The Americans “One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov” Review (Season 3 Episode 11)

The Americans One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov Season 3 Episode 11 04

On the latest episode of “The Americans,” we took a gander at “One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov,” although the title was a bit of a misnomer, as only a portion of it revolved around the character at best. That said, this is “The Americans” we’re talking about, so as per usual, one plotline tended to reflect and have a ripple effect on others, and this was certainly no different.

Insofar as the Baklanov character was concerned, we had an interesting turn of events in that Nina discovered a cache of notes that he had been writing on the sly to his son, Jacob, basically explaining where he was and his past history and why he couldn’t be with him and his mother at the moment. Naturally, it was a somewhat fruitless effort, as he was never going to be allowed to send them to his family in the first place, but it nonetheless touched Nina’s heart, as someone who was basically in his shoes as well, at least to a certain degree.

As Nina pointed out, they had both been traded around to others against their will, with little choice but to make the best of a terrible situation, and no concern whatsoever in regards to their personal feelings and emotions. Except that, in Nina’s case, at least, she did have a certain degree of choice, in that she could have told her superiors about the letters and did not. When she referred to Jacob by name, despite Anton having not told her his name, she knew she was caught, and told him she’d read the letters, and that she had no intentions of telling anyone about it.

This clearly moved Anton, who probably hasn’t had a lot of compassion thrown his way since his kidnapping by Phil and company and being handed over to the Russians. Indeed, we discovered that not only had the Soviets tried this sort of gambit before- which is to say, having used “available” women to butter him up- but that Anton had indeed taken them up on it, though he eventually soured on sharing his bed with women he knew were ordered to be there.

So, he’s basically known what Nina was about from day one, and yet, as we the audience know, Nina’s not your typical double agent. She has the ability to worm her way into situations that few could pull off as effectively, which is precisely why she was given the task at hand. Unfortunately, as Anton pointed out, he genuinely can’t do anything more than he already has without the necessary photographs he needs to proceed.

Recognizing this to be true, Nina has instead opted to side with Anton, and simply be his friend, in spite of the fact that she really has nothing to gain from it, beyond potential future good will on his end. True, she might use this to her benefit on down the line- she still has her future to think about, after all- but for now, she was firmly on Team Anton, and good for her. One of the best things about this show is the way it exposes the fact that, despite one assuming that spies are heartless people willing to do anything to get the job done- and here, often they are- that doesn’t mean that, lurking beneath the surface, albeit sometimes deep down, there’s still a beating heart and often conflicted emotions about what these people are doing with their lives, and the lives of others.

Take, for instance, Liz, who once could seduce a mark without hesitation and get the job done without thinking twice about it. Early on, one could be forgiven for thinking she had ice running through her veins, with few redeeming qualities whatsoever. Recent events with Paige, as well as the news that her mother may not be long for this earth, however, have clearly rattled her cage. Factor in that business with the old lady at the factory, Betty Turner, and Liz is obviously a bit off her game.

Oh, to be sure, she got the job done- Liz is nothing if not a consummate professional, when it comes to spy craft- but at what cost? As we discovered in the scene after she seduced the hotel manager, these things always come at a cost, often to one’s soul. That scene in the garage, when she got back home after sleeping with the manager, was hard to watch. It sort of reminded me of a similar scene in the Diane Lane movie “Unfaithful,” where we saw that, though she had clearly enjoyed the sexual encounter at hand, especially in the moment, the repercussions were considerable, and heartbreaking.

Contrasted with the borderline hopeless way she undressed and clung to Phil in bed afterwards, as if her state of mind depended on it- note also Phil’s decidedly un-turned-on reaction to the same- it was likewise almost unbearably sad. Note also how sexy the seduction scene with the manager was, and how obviously Liz surrendered herself to it in the moment, while the scene with Phil, despite an always-welcome shedding of clothes on Keri Russell’s end, was really anything but sexy in the end. Instead, it reeked of desperation and sadness, as if Phil were a life jacket Liz was clinging to in raging waters. You better believe Phil recognized it as such, as well.

Indeed, we also discovered that the loss of Annelise earlier in the season still weighed heavy on Phil’s heart. After all, as he pointed out, he’d been sleeping with her for going on three years before her untimely and ignoble demise, which ended with her being literally folded into a suitcase and disposed of like trash. It might have seemed like Phil was going through the motions with all of that, but once again, these things have repercussions, a ripple effect. (Yousaf was also feeling it, for that matter.)

