After the surprise ending to the Season 3 premiere of “The Americans,” the second episode, “Baggage,” picks up right where it left off: with Philip and Yousef getting rid of the body of poor Annalise, an old operative whose first mistake ended up getting her killed.
Now that he’s got a new lead on the hook, Philip needs to protect Yousef if he ever hopes to learn anything about Afghanistan. The disposal of the body is none too clean, either, as it turns out they have to break Annalise’s post-mortem limbs so that it can fit into a suitcase. Philip calls in Elizabeth as reinforcement and she photographs the proceedings, implying that blackmail might become necessary in order to get the information they want from Yousef.
Later on, Yousef meets with Philip and is asked to provide names of people working in the CIA’s Afghan group. The meet-up seems risky to Philip, though, and when he brings it up with Elizabeth, she turns on him, backhandedly placing the blame for Annalise’s death on his shoulders. Philip counters, making it even more personal, claiming this is exactly why he doesn’t want Paige mixed up in the spy trade. “I don’t want her putting people into a suitcase, and I don’t want her ending up in a suitcase,” At the meeting set up by Yousef, the duo tails the CIA agents to a bar and then snaps a few pictures of the group in a risky maneuver Philip is reticent to perform.
Meanwhile, Stan is busy smuggling a Russian defector into the U.S. via a large wooden box, Nina gets a cellmate who she’s asked to spy on for a commuted sentence and Oleg makes a half-hearted attempt to take out the man he blames for his lover’s exile. “Baggage” wraps up with an important scene between Philip and Elizabeth, in which they re-examine Paige’s options and once again, find themselves on opposite ends of the argument. Paige’s status as civilian or agent is bound to be a sticking point for Season 3, and this week had plenty to say on the issue. Let’s dig in.
Philip’s Loyalty: America
Philip makes a statement in Episode 2 reminiscent of what most might consider the definition of the American dream. “What do you want, Philip?” Elizabeth asks. “A guarantee that life is going to be easy?” “For my daughter?” he responds. “Yeah.” The guarantee they speak of is exactly what American parents, if not most parents, want for their children. Is it unrealistic? Sure, but so are most dreams, making Philip’s desire the key. He wants that for Paige — even if he know she can’t have it — and he’s not about to put her in a situation riddled with obstacles.
Elizabeth’s Loyalty: KGB
Elizabeth, meanwhile, is haunted by the memories of her now-dying mother. In “Baggage,” she thinks back to her mother’s resolute patriotism. One flashback shows Nadezhda (Elizabeth) begging her mother to go to her husband’s memorial. She won’t because he was a traitor, and she claims the “memorial isn’t for him.” Later on, Elizabeth recounts a discussion she had with her mother when she was deciding whether or not to join the KGB. “She didn’t blink. She told me to go and serve my country,” Elizabeth remembers.
While it makes sense why these recollections would be troubling Elizabeth at this particular moment in the series, her stubborn refusal to examine why she hasn’t pulled the metaphorical trigger yet and told Paige what’s going on herself — as she’s threatened — speaks to the importance of her hesitancy (as does her hesitancy to join the KGB when she was younger). Philip’s challenge is getting her to see it, which is no easy task. The last time Philip tried to sway his wife’s opinion on a KGB-related matter (when he wanted to be her “real” husband in Season 1), it took a near-death experience for Elizabeth to come around. She may not this time.
Stan: Savant or Square?
Stan sets himself up as a savant in Episode 2 when he manages to outsmart Oleg and arrange safe passageway into America for Soviet defector Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya. After narrowly escaping the Russian’s assault, however, Stan reels back in the opposite direction, as his near-death experience imposes a clarity that subsequently compels him to call his son (and estranged wife) and then pay Sandra a visit. The latter ends in an emotional, unfinished confession that may prove more embarrassing than beneficial for Stan in the long run. His openness was a good step toward winning her back, but he could have made more progress if he had a little more clarity into the reasons behind their relationship’s demise.
Best Asset: Zinaida
The new American guest wins this week almost by default, as there weren’t many utilized assets in Week 2. (I’m not about to give it to Yousef, who’s still blacklisted after killing last week’s Best Asset.) What makes Russia’s most dangerous public defector such a standout character is not the secret intelligence she offers, but rather her Milky Way obsession. It is perhaps one of the most gif-able moments of the seasons, and I hope we get to experience more of her love for the American treat in future episodes — but hopefully it doesn’t turn into something like a poisoned Hershey’s Kiss.
The press conference she gives turns out to be quite intriguing, especially given the irony of an American governmental body preaching on the ignorance of a foreign country that believes “they can decide for the future of another country.” She may not be the most confident public speaker, but so far she’s proven to have been worth the trouble Stan & Co. had to go through in order to get her to America.
Wig Count: 2
I thought last week was light on wigs, but somehow “Baggage” had even fewer identity-cloaking devices. Elizabeth wore a curly red-haired number to help dispose of Annalise’s body and donned an up-do with similar coloring later on when she and Philip tail the CIA Afghan team. Since Philip made no visits to Martha this week, he went wig-free, which puts the show at an early season low in this all-important category.
Quote of the Night:
“You guys look out for each other, you and Dad. More than us.” – Paige
Paige conveys some hard truths to her mother during this episode. First she implies her father is having an affair, and then, when Elizabeth denies it, she makes the above observation. The words clearly made an impact on Elizabeth, considering that she tells Philip her mother “didn’t hesitate” to advise her to serve her country. She must feel herself hesitating, or at the very least, is annoyed by Philip’s own reluctance to allow their first born child to become a spy.
What Philip is thinking after Elizabeth’s monologue is what’s crucial here. Is he considering the importance of his wife’s opinion? Does he give her argument credence, even though it would put their daughter in danger? Or, as I would contend, is he overwhelmed by how far down the rabbit hole Elizabeth has gone? Has her devotion to the cause made her unable to question its leaders, let alone step back and look at the bigger picture? Certainly, it’s the marker of a truly devout KGB agent, but do those principles apply to what makes for a good parent? Elizabeth may have to decide that for herself, no matter what Philip does to try and sway her. Let the debate rage on.