The Americans “Baggage” Review Season 3 Episode 2

The Americans Baggage Season 3 Episode 2 04

On the latest episode of “The Americans,” it was time to deal with some “Baggage,” emotional and otherwise, and as per usual, all of it came with a price. Knowing this firsthand most of all was Nina (Annet Mahendru), back for the first time this season since we last saw her in season 2. Nina was indeed locked away in a barren prison and looking worse for the wear at that. As if to drive that home, her first scene was her squatting on a especially nasty toilet in full sight of the guards outside her cell.

Not helping matters was the arrival of another prisoner, Evie (Katja Herbers, “Manhattan”), a Belgian that insisted she was innocent of the charges brought against her- which she hasn’t revealed as of yet. Said Nina: “You wouldn’t be here if you were innocent.” It also seems that Oleg’s pleas to his father to rescue Nina didn’t fall on deaf ears after all, as he paid her a visit to see what the fuss was all about. Not sure if he was particularly impressed with her or not- Russians are hard to read, even TV ones- but we’ll see. Either way, good to have Nina back, albeit in decidedly unfortunate circumstances for the moment.

Speaking of baggage, the FBI picked up a special delivery to end all special deliveries, when they opened up a box to reveal an actual woman inside, complete with an oxygen mask. (This put me in the mind of that old Velvet Underground song, “The Gift,” albeit with a much happier ending for the inhabitant of said box.) This would be the defecting Russian immigrant Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya (Svetlana Efremova, “Shameless”), and good luck pronouncing either one of those names! The FBI guys didn’t even try, and who can blame them?

Anyway, it was clear what her role was, practically from the moment she got here: to bash the efforts of the Soviets in the war in Afghanistan. After giving an initial press conference, she was already booked to do interviews with “Newsweek” magazine and to appear on “Meet the Press.” The Russians are undeniably threatened by her, so look for an attempt to either kidnap or outright kill her in the weeks to come. I’m not sure what I think of her as of yet, but I found myself bemused by her love of chocolate candy bars, at the very least- and I think Stan did too.

Speaking of Stan, he managed to closely evade a death sentence at the hands of Oleg, who cornered him in an alleyway beside his favorite video store, which we saw Oleg staking out last week. Oleg was understandably upset that Stan didn’t do more to help Nina, although it wasn’t ultimately enough for him to pull the trigger on his gun, even after Stan admitted he loved her and missed her as much as Oleg did. Be that as it may, he wasn’t willing to beg for his life, so nothing came of it in the end. When you’ve already lost it all, there’s nothing left to lose, and I think both men saw that in one another. Killing Stan only would have brought trouble to Oleg’s door- and when your door happens to be the Russian Embassy, well, let’s just say that’s not a good thing.

Meanwhile, Phil and Liz helped clean up Yousaf’s mess from last week, in an admittedly hard-to-watch scene in which all concerned folded poor Annelise up and into a suitcase, making for baggage of a decidedly ickier nature. It was not a pretty sight, seeing Annelise’s arms and legs cracked akimbo as she lied there naked on a plastic sheet. Talk about an ignoble end! This was “The Americans” at its most cringe-worthy, to be sure.

Later, Liz cast shade on Phil for not letting her handle the whole Yousaf thing in the first place, heavily implying that Phil’s sexual jealousy had led to Annelise’s ultimate fate, and that it all could have been avoided if they’d done things her way. Or it could have been her in that suitcase, Phil implied right back. Or Paige, the way things were going. Phil continues to resist involving Paige in their spy games, and who can blame him after all that? But, as Liz pointed out, she’s already involved, whether they like it or not. Sooner or later, Paige is going to be affected by it, and not just in thinking that her father is having an affair behind her mother’s back, which is what she thinks is happening.

Once that nasty business with Annelise was resolved, Phil met with Yousaf to discuss their next move: finding out the names of the men working in the CIA’s Afghanistan group. Yousaf claimed only to know their first names, but agreed to set up a private meeting in order for Phil and Liz to get a better look at them, and hopefully snap some pictures. He set the meet up for a local hotel, but one of the men changed it up and had Yousaf go with him to meet the men elsewhere, so Liz made a snap judgment call and gave chase.

Phil wasn’t amused by this last minute decision, and gave chase himself, following Liz, but she was determined to make up for losing the list she’d had last week and lost in the scuffle with the FBI men. Fortunately, the meet turned out to be in a crowded sports bar, a la “Hooters,” or whatever the 80’s equivalent of that was. This made it relatively easy for Phil to get closer and snap some pictures of the men at the meeting. He also got some pictures of the initial man’s license plate for good measure, so mission accomplished.

That was about it, really, which made for a bit of a static episode, to be honest. There was a lot of observing and meeting and talking, but not much in the way of action. Granted, it’s not like there has to be these big action set-pieces every week- it’s not really that kind of show anyway- but it did seem like a transitional episode in the truest sense of the word. When the show ended, it just ended, to the point where I was like, wait, that’s it? I felt like I’d missed something somehow, but such was not the case. There just wasn’t any particular climax, as every set-up that could have gone sideways (the Annelise situation, Oleg confronting Stan, Liz and Phil crashing the meet) didn’t, resulting in a sort of draw all around.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad episode, just not a particularly eventful one overall. It happens sometimes, especially on a show like this, where the emphasis is on the mechanics of things rather than the execution of them. That approach is either going to work for someone or it isn’t, and for the most part, it does for me, as I find the set-up here to be fascinating enough to be able to deal with the occasional slow spot. Besides, the set-up on a show like this is a necessary evil, anyway. You can’t get to the pay-off without it, right? So, I’ve learned to have patience with the show, as the pay-off has always been worth it, thus far. We’ll just have to see if it is this season as well.

What did you think of “The Americans” this week? Was it a bit slow for you, too? Or do you enjoy the methodical pacing? (It kind of reminds me of a John le Carré novel, personally- which is definitely a compliment.) What would you like to see on the show this season? Do you think Oleg’s dad will arrange for Nina to get a second chance? Will Stan’s wife give him one? Will anyone manage to correctly pronounce Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya’s name? Find out next week!