The Americans 3.02 “Baggage” Review: For Mother and the Motherland

5 Feb

Much like Elizabeth’s jaw injury and tooth pain, the Paige issue is not going away on The Americans and this second episode cements some of the overall themes set to dominate this season. Paige and how they address the second generation illegals program bubbles under the surface from the gruesome task Philip and Elizabeth complete at the start of “Baggage” to pretty much every other interaction between the pair. There is a white elephant in the room and her name is Paige.

Afghanistan is also going to play a big part this year as the Russians attempt to wade through the mess of this offensive strategy with the US using it as an opportunity to highlight a weakness in their enemy. “Propaganda is more important than anything” as Oleg is later told by new character Tatiana and both sides are trying to outdo the other in this department. Elizabeth’s relationship with her mother coupled with her own maternal feelings and duty to her country continue to influence her choices impacting her relationship with Philip.

The Americans 3.02 PhilipAt the end of last week’s premiere Philip took a tragic moment and used it as a way to keep a valuable asset in their pocket with Yousaf. Philip drew him by using “we” and offering assistance to help clear up this problem and in doing so he immediately earns his trust. To make sure he will stay on side Elizabeth also snaps a shot of Yousaf helping stuff Annelise’s body into a suitcase in what is probably the most disturbing scene this show has done so far. The level of horror we witness as they each break one of her bones and then zip up her makeshift coffin is extreme and it further backs up Philip’s reasons for not wanting his daughter anywhere near this career path; he doesn’t want her either putting people in suitcases or being the one to end up with this horrifying fate.

Philip and Elizabeth come at things from different perspectives and in part it is why they are ideal partners as they cover all the angles; however it also opens them up to this kind of conflict and while Philip is thinking about the practicalities, Elizabeth is looking at it from a more abstract ideological point of view. The locations of the repeated discussions – basement, bathroom, office – are private but also small spaces and because of the intense nature it feels like there is nowhere for them to go as neither of them are backing down. Elizabeth has the full support of the Centre and Philip is the outlier so at the moment he is fighting a losing battle. He has always been the one who seemed like he could turn, in the pilot he even suggested defecting so this puts him in a very precarious position. Things have changed in their relationship as Gabriel notes so love is complicating things further and while Elizabeth is still very much Motherland first these feelings have a habit of throwing up problems.

Gabriel is also a sneaky bastard with Elizabeth as he subtly suggests Paige trusts her more because she thinks Philip is having an affair while layering on the compliments about how proud her mother is of her work. Previously Claudia tried to exploit what weakness there is in Philip and Elizabeth’s relationship only to learn they are better agents when they are working together and I wonder if Gabriel is also trying this same power move by reinforcing Elizabeth’s faith in what she is doing. One problem when real emotions come into play as I discussed last week is objectivity is hard to maintain and because Philip is viewing the second generation illegals program through personal experience rather than as duty to his country he is a volatile presence.

The conversation that takes place in the bathroom lays all of this out and is the crux of both their arguments; Elizabeth thinks Paige will be sat behind a desk and even if this is the case Philip is concerned this will change because “it always changes.” There is a hardened outlook mixed in with optimism from Philip as when Elizabeth scoffs “What do you want, Philip? A guarantee life’s going to be easy?” he responds with a simple and firm “For my daughter? Yeah.” It is unlikely that he can make this happen as it impossible to protect from everything, but he also isn’t going to put her near the danger which has consumed his life.

Pragmatism or this bleaker world view from Elizabeth is further backed up by the flashback from her childhood where we learn her father died as a deserter, not a hero and her mother has no time to honor the memory of a man like that. It is why Elizabeth is so stoic when it comes to the cause and why she was so disgusted with Philip’s suggestion of defection in the pilot. Well they do say you marry your father and turn into your mother. It’s funny when Elizabeth talks about her mother’s serious disposition as she really isn’t a barrel of laughs and it goes a long way to show why she is like this. “Baggage” ends with Elizabeth telling Philip about her mother’s reaction to her KGB call up and how she didn’t hesitate with telling her daughter to go serve her country. Now Elizabeth wants to tell her daughter the same thing and at this point neither parent is backing down; they end the episode at the same impasse and it is unclear how they can move forward.

