The Americans “Persona Non Grata” Season Finale Review (Season 4 Episode 13)

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On the season finale of “The Americans,” the meet with Will was on, with the FBI hot on his tail, in “Persona Non Grata.” But what would happen in the end, especially insofar as the Jennings family was concerned? Unfortunately, we didn’t quite get that answer, resulting in a somewhat muted final episode of a largely riveting season- arguably the show’s best yet- but it didn’t stop the episode from being highly engaging, that’s for sure.

We essentially began right where we left off, as Phil headed out to meet with Will, as a host of FBI agents swarmed around Will, seeming to indicate that both were doomed. Unfortunately for the FBI- and for Will, as it turned out- Will got wind that they were in hot pursuit and intentionally bailed on the meet to try and get away.

Alas, there were way too many agents involved this time around, due to the increased coverage resulting from Oleg’s tip, so Will was backed into a corner. Like a caged animal, Will had to make a choice- fight or surrender. He ultimately chose a little of both, as he smashed the virus intentionally into his palm and announced what he had done to all concerned.

As Will was apprehended and taken to the hospital and quarantined, Phil was left to wonder what had happened, eventually giving up and going home empty-handed. A secondary meet the next day naturally yielded similar results, and Gabriel and the Centre began to fear the worst. Would Will crack under pressure and talk? If so, what would that mean for the Jennings family?

Meanwhile, Paige edged ever-closer to the spy life, as she requested to her mother that she might need to learn to defend herself if what they did was so dangerous. Liz, in the understatement of the series to date, said she “might be able to teach you a few things.” You think?

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Liz also told Phil about it and that she had talked to Paige about her hometown and what it might be like now and whether they might go there someday. If things keep headed in the direction they seem to be, she might get her chance sooner than later, but we’ll have to wait and see on that one.

Meanwhile, back in the motherland, a prisoner at a mental institution identified as Semenov Mikhail (Alex Ozerov) was brought to meet with the head of the facility. The man mentions how Mikhail was in for complaining publicly about Russian support for Afghanistan, a big no-no that could land him in prison if found of sound mind or keep him in the asylum for years on end if found mentally ill.

Fortunately for Mikhail, he has friends in high places and might get a second chance. But who? And why? Whatever the case, Mikhail is indeed released and returns to his family, where his adoptive father tells him his mother- who we see from a picture to be Irina, Phil’s ex- has left him a special package before she was arrested, which he now gives to him.

It’s a sizable amount of money, several passports and various other ephemera, including pictures and postcards and the like. The idea is for Mikhail- aka Mischa, his better known nickname- to travel to the States and track down his father, who he is told is a Travel Agent, but little else.

Obviously, this is set-up for next season, but only can only imagine the trouble it will cause if he finds Phil, which seems inevitable. Especially since Mischa seems to not speak a word of English and has a thick Russian accent, though it’s possible he might be able to speak English at least and we just didn’t see it here.

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Also, despite his “friends in high places,” the government is also keeping a close eye on him, so that can’t be good, either. We’ll just have to wait and see next season how all this plays out, but it’s certainly an intriguing and unexpected development, especially as we were never quite sure if Mischa was real or something the Soviets were using to mess with Phil and keep him in line until this episode, which marked the first time we actually saw him in the flesh.

In the meantime, a confined and quarantined Will is in rough shape, as Stan and Aderholt attempt to question him via intercom from outside the room. Will informs them that he’ll be dead in a matter of days and has little to say, but that doesn’t keep them from trying with surprisingly amusing results. (Aderholt’s solemn, earnest delivery of the line “Would you like a Coke?” didn’t just make Will laugh, for instance.)

Back at the Centre, Oleg puts in for a transfer, telling Arkady that he needs to go home and look after his mother, who is in rough shape. Arkady is upset, but understanding, but warns Oleg that his job forecast will be bleak and probably boring as all get out. Oleg says he’ll make do, and Arkady tells him he’s a “good son.”

