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The Americans 3.11 “One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov” Review: “We Do Hard Things”

9 Apr

Questions come in many forms on The Americans this week including the emotional fallout from last week’s huge revelation and trust is not something that comes easily across various storylines. Philip and Elizabeth continue to juggle multiple operations while dealing with their fraught situation at home and the scrutiny they are under has increased. In an episode with Anton Baklanov’s name in the title he remains on the periphery with the Jennings still very much at the heart of the story, especially after that bombshell last week and Paige has something Anton’s son Jacob does not have; answers.

These answers don’t completely satisfy Paige with half snatched conversations and the inability to fully believe what they are telling her. The foundation of her entire world has been destroyed and we are entering uncharted waters.

The Americans 3.11 Snow!Philip and Elizabeth have spent the season at odds over this decision with Gabriel acting as the master manipulator. Tension has been simmering between Philip and Gabriel with Philip telling him exactly how he feels about his methods a couple of episodes ago over a not so friendly game of Scrabble. This continues this week in both their solo conversation and when Elizabeth is present. Gabriel keeps asking how they are and it seems less out of personal concern and more to do with their positions as highly valued agents. Later Gabriel questions whether Philip is falling apart and all I have to say to Gabriel on this one is you should have seen him last season because right now Philip is incredibly stable. In fact Philip is doing a better job of compartmentalizing his emotions than Elizabeth is right now, maybe he is doing it too well and he should concerned with his mental state.

With Elizabeth, Gabriel holds a certain level of control with his access to the tapes from her mother and he informs her there might not be too many more. There is something about the way he takes her hand that really puts my back up and I am very much on Team Philip on this one. Prompting Philip to suggest once again that Elizabeth has one last face to face meeting with her mother before she dies and both Gabriel and Elizabeth think it is impossible. This request from Philip is not out of character and much like Elizabeth’s desire to get Philip’s son home from Afghanistan it shows a deep level of love between the pair that goes beyond their inability to always share how they are feeling with each other. The difference here comes in Gabriel’s response as when Elizabeth asked he left it open and managed to come through; with Philip it is a straight no. By pushing Philip like this it unleashes the sassy strop off which is more than fair as Philip points out how much he has done for the Centre and he’s getting nothing in return. This includes a detailed description of what happened with Annelise – “I had an agent I slept with for three years and then I got her killed. I broke her bones and I shoved her in a suitcase” – the Paige problem and the Afghanistan issue.

In a way it feels like they are having two conversations which comes back to the repeated use of the word fine; Philip says “we’ll be fine” when Gabriel asks how he is specifically and then this switches to how this whole situation is not fine followed by Philip barely containing his disdain when he snarks “I’m fine.” Basically Philip wants Gabriel to stay out of anything to do with his family and he also wants him to do something in return to make up for this clusterfuck of a life they are living. Earlier on when they tell Gabriel that Paige knows, it is Elizabeth who emphasizes how fine they are and they are less convincing the more they say it.

Philip sells it much better with Yousaf as they have a heart to heart about the aforementioned suitcase incident with the party line being that what they do doesn’t get any easier but the thought of what the world could be like is what gets him through. This sounds a lot like the version of their job description they told Paige about last week, which was a highly edited and unspecific description. They can only tell Paige a certain amount about what they do and I doubt they will be sharing recent activities with her such as sleeping with hotel managers or the other wife that Philip has.

The Americans 3.11 pancakesThere is some transparency and instead they focus on personal details which means we get far more information about Elizabeth’s childhood (still Philip is pretty much a blank slate) and the discussion in the car between Paige and her mother is heartbreaking. Elizabeth essentially monologues with her daughter sitting there listening to this tale of hardship; what appears to be a potential bonding moment ends with Paige explaining that she doesn’t know how she can believe anything they say anymore. Elizabeth does not have a sharing disposition, but as we see here and in the past when she is talking about her mother it taps into a reservoir of emotion. Paige starts the episode with a series of questions and she is quick to find out they are not willing to talk about this when Henry could come in at any moment. Luckily Henry is too busy practicing his Eddie Murphy impression that while he is aware there is tension he is also not that bothered by it.

At the end of the episode Paige knocks on her parents’ door – after last time she has definitely learned that knocking is key – and asks what they are talking about. Philip is honest and mentions how her grandmother is sick; Paige is overwhelmed and leaves without saying much as if she still can’t process all of this information (she has a grandmother now), which is more than understandable. Initially leaving the door open we are left with a shot of Philip and Elizabeth in bed, but she comes back to shut the door and we are left with Paige on one side and her parents on the other. The divide in the Jennings house continues to grow.

