‘The Americans’ Season 4, Episode 9 Recap: The Day After

The Americans Season 4 episode 9
Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings, Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings, Holly Taylor as Paige Jennings, and Keidrich Sellati as Henry Jennings in ‘The Americans’ (Photo Copyright 2016, FX Networks)

“The Day After,” the title of episode nine of season four of The Americans, refers to a television movie of the same name broadcast in 1983 about a nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union. A series of crosscuts shows the undercover Russians, Oleg, Tatiana, Arkady, William, as well as Elizabeth and Philip, watching the broadcast of a fictional nuclear Armageddon just as intently as a large American audience did at the time. The high stakes of the work that they do is made clear as the camera pulls back from a few dying survivors in the final scene of the movie as a disembodied voice asks, “Is anybody out there, anybody at all?”

When a concerned Paige (Holly Taylor) tells her father the next morning that the movie seemed “pretty real,” he tells her “that’s why we do what we do, to keep it from happening.” Just as Philip (Matthew Rhys) has been teaching his daughter how to drive, he is teaching Paige that her parents’ mission as Russian spies is necessary and morally right. If Elizabeth’s heavy-handed treatment of Paige in the last episode created resentment, perhaps Philip’s subtler campaign based on a father’s love and patience can win Paige to the cause. Indeed, Paige says she hopes that “we are all together” if a scenario like that in The Day After happens, and it is Paige herself, not her parents, who suggests that they attend a get-together for Pastor Tim before he leaves for Ethiopia. When Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin) expresses his concern about Paige’s state of mind and desire to meet with the family when he returns, “Just to see where we’re all at,” Philip is clearly alarmed.

While Philip provides reassurance to Paige, William (Dylan Baker) and Oleg (Costa Ronin) are not so confident in the Soviet Union’s ability to avoid a nuclear war. In a meeting with Philip that he keeps secret from Gabriel and the Center, William shares his misgivings about obtaining a potent strain of Lassa virus that he would have access to with Level 4 clearance. “Nobody needs it,” and “I don’t trust us with it,” William confides to Philip. He is not convinced that the Russians could keep the deadly pathogen contained, and given the debacle with the Glanders bacteria, this is not an unreasonable concern.

Meanwhile, Oleg shares his misgivings about Soviet competence with his co-worker and lover, Tatiana (Vera Cherny). He shares that a near nuclear mishap occurred when radar information was misinterpreted as US missiles headed toward the Soviet Union. If a decision by a duty officer had not been made to put a counter strike on hold, a nuclear confrontation would have ensued. Oleg laments the fact that Russians lack appropriate advanced technology to avoid future mistakes and wonders what he would have done in the duty officer’s place.

When Philip suggests to Elizabeth (Keri Russell) that they not report to Gabriel and the Center about the possibility of obtaining the Lassa virus, Elizabeth convinces him that they must by reminding him that the Americans dropped the atomic bomb, not once, but twice. While not explicitly stated, it is clear that Elizabeth has befriended Young Hee (Ruthie Ann Miles) in order to get close enough to her husband, Don, in order to somehow arrange William’s access to Level 4.

Knowing that Elizabeth does actually enjoy Young Hee’s company, Philip proposes that they try another plan rather than doing something that will destroy the women’s relationship. Nonetheless, Elizabeth proceeds with a babysitting ruse to gain access to Young Hee’s home. When a search of the home provides no useful information she undertakes a scheme to get Don in a compromising position after drugging his wine. When he comes to, he is in bed with Elizabeth; clearly embarrassed, he apologizes and rushes out. The usually resolute Elizabeth looks miserable after he departs and later tearfully tells Philip that she will miss Young Hee.