There was a tense moment when he called Elizabeth back upstairs, but it turned out he just wanted to send her home with a painting. She took the big, dark self-portrait, which barely fit in the back of her car. At the garage, she took it off its stretcher to burn it but changed her mind and stowed it away. But then she took it back out and burned it anyway. Sentiment goes only so far. (Some viewers might take this as evidence that she didn’t learn Erica’s lesson about seeing. I’d say the opposite — she saw clearly enough to do the right thing and destroy the evidence.)
Sentiment saved the day, however, for poor Jackson, the film-buff Senate intern. Elizabeth had just wanted information from him about the arms negotiations, but when Glenn flaked out, Jackson became her Plan B. After seducing him in a hotel room (one of her easiest missions ever), she persuaded him to leave a box of “documents” in the room where Nesterenko would be meeting a group of Americans. When an agitated Jackson returned the box, he lifted the lid to reveal the bug we assumed would be inside.
For the old Elizabeth, there would have been only one choice. But being a human being — and hearing Jackson whimper, “I want to go” — meant letting him leave with a stern admonition to “go back to school, enjoy your last semester and go into the pavement business.”
All this was just preparation, though, for the showdown to come — with Claudia. Jackson’s recording revealed Nesterenko to be, in Elizabeth’s mind, not a traitor but a loyal Soviet subject carrying out Gorbachev’s wishes. No matter, Claudia said — Elizabeth’s new orders were to kill him. Elizabeth duly donned a wig and concealed a gun in a newspaper, but in a series-defining moment, she walked past Nesterenko without shooting him.
Back with Claudia, Elizabeth — her radicalization nearly complete — said that this time, she needed to know why she was killing her target. The answer was not what she wanted to hear: just like Philip, but for less noble reasons, the K.G.B. had been lying to her. To “protect” her, she hadn’t been told that the general she met was part of a K.G.B.-military plot to oust Gorbachev, and worse, that her own reports about Nesterenko’s meeting would be falsified to provide the justification.
Which is how Elizabeth and Philip could be reconciled (without any intramarital homicide). Elizabeth now sees the Center’s plans as a betrayal of the cause she’s fought for all these years, and leaving an ominously silent Claudia, she went home to Philip to demand a meeting with “his guy,” Oleg. The Jenningses both want to derail the plot, and keep Nesterenko alive.