'The Americans' recap: 'Lied? What's that even mean to us?'

Yahoo! TV
"The Americans" -- "Gregory"
"Gregory" -- Audrey Esparza as Joyce and Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings

How do you know your life has become impossibly complicated? When you have a secret life from your secret life. KGB spies posing as American surburbanites Phillip and Elizabeth have lived in an arranged marriage, with children, for 15 years, and just recently bonded in a way that made it possible for their professional marriage to evolve into a genuine romance. But, as Gregory told Elizabeth, you can't do that on a lie, so some secrets had to be revealed first.

Who's Gregory, you ask? In due time. But suffice it for now to say that his name is the title of this episode.

First, Phillip and neighbor/FBI superagent Stan are squaring off in that racquetball match they were talking about, and it brings up -- as nearly every Phillip/Stan interaction does -- questions about whether or not Stan might still have suspicions about Phillip. For instance, when Stan tells Phillip, "The thing about racquetball is, it's not about power or speed. It's about strategy, about making your opponent move too fast and tire out, and then make a mistake."

Like an undercover spy trying to play it cool around his FBI counterintelligence agent neighbor, hmmm?

Or, when Stan's serving, after Phillip accidentally (or was it?) thwacks a ball into Stan's back, and Stan says, "My serve … get ready to run."

Like an undercover spy trying to evade his FBI counterintelligence agent neighbor might eventually be forced to do, hmmm?

The match ends when Stan gets paged (paged!) on a work emergency. "Where I come from, you leave, you lose," Phillip says. Stan: "If that's how you want to win." Phillip, to himself: "I'll win any way I can."

Stan the man

Stan's emergency is a meeting with Nina, the Russian embassy employee he flipped last week. Nina has some demands, and some serious concerns about her safety, but she also has a juicy bit of information for Stan: A KGB operative was killed a couple of weeks ago by stabbing. He died at an area hospital, the same night agent Nikolai Timoshev disappeared.

[Related: 'The Americans' showrunners on featuring real-life political drama in the series]

Phillip, meanwhile, is having breakfast with daughter Paige at a diner, where she's reading a teen mag called "Girl's Life" (with "Facts of Life"-era Nancy McKeon on the cover … nice detail) that alarms him with its cover stories about "What To Do About His Ex-Girlfriend," "Here Comes the Bride," and "Bath to Babe in Under a Minute." When he tells her Elizabeth will not be happy that she's reading that stuff, and Paige asks how her mom will even know, a stranger sitting nearby says it's "maternal ESP." "You have a lovely daughter," the strange woman continues, and Phillip suspiciously starts to check her out until he reads a newspaper classified ad that alarms him.

At the travel agency, he tells Elizabeth that the ad was placed by Robert, their KGB cohort, the one who was killed in the Timoshev kidnapping in the pilot, the one who's been dead for two weeks. Dead men place no classified ads, Elizabeth points out, but Phillip says he's the only one who knew the code in the ad, and the ad is requesting a meeting in Philadelphia, so they need to check it out.

"Put Gregory on it," Phillip tells his wife.

Who's Gregory? Who's Gregory??

Elizabeth arrives at an apartment complex where a man is playing chess in the courtyard. She tells him they should talk inside, and they go to his apartment, where she asks him about his new artwork and they tell each other they've missed one another, before she jumps right into the details of how she needs him and his team to cover the meeting in Philadelphia. We're getting the feeling these two definitely know each other well. But how well? Is it a personal relationship or strictly business?

Then Gregory walks over behind Elizabeth and begins kissing her neck. Oh. Oh!

"I can't do this anymore, us," she tells him. Ohhhhhhh!

"Things are changing at home, with me and Phillip," Elizabeth continues.

Gregory: "You're finally leaving him?"

Elizabeth: "No, the opposite, actually."

Spies, spies, everywhere a spy

Gregory and his team head off to Philly, where he spots the person who placed the ad: It's a woman, carrying a baby, and waiting on a bench. He also realizes that he is not the only one watching her.

Elizabeth shares Gregory's shocking findings with Phillip: The woman on the bench with the baby is Robert's wife, and that's his baby. Though Phillip was Robert's most trusted confidant, Robert hadn't told him or anyone in the KGB that he'd gotten married and he and his wife had a baby. Gregory also reported that the woman was being tailed by the FBI but didn't seem to be aware of it.

Phillip and Elizabeth are surprised by the wife's existence, and that immediately turns into fear: They didn't know about her, but what if she does know about them? Robert may have told her about his KGB gig, which means they need to go to Philly pronto and get their hands on Robert's widow.

And right around that time, the FBI gets the same idea. Nina's scoop has led them to track down Robert as the offed KGB agent, and a little more digging by Stan and cohorts leads them to identify Robert's widow as Joyce Ramirez, widow, mother of baby Oscar, and now the person atop everyone's most wanted list.

[Related: FX's 'The Bridge' picked up to series]  

Elizabeth has to return to Gregory's apartment to give him the assignment to nab Joyce so they can talk to her, and he takes the opportunity to tell her she's making a mistake with Phillip. "Elizabeth, I know you," he says, and we're not the only ones about to be shocked by just how well he knows her.

Who will get there first?

The race is on to see who will get to talk to Joyce first: Phillip and Elizabeth, who need to know what she knows, but who also still consider Robert their friend; or the FBI agents, who are thinking that in Joyce, they might possibly have the chance to snare the highest-ranking undercover KGB agent since the 1950s.