The Americans 3.11 ElizabethIn the past we have seen Philip and Elizabeth reconnect through sex and Elizabeth uses this tried and tested move with different results. This season has featured several occasions where Philip comes in late at night followed by either stoned confessions or shared sparking up sessions. The intimacy level has been high but in different forms from what we see this week; when Elizabeth comes home from the hotel (where she made her excuses with Neil) she strips and wakes Philip with a passionate kiss. As Elizabeth drops out of the frame we stay on Philip’s face which remains impassive and this attempt at connecting falls short. This is the first time in an age where Elizabeth has been used as a honeytrap and the earlier encounter with Neil is all about him giving her pleasure and it feels like this is her way of making it up to Philip. Elizabeth has been experiencing jealousy for the first time this season and while I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that Philip is projecting similar feelings he is concerned about the hotel operation.

Going back to Philip’s conversation about ‘making it real’ when it comes to sex and despite the sexiness of Elizabeth’s underwear and Neil’s “I want you wet” there is an awareness in these scenes of how fake it is as Elizabeth takes a moment to sell it and sell it she does when she experiences a real moment of pleasure. However when Elizabeth comes home from her sexual encounter with Neil she looks so fucking depressed as the consequences are far higher now her daughter knows who she is and there’s a lot more feelings to be considered beyond just Philip.

Anton talks to Nina about how he was traded like a slave and he is fed up of being used in this way. Nina connects with him by using his son and her own experience of being traded back and forth. Everyone on this show is being used in some way and it is all about controlling how this is done; Philip is attempting to limit this with his conversations with Gabriel, Martha is being used and Paige doesn’t have a clue what could be in store for her. And what of Nina? She is so good at getting people to trust her and as with last season it is hard to tell exactly what is for show and what is real. They have tried to get to Anton with a series of women for him to sleep with and I am thrilled that Nina is using charm of another kind to obtain her freedom.

What The Americans also teaches us this week is how to look like you’re making eye contact with someone as Philip preps Martha. He tells her to stare at the end of Taffet’s nose as this will create the illusion of looking into someone’s eyes. Martha passes this test with Taffet as she confidently answers his questions although I am concerned for her safety now that Hans knows where she lives.

Speaking of unstable entities and Maurice wants in on Michelle’s money making plan. Lisa hasn’t made an appearance for a few episodes and this reminds us just how many missions they’ve got going at the moment. There are plenty of ways for any of these plans to go wrong and there is a strong look of concern (and loathing) when Maurice is upfront about knowing Elizabeth is the mastermind of this plan.

One story that continues to tick over is at the rezidentura and the bug they put in the mail robot is up and running. Arkady has given Oleg and Tatiana the task of going through the transcripts and I have a feeling the beeping which causes them to crack up is going to be very important.

This episode was very much a table setter after last week’s major shift with Philip and Elizabeth attempting to keep control of their inseparable home and work life. It feels like it is only going to get harder for the pair as they are now in deep in every facet of their life and there still remains some distance between them emotionally; is there couples therapy for spies?

Shot(s) of the Week

The Americans 3.11 Philip and ElizabethElizabeth and Philip are poised waiting for Gabriel to tell him about the big development and this shot represents how fine they are trying to pretend they are while both looking like they want to throw up. When Gabriel enters, Elizabeth pulls up a seat close to Philip putting on a show of unity.

The Americans 3.11 Anton and NinaThis looks like an Edward Hopper painting.

Disguise of the Week

The Americans 3.11 ClarkPhilip causes extra confusion as Clark by wearing a turtleneck AND a sweater; perhaps this is his way to distract Martha from asking any other questions. Although unlike Paige, she hasn’t shown any desire to delve any further.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2015

The Americans 3.11 Elizabeth kitchenSpeaking of sweater game and Elizabeth gives good serious face while wearing this purple number. I would probably leave the high waisted polyester slacks for another occasion.

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3 Responses to “The Americans 3.11 “One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov” Review: “We Do Hard Things””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Teen Girls Rule the World on The Americans (They Just Don’t Know It) | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 15, 2015

    […] power has shifted from in the dark and passive to a more dangerous and unpredictable place. She has questions aplenty and picking a time to ask them is not her strong suit. Being pissed off at your parents is pretty […]

  2. The Americans 3.12 “I Am Abassin Zadran” Review: All in the Family | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 16, 2015

    […] becoming the other and Paige continues to struggle with what she was told a couple of episodes ago. Last week Elizabeth divulged more about her mother than ever before, which to us as the viewers is of great […]

  3. The Americans 5.04 “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” Review: Meet Cute | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 29, 2017

    […] than the hotel manager in season 3 it has been a long time since Elizabeth engaged in some extra-martial spy seduction shenanigans. […]

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