The Americans: Baggage
February 6, 2015 5:40 AM - Season 3, Episode 2 - Subscribe

Elizabeth and Philip come together to deal with a mission gone wrong. Stan welcomes a Soviet defector, Zinaida, to America. Nina acclimates to her new living arrangements.
posted by LizBoBiz (18 comments total)
 
"Viewers may find some scenes disturbing."

mmmm-hmmmm.
posted by gaspode at 6:40 AM on February 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Seriously. That was almost impossible to watch.

This season, though, I am liking way better than last - it's much more accessible and easy to follow. Last season I was having to pause between commercials and read re-caps to figure out what was going on.
posted by something something at 7:43 AM on February 6, 2015


Nina! :[

I don't really know how to believe Stan and his wife were married for as long as they were, she's just so clearly not equipped to be an FBI agent's wife. I guess it's probably just that he was undercover so long before that they never had a chance to realize it before.

I totally sympathize with Philip about not wanting Paige to be a spy (of course I have the benefit of hindsight and know the Soviet Union's going to collapse) but I always find myself thinking that Paige would be such a great spy. She's one of the most perceptive characters on the show already and she's never had a day of spycraft training. Of course because of that, if Philip and Elizabeth keeping being indecisive, sooner or later Paige is going to catch them red-handed doing Spy Stuff and take the decision out of their hands altogether.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:10 AM on February 6, 2015


I don't know which scene I found more viscerally cringe-inducing: The breaking bones to fit the corpse into the suitcase scene or Stan Beeman sadly and pathetically trying to connect with his ex-wife in the home she shares with her new partner. Great work from Noah Emmerich in this episode.
posted by The Gooch at 9:28 AM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nina is no fool. So glad she's back.

Lev should have shot Stan. It would have ended Lev's career a lot faster, but between losing the face-off with Stan, the fact he hasn't learned not to shoot off his mouth, and the comments of his father, I have to wonder how long he'll survive in the Russian embassy without someone to protect him, anyway. (Not that I want Stan dead).

I read an article that said the suitcase scene required an actress, a contortionist, and a dummy. Yeesh.
posted by julen at 9:42 AM on February 6, 2015


"How do you know he's not having an affair?"
"Because I'm going over to help your dad shove a lady into a suitcase right now."

Wow. Things have gotten very tense, very quickly. I had to remind myself this is only episode two.

I'm also glad to see Nina, especially since they obviously have something planned for her.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:40 PM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I totally sympathize with Philip about not wanting Paige to be a spy

I do too, but this is the first time I've been able to see my way toward sympathizing with Elizabeth -- wanting Paige to know who they really are, to have them all be on the same team.

I like Frank Langella as their new handler. He'll do if I can't have Margo Martindale.
posted by gladly at 12:59 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Elizabeth continues to be a really creepy character, IMO. Philip is soft in a way that Elizabeth doesn't seem to understand. And it comes out more now that Paige is getting close to being let in on the story. Philip understands that what they do is extremely dirty work. And naturally wants different for his kids, or at the very least, for them to have complete agency in their lives. And it seems Elizabeth doesn't completely understand that notion, as if her dedication to the cause was a decision she made not only for herself, but for her offspring as well. I'm wondering if there will be a rift, Philip having become too American, allowing Paige to make her own decisions for better or worse.

Sandra and Stan are an interesting contrast. Stan has done a fair amount of dirty work himself, and we get the impression that the level of commitment his work demanded took its toll. Now he's an emotional cripple, unable to reconnect with his real identity. Sandra seems to suffer from a different kind of vacuity. She likely grew up believing she was going to stand by her man, being the happy homemaker, husband with a respectable, stable job, suburban house, etc. But the job literally took his identity, and the world changed. She didn't have to settle for an empty marriage, and seeks meaning outside the old, failing institutions. Her world is focused inward, perhaps representing the ultimate in Western decadence, physically comfortable, secure, unconcerned about the larger world around, endlessly engaged in her own personal enlightenment.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:01 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like Frank Langella as their new handler.

He certainly has a butter-smooth oiliness about him. It's pretty obvious to me he's playing Elizabeth against Phillip in order to get Paige.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:29 PM on February 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


And it seems Elizabeth doesn't completely understand that notion, as if her dedication to the cause was a decision she made not only for herself, but for her offspring as well.

I think a lot of her dedication has to do with her father turning out to be a deserter. And speaking of flashbacks, I love the way they are using the tapes as a flashback device.

He'll do if I can't have Margo Martindale.

Agreed.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:58 PM on February 7, 2015


I'm finding this season bland. I don't feel involved in any of it; the scene lengths are too short, bouncing from one subplot that lacks tension or character development to another. So much of it leans heavily on what has already happened (in the first two seasons) to even begin to achieve any dramatic interest. (I really enjoyed the first two seasons.) In this episode, only Stan made a dent.

I counted about 29 scenes in this episode, and then went back to episode two of the previous season for comparison. That number turned out to be roughly the same, but the pacing was much more dynamic. That quick review of S2E2 was way more engaging. Maybe I just lost the plot, yet something something above says it's more accessible for them.

