Everything You Need to Remember About FX's 'The Americans' Before Season 4

A recap of Season 3's cliffhangers, shocks, and questions. Season 4 premieres March 16.

FX Networks 

Full disclosure: We’ve seen the beginning of the new Americans season, which premieres on March 16. Spoiler: It’s very good, and drops you right back into the action. So, if you haven’t watched the Season 3 finale of The Americans since it aired in April of last year, you may go into this thing pretty confused. That being said, there’s never any point in going through these things too in-depth, as inevitably the show will work to bring you back up to pace — and maybe that’s part of the fun. The Americans knows its responsibility to help you out, but here’s your short, very spoiler-free guide — five things you’ll definitely want to know going into the season premiere.

Pastor Tim knows about Philip and Elizabeth being KGB operatives.

If you remember only one thing, no doubt it’s this. In the final moment of the Season 3 finale, a distraught Paige spills the beans in the funniest way possible: “They’re not … Americans.” The central conflict, then, is what will the fallout from this be? Who will be pushed to kill whom? It certainly looks bad for Paige going into the family business, as Gabriel and Elizabeth have encouraged so vehemently, and possibly for her own safety if they find out. As for Pastor Tim, well — his chances will be slim to none if Elizabeth hears about it. Philip: Who knows where his head is at these days?

Martha knows Philip’s identity, and Philip has set someone up (and killed him/her) to protect her.

In the penultimate episode of Season 3, he pulls off the wig and tells her he’s not who he says he is. Stan is creeping around, suspicious of Martha for spying and trying to figure out who’s behind it. In the final episode, Philip kills Gene — the FBI IT guy — to absolve Martha, and put Stan off her (and his) trail. It remains unclear just how badly Martha will take this, in the long run.

A teaser of Martha in Season 4:

Stan is in hot water at work because he tried to make a secret deal with Oleg.

Agent Gaad tries to dismiss Stan for insubordination when he reveals his ploy to exchange information about the double agent Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya for Nina’s freedom (from Russian prison, for treason — just in case you forgot all of last season). Zinaida’s capture is a win for the bureau, and so the deputy attorney general reverses Gaad’s decision, and tells him to maintain his valuable connection with the Russians. But life at the office is not going to be fun for Stan; Gaad’s crucial line to him was “Why would I be stupid enough to trust you again, Stan?”

Sandra becomes Philip’s EST buddy and confidant.

Philip — especially after Elizabeth begins carrying out Gabriel’s orders to recruit Paige — begins to have a major crisis of faith. He starts going to the EST motivational seminars voluntarily, without Stan, and sees Sandra there. Philip begins to open up more there, as does Sandra, and in the final episode of Season 3, it becomes clear that they feel comfortable around each other, and are going to strike up an independent friendship. One wonders not only what Stan will think if he finds out, but what Philip may inadvertently (or even deliberately) reveal to her about himself. EST explores one’s troubled past: How deep will Philip deign to go?

Will he defect? Matthew Rhys, as of last year, thought it was likely.

Henry is (weirdly) Stan’s buddy.

It’s unclear where this is leading, but Henry often spends time at Stan’s house when his parents are out, or — well, it’s kind of unclear why. The central tension of the show — Stan finding out about Philip and Elizabeth — has to erupt sometime, and it’s easy to wonder if Henry will be the key, or at least the pawn.

Want to catch up easily? Season 3 of The Americans was made available for free on Amazon Prime earlier this month.

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