Following the baptism of Paige Jennings (Holly Taylor) at an activist church, her KGB parents intensify efforts to influence their daughter’s next steps on “Born Again,” Episode 306 of “The Americans” on FX.
“Paige gives her whole heart to every political action that we engage in at this church,” Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin) proudly proclaimed, as atheist mom Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and dad Philip (Matthew Rhys) observed their daughter’s religious ritual with frozen smiles.
Whether it is opposing South African apartheid or protesting the nuclear arms race, Pastor Tim said, Paige is always “challenging, questioning, yelling!”
Impressed with her daughter’s inner strength and social conscience, Elizabeth is determined to groom Paige as a second-generation Soviet spy. But Philip is just as determined to steer his 15-year-old child far away from the brutal world of Cold War espionage.
“You should never feel pressured to do anything that you don’t feel is right for you,” Philip cautions Paige, who mistakenly thinks her dad is referring to substance abuse. “You should always be true to yourself.”
Now it is mom’s turn as she drives Paige to an impoverished Washington neighborhood and shares a few tidbits about her good friend Gregory Thomas (Derek Luke).
What Elizabeth doesn’t reveal is that she recruited the former black militant as a KGB asset and that he was eventually gunned down by police.
“It wasn’t always legal,” Elizabeth says of her actions with Gregory, which went far beyond attending protest rallies and signing petitions. “But it was right – right for the greater good.”
In other developments, Philip deepens his connection with troubled teenager Kimberly Breland (Julia Garner) by plying her with potent marijuana and psychedelic Pink Floyd music.
Kimberly desires a sexual relationship – starting that moment. But all Philip wants is to plant a listening device inside a briefcase belonging to her father Isaac (Frank Deal), who leads a CIA unit helping Mujahideen rebels kill Soviet troops in Afghanistan.
When Kim seductively drops her bath towel, Philip hastily makes up a story about going back to church after a long absence and trying to become a better person.
“I just need to take things slowly, that’s all,” Philip says to disappointed Kim, who’s suddenly overcome with self-doubt.
“Are you sure it’s not me?” she tearfully asks.
“You’re perfect,” Philip assures her.
But keeping this May-December “romance” on a platonic level soon gets trickier. KGB handler Gabriel (Frank Langella) orders Philip to retrieve audiotapes from the briefcase on a weekly basis. That means he must “forge a real bond” with Kim to ensure frequent access to her house.
“I want you more than you know,” Philip says to Kim at a later rendezvous. “But I am really messed up right now.” Then he asks if they can pray together. Although it was just a ruse to make Philip sound sincere, he appears genuinely moved by the experience.
“That was amazing,” Kim exclaims.
“It was,” Philip says with a hint of surprise in his voice.
Finally, former KGB double-agent Nina Sergeevna (Annet Mahendru) does all she can to lessen her prison sentence in Moscow after being convicted of treason. This involves currying favor with Soviet officials by coaxing the truth out of mysterious cellmate Evi Sneijder (Katja Herbers), who’s suspected of spying on the USSR.
“We both made the same mistake – trusting the man we love,” Nina says to gain Evi’s friendship. Shortly after Evi opens up about herself, two guards burst into the cell.
“What did you do?” Evi screams as she’s dragged away.
What Nina did, apparently, was callously inch a bit closer to freedom.