TV Review: The Americans - Season 3 Episode 2 "Baggage"

SEASON 3, EPISODE 2: "Baggage"

SYNOPSIS: Tensions are still running high in the Jennings household as Elizabeth and Phillip battle over Paige's future. And while Nina acclimates to her new living conditions in a Moscow prison, Stan takes another Soviet defector under his wing.

RECAP (Beware of spoilers, comrades!):

Obviously the title for tonight’s episode of THE AMERICANS, “Baggage”, has less to do with Annelise’s mangled body being stuffed into a suitcase and more to do with the Jennings’ own personal baggage. One of my favorite parts about THE AMERICANS is how the writers never "write down" to the audience. They aren't afraid to delve into the unspoken; subtext and symbolism run rampant on this show. In fact, much of the characters’ motivations are left bubbling under the surface and are not spelled out like in lesser TV shows. It's fun to interpret what's going on with the Jennings, and tonight's episode was no exception.

One thing the Jennings are certainly not lacking in is baggage, mostly when it comes to their own trust issues. But tonight’s baggage came especially in the form of Elizabeth’s past memories. As we learned from last week’s episode, Elizabeth’s mother is dying, but due to her KGB obligations, Elizabeth isn’t able to go back to Russia to say goodbye. Unsurprisingly, her mother’s impending death has really rattled Elizabeth. She continuously listens to her mother’s taped message, talks to Gabriel about memories of her mother, and even has flashbacks to her childhood. One thing that Elizabeth remembers most fondly about her mother is her extreme patriotism (to the point of repudiating the memory of her husband because he was killed for deserting his unit during WWII). Always a stern woman, Elizabeth hopes her mother has found happiness in knowing that her daughter is making a difference in the world.

Elizabeth remembers how proud her mother was when she was brought into the KGB, “When I was called, my mom didn’t hesitate.” Of course, Phillip and Elizabeth are hesitating about getting Paige involved in their work, but these fond memories of her mother’s support and encouragement may prove to be the final catalyst Elizabeth needs to encourage her to turn Paige into a KGB agent. Even Phillip was left silent after Elizabeth said how much her mother’s support meant to her, when earlier he said he didn’t want Paige to be like them, living unpredictable, dangerous lives that include stuffing bodies in suitcases or, worst case scenario, being the body in the suitcase.

Speaking of Paige, now that she is getting older and wiser, she is starting to suspect her father’s late nights at the office are actually excuses for him to commit adultery. This marks a distinct change in allegiance for Paige, who had mostly favored her father over her more disciplinarian mother. Religion plays such an important part in Paige’s life, and due to Phillip’s freakout about Jesus last season, Paige saw a different side of her father. Elizabeth, on the other hand, has used Paige’s religion as a way to grow closer with her daughter and now Paige feels she has more in common with her mother. Phillip almost feels like an outsider in his own family, as shown when he was shocked that Paige is now reading the newspaper.

As we saw in last week’s episode, things didn’t end so well for Annelise. After being strangled to death by her lover Yousaf, Phillip was forced to step in and save the mission by offering to clean up the crime scene. Of course, the catch is that now Phillip has something to hold over Yousaf and will be able to get intelligence himself, without using an intermediary like Annelise. In one of the grossest scenes I have seen on TV in a long time, Phillip (with Elizabeth’s help) breaks many of Annelise’s bones so her body can fit in a small suitcase and be wheeled out of the hotel undetected. :shivers: It is honestly such a gross scene. Elizabeth also makes sure to take a picture of Yousaf at the scene of the crime, for blackmail purposes of course.

Before leaving the hotel, Phillip gives Yousaf a location for their next meeting and warns him not to be obvious about Annelise’s disappearance. Don’t pretend like you haven’t heard about her disappearance; she is the wife of a Department of Defense official, after all. When Phillip and Yousaf meet again, Annelise’s missing person reports are all over the news. Phillip panders to Yousaf, acknowledging that he was put in a horrible situation, and it's no wonder that he killed Annelise. Obviously, Phillip is trying to build his asset's trust so that his next big intelligence request doesn’t seem like a big deal. Phillip wants the names of CIA agents invovled in the agency's Afghan Group (Elizabeth lost the list in last week’s episode). So, Yousaf agrees to ask members to meet him outside of a CIA facility. That way, Elizabeth and Phillip can find out their identities.

Yousaf sets up the meeting in a local motel, while Elizabeth and Phillip look on. However, at the last minute, the location changes to a bar and the Jennings are forced to decide whether they should risk following. Of course, they follow and are able to get the license plate numbers and pictures of the CIA agents involved in the Afghan Group.

Stan always wants to be needed, especially by women. Will this think tank defector, Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya, be Stan’s new Nina? At Dulles Airport, it’s revealed that the FBI basically shipped Zinaida over in a crate. Hey, at least she had an oxygen tank! Fueled by Milky Ways and disgust for the politburo, Zinaida is ready to take down the Soviet Union, saying her conscience will no longer allow her to support a government that is creating so much suffering for Afghanis.

Back in Moscow, we finally get our first glimpse at how Nina is faring in prison. Besides having to pee in a bucket, her conditions don’t seem THAT terrible. Her morale, on the other hand, is a different story. When a young Belgian woman, Evi, becomes her new roommate, Nina is less than amused. Although the woman continuously proclaims her innocence, a dejected Nina says, “This isn’t a prison for innocent people.” But thankfully, Nina’s guardian angel Oleg may come to the rescue. As we learned last season, Oleg’s father is the Minister of Railways, which means he has significant political pull. Although he at first refused to help Nina get out of prison, it seems he may have changed his mind, especially after visiting Nina in prison and seeing that she really did love his son. Hopefully he won't try to pull any funny business.


BEST 80S REFERENCE: From a payphone, Stan leaves the most awkard voicemail of all time for his son and Sandra; too bad he couldn't perfect his message over text. Phillip and Elizabeth’s communication headsets make them look like fighter pilots. Which makes me wonder, who's Goose and who's Maverick in this relationship?

POOR STAN: Since Martha didn’t appear in tonight’s episode, I think we can turn our sympathy towards the other most depressing character on the show, Stan. First, he almost gets killed by Oleg in an alley because Oleg is still upset over Stan throwing Nina under the bus. Even though Stan offers to help Nina in whatever way he can, Oleg isn't buying it. But even worse than the alley scene, Stan goes to talk to Sandra about the attempted murder. As he learned at EST, confronting death makes you feel alive. And although he isn’t 100% convinced that is the truth, Sandra is the only one he wanted to talk to about his experience. Too bad Sandra isn’t as open with her feelings, and when Stan goes in for a kiss he is flat-out DENIED. Yikes.


  • I love director Daniel Sackheim's cut between the crate holding Zenaida and the luggage that will eventually hold Annelise's body.
  • Looks like the travel business is paying well with that huge master bathroom renovation!
  • Is there a wig of Keri Russell's hair, because if there is I would wear it every day.
  • Elizabeth’s tooth is still bothering her from her fight with Agent Gaad. With the writers continuously bringing our attention back to it, it seems they have more in store for this tooth than just the point that she can’t get it looked at because the FBI may be looking at dental records.
  • This cat and mouse game between Stan and Oleg is going to come to a head soon.


Source: JoBlo.com



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