The stakes, then, are high all around, but an elaborate, meticulously plotted traffic jam by Gregory ends with Joyce and Oscar on their way to a Philly house to meet with Elizabeth and Phillip.

Is Robert dead? Who are these people? Was Robert a drug dealer? Joyce has all kinds of questions for Elizabeth and Phillip, who, after watching her break down and panic when she learns her husband is dead, pretty quickly decide they don't think she knows anything about them or what they do. She does have a piece of paper, with a phone number on it, though, which she passes to Phillip, who takes it into the kitchen to decipher a coded message on it.

Gregory follows, and that's where Phillip's world comes crashing down. Gregory wants to know if Phillip loves his wife. Because he does. They met shortly after Elizabeth and Phillip were placed in the United States. Elizabeth recruited him for KGB work, and their affair began. A month before daughter Paige was born, Elizabeth showed up at his door, he says, crying, saying she couldn't go back to her life with Phillip, that she couldn't go back to him and raise the baby and continue living a lie.

Phillip continues to work very deliberately to decode the piece of paper from Robert, but his face also betrays that he couldn't be more gobsmacked if Gregory had physically gut-punched him.

"Do you love her?" Gregory asks. "If you don't, let her be. And if you do, let her be. Let her have a little piece of something real."

A quick switch to Stan finds him reporting to his boss, crabby John Boy (aka Agent Gaad, played by "The Waltons" alum Richard Thomas), that the FBI's surveillance team lost Joyce. And back in Philly, Gregory's trying to talk Elizabeth and Phillip into killing Joyce, just to be sure, since they can't be absolutely certain she really is clueless about their KGB status.

Phillip nixes the idea -- actually, he tells Gregory he'll kill him if he touches Joyce -- and heads out for a walk to clear his head. Along the way, he realizes he's being followed and grabs his admirer by the throat and demands she tell him who she is. Who she is is the woman from the coffee shop, the one who called Paige lovely, and the one, she tells him, who is his new KGB handler. Her name is Claudia, and she's played by "Justified" Emmy winner Margo Martindale, which means "The Americans" cast, unbelievably, just got even better.

Claudia, after making it clear to Phillip that he will not be manhandling her like that ever again (dude, trust us, if she tries to get you to drink something called apple pie from a jar, do not do it), asks if Robert left anything. A phone number, Phillip says, oh, and also, a secret wife and baby. He thinks the wife doesn't know anything about the KGB, he tells her, but Claudia's split-second reaction to that info is giving us the first bad feeling we've had about Joyce's future as a live human.

Claudia tells Phillip that Robert was about to buy some very important intel for the KGB, about a new American technology that would put Russia's nuclear arsenal at risk. The phone number he left is connected to that deal, and Claudia's going to set it up for Phillip to buy the info instead.

Joyce has a bad feeling, too

Back at the house where Joyce is being held with Elizabeth and Gregory, a news report airs about the FBI's manhunt for Joyce. She starts quickly adding up the day's events and details of her life with Robert, and she figures out he was a spy. Are they going to kill her now she asks Elizabeth? No, she's assured.

Phillip returns to the house long enough to tell Elizabeth he's off to buy the intel, and she follows him out to the car.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she says.

"You mean Gregory?" Phillip asks. "You lied to me for 15 years!"

Elizabeth: "Lied? What's that even mean to us?"

Phillip: "I've never lied to you, Elizabeth. I never have. I never have! And you tell the truth to him?!? You shared your deepest feelings, about us, with him, while you lie to me?"

Elizabeth says she told Gregory it was over between them, and that's the only reason he told Phillip about their affair, to hurt him.

Phillip responds with more disbelief about her affair, and her lies, and worst of all, that she chose not to lie to someone else, before he peels out to go buy the intel.

And Elizabeth goes back in the house, where she asks Gregory why he told Phillip about them.

"I was just trying to do right by you. I love you," he says. "If you want to be married to him, fine. But you can't do it on a lie."

The drop-off

With the intelligence buy secured for Claudia, Phillip and Elizabeth drive Joyce and Oscar to meet with Claudia, who ushers Joyce and the baby into a van, assuring Joyce that she'll get new IDs and passports for her and the baby and that they'll be happy living in Cuba.

Phillip and Elizabeth return to their home just as it's almost time to get the kids up for school, but she takes their window of alone time as an opportunity to explain her affair with Gregory.

"I was 17 when I joined the KGB. I had never had a boyfriend. They put me with you … we didn't know each other. When we got here, I was 22 years old, I was living in a strange house, in a strange country, with a strange man," she says. "And I met Gregory and he was passionate about the cause. He was passionate about everything.

"He was passionate about me," she continues, while starting to cry. "I recruited him. And he didn't even want anything. He just believed, like I did. He was the first person I felt that I could really talk to. And I needed that.

"It just happened," she says, walking over to sit at the table with Phillip. "It never really happened that way for us, did it?"

Phillip, sadly: "No."

She wraps her hand around his hand, and tells him, "But I feel like it's happening now."

And that would be an incredibly sweet and powerful note to end the episode on, except that it wouldn't be a true picture of just how complicated their life is.

So we flash to a farmhouse in Russia, where baby Oscar is being delivered by a KGB agent to his grandparents, who are told their son was a hero.

And then we flash to Philadelphia, where Stan is at a crime scene. He peers into a car, where Joyce -- who was, maybe, Robert's attempt to have a little piece of something real -- is behind the wheel, dead, with a needle sticking out of her arm.

Next week: "The Americans" takes on the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt.

"The Americans" airs Wednesdays at 10PM on FX.