William Crandall was a KGB illegal working in the biological weapons industry. His birth name, before assuming the identity of William Crandall, was Vitaly Sorokin.


At the time of his appearance in 1983, William had been in the US longer than the Jennings, about 25 years. He had previously been paired by the Soviets with another illegal, Eliza, who posed as his wife. The two did not get along, and she was ultimately sent back to Russia, against his will and to his regret.

William works in a privately-held laboratory, Foster Medical research Group, that handles infectious pathogens of interest to the USSR. He appears to be in his late-50s as the identity stolen by the Russians and assigned to him belonged to a child born in 1927. William's time in America has produced virtually nothing of importance to the KGB, 20 years of e.coli and hepatitis, according to Gabriel. Gabriel says William is a brilliant scientist, but his dour personality prevented him from advancing at work, and he does not have access to what the Soviets actually want, the pathogens kept on "Level 4."

When his lab receives a government contract from Fort Detrick, the Department of Defense's bioweapons division, William is able to provide a Burkholderia mallei sample. William attempts to run away when the Jennings inform him Gabriel has been sickened by the sample. Only after Philip catches him and spits in his face (thereby exposing him, too), does William return with them to help. However, once there he competently and almost compassionately cares for Gabriel, and to a lesser extent Elizabeth, until both recover. ("Chloramphenicol")
The americans-william 02

In The Rat

Although he once enjoyed his work and "invisible" status as a KGB spy, by the time the audience meets William he is unmotivated, bitter, and full of regret about a life spent in isolation. When he learns the Jennings are trying to obtain Level 4 access codes, he tells Philip "Anything you can do to not succeed would be appreciated." William has paid a physical price for his lifetime of exposure to lethal pathogens: the vaccinations required for his work have robbed his body of all natural lubricants and made him allergic to nearly everything. He has no sense of smell. He lives in an apartment where most surfaces are wrapped in plastic, and his belongings are kept in sealed storage bins.

William reaches out to Philip beyond what is necessary for his job, taking a small interest in the fate of Martha, and being honest with Philip about his view on their bosses ("they don't know what they're doing") and his temptation to withhold information from The Center on the Lassa virus. He views the Jennings with a mixture of admiration and envy.

Until William's capture by the FBI, Gabriel maintained steadfast faith in him, calling him a patriot at heart, and asserting he would do the right thing despite his many complaints. To motive him to complete his final mission, Gabriel offers William what he wants: to be finished, and to go home a hero, having accomplished something of value. William ultimately agrees, despite his ethical concerns that he could play a part in unleashing a fatal epidemic on innocent people.

Similar concerns about the Soviets not having resources to properly handle deadly pathogens prompts Oleg to break Tatiana's confidence, informing Stan they have someone in place at a government-contracted lab. The FBI ultimately identify William and stake out his apartment. Unaware they are tailing him, William goes to a park to give Philip the Lassa virus sample. As the FBI close in, William breaks the vial, using the glass to cut his hand and give himself the virus. When William misses the alternate drop appointment, Gabriel assumes he has been captured and questions what he might tell the FBI. As a result, Gabriel encourages the Jennings to return to Russia before their cover is blown.

William is brought to Ft. Detrick, where he succumbs to the virus and dies. Shortly before doing so, he unintentionally offers Stan and Aderholt a few clues about the Jennings' identity: "couple kids, American dream. You'd never suspect them. She’s pretty, he’s lucky." ("Persona Non Grata")

In February 1984, the Jennings, Hans, Norm and a team of KGB agents go to the desolate Area B of Ft. Detrick. Digging a huge hole, after several hours they locate William's buried body, encased in plastic in a metal container soldered shut. Once the container is open, Philip and Elizabeth don protective gear and masks, cut a hole in the plastic and remove a chunk of flesh from William's thigh. ("Amber Waves") The sample is sent to Russia where it is weaponized and used against the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. ("IHOP")



William provides the following biological warfare agents to Department 12.

Bacteria Disease Episode
The americans-burkholderia mallei
Burkholderia mallei Glanders Glanders
--Tularemia-- sample
Francisella tularensis Tularemia The Rat