Alice has her baby and Paige passes along the news, telling her mother that she should probably go see them at the hospital alone when Liz suggests they all go as a family. Paige’s instincts tell her that it should be a personal matter, with the rest of the family getting involved more gradually, which just further goes to show what a good spy in-the-making she is becoming.

Phil attends another EST meeting, which Liz informs Paige about, barely able to contain her disdain, and Phil speaks to the group, lamenting about his lowly status as a Travel Agent, and how much he hates it. However, he can’t quit, as his loved ones depend on him and the financial security it provides too much.

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The group leader begs to differ and says life’s too short to do something you hate for a living and that his family would understand if he up and quit. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Phil wasn’t really talking about hating being a Travel Agent. But would he really quit being a spy? I’d say he’s probably a lot closer to it than his wife, that’s for sure.

Arkady is brought in for a meet with Wolfe (Peter Jacobson) and the other Agent whose name escapes me that Stan bumped heads with earlier in the season. They tell him they have Will and know that he worked as a spy for Directorate S and was involved in stealing hazardous materials from the United States government.

Cool as a cucumber, Arkady says that, as part of the treaty Russia signed with the US, there shouldn’t be any biological weapons to be stolen from them, echoing what Tatiana said to Oleg earlier in the season. The two naturally deny that there is, once again clinging to the notion that they are working on antidotes to known viruses, not manufacturing their own.

Then Wolfe calls Arkady out on his suspected role in the death of Agent Gaad and for the whole Martha affair, telling him it was the lowest thing he’d ever seen anyone do in his entire career, and that Arkady, effective immediately, was going to be deported back to Russia. Not sure how they can do that, especially without concrete proof, but okay.

Arkady tells them to take all of this up with the Ambassador, which they assure him they will, as well as with the Foreign Minister in Moscow, with President Reagan planning to meet with both in due time. Wolfe tells Arkady he has 48 hours to leave the US or he will be forcibly removed or possibly arrested.

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Meanwhile, Stan and Aderholt continue their fruitless questioning of Will, as he continues to elude them. When they ask if there’s anyone they can contact on his behalf, Will informs them that he’s alone and has been for some time- there’s no one to contact, which is almost unbearably sad. Stan warns him that neither have they let anyone know they have him, which must be worrying his superiors.

Will glosses over this and talks about how exciting it was at first to be doing something on behalf of his country and how it made him feel special, like his life had a a purpose. Eventually, it became a curse, however, leading him to have a lonely, isolated life with no one special in it. Now, the “cause” was the only thing he had left, the only thing that mattered.

As Stan predicted, the lack of news on Will was highly troubling to the Soviets, who instruct Gabriel to relocate to another safe-house, as Will has been to his current one, and tell him to posit the possibility of relocation to the Jennings family. While they can’t force them to leave, things aren’t looking good, and even Gabriel thinks they should head back to Russia, having done more than what was expected of them.

He tells them to go home and pack their stuff and tell the kids what was going on and meet him back at the new safe-house, where arrangements would be made for their safe passage. Gabriel points out that they will be welcomed with honors, having gone above and beyond the call of duty over the years.

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Paige visits Alice and Tim in the hospital to see the baby, as Arkady drinks alone, lamenting his situation. We get the final 80’s song of the season, the fittingly-solemn “Who Shall I Say is Calling?” by the gravel-voiced Leonard Cohen, of “Hallelujah” fame. Tatiana tells Oleg to leave Arkady be, and tells Oleg she has been made the director in the interim, until they elect a new one, which they likely will.

As to be expected, her promotion was redacted, and she will no longer be going to Kenya, and will be staying in the US to help out there indefinitely. Seeing it as the silver lining to this dark cloud, she informs Oleg that at least he won’t have to make a decision in that regard and they can still be together, when Oleg tells her of the transfer he put in to go back to Moscow.

Though she puts on a brave face, it’s clear that Tatiana’s heart is more than a little broken by this revelation, as we see her barely able to keep it together as she walks away from Oleg. First Mother Russia giveth, then they taketh away. Oh well. Poor Tatiana. Just when she was starting to grow on me, too. This probably won’t help with her normally staunch demeanor, I’m guessing.