Once again I want to reiterate how little we know about Philip’s past in comparison to Elizabeth; we know he had sword fights with icicles when he was a kid and there was that half told story about getting beaten up for milk from the finale but other than that we know very little about Mischa’s childhood. At the moment the theme of mothers and daughters is strong and the way Philip looks at Paige when she is chatting about the paper is with fear in his eyes that he is losing her. Fathers do come into play as we see Stan reaching out to his son via the most depression “I almost got shot” voicemail. We also meet Oleg’s father who visits Nina in a Moscow prison and he lays out an important point about parents and children:

“Parents are always trying to understand our children better. To do what’s best for them. It’s our greatest misfortune.”

When Nina asks why it is a misfortune, his response shows how he feels about his son falling in love with a traitor “Because we’re so often disappointed.” Nina does want a message relayed to Oleg, that what they had was real and this confession will hopefully hit Igor in the compassion spot and somehow secure Nina her freedom as she sure isn’t enjoying having a new cellmate. Nina is hardened to the reality of her situation unlike Evie who thinks someone will come for her soon and just why is someone from Belgium being held in this prison? A streak of naivety runs throughout some behavior this week; first with Evie and then with new defector Zinaida who is really into American candy bars and wants to see the Washington DC sights not quite understanding the danger she is still in. Also from Henry who briefly pops up to say he wants to go to Coca-Cola College and both of his parents ignore him.

Even Philip has a streak of this when he suggests Elizabeth could see her mother to which she sternly replies “We can’t go back.” Is this because she doesn’t want her mother to see her like this? The all-American woman with the nice boots and glorious hair. It is interesting to note Elizabeth mentions her mother’s blue dress and not the detail of the conversation she was recalling as she uses the material to deflect from the actual memory.

Elizabeth is also acting impulsively after losing the list last week and she is taking a lot of risks at the moment. First she deflects her anger by implying she could have handled the Yousaf thing a lot better than Philip and he is not letting her give him any shit on this because unpredictable things happen. The desire to make up for the lost list could put both of them in the line of fire especially as the FBI suspect she is the illegal they have been after since season one. No matter how good their disguises are the FBI are going to be on the lookout for a couple again, so Elizabeth needs to proceed with caution as she doesn’t want Paige to find out the truth after she has been arrested.

Stunning Shot of the Week 

the Americans 3.02 officeThe way they are using the tiny office space to pull Elizabeth and Philip together and then show the distance between them is impressive; last week they were so divided a brownie peace offering couldn’t tempt Philip and it took Elizabeth telling Philip her mother is dying to bring them back together. This week Elizabeth came down to the floor where Philip was working to try and reach him on a personal level and instead her confession only cements how far apart they are with the Paige issue that isn’t going away as Philip returns to his chair and doesn’t say a word.

Disguise of the Week 

The Americans 3.02 aviator moustache dudeThe Americans doesn’t tend to lean towards humor but Philip’s “We should do this more often” coupled with his excellent Tom Selleck moustache and aviators disguise made me chuckle. The situation is so ridiculous; taking photos of a covert meeting in a bar but hey at least they get to have a beer on the job and spend some time together. Date night with the Jennings.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2015

the Americans 3.02 OOTWOkay so I already have several plaid shirt dresses in my closet and worn something very similar in 2015 so I’m not sure if this one is cheating. If only my boot collection was as impressive. I also love this shot as Paige is looking even more like her mother with her hair like that and Philip is less than thrilled to sees his daughter evolving into her mother.

