9 ‘The Americans’ Episodes With Clues About Paige’s Fate You Should Really Pay Attention To
Sometime during Season 3, FX's Cold War spy drama The Americans went from a critically-acclaimed, underrated gem and blossomed into one of the best shows on television, period. There are a lot of reasons why this sudden transformation occurred, but one of them is certainly the decision to have main characters Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, Russian spies living a quiet suburban life in Washington, D.C., tell their daughter Paige the truth of their existence midway through the season. Which leaves us to wonder, what will happen to Paige on The Americans now that she knows?
This was exactly the type of revelation that any other show would have held in reserve for an explosive season finale — or, heck, even a final season. When the Americans writers casually dropped the bombshell in the tenth hour of a 13-episode season, it blew up viewers' expectations as thoroughly as it blew up poor Paige's sheltered life. Audiences didn't have to wait a whole summer to learn Paige's reaction to the news, and the writers still had three whole episodes with which to craft a delicious cliffhanger: Will Paige join her parents as an operative for the country of her heritage, or will she betray them in favor of the country of her birth?
Here are nine crucial episodes, three from each season, that might give us some clues about Paige's fate in the upcoming Season 4:
Meet Paige Jennings. She's just a typical 13-year-old girl living in the Virginia suburbs right outside our nation's capital, with a younger brother and two doting travel agent parents... except for the small fact that those doting parents are actually undercover Russian spies working for the KGB to spy on their FBI agent next-door neighbor, Stan. Viewers immediately got the sense of how important family would be to The Americans when Paige was approached by a creepy, pedophilic older man while shopping at a department store with her dad. Later in the episode, Philip visited the creep's house to lay down some unholy vengeance on the man who dared to hit on his daughter.
Philip himself is already so torn between his duties to his family and his country — How can he ever expect his daughter to give her devotion wholly to a country she's never called home?
1x06: "Trust Me"
While mom and pop are busy being tortured, Paige realizes that no one's coming to pick her and Henry up from the mall. Tired of waiting for her frequently absent parents, Paige decides to walk home. Naturally, walking leads to hitchhiking, and hitchhiking leads to a highly disturbing encounter with a man named Nick, who takes a detour to a duck pond, offers the kids some beer, and rants about God and the American people's lack of faith. When Henry spies a knife in the man's pocket, he knocks him out with beer bottle. The kids make their escape... and vow to keep the encounter a secret from their parents.
This whole episode proved several things: 1. How independent Paige can be — which may very well prove an obstacle to getting her to follow the KGB's orders. 2. How badass the Jennings children are when threatened — which will certainly come in handy someday. 3. How good they are at keeping secrets — which will either be a very good or a very bad thing, depending on which path Paige chooses next season.
1x13: "The Colonel"
The Season 1 finale cemented Paige's growing suspicions of her parents. After one too many late nights, hushed conversations, and furtive phone calls, Paige decides to figure out what exactly is going on. When she catches her mom coming out of the laundry room late at night (where Elizabeth had been listening to tapes of her mother sent from Russia), she investigates the room the next chance she gets.
Paige might not have found anything other than neatly folded clothes, but the seeds of doubt had certainly been planet. And, they would only continue to grow throughout the show's second season...
2x03: "The Walk In"
Paige went into full-on detective mode in Season 2. In this early episode, she skipped school to seek out her mysterious "Aunt Helen," the relative she'd never met but who always seemed to conveniently pop up when her parents needed an excuse to skip town. Although viewers may have expected Paige to find an empty house, she walked in (uninvited) to find a framed picture of her mother on the wall and a woman clearly suffering from dementia. Had the Jennings simply hung a picture of Elizabeth in the home of a confused woman as an insurance policy? Nope. Once Paige leaves, "Helen" calls Philip to inform him of his daughter's visit — she's yet another operative in the KGB's network of spies.
Her visit with "Helen" may have temporarily dampened Paige's curiosity, but her trip did introduce a new wrinkle into the Jennings' perfectly constructed life. On the bus, Paige met a new friend Kelly, who would soon introduce the frustrated young girl to a world that promised answers: Religion.