It's like there's a checklist now: Phillip in disguise? Check. Elizabeth in disguise? Check. Relatively intrigue-less context in which those disguises are being used? Yep. (Hey, they're taking surreptitious pictures of license plates and people in a bar!) Scene with handler? Check. Scene from character's deep past? Check. Scene with someone Phillip is manipulating? Check. Laundry-room discussion about when Paige will have to be disillusioned? Check. Peripheral characters semi-inexplicably introduced? Check.


But on to other things: Chocolate bars! People have bought chocolate bars from vending machines at least three times in this series. In an early episode Phillip tells his son that the hotel vending machine is out of Mars. I took this to refer to a de-escalation of the "war", which I thought was supported by that episode. Somewhat later we have Gad buying one at the FBI office. It may have been a Pay Day, a presumably easy reading, but I don't remember finding that reading in the episode in which it occurred. Finally in this episode (Baggage), the Russian defector buys a Milky Way. All I can come up with there is "idealist, looking to the stars" and concomitantly, "this character won't last".
posted by sylvanshine at 4:08 PM on February 8, 2015


in this episode (Baggage), the Russian defector buys a Milky Way. All I can come up with there is "idealist, looking to the stars"

Maybe Star Wars? (The Reagan kind.)
posted by Room 641-A at 4:53 PM on February 8, 2015


I saw the Milky Way as a reflection of the defector's wonder at the differences between the America she read about and the America that was. She was transfixed by the view of the city, too. She was at the tipping point between her imagined America and the real one. Her high level view from Russia vs. her high level view from the FBI building balanced against a tangible taste of her new world. She's at a point of wonder before the endless debriefing, before she gets settled anonymously and deals with the minutiae of real America.

I am hoping that now that her sitcom has been cancelled, the show runners can bring Martindale back in. She raises the stakes so wonderfully. I like Langella a lot as their returned handler, though, not the least because he clearly favors Elizabeth and is a little concerned about Phillip. Thorzdad is right - he's totally playing them against each other, and setting up Elizabeth to convince Phillip, too boot.

If Lev's father is the Minister of Railroads, than he must know how to survive in the USSR political/official world, and he's surely realized that his son might not have the same toughness and self-preservation - but Nina does.
posted by julen at 5:15 PM on February 8, 2015


I think Yousaf is going to lead Phillip and Elizabeth into a whole world of trouble. First, let's not forget dude just straight-up strangled to death who was someone he supposedly "really connected with" until she started making some vague pillow talk about "doing important work". Second, Elizabeth is still clearly haunted by missing that list of names, and was pushing the limits of discretion in order to make up for it ("we'll just go to the bar, they think they're on their own turf") which may lead to some future blindspots where the need for a home run in delivering something useful upstairs is concerned. Third, I don't think Yousaf is as blinkeredly naive as he comes across in this episode - he's an intelligence officer himself, and is in close contact with the CIA. Sure, Elizabeth got a photo of him folding up his ex in a suitcase, but I don't think he's going to let it end there. I think there's a strong chance he'll try to serve up his blackmailers to his CIA buddies. The guy just makes me super nervous.

And poor Nina indeed. "Tell him with him, I wasn't pretending."

;_;
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:23 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not very good at symbolism!
posted by Room 641-A at 6:34 PM on February 8, 2015


Well, Zinaida talked a bit about her knowledge of printed media circulation numbers at home and abroad. There was (is?) a regional paper in Russia called Югыд туй, i.e., the Milky Way.

But I'm probably reading too much into that. I think it really is just about "Wow, this American chocolate is so good!", latching onto a new element in her life that's emblematic of this new world of hers, and she looks ready to blend in; incredulous at the need for security when visiting national monuments and such. Although that reaction to Milky Way is incredible.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:51 PM on February 8, 2015


Elizabeth continues to be a really creepy character, IMO. Philip is soft in a way that Elizabeth doesn't seem to understand. And it comes out more now that Paige is getting close to being let in on the story. Philip understands that what they do is extremely dirty work. And naturally wants different for his kids, or at the very least, for them to have complete agency in their lives. And it seems Elizabeth doesn't completely understand that notion, as if her dedication to the cause was a decision she made not only for herself, but for her offspring as well. I'm wondering if there will be a rift, Philip having become too American, allowing Paige to make her own decisions for better or worse.

Elizabeth is a fanatic, Phillip is a solider. He's always been more ambivalent and regretful about killing. Like a solider, he does what he has to do, but there is a point at which the price is too high, at least theoretically.

I feel they were comparing Elizabeth's (ideologically) zealotry with Paige's (religious) zealotry throughout Season 2. Elizabeth ultimately can't be trusted; she will sacrifice her kids if it's in a way she can rationalize.
posted by spaltavian at 10:23 AM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm weeks late but this season has me hooked now, and this episode was great. The creepy tension is just awful, such misery. It seems very Russian.

I'm struck that we don't know anything about Phillip's back story compared to Elizabeth. I mean I think we do, I remember his story being sort of bland back in season 1 or whatever, but Elizabeth's tragedy is so direct and personal to us.
posted by Nelson at 8:44 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


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