In another great scene, Phil finally raged against the Soviet machine via Gabriel, pointing out the fact that he and Liz had made an awful lot of sacrifices with little in the way of return. He asked for permission for Liz to visit her ailing mother before she died, and was essentially turned down, as he knew he likely would be, but this time, he didn’t take it lying down. Pointing out the massive amount of things he and Liz had done on their behalf, and how little they had personally gained from them, and how hard they were on them in the long-term, Phil finally indicated that everyone had a breaking point, and that they were swiftly reaching theirs.

That wasn’t to say either one of them were losing it, mind you, but as he put it, if they didn’t start hearing a “yes” to their occasional requests now and then, there was going to be a problem, and who can blame him? Paige certainly can relate, as she continues to filter through the massive amount of emotions she’s feeling about her newly-minted situation and all the questions she has. It’s still not clear what side of the fence she’s going to fall on as of yet, but so far, she’s erred on the side of caution when it comes to her folks, but like her parents, she may too have a swiftly approaching breaking point, and when any of the above reach it, the fallout won’t likely be pretty.

In another interesting set of contrasts, just as some characters were starting to reach their breaking points, so were others finding newfound strength in their own. For instance, you had Gaad, mentally filing through all of his past conversations, in a somewhat fruitless endeavor to remember what he might have said that he shouldn’t have in his office that the Soviets could have overheard. You also had Martha, who had seemed about to crack her own self, a la Gaad with the mail ‘bot, but managed to somehow get it together, with no small amount of help from Phil, and face down Walter Taffet so effectively that he dismissed her out of hand in a matter of minutes, despite marathon sessions with many of the other members of the staff.

It was almost enough to make one cheer, until one realized what one would be cheering for. After all, even though Martha may not know exactly who Phil is working for, she made it clear that she knew it wasn’t her people, as she once had thought. Turns out she was much stronger than she even thought, once again showing Phil knows how to pick them. But will she be able to keep her head above water, or will she end up like poor Annelise?

Last but not least, Liz’s long con with Lisa finally began to bore fruit when Maurice approached her on behalf of his wife, wanting in on whatever racket she had going with her “boyfriend,” i.e. Phil’s alter ego. No fool he, he asked for double what she was getting, before waiting for Lisa to leave the room and saying he needed to talk to this boyfriend sooner than later, while noting that he suspected that, despite what she claimed, Liz was really the one in charge of everything- even if it meant letting her boyfriend think he was. He might be overly aggressive and perpetually unemployed, but that doesn’t mean Maurice doesn’t know a thing or two about a thing or two. If he were the one working in Lisa’s place, you better believe he’d get the job done, without hesitation, but will she? We shall see.

That was about it, save the news from Yousaf about who exactly was being flown in to meet with the Afghan group, which led directly to Phil being able to pinpoint their most likely mark of the three when they arrived. Liz already acquired the key to the room in which he would be staying, so that operation is good to go upon their arrival.

Also, Oleg and Tatiana were both read in by Arkady on “Operation Zephyr,” which involved their reading through a host of files gotten via Zinaida, who, as Arkady put it, had virtually unlimited access to the FBI, though he never mentioned her by name. In a rare light-hearted moment for the show, there was a charming moment where the two, no doubt going a bit stir crazy, gave voice to the types of “beeps” they supposed were catalogued in said files. Little does Oleg know that the very source he’s making light of may be the key to saving Nina, or he might be a bit more serious about the task at hand.

All in all, yet another great episode of the show, I thought. The title may have been a bit of a misnomer, but the content was aces, as ever. I’m genuinely happy the show has been renewed, and though the critical and audience reception has been mostly positive this season overall, it mystifies me when I read negative comments about what surely is one of the best shows on television right now- if not the best. I get that some people watch this for the action, but you’d think they’d also appreciate the intelligence behind it as well- pun definitely intended. Oh well, to each their own, I suppose.

What did you think of the latest episode of “The Americans”? Given the title, were you disappointed that the entire episode didn’t actually revolve around Anton Baklanov? Or were you relieved that it didn’t? Will Nina be able to bring herself to do what needs to be done with Anton in the end? Will she end up betraying him? What do you think the overall plan is with the incoming commanders that Liz and Phil are setting up for? Will it prove more complicated than they think? Will Paige come around to her parents’ point of view? Will Gabriel figure out a way to make it up to what are no doubt his best agents before they revolt on him? Will Martha end up meeting the same fate as Annelise? Sound off on this and more down below, and see you next week!