The Cold War is escalating, the Jennings family is in turmoil and the career of FBI agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) is in jeopardy as Season 3 of "The Americans" wraps on FX.
Episode 313's title, "March 8, 1983," refers to the date of President Reagan's famous "Evil Empire" speech. By blasting communism as a "sad, bizarre chapter in human history," Reagan further inflamed tensions between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.
Tensions also mount for Soviet spy Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) as his gut-wrenching missions exact a toll. His latest assignment involves murdering an innocent young man and making it appear he committed suicide after installing a listening device at the FBI.
That trickery takes the heat off Philip's other wife, secretary Martha Hanson (Alison Wright), who actually planted the bug.
To lessen his angst, Philip attends a New Age seminar and is surprised to see Sandra Beeman (Susan Misner), Stan's estranged spouse. She opens up about having relationship issues with new boyfriend Arthur (Remy Auberjonois).
"What if you and I just agreed to tell each other everything," Sandra suggests to Philip. "No secrets, like an experiment."
"I don't know if I can really do that," replies Philip, who could face life imprisonment if his hidden identity is exposed. "I'll think about it."
Philip's discontent flares up when he defies KGB orders and allows his spy wife Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) to undertake a risky trip. They plan to enter Russia, where Elizabeth's mother (Aleksandra Myrna) is dying of cancer.
"You can't blackmail the organization this way," KGB handler Gabriel (Frank Langella) scolds Philip. "You're acting like a child!"
Soviet officials handle this delicate situation with a compromise. Elizabeth can't cross the Iron Curtain, but her wheelchair-bound mother can travel to West Germany for a tearful reunion.
"I had to let you go," Mom says of her painful decision to let Elizabeth join the KGB. "Everything was at stake!"
Paige is deeply moved by this encounter and silently prays for the grandmother she'll never see again. But the visit didn't have the intended effect of preparing Paige for KGB recruitment.
And it didn't keep her quiet about Philip and Elizabeth's country of origin.
"They're liars and they're trying to turn me into one," Paige sobs during a late-night phone call to Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin). "They're not who they say they are. They're not Americans. I can't tell anyone they're Russians!"
At the FBI in Washington, Stan confesses to his boss, Special Agent Frank Gaad (Richard Thomas), that he ran a rogue operation with KGB officer Oleg Burov (Costa Ronin), a science and technology expert.
Stan covertly tapes Oleg's admission that Soviet defector Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya (Svetlana Efremova) is a spy. Now Stan wants to swap Zinaida for his former lover Nina Sergeevna (Annet Mahendru), a double-agent sentenced to prison in Moscow on espionage and treason charges.
Moreover, Stan predicts he can turn Oleg into a prized FBI asset. But Frank won't hear of it.
"Why would I be stupid enough to trust you again?" snarls Frank, who calls for Stan's immediate dismissal.
Intervening to rescue Stan's career is Deputy Atty. Gen. Warren (Cotter Smith). He regards Stan as a dedicated, resourceful agent who refuses to become mired in red tape.
"The only thing that matters is the work you're going to be doing with Burov," Warren confides. And if Stan runs afoul of FBI bureaucrats again, Warren adds, "you come to me."
But regarding Stan's request to swap Zinaida for Nina, it's not going to happen.