Emmy Episode Analysis: Margo Martindale (‘The Americans’) shows softer side of spy

For the second consecutive year, Margo Martindale is up for Best Drama Guest Actress for her role as KGB handler Claudia on “The Americans.” Last year, she lost to Carrie Preston (“The Good Wife“), but Preston’s snub this year means the race is wide open.

If she wins, it’ll be Emmy #2 for Martindale, who claimed Best Drama Supporting Actress in 2011 for her role on “Justified.” Her episode submission this year is “Behind the Red Door.”

Watch: Margo Martindale to her award rivals: ‘Eat the fish, bitch!’

SYNOPSIS: Claudia has a discussion with Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip (Matthew Rhys) about the possibility of Captain Larrick (Lee Tergesen) being Emmett and Leanne’s killer. When the couple meets with him, they determine that he most likely wasn’t the killer, but Claudia is adamant and says that he’s a dangerous man.

Later, Elizabeth tries to get Philip to show her what his alter ego “Clark” is like in bed. At first he’s awkward about it, then when he finally agrees he ends up being too forceful and Elizabeth cries in fear. At the end of the episode, Claudia confesses to Elizabeth that she got involved with a man and told him the truth about her KGB allegiance. Claudia then breaks down, worried that she could be the reason Emmett and Leanne were killed, but she can’t know for sure.

Keri Russell dishes her complicated KGB marriage on ‘The Americans’ (Exclusive Video)

Can Martindale take home her first Emmy for this role with “Behind the Red Door”? Let’s consider the pros and cons:


Martindale appears in the very first scene of this episode in a beautifully shot scene on a bridge. Though she doesn’t have a lot of impact in that first scene, she’s clearly the driving force of the narrative and is a welcome sight to see after being absent for so many episodes.

Likewise, the final shot of the episode ends on Martindale. It’s a memorable encounter between Claudia and Elizabeth where she reveals secrets about herself and admits she was wrong about Philip. It’s really the first time in two seasons that the audience will feel any kind of emotional connection with Claudia, and Martindale sells every line.

Being a recent Emmy champ (Drama Supporting Actress, “Justified,” 2011) should help Martindale’s chances, as Emmy voters love to repeat their winners like TV reruns.


Last year, Martindale submitted the season finale “The Colonel” in which she got to play the spy game by dressing up and even killing a guy. If she couldn’t win for such a memorable performance then, it’s unlikely she’ll prevail this year for a more subdued role with less screen time.

Martindale’s full-time gig on CBS’s “The Millers” ensured that she could only pop up on “The Americans” three times in Season 2. If her schedule wasn’t in flux, would we have gotten more Claudia scenes and story lines (i.e. the unseen lover she mentioned at episode’s end)?

With a lack of impact and range, this episode likely won’t be an Emmy winner for Martindale.

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Martindale is currently in sixth place in our predictions with 100/1 odds. Do you agree with those odds, or are we underestimating this previous Emmy winner? Make your own predictions below.

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