Things to Do

TV Recap: The Americans, Season 3, Episode 2, “Baggage”

In which mother issues get in the way of body-disposal duties.
Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell), trying not to get in another fight with the FBI. Photograph by Michael Parmalee via FX Networks.

The family that disposes of dead diplomats’ wives together is the family that stays together, right?

The second installment of The Americans‘ third season picks up moments after the premiere left it: with Philip surveying the very naked, very dead body of Annelise, the woman he sent to seduce Pakistani agent (and Afghani sympathizer) Yousaf. To dispose of the body—and secure Yousaf’s loyalty forever—Philip needs backup, which, of course, comes in the form of a suitcase-toting Elizabeth.

Of course, Elizabeth only shows up after being pulled away from Paige.

“Did you ever call Dad at the office at night and he wasn’t there?” Paige asks. Elizabeth insists Philip isn’t having an affair—well, he does have relations with other women, but it’s all in the service of Mother Russia—but after 14 years of watching her supposed travel-agent parents stay out all night, Paige is starting to detect some kind of bullshit. She might make a good spy. Heck, she’s even on to the fact that her parents don’t always put the welfare of their children ahead of other concerns.

“You guys look out for each other more than us,” she says before Elizabeth slips out for body-disposal unit. “It’s a good thing.”

Mothers figure prominently in this episode, suggesting the title, “Baggage,” doesn’t just refer to the tweed rollaway in which Annelise is carted off. We get an Elizabeth flashback to her days as Nadezhda, being confronted by her own stern mother about her father’s unpatriotic ways. Philip laments what the war in Afghanistan is doing to their mother country’s troops. Elizabeth is still listening to the tapes her now-elderly mother recorded. And above all of this hangs the mother of this season’s questions: When is Paige going to find out what her family really is?

Last year, I thought she would stumble on the truth by accident. But now, I’d bet on one of her parents spilling, though I’m not confident which one—Elizabeth and Philip each have an incentive to come clean, but in different directions. Elizabeth is ready to enroll her daughter in the program; Philip might fess up to avoid that very situation.

“What do you think will happen?” he asks. “You think she’ll work some cushy job for the CIA?”

Meanwhile, the fallout from last year’s Stan-Nina-Oleg entanglement is still coming. Nina’s in some gulag, and she’s got a cellmate—Evie from Belgium, who insists she didn’t do anything wrong. Stateside, Oleg stalks Stan in the darkness, almost to the point of shooting everyone’s favorite sad-sack FBI agent in a dark alley.

“You want to kill me? Shoot me in the back.” Hey, it’s been a while since we’ve seen Badass Stan, though that’s followed immediately by Stan leaving a message for his son Matthew, his ex-wife Sandra, “and Arthur, I guess.” Poor Stan.

Field notes:

  • Nina tells Evie “this is not a prison for innocent people.” What could a young, naïve-seeming Belgian do in 1982 to wind up in a Soviet prison? Smuggle in some Plastic Bertrand albums?
  • The FBI has a new defector, courtesy of air freight. Zinaida, a media analyst with a hankering for Milky Way bars, is now in the sometimes-capable hands of Agent Stan Beeman.
  • Speaking of the feds, Agent Gaad is still on the lookout for a female operative roughly the shape and size of one Elizabeth Jennings.
  • Henry gets one mention this week—that he’s already asleep (and off-screen). Does this kid even matter? Bobby Draper and Myrcella Baratheon never had it this bad.
  • I’m pretty sure my parents had that same Hartmann suitcase in the 1980s.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.