'The Americans' season finale: Mission shifts but marriage stays firm

Bill Keveney
Philip (Matthew Rhys), left, and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) find their big plans changing in the season finale of FX's 'The Americans.'

Spoiler alert: This story contains details from Tuesday’s season finale of FX’s The Americans.

The Americans will stay in America, at least for the time being.

Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell), the married Soviet spies at the heart of FX's 1980s Cold War drama, see their plan to return to their Russian homeland thwarted by their own intelligence coup in Tuesday’s fifth-season finale.

Phillip’s hope of finally escaping the undercover life is crushed when he strikes an espionage mother lode: His secret recordings of a CIA official reveal the man is about to become the head of the U.S. spy agency’s Soviet division. The development also temporarily pushes aside the problematic prospect of taking their U.S.-born children, Paige (Holly Taylor) and Henry (Keidrich Sellati), to the Soviet Union.

Executive producers say the show built emotionally over the season, setting the drama up for next year's final season, but they're aware that some viewers and critics have been eager for more action and life-threatening twists.

The relationship of FBI agent Stan (Noah Emmerich) and Renee (Laurie Holden) has advanced in Season 5 of FX's 'The Americans.'

“We said this would be slower than the previous season. Now, to our chagrin, we found everyone agrees with us,” jokes executive producer Joe Weisberg.

Weisberg and executive producer Joel Fields already have begun mapping the final, 10-episode season, and Weisberg promises viewers: “They won’t say the same about next season. We know what's going to happen and we've got the ending in place. We're pretty excited about it. We think it's going to be a great season."

Significant plot developments:

•  Phillip, exhausted with the toll espionage takes on so many lives, risks the couple’s cover when he rushes to the aid of a Pasha, an immigrant teen whom Tuan, a younger spy, had persuaded to slit his wrists in an attempt to force his family to move back to the Soviet Union.

• Stan (Noah Emmerich), the Jennings' neighbor, questions his commitment to FBI counterintelligence as his relationship deepens with Renee (Laurie Holden).

Oleg (Costa Ronin), right, is working with partner Ruslan (Ravil Isyanov) in the Soviet Union in Season 5 of FX's 'The Americans.'

• Soviet spy Oleg Burov (Costa Ronin) is under suspicion back in Moscow, with last season's humanitarian assistance to Stan now threatening his own freedom.

• And Martha (Alison Wright), an American now trapped in the Soviet Union as a result of misplaced trust, is offered the chance to adopt a sweet orphan girl, a comforting yet bittersweet prospect after the implosion of her imagined life with Philip's Clark.

Emotions built over the season, much of it focused on the deepening nature of Phillip’s and Elizabeth’s marriage, which has developed into much more than an undercover convenience. That leads to a touching season-ending moment when Elizabeth, a stronger believer in their mission as Soviet spies, agrees to spare Phillip the heavy lifting of the new espionage opportunity.

“What was most beautiful to us about that scene is her commitment to the cause exists in total concert with her appreciation of her husband," Fields says. "She realizes this is sometihng she has to do but als wants what’s best for him to the extent she can give it. You have this real marriage moment between them.”