THE AMERICANS: “One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov”

The fallout from Paige’s discovery begins, and the show updates us on all existing plot lines.

How can I believe anything you say?

–Paige, to Elizabeth

A quicker recap this week.

After last week’s complicated revelation to Paige, The Americans needs to step back and catch its breath. This week’s episode, “One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov,” is incredibly spread out, and dips its toes in almost every The Americans subplot. As such, it doesn’t go very deep on any of them.

Some highlights:

The best scenes of the week involve Paige and her parents. As Paige adjusts to this brave new world where her parents are Soviet spies, she’s naturally got some very legitimate questions. Are Philip and Elizabeth even married? What are their real Russian names? Is the travel agency a front, and is everyone who works there also a spy? Why are they friends with Stan Beeman? Philip and Elizabeth attempt to assuage her fears (and keep her from loudly spilling the beans to her brother), but Paige is obviously uncertain. Just how much of her life is a lie? “How can I believe anything you say?” she asks her mother.

The Americans spent its entire first season and parts of the next two examining just how “real” a Soviet-created marriage could be. While Philip and Elizabeth often examined that question in private conversations, Paige has added a whole new element to that complicated soup. It’s no longer just an inquiry about a marriage, but about an entire family. Elizabeth can assure her that she and Philip’s marriage is real until she’s blue in the face, but normal wives don’t sneak out and seduce hotel managers for covert gains. That exact dichotomy seems to be hitting Elizabeth, as she quietly cries in her car once she returns home from doing the deed.

———-

Philip and Gabriel’s relationship continues to deteriorate. The handler who was once viewed as an old friend now seems to be anything but that. When Philip inquires about Elizabeth possibly returning to the USSR to visit her dying mother, Gabriel balks. Being a KGB spy is obviously a one-way relationship. For everything Elizabeth and Philip have given up, the Soviet organization gives very little in return. “One of these times, I’m going to need a ‘yes,’” Philip tells him. As much as they hated Claudia, she never ran their relationship under the guise of friendship. Is there more ruthlessness to Gabriel than his comforting grandfather persona would let on?

On a side note, the revelation that Claudia will return next week should make every The Americans fan jump with joy.

Conversely, Martha and “Clark” have never seemed closer together. With her back against the wall at work, Clark is helping her maneuver through the Walter Taffet interrogation minefield. Maybe it’s their mutual need for the other, but there seems to be some genuine trust and affection growing between the two. We know from previews that Martha will eventually pull Chekhov’s pistol on someone, and I’ve always just assumed that that somebody would be Philip. Now I wonder if that action will be to protect him rather than kill him.

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You’d expect this episode to spend more time with Nina and Anton Baklanov based on its title, but that duo only gets a few scenes. Baklanov is slowly coming to trust Nina, who he originally viewed (correctly) as just the next in a long line of women sent to seduce him and learn his secrets. He admits that his greatest pain is the loss of contact with his son, who only knows that he disappeared one day. “He has no idea if I’m even alive or dead,” he tells Nina. There’s something growing between the two, and he doesn’t even cast her off once he realizes that she’s read his secret, undeliverable letters to his son.

———-

In other spy operations:

-Elizabeth’s AA contact Lisa, and her husband Maurice, know that she’s involved in some sort of covert work, and they want a piece of the pie. Elizabeth tries to warn them away, but Maurice is insistent. For everything else facing them, I can’t help but view Maurice as Elizabeth and Philip’s biggest danger.

-Yousaf confirms to Philip that the Mujahedeen is sending men to meet with the CIA.

-Oleg and Tatiana are enlisted into project ZEPHYR at the Rezidentura which appears to mostly consist of reading through printed audio transcripts gathered by the new listening device in the mail robot. One FBI guy laments the broken vending machine. Another hates the USFL. Hilarity ensues.

Only two more episodes remain, and The Americans has now set the stage for the final plots to unfurl in the next two weeks. Something tells me that Elizabeth is going to get that trip home after all, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Until next week!

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