2x09: "Martial Eagle"
The Jennings' quiet domestic life explodes when Philip and Elizabeth learn that Paige has donated $600 of her savings to Pastor Tim's church. In a rage, both parents reprimand their daughter — Philip rips pages out of her Bible and Elizabeth wakes her up in the middle of the night to do chores, illustrating how spoiled her cushy middle-class American life is compared to most people's.
Tensions between the two generations of Jennings have never been higher, and that just makes the season finale's revelation all the more shocking...
When handler Claudia explained to Philip and Elizabeth that the KGB desired to recruit Paige as a second-generation spy, the timing literally could not have been worse. The spouses had just unraveled the case of murdered spies Emmett and Leanne: They had been killed — along with their daughter — by their own son Jared, after a botched recruitment effort similar to the one about to be attempted on Paige.
Then again, Paige's experience with Pastor Tim's church had led the younger Jennings to the decision that she wanted to lead a life of self-sacrifice to a greater good, a decision expressed to her parents earlier in this episode. So maybe the timing wasn't so terrible after all? If only Philip and Elizabeth could find a way to channel Paige's devotion from Jesus Christ to Mother Russia...
3x06: "Born Again"
Although Paige had always been closer with her father than her stern mother, that dynamic began to shift after Paige's baptism. Philip was never able to get fully on board with his daughter's religious fervor, and Elizabeth took advantage of that distance to swoop in and begin grooming Paige for recruitment. After an uncharacteristically honest conversation about Elizabeth's smoking habit, she picks Paige up at school and takes her to a seedy neighbor, where she tells her daughter the story of Gregory (an activist who became Elizabeth's ally/lover) as a way of opening up about her own experience with activism.
Paige may have finally felt like she was getting to know her parents for the first time, but she was about to discover how little she really knew...
The episode that changed everything. "I need to talk to you," Paige tells her parents at Pastor Tim's behest. "I'm not stupid. I know there's something going on." And, so it all comes out. (How exactly do you broach the subject of being KGB agents? You start slowly: "We were born in a different country.") Paige has entertained all sorts of wild possibilities: Witness Protection, drug dealers, aliens... but never Soviet spies.
Paige locks herself in her room, skips school, and after her parents have left for work, she phones Pastor Tim. "I talked to them last night," she begins. But, if she was planning on divulging the truth, she quickly thinks better of it. "I just wanted you to know that it happened." And, then, she hangs up.
3x13: "March 8, 1983"
Thinking it will help Paige understand her roots, Elizabeth takes her daughter to visit her own mother back in the Soviet Union. Elizabeth's elderly mom is delighted to meet her granddaughter for the first time, but the trip seems to backfire. Paige is put off by how careful she and her mom had to be every step of the way, she can't comprehend how Elizabeth's mother was willing to essentially sacrifice her daughter to the KGB, and she can't imagine continuing to keep a secret this big from her brother, her friends, and Pastor Tim. In fact, Season 3 ended with Paige finally making that phone call she couldn't complete a few weeks prior. "They're not who they say they are," she tells Pastor Tim over the phone.
So, what's next? The conspiracy theorist inside of me insists that Pastor Tim will turn out to be yet another agent in the KGB's network, placed deliberately into Paige's life to 1. pave the way for her recruitment by instilling within her a need for a higher power, 2. encourage her to discuss the truth with her parents, and 3. be a reliable mentor in her life in case she developed the need to spill her family's secrets to someone. (Mission accomplished.) Remember that Paige only met Pastor Tim because of a random encounter on a city bus while headed to "Helen's" KGB safehouse. What if that encounter wasn't actually so random...?
Then again, maybe Pastor Tim is just who he says he is — in which case, he'll likely be dead within Season 4's first couple of episodes, once Philip and Elizabeth find out Paige has told someone their secret. But, the bigger question is: Will Paige finally start seeing eye-to-eye with her parents... or will she end up betraying them to someone more threatening than good ol' Pastor Tim? We'll find out when Season 4 premieres this fall.
Images: Patrick Harbron (4); Screengrab (5); Jeffrey Neira/FX