The Americans “Glands” Review (Season 4 Episode 1)

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On the season premiere of “The Americans,” the show hit most of its loyal fans’ sweet spots, with lots of drama, tense meetings, wonky disguises (love that blond, bearded look Phil was sporting!), in-house infighting, and, of course, secrets on top of secrets in “Glands.” The title referred to what seems to be the main focus of this season, a biological weapon that the US is developing that would seem to make the Bubonic Plague look like a case of the sniffles.

The main assignment for Liz (Keri Russell) and Phil (Matthew Rhys) was to make contact with Will (Dylan Baker, “The Good Wife”), a man who worked at the same lab that was working with the Department of Defense out of Fort Dietrich on said bio-weapon, a nasty virus that causes a disease known as Glands.

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Despite the FBI keeping him and everyone else on high alert, Will manages to sneak out a sample, with the intent of giving it to Gabriel (Frank Langella). Gabriel tried to keep Liz and Phil out of it- or so he claims- but when he’s made by the Feds he has no choice but to pass along the assignment to them.

According to Gabriel, the Soviets and Americans signed a treaty not to fool around with biological weapons, but both had been doing so on the sly anyway. This sample could put the Soviets on the same page as the Americans, if not allow them to surpass them on that front altogether, so it’s a particularly crucial get.

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Indeed, it’s so hush-hush that even Arkady (Lev Gorn) is kept out of the loop, which does not go over well with him, especially after Tatiana (Vera Cherny) sends him packing from a room in which she’s dictating updates to the Centre heads, telling him to talk to Colonel Umametev.

He does, along with a few others, but doesn’t get a satisfactory answer, so he first corners Oleg (Costa Ronin) to see what he knows, which is nothing; then Tatiana herself, who refuses to talk. He does know that it has something to do with the “seventh floor” and likely involves bacteria or viruses or the like. Arkady asks Oleg to keep an eye on Tatiana and report anything strange back to him.

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Meanwhile, Phil talks to Martha (Alison Wright) about his murder of Gene in the last season and tells her it was a necessary evil to keep her out of danger. Unfortunately, it’s only heightened the paranoia back at FBI HQ, making it trickier for Martha to help Phil out. She does manage to get copies of the best time to approach Will, by making copies of the surveillance reports on him, which includes the next times they will be actively watching Will, so it wasn’t for nothing.

Despite the fact that, at this point, the FBI thinks that Gene’s death was a suicide, Phil still thinks they should avoid meeting in Martha’s apartment and meet in his from there on out. He apologizes for dragging her into everything and assures her that Gene’s death was quick and relatively painless.

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Not so painless was Phil’s childhood attack on some young thieves that kept stealing from him as he came home from market. So, he hid and staged a sneak attack, apparently killing at least one of the boys in the process, if not both, by bashing them in the head with a rock. He later tells the EST group a sanitized version of the events, which actually garners him some applause from the peanut gallery!

Not so supportive is Stan (Noah Emmerich), who finds out from current girlfriend Tori (Callie Thorne) that Phil has been getting a little too cozy for comfort with Stan’s ex-wife Sandra (Susan Misner). Though nothing is actually going on, it doesn’t look good, and Stan confronts Phil in his garage, just as he and Liz return from getting the biological sample.

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Stan slams Phil into the wall, grabbing him by the lapels and shaking him, terrifying him for reasons that have nothing to do with getting his butt kicked. Thankfully, the virus sample bottle remains intact, which is a good thing, as Phil and Liz weren’t vaccinated correctly for the given assignment, and if it had broken, Phil would have been doomed.

As for Paige (Holly Taylor), she’s also shaken, but in an altogether different way, still reeling from the revelations of the season finale, in which her parents finally revealed that they weren’t who they seemed. She continued to talk with Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin), but stops short of getting into specifics, making him promise not to tell anyone about it. In return, she promises to find out more about what it is her parents actually do.

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Finally, back in Mother Russia, Nina (Annet Mahendru, hot off a sweet guest spot on “The X-Files” revival) continued to talk to and inform on Anton (Michael Aronov) to Vasili (Peter Von Berg), as per their arrangement. It seems that the wing he developed for the Russians works well-enough to please them and all is well for now, despite Anton’s concerns.

However, he misses his family dearly and laments not being able to see his son grow up. Nina, despite Vasili’s wariness of them just being “friends”- he thinks they should be sleeping together so Anton will confide in her more- says that he is committed to cooperation, and, if anything, is working from a place of fear that, if he fails, he will be dropped in some random prison and left to die there.

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All this talk makes Nina long for her own private life, giving her the wherewithal to make a request that becomes a demand after Vasili resists granting her anything, saying she’s in no position to ask for favors. Namely, Nina wants to see her husband. We don’t see if Vasili agrees, but I suspect he will, as Nina has been doing everything that has been asked of her.

That was really about it for this episode, but that was plenty. Lots of places to go from here on out, lots of potential future drama set in motion, to be sure. Between Paige’s wavering ideas about whether or not she should help her parents or turn on them- note how she tellingly skipped out on the Pledge of Allegiance- to Stan’s newfound suspicion of Phil, which could lead to trouble if he sees fit to either follow him or have him followed, there’s lots of ways this all could go south quick.

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Of course, that’s all part of the fun, which is to say, wondering whether or not Phil and Liz will get caught or get away with it for yet another season. I suspect that their days are numbered in that regard, but I’m not sure if we’ll get there this season or not. It seems like I read that the plan is to end the show after one more season, so if that’s true, they will likely wait on going there in this one. We shall see.

Until such time, as ever, this remains one of the better-written and acted shows on television at the moment. Here’s hoping we get that final season, as I can’t wait to see how it all ends, one way or another.

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What did you think of the season premiere of “The Americans”? Did you enjoy it, or would you preferred if there were a bit more action? (I’m sure they’ll get around to it soon enough.) What do you think of the various plotlines being set up for this season so far? Do you think Paige will talk to the wrong person or tell Pastor Tim too much?

What will Liz and Phil have to do next? How about Nina? Will Arkady get to the bottom of what Tatiana’s up to? And if so, at what cost? Sound off on this and more down below and see you next week!