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TV Review: The Americans 3.2: Baggage
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The Americans Season 3 Episode 2 Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings

The Americans
Season 3, Episode 2 – “Baggage”
Directed by Daniel Sackheim
Written by Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg
Starring: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Lev Gorn, Annet Mahendru, Susan Misner, Costa Ronin, Keidrich Sellati, Holly Taylor, Richard Thomas, Alison Wright, Noah Emmerich, Frank Langella
FX
Air date: February 4, 2015, 10pm

“It’s not really over.”

Elizabeth (Keri Russell) comes into the house after what we can assume is a long day. She sits down to have a snack while she talks to Paige (Holly Taylor). As she bites into her food, her tooth, still injured from the fight with Agent Gaad (Richard Thomas) in last week’s episode, rips through her mouth with searing pain. She talks with Paige for a few minutes before she gets a call. It’s Philip (Matthew Rhys). There’s more “paperwork” to be done at the office.

It’s not really over.

“Baggage” is all about the things that our characters are carrying with them in some form or another. The cost of these things are starting to weigh on everyone. Especially for Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich).

While Sandra (Susan Misner) never found out specifically who Stan’s other woman was, she knew something was up and that was enough to drive her away from him. Stan is seemingly still reeling from the sudden departure of Nina (Annet Mahendru) which makes a near death-experience from also grieving Oleg (Costa Ronin) all the more apt and is just what Beeman needs to put his life in perspective. In a crushing moment for the show, it’s too little, too late. And Stan is still stuck as a man alone in his own world, despite his best intentions.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth brings literal baggage to help Philip pack up Annelise’s dead body, giving us one of the series’ more gruesome moments as Yousaf and Philip break bones to fit the body into a suitcase. A quick snap of a camera is insurance enough to make sure Yousaf plays along with them, working this angle to try and circle back to the names of the CIA officers on the list Elizabeth lost. When Philip and Yousaf meet later on, they meet in an abandoned pool – the black and white title looks like a chessboard and serves as a reminder for Yousaf: while the body went away, it’s not really over. You have your baggage now and you’ll have to carry that.

But it’s Nina’s quieter moments that stuck with me this week. Nina has always been an endless compelling character and another one of the show’s amazing performances in a list of great performances, but here Annet Mahendru gets a lot to do with out little dialogue, instead letting body movement and facial expressions lead the way. Nina has always known the consequences of what her actions – “This isn’t a prison for innocent people,” she says to her new cellmate. However, Nina gets a surprise as Papa Pavlovrich shows up to let her know that Oleg has requested him to use his influence to get her released. Further cementing the fact Nina knows her fate has been sealed, she does request to have Oleg know her feelings for him were real and that she wasn’t pretending with me.

Perhaps, it’s not really over after all.

Quick Thoughts:

– I commented on the specific way director Daniel Sackheim framed and shot the opening bit from last week’s premiere and there’s another scene worth mentioning this week: At the end of the episode while Philip and Elizabeth are talking about Paige, notice the way that Keri Russell enters the center of the frame to talk to Matthew Rhys about this decision that will jointly affect them. Once it’s known that this issue isn’t going to go away, that they’re still on opposite ends, the blocking of the two actors shows that rift between them. It’s probably not subtle, but there’s just so much that’s said (and not said) by people’s appearances on this show. After all, it is about spies.

– We’re introduced to the Soviet defector this week, who has a penchant for Milky Way bars. In fact, I might go get one right now.

– The show shoots in Brooklyn, NY to double for Washington, DC. It works surprisingly well.

– Between the information given to us via flashback and the way her mother responded when she was called for service, I think it’s safe to say Elizabeth’s mother gave her the hard edge she’s needed to stay alive and continue to be successful for this long. I look forward to learning more about their relationship (and how that might affect Paige and Elizabeth) as the season progresses.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Sound off in our comments below!

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