The Americans Primer

On Tuesday night the fifth season of The Americans (i.e. THE BEST SHOW ON TELEVISION) returns. If you’re a fan of the show, you’re pumped. You’re pumped regardless of the sudden relevance of the show due in no small part to a series of unfortunate events (i.e. the Presidency) that have taken our country hostage. The Americans went from a tightly wound drama about a long lost period in our time to a tightly wound drama that now inspires think pieces about it’s parallels with current events. The one thing that hasn’t changed is how incredibly amazing the show is, thus making some people proclaim loudly and proudly that it’s the best show on television.

I have made the case for why someone who hasn’t watched the show before should watch it, so I won’t go down that road again. Instead, let’s do a primer for The Americans and more specifically, the state of the show going into season five because let’s be honest, a show about Russian spies in the early 80’s can get a little confusing.

Who’s Who

Philip and Elizabeth Jennings

The seemingly harmless married couple at the center of the never-ending tsunami of emotions that is The Americans may have you thinking that they are just a couple of well-meaning travel agents in suburban Virginia, but they are actually…wait for it…SPIES. Spies? Yes, Russian spies. Straight outta Russia with love, the Jennings rock killer wigs, hide sensitive material in their basement and run elaborate missions that involve everything from sham marriages to fake pregnancies, all to further the cause of Mother Russia. They handle it about as well as one can expect.

Paige Jennings

Philip and Elizabeth’s daughter loves Jesus, her pastor and possibly the boy across the street. But hey, as with any family run business, a time will come when a kid is encouraged to join in on the fun. Thus Paige finds herself dabbling in casual espionage after first learning the truth about her parents and then spilling the beans about their side hustle to Pastor Tim, someone who never met a turtleneck and sweater combo he didn’t like. Then things got super real when Paige witnessed her mom kill a dude. Yeah. Ma Dukes straight up stabbing a dude in the throat. So now a Paige is a spy in training and also a child who will never again cut corners on her chores.

Henry Jennings

Ha. Henry. Keep doing you, Henry.

Stan Beeman

Stan the Man is the troubled and broken-hearted (twice now…ouch) FBI agent who lives across the street from Jennings. What? A FBI agent lives across the street from Russian spies? Yeah, The Americans is dope like that. At the end of last season another Russian spy was in the middle of dying from a self-inflicted shot of some kind of death virus and that spy began mumbling about the Jennings, but he stopped short of giving up their names. That combined with the discovery that Martha, a secretary at the FBI, was unknowingly married to a Russian spy, is bringing Stan all that much closer to discovering the true identity of his drinking buddy Philip and his lovely wife Elizabeth. #awkward

Who’s Also Who: Rapid Fire Round

Aderholt: Stan’s partner.
Oleg: A KGB agent
Gabriel: Philip and Elizabeth’s sage-like handler
Claudia: Philip and Elizabeth’s previous handler

Who Was Who


Also known as Poor Martha, Martha was but a lovely secretary at the FBI until she met Clark, fell in love with Clark, got married to Clark and then learned that Clark was actually Philip and she had been helping Philip spy on her boss. Ouch. Things only got worse for Martha when Beeman and Aderholt found out about his fake marriage and she was sent packing to lovely Russia. Double ouch.


Follow me here. Nina worked at the Rezidentura, got mixed up with Stan, attempted to flip Stan, failed, got busted for slipping Stan some info, was sent back to Russia, was tasked with softening up a scientist, got in trouble again, was thrown in a prison cell, was tasked with getting her cell mate to confess, got her to confess and as a reward was executed. On a related note, the sad plight of Nina ended up bringing together Stan and Oleg. So it’s not like it’s a total loss I guess.

Facts of Note:

1.) This is the second to last season of The Americans.

2.) This season is 13 episodes long. Next season, the final season, will be ten.

3.) The first four seasons are on Amazon Prime.



Categories: Television

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