We’re at that point in a show’s season when I start to get a little antsy. We’re so close to the end — after “Yousaf” there are only three more episodes left — and it makes me simultaneously excited to see what everything is building to and how The Americans will tie up its second season, but also a little sad about the long hiatus that will come before the third. Just about everything that I was wary about going into this season has been quickly cast aside thanks to a strong run of great episode — including “Yousaf.”
Again, the most interesting thing here is the family conflict that Paige keeps stirring up. The Americans ended last week after a cold church meeting and Philip threatening the minister, but realizing that he shouldn’t actually hurt him no matter how much he wanted to. It’s a little odd to see how quickly Philip seems to have bounced back from that encounter — and from the murderous encounter during his and Elizabeth’s mission — and is his cheerful, upbeat self at breakfast with the children. He’s trying to get back on Paige’s good side but she’s wary because, after all, he did fly into a scary rage and rip up her bible. Philip is back in lame-dad mode by making a silly, and early, April Fools joke to an unamused Henry, hoping to get Paige to at least crack a smile or show any sign of forgiveness. She doesn’t.
Paige does sort of offer him an olive branch later in the episode when she explains how she wants to spend her summer: as a counselor-in-training for a church camp. She smartly emphasizes that it’s not all about Jesus — there are fun outdoor activities and team-building exercises, too! — and Philip seems to defrost a bit on the idea of religion. Well, not exactly on the topic itself but on Paige’s ever-increasing interest in it, if only because he’s worried that he might totally lose Paige.
Elizabeth still isn’t ready to let the Paige stuff go so easily. She’s forever wary about church and later, when cleaning Paige’s room, she discovers that Paige is pretty adept at forgery. She’s been practicing signing Elizabeth’s signature so in case her parents refused to let her go to camp, Paige could forge the signature on the slip and go anyway. It’s strange how Paige’s newfound interest in religion and bettering herself has turned into this super-defiant daughter, talking back to her parents, planning to forge signatures, angrily calling “bullshit!” on her mother’s actions. Elizabeth forbids Paige to go to camp, even calling the church and informing the pastor that Paige definitely won’t be attending. This is news to Philip but Elizabeth quickly shuts him down too, remarking that he’s too easy on her and that she’ll never be prepared for the real world if he keeps this up.
Elizabeth is definitely the hardened one in the relationship and she’s proven this time and time again, both in the house and on the missions. The mission-of-the-week in “Yousaf” involves seducing the titular diplomat, a mission that Elizabeth has done countless times before and is very, very good at. But Philip doesn’t want her to do it this time — he’s not too into watching his wife have sex with other men anymore; it’s something that’s been building between them all season, now that they’re more “all in” when it comes to their marriage instead of just treating it like a KGB cover-up. This is news to Elizabeth who bristles when Philip tells her that he wants to instead recruit Annelise (a character we haven’t seen since “The Clock” in season one) to seduce Yousaf.
Elizabeth isn’t left without a mission, though. She is tasked with murdering Javid, Yousaf’s number one. It’s a brilliantly done scene, juxtaposing Annelise’s reluctant tryst with Yousaf with Elizabeth’s cold and calculated underwater murder of Javid (and set to an original composition by Pete Townshend that FX has been excited for all month). Both women succeed in their mission (and both seem to celebrate and/or calm down with a cigarette; The Americans is really into providing mirrors to Elizabeth with younger, not-quite-there-yet agents) but afterward Annelise has second thoughts.
She storms into Philip’s room demanding a drink and, upon finishing it, smashes the glass against the wall just narrowly missing his head. She has already stated that she wanted to work on her marriage and Philip said he had great respect for that, although it seems he meant it more when it came to his own marriage and not the marriages of others, hence why he doesn’t want Elizabeth to do the mission but is fine sending out someone else in a similar marital position. Annelise isn’t happy with what she had to do and can’t believe Philip is okay with watching his wife do the same. Philip admits that it “kills me to watch the woman I love sacrifice herself.” He manages to calm down Annelise — and thankfully, because for a second I was worried that he might kill her, too — and all seems okay.
Except now Stan is investigating Emmet and Leanne’s murder by talking to poor Jared and really prying him about the secrets his parents kept. Stan shows Jared a sketch of Philip and Elizabeth in disguise but the scene cuts out right before we know if Jared responded if he recognizes them or not. There has always been the lingering threat that the Jennings could be found out by Stan but it’s been on the back-burner since the first season. Will this become something bigger during the final three episodes? Oh, and there are so many other questions, too! Is Paige going to find her way into that church summer camp? What the hell is crazy wild card Larrick up to — lurking behind a small child with a gun! — and when will he get caught? Is Martha going to make it out of this season alive? Argh, The Americans!