I pledge allegiance to the channel that has delivered some of the most potent entertainment this calendar year — that would be FX, which recently wrapped another fantastic season of Justified and is nearing the end of the superb first cycle of the dark spy drama The Americans, only a week away from its finale. As you'd expect, the twists gain in intensity in the penultimate episode (Wednesday, 10/9c), which as my opening line suggests deals significantly in matters of faith, trust and vows of loyalty.
"We see what we need to see in people, things that aren't really there," says Elizabeth (Keri Russell) to her lovesick daughter, in a seemingly benign mother-to-adolescent chat that only we know carries deeply emotional subtext in this broken home built on the illusory foundation of a marriage in name only. Elizabeth is unhappily separated from her fellow Soviet spy and "husband" Philip (Matthew Rhys), whose seduction-in-disguise of a clingy FBI office worker escalates to the next level, in terms of intrigue and commitment. Other players in this gripping cat-and-mouse are forced to examine their own oaths — to their work, their country, their God, their loved ones — and it's impossible to predict who'll come out ahead in this deadly game. The suspense as we head into the finale is delicious.
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LIAR, LIAR, TORCH ON FIRE: In the real world, the alpha hunks calling themselves the "Three Amigos" on CBS' Survivor (8/7c) — Malcolm, Reynold and Eddie — would never be seen as underdogs. But in this game, good looks and physical prowess often come with a price: a bulls-eye on one's frequently bare chest. And so it is, as this three-some of six-packs are still outnumbered two to one on the Enil Edam tribe. But after last week's exhilarating tribal council, in which all three of the guys were able to use immunity to engineer the ouster of the tiresome Phillip — my heroes! — their job now is to try to engineer more blindsides, and apparently they're not above lying to pull it off. Hey, whatever works. While we await what I hope is another unpredictable tribal council with a happy ending, Jeff Probst presides over a Survivor tradition: the food auction. I just hope the "amigos" don't end up eating crow.
THE WEDNESDAY GUIDE: Scattered amid a field of repeats as the between-sweeps lull nears its end, some highlights: The assassin Deadshot is back in town on The CW's Arrow (8/7c), and while A.R.G.U.S. wants to capture him alive, Arrow's sidekick Diggle (whose brother Deadshot killed) wants him dead. ... Returning to The CW's Supernatural (9/8c), a fan favorite: Felicia Day as the adorable hacker Charlie, who Dean schools as a hunter-in-training while Sam rests up after his latest trial. ... NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (9/8c) investigates the alleged rape of a college sorority pledge and discovers a campus culture all too eager to look the other way. ... The four remaining contestants, all female, on Fox's American Idol (8/7c) are about as strong a field of finalists as I can remember, with no real weak links left. As the ladies sing one-hit wonders and their own personal choice of song, the judges have their work cut out for them.