Who Will Die First in 'The Americans' Season 4: Pastor Tim or Martha?

A bit of healthy speculation about who will feel Philip and Elizabeth's initial wrath on the FX show's new season.

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To some critics and fans, the season finale of Season 3 of The Americans was a disappointment, backing away from resolution of the Philip and Martha plot line — which seemed to be coming to a dangerous and potentially disastrous head. Instead, showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields chose to advance another plot line to the point of crisis: Paige’s reaction to her parents’ revelation of their true identities.

The conclusion of the season was a classic, almost ludicrously inflated cliffhanger: Paige telling her mentor, Pastor Tim, over the phone that Elizabeth and Philip were “not Americans.” It’s almost humorous given the title of the show, and perhaps slightly awkward, overtly ambiguous wording. Fields told The Hollywood Reporter that the line was a labor of love: “We just had versions where she wouldn’t say, ‘My parents are Russian.’ She would just say, ‘My parents aren’t who they say they are.’”

Regardless, the intel about Philip and Elizabeth has most definitely been leaked, and in the universe of The Americans — that is, according to the rigorous code of the KGB — that means pretty much only one thing: Pastor Tim will have been taken out of the commission. The question is simply how or when. Will Paige be able to keep this a secret from her parents, or will her Christian values and traditional honesty prompt her to give it away? Will she, herself, end up OK?

Given everything we know about Paige, it seems unlikely that she will manage to hold it in. It’s likely that her reveal to Pastor Tim is presaging some drastic maneuver to come. Whichever angle one looks at it from, it doesn’t look good for Pastor Tim living longer than a few more episodes, and we should hope that is the case. It would be a shame if Season 4 consisted mostly of Paige and him heading for the hills — à la Walter White — to escape Philip and Elizabeth’s wrath, and forcing the two agents to go searching for them. This is not the plot line we want to be eating up our time.

Of course, there are other conflicts to focus on here: Most importantly, how will Martha ultimately deal with her knowledge of Philip’s true identity? We know that Philip is not interested in killing anyone, and doubtless wouldn’t have come clean to her of his own free will if he were. Even if it were the best strategy, how long can the delicate balance last?

As we go into Season 4, both Martha and Pastor Tim’s fates are unclear. One of the season’s teasers suggests that a shakeup will occur on the Martha front in the early episode, after Philip makes a new revelation to her. Will Philip let her slip out of his control to save her, or begin to take his job seriously again and move toward silencing her? Perhaps she’ll become a conspirator.

There have been a fair share of crazy theories about Pastor Tim’s odd importance in the series:

What seems more likely, however, is that the first ax to fall will be on Pastor Tim and Paige. The threat is more immediate, and neither Philip or Elizabeth have any way of exerting control on him. Also, the loss of Martha would be too dire for Philip and the audience; it would certainly need to be built up to. If Philip’s trajectory has been building toward anything, it’s opposing Gabriel’s directives, or escaping the KGB’s grasp — certainly not offing his other wife, whom, in his own way, he’s grown to love. We’ll need to see him veer further off course before it would make sense for him to come to his senses one way or another; right now, defecting is still simply a shadow of an idea.

So cross your fingers for Pastor Tim, or root for his demise, depending on what you want out of this show. We can expect a lot to be happening fast when The Americans returns on March 16.