9 Responses to “The Americans 3.02 “Baggage” Review: For Mother and the Motherland”


  1. The Americans 3.03 “Open House” Review: Wants and Needs | TV Ate My Wardrobe - February 12, 2015

    […] Paige will be have this taken away from her if she is brought into this world. While we ended last week at an impasse of monumental proportions after Elizabeth attempted and failed to sway Philip by […]

  2. The Americans 3.04 “Dimebag” Review: “She Set Us Up” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - February 19, 2015

    […] record take The Americans squirm inducing rate up a notch from how to pack a suitcase in “Baggage” and last week’s off books dental work. Philip and Elizabeth’s work involves […]

  3. The Americans 3.08 “Divestment” Review: “Is Any of This True?” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 19, 2015

    […] been pushing boundaries all season and it crosses the stomach churning bar previously set by the packing and dentistry scenes as Ncgobo makes Venter’s death as painful and prolonged as possible by […]

  4. The Americans 3.13 “March 8, 1983″ Review: “Why Are You Here?” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 23, 2015

    […] in her blue nightdress (the blue dress links back to the one Elizabeth mentions to Philip in “Baggage.” Even though we hear about her tough her mother is, there is nothing but love in this […]

  5. Best of TV Costuming 2015: Removing Disguisies and Revealing the Truth on The Americans | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 11, 2015

    […] he can see are the bad things they have to do whether it is what they do to someone else – breaking up a body and putting it in a suitcase – or the lengths they go to get information. It’s not just about committing acts of […]

  6. The Americans 5.06 “Crossbreed” Review: Sins of the Father | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 12, 2017

    […] have had a lot important conversations about both work and their family. At times it has seen them at odds with each other and great distance has been felt in their positioning even when they are in such a close space. […]

  7. The Americans 6.02 “Tchaikovsky” Review: The Dark Parts | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 5, 2018

    […] Right now she doesn’t get why someone would dedicate their life to something she sees as unimportant, but being told to draw what’s dark is pretty much what she does every day. Her darkness isn’t the mug before her, but the life she lived for all of her adult life. Erica explains that drawing is about looking at what is light and dark, but Elizabeth has spent so long in the moral grey area her eye isn’t trained in this way.The world Elizabeth works in is far from black and white, no matter how much Reagan tried to paint the Soviets as the Evil Empire. A point that Elizabeth reinforces when Paige mentions some light reading she has been doing on the tactics of spies. Paige is still very much in the dark about some of the things her parents have done in the name of the cause; when she asks outright whether operatives use sex as tool to get information her mother lies. The truth would be devastating because as we saw from last week’s opening montage Elizabeth is still very much using this tactic. Not to mention the many men and women her parents have seduced in the name of Mother Russia including the one that ended up as a wife and the one that ended up in a suitcase. […]

  8. The Americans 6.07 “Harvest” Review: Committed | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 10, 2018

    […] of a source just for a moment. The body disposal moment called back to not only the pilot, but Annelise in the suitcase. There are the two flashback moments to already existing scenes, something this show uses […]

  9. The Americans 6.09 “Jennings, Elizabeth” Review: Topsy-Turvy | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 24, 2018

    […] What makes this scene truly great is how measured this conversation is. Neither woman screams at the other, there is no violence. And more importantly there is still a level of care layered with some contempt. Elizabeth asks where Claudia will go, home of course. But what will become of Elizabeth? The sneer levels from Margo Martindale when she asks “What’s left for you now. Your house. Your American kids. Philip.” Oh the disdain when she says his name.  They look at each other for a moment and Claudia calmly eats the food she has just prepared. Little does Elizabeth know that one of those things is about to get taken away. The family home is the heart of this unit, but now it has been compromised. A home we are now saying goodbye to. The kitchen and the island within continues to be used in such an effective visual way. This scene between Paige and Elizabeth mirrors their big fight from season four, when the world was first introduced to Keri Russell’s forehead vein. This time it has multiplied. Now Paige is revealing just how much she knows about the methods her mother uses to get information. Seeing people die wasn’t Philip’s number one fear way back when it was first floated that Paige she join the family biz. Nope he was worried about her ending up in a suitcase a la Annalise. […]

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