, but when he finds her, she’s sitting on the bed with her bags packed. “I need a break, we need a break,” she says. “I can’t be here with you like this.” He says he’s trying, he loves her, and when those lies don’t work, he tries a better one: the truth. What did they say about seduction in an easier episode? You have to make it real. And so that’s what he does. He takes off his glasses, his sideburns, his wig, and transforms from Clark to Philip. Martha starts shaking and crying, realizing perhaps that she’s seeing the true face of her husband for the first time.