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WashingTelevision: The Americans Recap, Season Two, Episode Five, “The Deal”

Mother Russia’s hold is strong.

Philip tries to remember where he parked the spymobile. Photograph by Craig Blankenhorn for FX.

Perhaps we were wrong to ever believe Philip was warming to the United States. In an episode that takes place during the 36 hours following the Jenningses’ street fight over a Russian defector, Philip goes cold as a Siberian winter when he’s tasked with holding the big brawler who didn’t die from Elizabeth’s repeated trunk door slams and recovering Anton Baklanov, a physicist the Soviets are trying to capture and spirit back to the mother country.

Philip is supposed to be the soft one on creeping American values, but by the end of “The Deal,” Baklanov is calling him a “monster” and questioning if he has a shred of humanity in him. And after a day and a half locked up with the thug—who turns out to be a Mossad agent trying to keep Baklanov, his fellow Jew, out of the KGB’s hands—Philip is as unsympathetic as he’s ever been. Matthew Rhys does some of his best work to date in keeping Philip focused on the mission, even when the shackled-up Mossad agent needs to use the decrepit toilet in the abandoned building where he’s being held.

Maybe it’s having to wipe the ass of an unfriendly government’s agent only to be clobbered in the head with the lid of the toilet tank that reawakens Philip’s patriotism, but the entire sequence is a staunch reminder that Philip, no matter how much he appears to soften toward America, is, at heart, a brutally efficient spy. In the episode’s closing act, while Baklanov sobs for mercy as Philip drives him to the boat back to Russia, Rhys’s face doesn’t move.

“No feeling, no humanity. You may as well be dead,” Baklanov tells Philip. Maybe the words sink in, but they don’t help.

With Philip dealing with the big, tough Israeli, it falls to Elizabeth to handle Martha, and Elizabeth’s first-season getup as “Jennifer,” the frizzy-haired sister of Philip’s alter-ego “Clark,” shows up at Martha’s pad for some girl talk. Since we saw her last season, Martha has apparently not moved away from the phone, leaving “Clark” message after message about how she’s going to list him as her husband on an FBI security clearance form, to the point where a KGB phone-tapper picks up and dispatches Elizabeth to clean Philip’s laundry.

It takes about seven bottles of Chardonnay and Martha’s reveal that “Clark” is “an animal in the sack” for her to finally pass out. Presumably, Elizabeth got Martha drunk in order to sneak away with or at least alter her FBI form, but we never see the act. Maybe she swiped it, but Elizabeth also seems a little shaken up after hearing from Martha just how much of a dynamo lover Philip is.

Elizabeth is also pulling more than one mission this week. Hours after she finishes baby-sitting Martha, she’s back in Virginia Beach in her Ally Sheedy wig to meet up with nice-guy Brad, who’s got the files on the Navy SEAL who Moscow Centre thinks killed Emmett and Leanne. They make out on the boardwalk a bit, but even Brad realizes he’s never going to see Elizabeth again.

Meanwhile, Baklanov’s absence has been called into the FBI, and Stan is in charge of the manhunt. Turns out Baklanov is a George Washington University professor who also does some top-secret nuclear work for his adopted country, so the chase is on. Stan even gets Agent Gaad back in the office to assist.

Things are getting more unpleasant at the Rezidentura thanks to Oleg, who’s gone from office pest to outright rat. He tries to horn in on Arkady’s radio room, a big no-no with the senior spy, and later taunts Nina over the reports she’s made on her affair with Stan. Arkady only has a few scenes this week, but they pull all the strings. Just how does Philip get Baklanov back? Arkady has been back-channeling with Israel—which had now formal diplomatic relations with the USSR at the time—and gets the Mossad to release Baklanov to Philip’s custody in exchange for the Soviets allowing 1,500 Jews to move to Israel and Philip releasing his banged-up captive.

Philip makes it to his port and drops off Baklanov with his captors. Stan chases a tip to the Port of Baltimore, where he finds Oleg. This is not good for Stan. Having read Nina’s reports and already harboring a grudge against her, Oleg blackmails Stan to start dishing his FBI work to him in exchange for Nina’s safety. Having confessed his love to Nina a few episodes back, it seems likely that Stan will deliver the goods.

Deals abound in the appropriately titled episode, but none of them are very good. And what are we to make of Kate, an operative who shows up at Philip’s makeshift holding cell claiming to be Claudia’s replacement? Kate might be a novice, but it’s difficult to think Claudia, having just resurfaced last week, is out of the deal for good.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.