'The Americans' recap: 'Divestment'
One target gets off easy, another gets burned alive, and Martha is dangerously close to the truth.
- TV Show
It feels strange to call an episode where so many things happen “slow,” especially on a show like The Americans, where slow is very much the point. But that’s how “Divestment” feels, mostly because it spends its time moving a number of this season’s plots forward just the slightest bit, without much in the way of that fraught tension the show is known for. Nonetheless, the moves made tonight are important ones—all things to add to the powder keg at the end of a very long fuse.
The episode picks up immediately after the end of “Walter Taffet,” with Elizabeth, Phillip, and Reuben taking Eugene Venter and his student accomplice Todd to an abandoned warehouse for interrogation. At first, they’re kind to Venter–Phillip offers him cash and a chance at a new life if he talks. Venter refuses. So he resorts to pain.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth goes to work on Todd—all he does is tell her that Venter had him monitoring campus anti-aparthied groups. She then takes him outside, and sits him in front of Venter. They’re going to make him watch Venter die. But Reuben stops Elizabeth, and refuses to take her gun when he expresses that he wants to do it himself.
“You already have your country,” he says. “You can’t understand.”
Then he fits a tire around Venter, douses him in gasoline, and lights him on fire. This, of course, motivates Todd to tell them everything—that Venter also wanted him to plant a bomb on the college campus he was monitoring, to be set off during a Trustee meeting and blamed on the anti-apartheid protestors. He also says that he wasn’t going to go through with it, because he was scared—and that the bomb is in his dorm room.
So they all go on a field trip to see if he’s telling the truth. Elizabeth and Reuben wait in a van, and when Phillip comes back to them, he’s got the bomb, exactly where Todd said it would be. Reuben then wants to kill Todd, but Phillip and Elizabeth talk him down—there’s no way he’s going to continue in this line of work for the rest of his life. I’m inclined to agree.
Meanwhile, the second major plot of tonight’s episode revolves around Walter Taffet’s continuing investigation of the FBI breach. He’s interrogating everyone, but it’s Martha’s turn now, and she appears to pass with flying colors—she’s a very good liar, it seems. He moves on to Aderholt, who also seems like a suspect thanks to the fact that he’s new, has an “unusual” background, and isn’t white. In a very smart scene, Taffet uses his questions to dance around the fact that Aderholt is black, trying to see if it would be a possible source for disgruntlement. Aderholt, however, is composed and sharp, choosing instead to talk about how much he doesn’t mind being the new guy.
“I don’t think much about the rest of it,” Aderholt says.
In a bit of a coda to the Todd/Venter plot, Phillip is in a car with Reuben late at night, waiting for Reuben’s ride out of Washington. They talk about family; Reuben mentions how he sometimes cannot remember his dead wife’s face. He then says this is a good thing, delivering a foreboding line for Phillip and Elizabeth’s future:
“Being married and being at war do not always go together.”
In the only scene Phillip and Elizabeth share back home, as themselves, Elizabeth asks about Phillip’s son, fighting in Afghanistan. She wants to know his name. He tells her it’s Micha.
The episode’s final moments are spent with Phillip as Clark, going home to Martha. Turns out Taffet’s presence has led her to believe that Clark is not who he says he is—since Taffet is clearly and publicly conducting the departmental investigation that Clark claimed he was doing secretly. So Martha wants to know—if Taffet is there, than who is he?
She weeps and lets her comfort him, but Phillip knows it’s only a matter of time before he’s compromised if he isn’t careful, and there’s no way Martha will let this rest. Something has to give.
HENRY WATCH: Henry doesn’t show up this episode, so no one pretends to care about him. Except Paige, who said she made him dinner in one brief scene.
PAIGE, THE ACTIVIST: Paige only gets two brief scenes in this episode—she’s very interested in what her mother had to say about Gregory, and she’s been looking him up and asking her questions about fighting the power. We’ve got five episodes left—do we think Elizabeth is going to tell her what her parents do?
REZIDENTURA BLUES: Today was the day we finally meet Moscow’s Minister of the Railways, who also happens to be the father of Oleg Burov. He makes a call to Arkady to tell him he doesn’t agree with Oleg’s decision to stay in America.
NINA, KGB SPY: After selling out her cellmate Evi for a nice dinner and a 10-year sentence, the imprisoned Nina has a new mission from her government—cozy up to the scientist they exfiltrated from the States last season, and figure out if he’s working on what they want him to work on, or sabotaging their entire operation. Do this, and she gets her freedom back. While Nina jumps at the task, it looks like it’s going to be far easier said than done—her target doesn’t want anything to do with her. Maybe this is the beginning of a Soviet rom-com?
STAN DID A THING: It wasn’t an exciting thing. He’s just finally leaving for that memorial service in Chicago that he’s been talking about for weeks.
THE MAIL ROBOT: Agent Gaad beats it up. I thought some of you would like that. Or maybe not. Maybe you feel bad for the robot. That’s a legitimate option.