The Americans: “Baggage”

TV Reviews The Americans
The Americans: “Baggage”

The Americans has never shied away from the ugly, dirty business Philip and Elizabeth are engaged in. But, dear Lord, nothing prepared me for the gruesome, deeply disturbing scene in this week’s episode.

With stomach-churning sound effects, Philip and Elizabeth break Annelise’s naked, dead body to force it into a suitcase so they can remove her from the hotel (hence the seemingly innocuous episode title). To Philip, this is proof that their daughter Paige should never, ever work for the KGB. Why would they ever want to put Paige in a position where this is what she had to do?

But Elizabeth’s priorities have always been Russia first, then Philip, and then her children. Even Paige realizes that she is in no way her mother’s first priority. “You guys look out for each other, more than us,” she tells her mother.
Paige is increasingly suspicious. Now she asks her mom if she thinks Philip is having an affair, because he’s gone so often at night. Part of me wonders if Paige doesn’t actually think an affair is what her dad is up to, but just wants to see her mom’s reaction.

Elizabeth has somewhat convinced herself that all the KGB would want from her daughter is for Paige to become a CIA or NSA agent. Philip knows there’s no way they can guarantee that. Elizabeth tells Philip that when she told her mother she was being asked to join the KGB, her mother didn’t even hesitate. “She told me to go and serve my country,” she tells Philip.

Upon hearing this, Philip slumps back into his chair. Now he knows there will be no changing Elizabeth’s mind. From Elizabeth’s perspective, Paige has been called by her country and she must serve. Last week, I speculated that maybe this is the season Philip and Elizabeth are found out, but now I’m thinking this is the season Philip defects. Maybe he becomes a double agent? Maybe Paige does too? Because something has got to give. There’s no way Philip is going to let Paige enter this world.

Nina is in prison, forced to use a pot as a bathroom and awaiting her doomed fate. She’s visited by Oleg’s father and tells him to tell Oleg, “I wasn’t pretending with him.” Oleg finds Stan and points a gun at him. Stan tells Oleg if he wants to kill him he’s going to have to do it by shooting him in the back, and walks away from Oleg. Oleg can’t do it. A shaken Stan calls his son and leaves a painfully awkward message (“And Arthur… I guess”) and then goes to see Sandra. Being faced with death has really driven home how much he has lost. He wants Sandra back. Sandra tells him she’s happy he’s alive, but she’s not going back to him. Noah Emmerich was great in these scenes. My heart broke for Stan. There’s so much pain in Stan’s eyes.

Yousaf, now fully indebted to Philip (especially because Philip has a photo of him with Annalise’s dead body), arranges a meeting with his CIA contacts so that Philip and Elizabeth can get the names of the CIA operatives in Afghanistan. A Russian defector, Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya, arrives in the US. She wants to see all the sites America has to offer, but Stan tells her she can’t. He can’t protect her from the KGB in crowded places. “We don’t know what they might do,” Stan tells her.
And I don’t know what the show might do next, which is a great place to be early in the season.

Other thoughts on “Baggage”:

• I barely find the time to cook dinner for my family every night. I’m impressed that, with all that she’s got going on, Elizabeth is always seen chopping vegetables.
• If Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya thinks Milky Ways are good, she really needs to try peanut M&Ms. Just saying.
• Anyone else suspicious of Nina’s cellmate, or is it just because I watched Scandal last week?
• I kind of want to start calling everyone by their first and last names, just like all the KGB operatives at the Centre.

Amy Amatangelo is a Boston-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.

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