The end is clearly nigh for poor Will, who starts coughing up blood. He tells Aderholt and Stan about how much he did for the Soviets and how it was never enough- they always wanted more. He references the wife he had for a brief time and how that didn’t work out, and how he envies that “other” family that did make a go of it, and have kids and love for one another, which is obviously the Jennings.

Thankfully, in his delirium, Will still doesn’t name names, though we don’t see that at first. Instead, it’s left up in the air until the very end, when Stan comes home and Phil goes over to collect Paige, who is at Stan’s house watching the Super Bowl with Matthew, with a noticeably absent Henry, who was forced to watch the game alone, much to his consternation.

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Steeling himself for the worst, Phil is instead met by a giddy Stan, who informs him that he caught Matthew and Paige in full make-out mode when he arrived home. Obviously, Will didn’t tell him anything of value or Phil and company would already be in custody, so it would seem that the worst is behind them- for now.

That said, Phil is nowhere near as happy about the Paige/Matthew situation as Stan, who is all but ready to plan the wedding. Phil jerks Paige out of there, and tells her she has “no idea what you’re doing” and forbids her from getting further involved with Matthew from there on out, which doesn’t look to go over well with her, and that is where we leave things for now, alas.

As per usual, this episode didn’t go where one might have thought it would go, opting for, as per Paige’s soaps, an “emotional” ending, though nonetheless still logical. Granted, we may not have gotten the big pay-off we might have expected, but did you really think that the Jennings would go down so easy, least of all with two more seasons left? Not really.

So, if this left the proceedings somewhat muted, it was still a fitting ending to the season, which was anything but more often than not. After all the death and shocking developments, it seems about right that things would go out with a whimper instead of a bang. (Literally, in the sad case of doomed Will.)

All in all, I’d argue that this was the best season of the show yet, between the heartbreaking death of Nina and the loss of Martha- two of the strongest women on the show, both of whom will be greatly missed- and everything going on with Paige, there was plenty of drama to go around.

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Factor in Liz’s unfortunate circumstances in finally landing a genuine friend in Young Hee, only to have it ripped away by her own devices, and the business with the lonely lives and the price to be paid in service of one’s country, as evidenced by Will and Gabriel, and you had a pretty strong season overall, with lots of potential award bait, acting-wise, if those people have any sense. (Dylan Baker in particular, should be a shoe-in, right?)

As strong as Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys were, as usual, I also have to give it up to MVP Holly Taylor, who, with each subsequent season, has had to do more and more heavy lifting and has risen to the occasion, big-time, doing more than I think anyone could have expected- perhaps even herself.

Her delivery of that line “Great” in the last episode alone was near-series defining, as she practically gave voice to everyone watching’s own sentiments, in full-on sarcastic teen mode. Also, the way Taylor subtly showed Paige’s natural instincts as a spy in-the-making was spot-on as well. They may bump heads a lot, but boy, is she her mother’s daughter.

That was also pretty heart-rending when she told Matthew, “Sometimes, don’t you wish you could go back to being a little kid again?” Clearly, she was speaking for herself, and you can see it in the soul-crushing way she looks at little brother Henry sometimes.

It will be interesting to see if Keidrich Sellati (Henry) is able to step up to the plate half as effectively as Taylor when the time comes, what with his character having gotten the easier job of the series, having just been allowed to “be a kid” all this time. Enjoy it while you can, kid, because I have a feeling that won’t be the case for much longer.

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I’m also definitely looking forward to seeing the ripple effect the arrival of Phil’s son will have on the family. Will that be the impetus that leads to Phil having to finally tell Henry about who he really is and his background? Will it also be what leads to the family’s inevitable downfall? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Until then, what a ride it’s been so far!

What did you think of the latest season of “The Americans”? How about the series as a whole so far? What was your favorite performance this season? Which death/loss hit hardest for you? (For me, it was Nina- I still get sad when I even think about it.) What would you like to see in the final two seasons? What do you think the result of Mischa’s return will be? Sound off on this and more down below, and see you next season!