‘The Americans’ recap: Fiery end to South African plot

KGB spies Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) work with South African freedom fighter Reuben Ncgobo (Dwayne Alistair Thomas), right, to head off a plot against the anti-apartheid movement on "The Americans."
KGB spies Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) work with South African freedom fighter Reuben Ncgobo (Dwayne Alistair Thomas), right, to head off a plot against the anti-apartheid movement on “The Americans.”
(Patrick Harbron / FX)

A South African intelligence officer attempting to sabotage the anti-apartheid movement in Washington succumbs to a fiery death in “Divestment,” Episode 308 of “The Americans” on FX.

After being captured and tortured by the KGB, Afrikaner Eugene Venter (Neil Sandilands) refuses to reveal his covert mission. Soviet spy Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) wants to shoot Eugene, but South African freedom fighter Reuben Ncgobo (Dwayne Alistair Thomas) has other ideas.

“We have a way of doing things,” he tells Elizabeth and her spy husband Philip (Matthew Rhys). Then Reuben forces a tire around Eugene’s torso and douses him with gasoline in the brutal practice called “necklacing.”

“You are guilty of crimes against the people of South Africa,” Reuben declares.


“You are the enemy of South Africa,” Eugene defiantly responds, insisting his country was built with the “sweat and blood” of white Afrikaners. Now Eugene screams in agony as the gas is ignited.

Watching in horror is kidnapped college student Todd (Will Pullen), who fears he’ll be burned alive for conspiring with Eugene.

“We’ll just put a bullet in your head,” Elizabeth says nonchalantly, figuring that will prompt Todd to start talking. It does.

The plot, he explains, was to bomb a meeting of campus regents, who are under pressure from students to divest all the university’s holdings in South Africa. Anti-apartheid activists would be blamed for the explosion, thus creating a fierce backlash.


Even though Todd was too afraid to carry out the bombing, Reuben still wants to kill him.

“He’s just a kid,” Philip argues. “After what he’s seen today, he’s done!”

Despite Reuben’s protestations, Elizabeth sets Todd free.

In Russia, meanwhile, former KGB double-agent Nina Sergeevna (Annet Mahendru) learns that her prison sentence for treason has been reduced to 10 years because she tricked her cellmate into confessing. Still, spending a decade behind bars is a dismal fate.


“Forgive me for not jumping up and down,” Nina says. But soon she’s given an opportunity to earn her release.

First, Nina must befriend a Jewish scientist forced to develop stealth technology for the Soviet military. Then Nina must discover if this “refusenik,” Anton Baklanov (Michael Aronov), is working diligently or “undermining the best interests of the motherland.”

Anton gives Nina a frosty reception when they meet, saying he has no use for a nonscientist. But given Nina’s feminine charms, don’t count her out.

Finally, Walter Taffet (Jefferson Mays) from the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility continues his investigation into who planted a KGB listening device inside a ballpoint pen belonging to Special Agent in Charge Frank Gaad (Richard Thomas).


Walter suggests that if Frank had installed security cameras in his office, “we wouldn’t be facing this Easter egg hunt” to find the guilty party.

“I’m not saying that your negligence resulted in the KGB getting access into the bureau,” Walter says.

“But you’re not prepared to say it didn’t,” Frank replies.

Fighting to maintain her composure during the internal probe is Frank’s secretary, Martha Hanson (Alison Wright), who planted the bug at the request of her husband “Clark.” He’s actually Soviet spy Philip, of course, pretending to be an FBI employee overseeing the counterintelligence division.


The ordeal causes Martha to question her spouse’s identity.

“Who are you?” she tearfully asks when Philip comes home wearing his Clark disguise.

“I’m your husband,” he says soothingly, “the man you married who loves you more than you will ever know.” But Martha is not placated.

“What have I done?” she laments. “Is any of this true?”


What you’ve done, Martha, is betray your country.

And your oddball marriage is nothing but a lie.